Aug 15, 2015
myronator (All reviews)
Time for a trip down memory lane (not present day or present time). The most appropriate description for Serial Experiments Lain (SEL) is "avant garde". This series is surreal, bizarre and incredibly experimental. Yet it manages to create an intricate and entertaining story which poses many philosophical questions. From the first time I watched this series it has left a long-lasting impression as one of the best pieces of media I have ever experienced.

The story of SEL focuses on Lain, a lonely, introverted teenage girl, as she follows the mystery behind the messages left by a classmate from beyond the grave. At its core, SEL explores the merging of the internet and the real world. However, that is only really the beginning of understanding SEL. There are a plethora of themes throughout this anime; loneliness, the existence of self, coming of age, the role of technology and more. The amazing feat that SEL pulls off is that it delves deep into each theme without harming the plot. Nevertheless, the show does not provide concrete answers for the questions raised by each theme. Instead it is open ended enough to allow one's own interpretation, but not so open ended that things become incoherent.

The storytelling in SEL is incredibly well crafted. At first scenes can feel disjointed and that nothing relevant is happening due to the slow pace and cryptic messages. However, after a few episodes when things begin to connect, it becomes clear that every scene has a purpose and contributes to the story; even simple scenes in the first episode, such as Lain standing in a train carriage. The only real negative here is that at times things can be a little too cryptic and some scenes simply can't be explained. This can be a massive turn off for people who would rather things be more straightforward, which is understandable. Nevertheless, SEL isn't too difficult to understand as long as you are willing to pay attention.

SEL is masterful in its use of sound and colour. Perhaps the first noticeable aspect of SEL is the lack of soundtrack. However, taking a quick moment to think about it you will realise that there isn't much silence either. Most of the time there are sounds of electronics in the background, the most noticeable being the buzz of the power lines. This not only helps the viewer relate to Lain's loneliness, but also it really emphasises the feeling that the wired is everywhere, almost making you feel claustrophobic. When the soundtrack does kick in, the tempo is high and electric guitar driven, giving a sense of chaos. The colour palette adds to this, mostly being a mix of whites, purples, reds and browns/blacks. Due to how off colour the scenery and backgrounds are, it leaves you with a feeling of unease and makes everything look surreal.

Even though this sounds like a dark and even painful show, SEL has a lot to enjoy. The story, while full of philosophical questions and ideas, is still a mystery thriller. It is full of twists and turns and leads to a rewarding climax. Lain as a protagonist is easily relatable, which is important since she is really the only character that is fleshed out in the show. The other characters don't get much screen time, but this does not harm the show since it is Lain's journey which is the focus. What matters is how these characters interact with Lain and this is executed well. Watching Lain come out of her shell and discover the truth behind what's happening is entertaining.

SEL is an anime that is ahead of its time. It's depiction of the Navi, smartphones and the wired is incredibly close to how the world is today. The questions that are brought up in this series continue to be relevant, perhaps even more so as technology continues to develop. I want to recommend this anime to everyone because I know just how amazing every aspect of the show is, but I know that SEL is not for everyone. If you are new to cyberpunk, then it would be better to start with a less experimental anime such as Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. For people who aren't looking for something that requires a decent amount of reflection and deciphering, then SEL is definitely not what you want to watch. However, for anyone who loves cyberpunk this is a must watch. Also for anyone who enjoys an anime that will get you thinking, definitely give this a try.