#AniWednesday profile: Serial Experiments Lain

June 17th, 2009

#AniWednesday is a weekly feature on Twitter in which people plug their favorite anime in 140 characters or less. Of course, we’re writers by nature, so we usually can’t keep our thoughts under 140 characters. Thus, we’ll present our expanded views here. This week’s feature: Serial Experiments Lain.

Flash back to 2000 for a moment. I had just gotten a Playstation 2 (one of the fortunate few to actually be able to find one that year) and was mesmerized by the whole shiny happy newness of it all. This was around the same time that DVDs were hitting their stride, and I wanted to watch something, anything, that was available at the local Blockbuster.

Now you have to understand, I wasn’t really an anime fan at the time. Had no idea such a thing called “anime” even existed. Sure, I had watched a run of dubbed Sailor Moon episodes and had the pleasure of watching most of the unedited, subtitled run of Crayon Shinchan on KIKU-TV, but I didn’t realize those were anime per se. So when I was browsing Blockbuster’s section, I came upon the anime section and thought, “Hmm. Mature animation. Looks kinda interesting.”

And there was quite a selection, too. Cowboy Bebop. Trigun. Ghost in the Shell. Akira. Dragon Ball Z. The stuff most anime fans recommend to their friends to get them hooked on anime. Me? I picked … Serial Experiments Lain. The reason has since been lost in time — maybe I was attracted by Yoshitoshi ABe’s character design? The cyberpunk vibe? I was just tired and wanted to just pick¬† SOMETHING as my free rental? In any event, it was a bit difficult to understand at first, but I ended up sticking around and watching all 13 episodes.

The story centered around Lain, a rather quiet high school girl who lives a mundane existence until a schoolmate commits suicide. From there, she’s introduced to and becomes immersed in the Wired, the series’ version of the Internet. I don’t want to reveal how exactly this plays out (of course, if you want to cheat, there are many sources on the Internet where you can learn about the full plot), but let’s just say that it’s like a more cerebral version of the Matrix, without all the fancy-dancy bullet-time sequences.

There are several elements in Lain that made this series memorable for me:

The opening! Every episode (except the last one)¬† began with the same phrase typed in Japanese in red on a white background as a voice cackles, in English and with evil delight, “Present day. PRESENT TIME! MUHAHAHAHA!” This is followed by some static (in which Lain’s head is faintly visible), and then the haunting opening theme, “Duvet” by Boa (the British alternative group, not to be confused with the K-Pop/J-Pop singer) kicks in, set to footage of Lain in different settings and crows. Lots of crows. Check it out here.

The storytelling! This is one of those series that isn’t told straight through, instead relying on tantalizing bits and pieces here and there that you have to assemble to figure out what’s going on. Lain’s true identity is a part of that puzzle-forming process. There’s just something that feels off-kilter about the show — sometimes Lain is quiet, other times she’s recognized as a key figure at a nightclub. And you never know what quite to believe and what to dismiss as fiction … that is, until the very end, when things come together quite nicely.

The humming wires! If you’re a fan of telephone/electrical wire architecture, this is your show. They’re EVERYWHERE in this series. In different colors and shades, to boot. It’s quite surreal.

So that’s a quick look at Serial Experiments Lain. If you can find it somewhere — the DVDs were made by Geneon, which means they’re out of print — by all means try it out. Can’t say everyone will like it, but it certainly has enough charms to impress.

3 Responses to “#AniWednesday profile: Serial Experiments Lain”

  1. Anatole_serial:

    Before Lain, I was just a guy who liked Dragon Ball and other Japanese Cartoons. I liked drawing, but held no particular interest in Anime as a whole.

    After Lain, I became an Otaku. It made me realize the potential of animated storytelling, and thus I sought more. Yoshitoshi ABe became my favorite artist, and one of my greatest artistic influences. The humming noise stopped being “noise” and became a soothing relief in my every day life. And the Internet stopped being a place to download things and became a place to connect… Or disconnect, depending on your point of view.

    Serial Experiments Lain was my turning point.

    It changed me.

  2. parv:

    For me, LAIN is in my list (of don’t-mind-to-watch-it-again) along with FLCL, Paranoia Agent, GIST (movie(s) except Innocence & series), etc.

  3. Otaku Ohana | Taking stock and giving thanks | Otaku Ohana | staradvertiser.com | Honolulu, Hawaii:

    [...] was the first anime I ever watched that I recognized formally as anime all the way back in 2000. Here's the profile that I wrote about it in 2009. Seeing those discs in the envelope gave me a bit of a thrill. Maybe [...]

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