Story: Iwakura Lain lives in the present, where the Wired (the internet) is a popular place to be. Of course, no one is foolish enough to associate the Wired with the real world, no. But when Lain receives an email from a girl who recently committed suicide, Lain starts to change. Soon, she starts to see no difference between the real world and the Wired--but is that really a bad thing?
"Serial Experiments Lain" practically pioneered the "mindf*ck" genre. If this isn't a confusing anime, I don't know what is. Unfortunately, that makes it less philosophical than it probably could be (it raises questions, but doesn't really answer them), and it makes it difficult to marathon (which I tried to do). Another tag is "slow-paced," but a heck of a lot happens in the mere 13 episodes for which this show runs. And the final episode is the ending, which I thought was perfect, but I'm sure some people disagree.
Animation: "Serial Experiments Lain" has beautiful art; many still shots could be right out of a modern art museum. The realistic style of the human face adds to the message of the anime. But it's the symbolic and minimalist backgrounds which make the anime--eerie shadows, monochromatic color palates and the lack of detail is stunning. However, there is a scene in which the animation is exactly the same for every episode (but this becomes important, so I'll forgive the animators), and animation is often incredibly choppy. The choppy animation complements the series, though.
Sound: The opening song, Duvet by BOA, is a lovely English song which made its way onto my list of favorite anime OP. The OP itself is perfectly synced and just as wonderful. I skipped the ED for every episode, though. I don't care for it. The insert music is few and far between. Occasionally, echo-y and futuristic sounds are played, which fit well. Most of the time, it is the lack of background noise which makes the series work so well. Voice acting in Japanese is fine; only Lain's seiyuu does a better-than-average job. I haven't heard the English voices, but perusing the names, it looks like lesser-known VA take on the roles.
Characters: Negative four=development level. Backstory level is even lower.
Obviously, this is a picture of Lain herself.
Iwakura Lain: As the only main character, she should probably be able to carry the series on her own. However, this is not the case. For the most part, she is shy and rather boring, but if I want to expand on this, I will spoil.
Everyone else: Whatever. Lain's friends can be annoying, Lain's family is okay (with the exception of her mother), Kami-sama is weird, and everyone else is nondescript.
Overall: "Serial Experiments Lain" is a beautiful looking, beautiful sounding, beautiful seeming anime which will make you scratch your head. Is it worth a watch? If you want to see a classic, I vote thumbs up. If you want to see a mindf*ck anime? Well... why don't you go try "Paranoia Agent?"