Serial Experiments Lain

TV (13 eps)
4.002 out of 5 from 19,197 votes
Rank #1,380

"I have only abandoned my body, I still live here" - are the words emailed to friends of Chisa, several days after her death by suicide. As Lain delves deeper into the world of the "Wired" (also known as the internet), the line between it and reality becomes more and more unclear. Close the world, open the nExt.

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StoryIf the purpose of Serial Experiments Lain is to get your mind whirling, it succeeds. If its purpose is to get you thinking, not so much. This anime is a hit-or-miss philosophical cesspool that could either captivate or disgust. It’s like swallowing a series of shots that burn your throat and make you either drunkenly euphoric or nauseous. At the time, Serial Experiments Lain was covering ground few had covered before, and people were hailing the work as the turn-of-the-21st-century version of 1984. Now, more than ten years later, one could look at Lain and call it even more relevant. As it ponders the consequences of over-stimulation and over-connectedness, we ourselves have to ponder if being connected is the only way to assert our identity. In this way the anime is worthy of praise. It uses an innovative, pertinent medium to ask an age-old question. Is it possible, though, for subject matter like this to come in such an unsavory form? The anime’s highly experimental and impressionistic style ends up blurring much of what it wants to say. In ingesting the Lain pill, the viewer becomes desensitized instead of enlightened, and eventually he gets lost and stops paying attention.  For all the effort it takes to watch the thing, it leaves one with a diaphanous general idea and little satisfaction. There have been arguments that Lain does this purposefully so that we can make our own conclusions, but the storytelling isn’t engrossing enough for us to even want to make our own conclusions. The anime burrows under a smothering blanket of metaphors, leading us on and then giving us a paltry return for how much we invested. We will follow the mystery as if by masochistic impulsion, stomach the nearly indigestible, and then emerge at the end with our mind whirling but not made any better.AnimationThe animation does its job. And it’s an important job. Rarely does one come across an anime whose central tenets are linked so closely to how they are drawn. The dark red splotches on the pavement hints at a shadowy world that lurks just beneath the real one; solid gray figures sit inertly at their desks and on the train, unable to connect to the world around them; connected power lines loom against a garish yellow sky, ready to entangle those who walk in their midst – they’re all symbols. It is a visual style so abstract it could be called meaningful, a style so distasteful it could be called artistic. A cruel beauty, if you will.SoundThe sound, or rather the lack of sound, suits the anime well, and eerie minimalist electronic music quietly adds to the unsettlement. Personally, I would have replaced the ill-fitting alternative-rock riffs for some Berg or Kurtag. Rock is just too down-to-earth for this business.CharactersLain is not a girl I would want to take up in my arms and cuddle. Her vacant expression and porcelain-glass eyes incite more unease than empathy. However, the identity crisis she undergoes in the latter half provides all that is needed for the story to jump-start. Lain’s efforts to fill her empty life with worth becomes mildly arresting, if not frustrating. As she continues to ask herself the same questions and uncovers no answers, her journey to self-discovery teeters between suspense and stagnancy. Things do come to a head at the end, but I have to wonder if it's worth the hours of waiting. Meanwhile, the other characters fit into Lain’s story a bit like incorrect puzzle pieces. Some of them, like Lain’s sister and father, are good ideas that lack the punch to make an impact. Others, like her friend Alice and the mysterious men who spy on Lain outside her house, appear again and again, meant to be manifestations of Lain's internal struggles but instead flickering out as uninspired motifs that the viewer would likely deem not important enough to figure out.OverallThe beginning of the last episode opens with Lain saying, “I’m confused again.” I agree. To me Serial Experiments Lain resembles those books one reads in high school English class that are supposed to be eye-opening but actually just sweep past the brain and go out the other ear. There is no denying that the anime is a groundbreaking and creative work, but it seems to have remained in anime history not so much for what it says as for what it represents. While the ideas are there, it has stumbled a little over its convoluted wording.


