Ever woken from an extremely engrossing dream, only to wonder if the dream was the real world and the real world is the dream?
Developed an emotional attachment to your computer?
Simultaneously watched and operated more than one machine?
If the answer is yes to any of these, Lain is probably a decent viewing choice.
“No matter where you go, everyone’s connected.”
– Lain Iwakura
One week after junior high school student Chisa Yomoda commits suicide by jumping off a rooftop to her death, her classmates receive e-mail from her.
While most of them believe it to be some sort of sick prank, this is news to Lain Iwakura, who hasn’t checked her e-mail lately. Her friends chide her for not checking her e-mail regularly.
Lain is a quiet, withdrawn girl, who keeps to herself. When she goes home, she unburies her Navi (computer) and checks her e-mail.
She does indeed have a message from Chisa.
It says that even though there is a rumor at school that the e-mails are a prank, she wanted Lain to know that that isn’t true. She tells Lain that she only abandoned her flesh, and is not truly dead, she also offers to show Lain the way.
Lain learns of the ‘Wired’, an online environment that may actually be another reality just out of phase with our own. She is more in tune with it than she would like and is having experiences that appear to be hallucinations. She sees and hears things that no one else around her can, and is not quite sure what is real.
One day while riding on the train, it suddenly lurches to a stop, throwing her to the floor. The announcer apologizes and explains that the train has been stopped because there has been an accident. While Lain is staring out the window at the power lines, they appear to be dripping with a blood-like substance.
Lain suddenly appears in the train station, the people around her fade away into smoke, and then she is on the train tracks, as a train is charging towards her. She sees a girl in a school uniform walk onto the tracks and tries to talk to her.
The girl’s face is melting between smiling and a horrible screaming face.
“People only have substance within the memories of other people.”
– Lain Iwakura
Life is a very surreal experience for Lain. This story is quite a head-trip and very difficult to explain after only the first four episodes. It left me guessing not only what will happen next, but also what just happened/is currently happening.
The story, which begins rather slowly, quickly escalates into a struggle of epic proportions. The line between the Wired, the Lain universe’s equivalent our internet (only, on crack, it seems) and the real world is becoming blurred, and the two appear to be merging.
The blurriness, confusion, and chaos caused by the merge are all conveyed through exquisitely used minimalism, which, although distracting, seems to be done deliberately, and the effect is quite nice.
The character designs are reminiscent of the anime Haibane Renmei as both series were done by Yoshitoshi Abe. The characters, along with the minimalist style, also shine brightly. Lain isn’t the only character with a soul in this anime, unlike so many others.
The animation style is an interesting blend of traditional and CG, which offer some strange and uneasy effects. Such as shadows that swirl with red splotches, or the weird melting, morphing face of the haunting schoolgirl.
Serial Experiments Lain is one that requires multiple viewings to fully digest the story and all its little nuances. But then again, who knows, you may never completely get it.
“I think that my little girl has, perhaps, become obsessed with the WIRED. It’s just an advanced medium for communication. Don’t get it confused with the real world.”
– Yasuo Iwakura
The anime which aired in the year 1998 has somehow predicted how life online can get us deeply and dangerously addicted and how it can get us deeply lost in a virtual space that we can no longer tell the difference between a virtual world and reality.
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This twisty tourney psychological cyberpunk thriller may not be for everyone. When you see it you will either love it or hate it. The story is very original and it branches off from mainstream anime and there is not much if anything like it.
In conclusion, this truly appears to be one tripped out series. If you like strange, surreal stories that mess with your head, this is the ticket for you.
If you like your stories to be clear, concise, and to the point, then give this one a skip. But if you do, you’ll miss out on quite an interesting ride.