Overview: Serial Experiments Lain is a psychedelic, post-modern cyberpunk series that one wonders how the director ever managed to make. Lain centers on a very shy school girl who slowly begins to figure out that she is not what she seems to be. After getting a computer and connecting to the “wired,” something with is far more expansive than the internet, Lain begins to realize that she may not be human, and that truly, reality and the “self” is exists (or does not exist) on many different levels. As the story progresses, Lain “evolves” in terms of understanding what she is and her place in a very post-modern world. We also get many interesting side stories, including crime, teenage coming of age issues, and dastardly plots.
The pacing of Lain is just strange. Lain is NOT an action fest, nor is it by any means straight forward. Lain starts out rather slowly and gets weirder every episode. Truly, the story is told in a very “traditional” post-modern fashion in that we have fragmented vignettes structured in a seemingly random non-linear manner. Lain uses disconnected visuals to continually barrage the viewer with different textures, color schemes, and sounds. Yet over time, it becomes clear that the story is being spunk in seemingly a cyclical fashion, almost as if we are exploring a large Mandelbrot by starting at an outside spiral and slowly working our way around to the big picture. Each fragmented vignette gets added to until, at the end, we have a rather expansive tapestry to explore.
Many different and interesting philosophical ideas. But it is pure philosophical cyberpunk. Many key issues are discussed here, including:
- What constitutes “reality”?
- How real is time?
- What constitutes the “self” as a singular entity?
- What constitutes “God”?
- How are sentient programs different from humans?
- Is there such a thing as collective humanity?
The visuals in Lain really aren’t there to “Wow” us as they are in some animes – instead they are often designed to provoke moods and thought patterns (BTW, there are so many screen caps available, that there was no need to take my own). Among the thought provoking visuals, we get:
- Psychedelic visions that explore multiple “selves” versus a singular “I”
- Juxtapositions of noise with false clarity
- Information Theory described visually
- An ever increasing feeling “disbelievability” each time the drab and normal school scene is shown.
The Bottom Line: In the end, we are left with very open-ended thoughts. Serial Experiments Lain does not provide us with answers, instead, it opens us up to questions. And while I might argue that the post-modern pacing got too circular in places, and that I might argue the same tale could have been spun in half the time, the overall effect is rather extraordinary.