SERIAL EXPERIMENT LAIN (1994)

 

Format: 13 24-minute episodes on 4 DVDs

 

Rating: PG-13 (AC, GV)

 

American Production: Pioneer

 

Grading

 

Premise:

A+

Story:

A

Writing:

A

Character Design:

B

Animation:

C

Artistic Merits:

C (but see below)

English Dub:

B+

Musical Score:

B

Opener:

B+

Closer:

B+

 

 

Humor Content:

n/a

Action Content:

C

Drama Content:

A

 

 

DVD Presentation:

C

DVD Extras:

C+

 

 

OVERALL:

A-

 

Synopsis

 In a story set in the “present day, present time,” the world of the 13-year-old Lain is turned upside down when she receives email from a classmate who committed suicide a week earlier, claiming that she is really still alive in The Wired (equivalent to the Internet). The experience sparks a gradual awakening in Lain and sets her on a surreal journey of self-discovery as she delves into the philosophical and technological underpinnings of The Wired. Along the way it becomes obvious that there is more - an awful lot more - to Lain than is readily apparent, even to herself. Or is she even the real Lain? There does seem to be another incarnation of her, but is it split personality or an imposter? Or something else?

 

The Long View

At first Lain seems to be just a strange, low-budget piece of animation. The more you watch it, though, the more you realize that it is actually an amazingly sophisticated work of techno-surrealism. The subject of the story has distinctly childlike qualities about her (her pajamas look like a bear costume, for instance), and is at first disconnected almost to the point of autism. This is reflected in the odd way she looks at things and her initial aversion to computers in a world where someone her age is considered backwards if she doesn’t regularly read email or have and use a palm pilot. As she gradually awakens, though, she perceives more and progresses on a technological learning curve that is almost frightening in scope. Soon it becomes apparent that the outward Lain might be just a shell hiding the truth of who and what she is.

I could try to describe the plot beyond this, but to do so would not do justice to all the subtleties and nuances of the series. I can say that Lain delves heavily into the philosophical and even spiritual implications of an advanced information technology network. Its basic theme is that the world of The Wired is the new reality, destined to bleed into or even replace the physical realm, and that a physical existence is not only no longer necessary but actually a burden - or, at least, how someone completely immersed in information technology could see things that way. Given that the series dates to 1994 (and hence predates the biggest boom in development of the Internet), its vision is remarkable. The world of Lain seems like it is just over the next hill and the story itself is even more timely now than it was nine years ago.

As I said before, Lain has a very surreal feeling to it, presumably in an effort to portray the central character’s different perceptions and the result of the world of The Wired intermingling with the real world. The use of sound effects to establish mood is extraordinary, but it’s nothing compared to the visual tricks. When Lain steps out of her apartment, the world is all white except for some shadowed areas, but weird patterns are oscillating in those shadows. When she sits in her classroom amongst fellow students, she is the only one in full color while the others are shadowed. There’s also the hallucinatory flashes she experiences and the repetitive use of shots of power lines and Walk/Don’t Walk crossing signs. And let’s not forget the kaleidoscopic cut scenes featuring silent dialogue that seems to be reflecting what characters or thinking, or maybe it’s communications from The Wired? Whatever the truth might be about such things, it is important to pay attention to even the slightest details in the series. Although a lot of the series may not make sense at first, everything is connected by invisible strands that, when pulled taut, lead to a mind-blowing conclusion.

Lain is a series that you have to see to fully appreciate; words alone cannot do it justice. It is like nothing you’ve seen before, either in animation or live action, and one of the greatest and most original conceptual pieces of animation made to date. Those addicted to action-oriented content probably will not like its slow, deliberate pacing, but those who favor more thought-provoking and mind-challenging entertainment will find Lain to be a thoroughly engrossing and addictive piece of entertainment.

 

DVD Extras

· Conceptual Drawings

· Promo Video

· Pioneer Information (information - not trailers - on other Pioneer titles, a common Pioneer format for the late ‘90s)

· Easter Egg! On each DVD is a hidden art scene involving Lain. Try clicking up to the word “Lain” on the menu screen

 

Principle English Voice Actors

Role

Voice Actor

Lain Iwakura

Ruby Marlowe

Mika Iwakura (Lain’s sister)

Patricia Lee

Yasuo Iwakura (Lain’s father)

Gil Starberry

Miho Iwakura (Lain’s mother)

Celeste Bunch

Alice

Emily Brown

Julie

Alexis Edwards

Reika

Lenore Zann?

Delivery Guy

Dylan Tully

Masami Eri/“God”

Sean “Sparky” Thornton

Narrator, voice on Wired

George C. Cole

J.J.

Christy Mathewson

Taro

Ian Hawk

Cheshire Cat Poser

Jackson Daniels

Men in Black

James Lyon,

Robert Wicks

 

 

 

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