Serial Experiments Lain is a 13-episode animated series that ran on TV TOKYO (aka home of Pokemon, Evangelion, Naruto, and Cowboy Bebop for at least 12 episodes before TV TOKYO canceled it thus the rest of the episodes airing on WOWWOW) from July 6th to September 28th, 1998.
The story revolves around junior high school student Lain Iwakura and her adventures in the Wired, a representation of the Internet if the Internet is a separate realm from the real world.
This was at a time when TV TOKYO was the home for the weird seinen-esque anime (a trend in TV TOKYO that got revived by the airing of Neon Genesis Evangelion in 1995) before the anime adaptations of Naruto and Bleach came along.
I already had watched this back in college and for the life of me (as I am re-watching this anime for a Halloween-themed review), I cannot seem to comprehend how I was able to finish the series and seem to understand everything at the same time. I know it’s a mystery anime and the fun part of watching Lain is to know what the hell is going on.
So without further ado, let me go through the series.
Art, Animation, and Presentation
Chiaki J. Konaka’s writing by itself made Serial Experiments Lain the weird anime that it is (more on that later) and the art direction just amped it up to 11. Considering this was aired in 1998, a year after The End of Evangelion, weird, surreal, and esoteric imagery is the order of the day.
Just like its brother from a different mother, Lain has this aesthetic in its world that I would like to call “neo-cyberpunk” wherein modern technology meets the tubes and wires of the steampunk era.
I also liked how the Internet was represented here on the show being this underground place where people can do whatever they want and this hits the nostalgia vibes for someone who experienced the 1990s internet and with a bit of an IT background myself.
This was also produced at a time where animation is shifting from being created traditionally from actual ink and pen to digital forms, thus there are some scenes that look like it’s out of place for 1998 and more in place for 2001.
To add to the weirdness of it all, distorted live action shots were also used to emphasize some points.
Not that this is a technique exclusive to the show but combined with what the show looks like in 2D and the whole storyline, it enhances the late-night TV show feel.
Speaking of late night TV show feels, the show’s format is basically divided into two parts: Layers and Devices.
While Layers are what you call the episodes themselves, Devices are the previews for the episode that airs next week.
Unlike your typical next episode previews though, Serial Experiments Lain’s episode previews are all live action sequences featuring Kaori Shimizu, Lain’s voice actress, who was 15 years old at the time.
Plot, Themes, and Pacing
If I can sum up my experience re-watching Lain in a few words, it would be this: what am I watching?
For starters, the whole theme of Lain is human interaction through the Internet. Now that we are stuck in this never-ending series of events known as the Coronavirus, the importance of the Internet is more known than ever and with the state of things in the digital world wherein corporations and governments are playing god on mere mortals who use their services, the concepts of “God” existing on the internet and the merging of your internet and real-life personas are becoming more of a reality as time goes on and how it can lead to great danger if left unchecked.
I would also like to remind people that this show was written by Chiaki J. Konaka, best known for Digimon Tamers and Summer Wars so expect some dark stuff here.
Also, his and director Yasuyuki Ueda’s use of extraterrestrial imagery might tickle the fancy of people who have seen the likes of Steins;Gate or Chaos;Head as it delves into some John Titor tier conspiracy theories.
The whole plot revolves around Lain, the titular character, discovering more of “the Wired” and how much power she wields in there.
Adding the Knights and Tachibana Labs people into the mix muddies the water a bit as we will never know the motivations between the two camps and why they wanted Lain’s power over the internet for themselves. If this is explained on the PlayStation game, let me know because after watching this show, I don’t think monke brains can handle more mind tricks.
The dialog doesn’t help either if you’re the person who turns off his or her brain when watching anime because the dialog really delves into the existence of a god, self, internet jargon, and all that stuff that make you doubt your beliefs.
This may also not be for people who have issues with pacing in their TV shows because not only it tackles about sensitive subjects (which might lead to trigger warnings plus and show induced nightmares) but also the main antagonist doesn’t appear until late in the series (and for a 13-episode anime, it’s very late in the series).
Reichi “CHABO” Nakaido’s music direction for the series fits the tone of the show, especially Lain’s theme, Pulse Beat, and Mist of a Different Dimension, which I would consider the standout hits out of all the background music used in the show.
That’s not to say that the opening and ending theme songs are forgettable.
BoA’s duvet and CHABO’s own Far Cry (or Tooi Sakebi) are songs that you can listen to without even knowing what the show is all about, and that speaks true of duvet as the song is in English so no worries if you don’t understand the song at all.
I really don’t care that much about the Cyberia Mix of the soundtrack though as these were only used during sequences where the Cyberia bar was involved.
Serial Experiments Lain is what I would call not necessarily the best anime of all time but the greatest example of what a typical anime is during the post-End of Evangelion, pre-K-ON! period.
It’s mysterious, it’s dark, it’s surreal, it’s your typical hipster seinen anime and it really makes you think. In other words, it’s pure art and it might not be for everybody, especially for those who don’t have the patience to put the pieces together and solve the mystery of the plot when it comes to watching anime.
I hope you enjoyed this year’s Halloween themed content.See you again soon for more reviews and other site content you love. I was planning to review Miss HalloHalloween 2021 but HalloHallo has already burned too many bridges with the fans for me to care so I went ahead and reviewed this instead.