There are anime in this world that will make you tilt your head to the side so hard you get a crick in your neck for a week. Lain is probably one of the best examples of this genre. There will be times while watching Lain where you need to stop and try to wrap your mind around what just happened. And while other anime slowly build to this point, like Evangelion or Paranoia Agent, Lain goes straight into the realm of mindf*ck in early episodes. However, as an older anime, it does suffer a bit from limited tools, but I would say it holds up to its more contemporary counterparts.  Story: The plot of Lain is actually fairly straightforward for all of it's weirdness. The perplexity of the story is not in the complex plot, but rather the way the plot unfolds. Instead of immediately stating how the world of Lain works, especially the Wired, the plot unfolds each layer like taking apart an origami crane. Once the truth is revealed, layer by layer, the plot begins to make sense. It isn't necessarily an anime that will make you question existance, in a way The Matrix might. Lain is more of a story about the potential of computers, in much the same wavelength as Ghost in the Shell. But unlike other anime, it throws strange imagery, unreliable narration, and often odd behavior at the viewer to hide the plot.  Animation: Here's the main part that Lain falls short. It's not that the animation is bad, it's just that the tools for the time period mean a lot of the animation is saturated. Many scenes are too dark to make out detail, while others are light-bleached. The animation itself is rather fluid, though there are jerky movements from time to time (a lot of it intentional). There isn't a lot of detail to the faces, especially Lain's, and much of the scenery can be fairly bland. However, the complexity of the Navi systems seems to be what took up most of the animation budget.  Sound: For the most part, the sound is great. The opening song is so 90s that it's nostalgic to my generation, even if its the first time hearing it. The voices are excellent, and the sound studio mixes a reverb or metallic sound whenever a voice is over the Wired, which I found interesting.  Characters: Here's the problem with the characters; there are a lot of them introduced, but not many are given more than a token trait. For example, Lain's family is very distant, but beyond a trait like "loves the Navi system", they don't have much going for them. Lain's friends are a bit like stock characters, except Arisu, who actually has a personality and flaws. The Knights are shown, living their daily lives, but are not given much exposition beyond their role in the Wired as a group. And the main character, Lain, isn't a reliable source of information. She's very difficult to relate to because of who/what she is. Still, I liked Lain, for all of her weirdness and flaws.  Overall, I'd recommend the anime and not just because it's for a badge. Just be prepared to suspend disbelief completely.  This review brought to you by Secret Santa 2016. 


