Inkling Anime Review: Serial Experiments Lain

The overarching narrative of Serial Experiments Lain centers around a shy and soft-spoken girl, Lain, who isn’t very engaged in the domain of social media. On one cataclysmic day, Lain and her fellow classmates begin to receive E-mails from a student named Chisa… Who committed suicide a couple of days ago. In a state of bewilderment, Lain inquisitively starts to dig deeper in search of a reason for this strange occurrence in the place she once avoided altogether, “The Wired” (pretty much a metaphorical representation of the internet).

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Considering that this anime came out in 1998, I actually found the visual aesthetic to be quite good. Even though the artwork glaringly strays away from the conventional designs you’d normally come to expect from most anime shows in any genre, it does not detract from the overall experience at all; if anything, I feel like it makes it better. The characters have realistically designed representations, they aren’t outlandishly slender or have voluptuous breasts and bosoms, which is usually the case in quite a bit of modern-day anime productions.

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One of the distinguishing qualities that sets Serial Experiments Lain apart is it’s utilization of silence. Their are some ambient noises and the sound of static encapsulating some moments throughout each episodes, but the vast majority of scenes have little to no dialog. The voices that do make themselves present however, are as varied as the animation that I talked about earlier. For both the English and Japanese dubs, I felt like the ensemble cast did an exceptional job of capturing the minute quirks and idiosyncrasies of each character, which is often one of my pet peeves in some anime shows that I watch. Lain’s voice in particular is quite nuanced in terms of emotional impact. There are moments where she sounds endearing and kind-hearted, but there are also times where her cadence will make you quiver in absolute fear; which is odd but makes sense in my opinion since existential dread is one of the potential themes that are permeating in Serial Experiments Lain.

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As for the story, I can’t think of any other anime besides Neon Genesis Evangelion, that’s as divisive and enigmatic as this one. But if you asked me, I’d say that Serial Experiments Lain is one of the most fascinating and mentally stimulating works I’ve ever seen. This anime will unabashedly play mind games with your head, and you’ll be constantly wondering what the hell is even happening. The narrative style might turn off some viewers upon completion, but I think it makes re-watching an incredibly rewarding experience.

 

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Serial Experiments Lain is a show that isn’t afraid to discuss uncomfortably harrowing subjects. It tackles religious values, human connection, and existentialism. As the series goes on, Lain begins to have an internal dilemma regarding the meaning of her own existence, and whether or not relationships bear more meaning in “The Wired” or in the real world. The more she engages herself within this social media platform, she comes to the realization that her life isn’t just a momentary lapse of reason. At first I rolled my eyes and thought that most of the episodes would just be an account of Lain’s personal journey of self-discovery, and while that might be the case to some extent, I walked away with more food for thought than I initially expected. The circumambient conundrum regarding who and what Lain is explores scintillating analysis of “identity” and “humanity” as concepts, yet it never felt preachy or overbearing to me as a viewer, which is quite an accomplishment as a far as storytelling is concerned.

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The characters within the Serial Experiments Lain universe are superbly characterized, even when they receive very little screen time. Lain is quite an enigma, but she is still a very endearing and sweet individual. She does come off as rather timid and a bit surly at first, but she does slowly open up to others despite her insecurities. Like any other person, Lain does have psychological and emotionally-driven predicaments that stems from her inner thoughts and outlook on the world.

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Arisu, probably the only true friend in Lain’s life, is one of the few people that Lain trusts without harboring any sense of doubt or suspicion. When other people tried to brush Lain aside or ignore her, she always tried her best to make her feel welcome and a part of her circle of  companions, even when it does come off as a bit pushy and naïve. Arisu does genuinely care about Lain’s well-being whenever she appears crestfallen or depressed. The other characters in Serial Experiments Lain also have uniquely characterized motives. Some things give them anxieties similar to what a lot of people endure in real life; a yearning for self-enrichment, a fear of crippling isolation, a constant thirst for infographic information, etc. Most anime shows come off as escapism in my opinion since they usually indulge in our pleasures and fantasies, but Lain truly digs deep into subjects that we’d usually try to hide and suppress as a coping mechanism. This is something that I wish more anime shows would delve into since gauging a deeper understanding of humanity does encourage us to put things in perspective or see things in a different light even if we don’t necessarily agree with it.

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All in all, Serial Experiments Lain is a mind-altering experience that is immensely cathartic for analytical thinkers and any viewers that are looking for something different within anime. It presents questions to topics that arouse innate curiosity, which is unlike any other show before. Even though the scatterbrained sequences of an informational overflow might come off as just random eye-candy or pretentious spectacle, they do serve an intrinsic purpose within the unfolding story if you’re willing to think about it deeply.

 

 

 

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18 thoughts on “Inkling Anime Review: Serial Experiments Lain

  1. When you described its overview, the first thing that came to mind was the anime film I just finished watching last weekend (Harmony). I like this kind of story. If you hadn’t mentioned it, I wouldn’t have guessed it’s a 1998 show. The graphics are pretty decent.Thanks for reviewing! I’ll list this down on my list!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t think I have yet, maybe in the future. Originally I started blogging on WordPress as an assignment for an English class a couple of months ago, but it’s something I’ve grown to really like. It feels nice having an outlet to openly read and share content with others on a wide array of topics.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I had heard of this one, but I haven’t yet watched it. After this great review, I am definitely going to look this one up very soon. Very interesting storyline. Thanks for posting this one (even though my to watch list keeps growing every day haha 😂)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I watched this show back when it first came over to the States & then recently last year, & it was such an odd experience remembering how I felt about the technology then versus now. I was in middle school when this came out, & I remember looking at my little Nokia cellphone & being in awe at the thought of people talking to their computers. Even know, the show still maintains a suitably cyberpunk feel, with people projecting themselves through technology, reality & the digital world blurring, & cyber-drugs. I highly recommend it to anyone that wants something out of the ordinary. There are some scenes that continue to stick with me to this day.

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  4. I’ve heard of this show, too, and even watched the first episode, but it was a busy time for me so I had to drop it. Still, I’ve been questioning my decision all this time. Your review has me convinced I need to pick it up again. Thanks for sharing!

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  5. Lain was one of the first shows that I’ve ever watched and it stuck for a life. I just sat down to watch a single episode and three hours later I completed the whole story. Then it only needed about two weeks to digest. All in all I think Lain to be a masterpiece in par with Haibane Renmei.

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  6. I loved watching Serial Experiments Lain! It kept me on my toes the whole time, had me using my head to figure out where the plot was going, which made me enjoy the show even more, and I loved about the fact that-like you said in your review-the producers were not afraid to put out some suggestive topics to develop the story and give the audience more mind games. What I also enjoyed about the series was the way the director and producers were begging the question to the viewers if our society will turn out like the dystopian one in the show.
    Thank you for sharing your wonderful reviee on Serial Experiments Lain! I agreed with all of your opinions on the series. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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