When talking about good anime things that come to mind aren't really related to boring. But the thing is Serial Experiments Lain is without any doubt the most boring anime I have ever watched. This of course does not mean it is not good, on the contrary Serial Experiments Lain is probably the best written and among the most original anime I have ever seen. If I would be comparing this to literature what comes to mind is Kafka and his work. SEL is an excellent anime for quite a few reasons, it has an amazing atmosphere, it keeps you guessing and the thing it does best is making you confused. Just like Neon Genesis Evangelion it uses a lot of religious symbols and philosophical questions. It is not as heavy on the religious symbolism like Neon Genesis Evangelion, but it plays with ontological questions and our conception of God and perception of reality. Do we need our bodies to exist? Is God omnipotent? Is God man made or is he eternal? Those are just some of the questions that SEL asks or rather what questions I interpreted from its confusing, but interesting plot. The anime is quite good during the first half and it becomes stunningly good in the 2nd half, most notably the last two episodes. Since it was made in 1997 it is heavily influenced by some kind of fear from technology and primarily the internet. The authors feared what could happen if we were overwhelmed by information. This of course builds up a great paranoid atmosphere. As far as quotes go it has some of the most memorable such as: “There is only one truth. God. Yes. Me.”, so you see it can be quite epic at times.
Unlike the story, the animation was sub-par. Very often you would simply be looking at Lain (the protagonist) doing nothing or walking, turning around looking behind her and seeing nothing. I can’t say that it was horrible since I also pay attention to the general style of the anime. Later on it will start mixing in some very interesting sequences combining animation and images of real events. By the way there were some scenes that were indeed very disturbing.
Like the story the sound was superb. From the opening and the ending to the general sound in the anime. And did I mention that the best part of the sound is the lack of it? Yes that is possible. The absence of sound builds up the atmosphere and helps keep things interesting. Now back on the opening it was one of the best openings in general. It can easily compare to Lilium (Elfen Lied) and Inner Universe (Ghost in the Shell). The ending was really what is should have been, a song that sounds like it was sung by someone crazy.
When talking about short 11-13 episode anime they usually have to choose between the story and the characters. SEL obviously chose the story. There are actually quite a few characters, but most of them don’t have background and lack any obvious motivation and/or development. The only characters that get some amount of personality and development are Lain and Arisu, her best friend from school. Lain is a person whose main characteristic is not knowing herself. She is not very social and has problems connecting to people. Furthermore her family is quite an unfriendly environment, her mother is what can only be described as a bitch, her father is obsessed with computers and he doesn’t provide any emotional support. Arisu is a warm and king girl who actually keeps Lain sane. She has quite a few problems herself, but I won’t be going into those, you will see for yourself. Other characters are here as plot devices.
To sum things up Serial Experiments Lain is one of, if not the best, mindfucks around. It is interesting, atmospheric and mind blowing. Unless you are a die-hard Sword Art Online or Mirai Nikki fan this is an anime diffidently worthy your time and it will keep you thinking about it for quite some time….