Serial Experiements Lain   We have found it. Yes, we have found the MOST CONFUSING ANIME THAT EVER EXSISTED! SERIOUSLY, this makes Higurashi's plot make as much sense as the game of freaking hopscotch! What anime is this? You've guessed it, Serial Experiments Lain! Though it may be dated, is this anime using its plot as a masterpiece or one huge giant mess? Well, I think it's better to discuss this anime than say yes or no. So, this review will be a little special as we go piece by piece in Serial Experiments Lain!   Additonal Notes: Serial experiments Lain is a 13 episode original anime(?) produced by Production 2nd and Triangle Staff back in 1998 and later spawning a game later that year. This anime is rated TV-14 for the dark morals and themes of reality and the internet, mimimal gore, and some bad langauge.   Story: The story of Serial Experiments Lain is very baffling and confusing but you can see how brilliant it is overtime. We're going to discuss it as far as its basic plot, its theories, and it's morals and themes with a few vague spoilers in it. In "Present day, present time," the Wired is virtual-reality internet landscape (basically the internet redone) home to networks and human communication services created with telephones, television, telegraphs, and cyberspace. We follow a shy and very quiet high school girl named Lain Iwakura who has very little friends and knows almost nothing about computers. But when her father, a computer addict, sets up a updated Navi, or a computer, in her room, Lain's true nature is exposed through the Wired as many crazy and mysterious happenings occur to do with her as she grows and beciomes a very powerful being... Let's start from the beginning, shall we? In the opening cerdits, an anymous character tells us, "Present day, present time" which, in my thoery, mean this plot could take place at any day, at any time between the time period of the internet and virtual communication. Next, the Wired itself is at first is just an internet redone; but then you begin to realize that it's a more possessed and physcotic version of the internet, especially it's users. Then, Lain herself. She is an extremely important character not only because she is the title character, but the differences in her personality between the Wired and reality, which gives us the dark theme or moral of identity. You know how they say that you are more bold on the internet than you are in real life? That is exactly how it is in this anime. Furthermore, there are also themes about secret organizations (you'll find out about that part soon, can't spoil everything for you),  conspiracies and philosophy with what's real and what's not, and even some facts about computers (this anime could literally be your computer teacher in some episodes). Funny thing is, in the end, some things still don't make sense, just like the illusion of all things living, dead, and non-exsistant. They give you questions and we have to give them answers. Serial Experiments Lain's story makes you think more than you need to when you want to sit back, relax, and watch away which is why it is so confusing it's brilliant.   Characters: Some of Serial Experiments Lain's characters are so developed they are actually under developed. What I mean is, the anime may tell some things about a character when it won't make a difference in terms of significance and the plot (I'm talking like a genius in this review, aren't I?). Take Lain as an example. For being a title character, you can't say you know EVERYTHING about her. In most anime, they do progressively give you all the characters hobbies, personalities, backstories, etc. Well, they do that in Serial Experiments Lain too, just not that much. Lain's backstory is hardly ever talked about, you only see her once as a kid but it's just to do with a bunch of dolls and stuff her parents said. It wouldn't have made much of a difference if it was cut out, same with all the characters if they had backstories. So, if they are "under developed," are they awful characters? Hell to the freaking no. I like Lain because of her personality and they way we follow her, I think Alice and Mika are good to follow too because they just want to know what the heck is going on; however Mika doesn't get her happy ending in the middle of the series. Even Taro and Lain's dad are pretty interesting as far as their character appeal. As for Lain's mom, Juri, Reika Toru's friends, Masami Eiri and even a little of the Men in Black and Chisa, they don't have enough appeal and you could mostly classify them as side characters and they only have small importance in the anime. They are just so developed they are under developed. May sound confusing but it's true.   Sound: Just so you know, Serial Experiments Lain is a very silent anime. Though yes there is definately music, some rather good pieces, they aren't always played often. So if the anime is very silent with not only it's dialogue and music, why do I give it a 9 out of ten? One word: Opening. That damn opening is probably the best opening I have ever heard! It is so catachy that it cannot get out of my head. And I mean that in a good way! The song is called Duvet by the London band Bôa and everything about it IS JUST SO AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! As for the ending... it's ok I guess. Though some of the pieces in this anime are noticeable and good, the opening pracitally saved this score by a milestone. GO LISTEN TO IT NOW!!!!!!!!!!!   Animation: For 1998, this anime does show it's time especially in the opening. For being dated, it's not awful but to an anime watcher who only watches recent anime, he/she'd call the animation for Serial Experiments Lain pretty bad. I do think the animation is fitting for the show's tastes and it's character designs is not that bad, Lain's design is actually pretty neat. Don't call it a dated or a masterpiece compared to something like No Game, No Life; just call it good for it's time.   Overall: I really enjoyed Serial Experiments Lain even though it had multiple flaws between it's characters, lack of some story explanation, and a bit of it's quality. If you love animes with a mindf*ck of a story, quiet moments, dark themes to do with what's real and what's not and the good ol' Internet, I'd definately reccommend you'd give this anime a try. Now excuse me while I sing Duvet repeatedly while typing the end of this review on the internet...or the Wired? DUN DUN DUN!   (If there are any questions or corrections about this review or Serial Experiments Lain, contact me! ;D)  

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