Molly Rants-a-lot – Serial Experiments Lain

Posted on Mar 01 2010

Hello there, people of Earth and those who are waiting to carry out your plans to invade the Earth, I’m Molly and I am about to take you on a journey into The Wired.

The Wired? “What is this?” you may ask. Well, I can only be speaking of the 1998 anime, Serial Experiments: Lain. Granted, this isn’t the latest and greatest out of Japan, but for those who enjoy being eternally confused and getting emails from dead people, then you will certainly enjoy this. Ok ok, that doesn’t explain much. This anime offers not only a visual treat for the eyes, but an interesting look into the technology crazed years that have been the 80’s, 90’s and beyond. To really get the jist of this anime, you should really watch it twice, maybe three times to be completely sure that you are on the same page as its creators. Let me attempt to give this bizarre series the explanation that it deserves.

Serial Experiments revolves around a 13-year-old introvert of suburban Japan, Lain Iwakura. She lives among a middle-class family that is an obvious commentary on what some modern families have become no thanks to our advancements in technology bringing us farther away from the “It’s so easy, a caveman can do it” mentality: a distant mother, uncaring and inanimate faced older sister and an obsessed father who, unlike computer-dim Lain, knows more than his fair share (wink wink hint hint). Enough of the family, though. Now, here computers are called Navi’s and the Internet is named, no surprise here, The Wired. Weird, right? Of course, as in any pseudo-horror series, the seemingly mundane problem becomes the granddaddy of all problems. No, the problem isn’t their crazy lookin’ eyes or their weird, non-Japanese first names. Actually, I can’t really gauge what the problem is and I’ve seen this series a couple times over already. Go figure.

The series starts out in what seems to be the red light district *cough cough* and we meet Chisa Yamoda, classmate of Lain and apparently insanely suicidal because what should she do but take a swan dive off of a roof in an attempt to meet “God”. Not the best way to get viewers to come back for episode two, but it worked on me. About a week later, classmates of Chisa began receiving bizarre emails from the deceased and, oh what a shocker, Lain is absolutely oblivious. This is because Lain has no interest in modern day technology that consists of more than just two tin cans connected by a string. So, Lain must have AT&T. Anyway, these emails were simply considered a cruel prank to excite the masses of mundane middle school life. Nonetheless, Lain is curious and dusts off her bright red Navi to see if the email had reached her, too. Anyone catching a theme here? The first time I watched this series (on the 4 inch screen of my cell phone at a Ballet summer intensive, but I digress) I caught myself yelling, “Don’t do it! It’s a trap! Don’t, don’t, don-ahhhh, damn.” Imagine someone yelling that into their cell phone before a ballet class. Anywho, lo and behold, she received the email that has been causing such a ruckus about school. The message read, and I quote (from that translation), “I have given up my body. By doing this, I can explain to you I’m still alive…God is here.” Why yes, Chisa, that explained everything! Yay for sarcasm! Remember how I said “insanely suicidal”? Emphasis on “insane”. Leading herself to believe that it really was Chisa who was emailing her from the dead (Epic, there ARE computers in heaven! WOWers, unite in bliss and take comfort that your level 80 Warlock shall live on!!), Lain delves further into the world of The Wired, which makes computer-programmer daddy so very proud of his little socially awkward pumpkin. And of course, mommy could care less. Once more, what a shocker, ladies and gents. Believe it or not, that is just episode one.

The series goes on to follow Lain in her crazy adventure into the world of technology and the pondering of her own existence. We come to question what is reality and you might come away from it uncertain of what we are told about the realms of life and death… Deep. Hopefully, you won’t need therapy after watching this. Can I get a “LOLz”? Not going to lie, though, the end was unexpected, but I’ll leave it up to you to see what I mean.

As a whole, the series seems slow, quiet and repetitive for a while which makes it difficult to make it past the initial greeting of the first couple of episodes. It has been said that silence is the loudest message one can make, and they didn’t exactly use it sparingly when scripting and editing the sound reel. It takes the show a few steps past creepy to just downright uncomfortable. Personally, I find the character designs childish and simplistic, especially when compared to more recent animating techniques, but once you get past those piercing brown eyes and the bizarre teddy bear fetish that our protagonist seems to have, you’ll come to appreciate the beauty and coldness of the look overall, especially present in the background work and the intricate social commentaries and technological accuracies the story has woven into itself. Serial Experiments has a way of bringing the viewer into the imagery, making you feel as though you, yourself, are apart of this virtual limbo that blurs the lines of reality and the other reality that is The Wired. This series, in short, is one 13-episode conspiracy theory. I believe, after watching this show, that Santa Clause is, in fact, the “God of The Wired” to “see when you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake”, but that’s just me. I never said I made any sense! In all seriousness, though, I see this series catering to a very specific audience. There is a reason most anime fans have never heard of this series. It might not please the moe-loving public and if you can’t stomach anything darker than Lucky Stars, than this is most certainly not for you. However, if you have a thing for technology, brainwashing and girls in teddy bear onesies then be my guest. If you are still just flat out clueless and didn’t take in anything I just wrote, than think of this series as the twisted, older cousin of Code Lyoko, Serial Experiments being the love child of Xana (from Code Lyoko for those purists who don’t believe in French “anime”) and Bill Gates. To tell the absolute honest truth, this series is nearly impossible to summarize so I greatly urge you to watch this series in its completion to see if you can make some sense of all the obligatory subliminal messages that it shoves in our faces.

Review Summary:
Overall grade: B+
Animation: Character design is obnoxious but background work/imagery is a beautiful character in and of itself.
Story: Intricate, but almost seems nonexistent. PAY ATTENTION, THEN!
Pace: Slow to start, but c’mon, it’s only 13 episodes so just muscle through it.
Recommend: Only to those who have a taste for the dark and seedy. A personal must watch.

Be ready next month for more babbling from me, your friendly neighborhood babbler!

You Might Also Like...

  • bemused_Bohemian March 2, 2010 at 9:37 AM

    Suggest you click on Wikipedia and search “Serial Experiments Lain”. Their contributors did a good assessment re plot, author/director intent. The article covers/explains other aspects re character design, themes, technobabble.
    You touched upon the oddity of the main character: a 13 yr old in a bear suit. Lain is in a transitory time of her life physiologically and psychologically speaking. To me the bear suit signifies her comfort zone as a child. As the episodes and storyline progress we witness her subtle personality changes from child to psuedo-cyberpunk to….you be the judge. Read Wikipedia.

  • Serial Experiments Lain | Anime Gauge January 19, 2017 at 6:11 PM

    […] Full Review […]

  • You must be logged in to comment. Log in