Serial Experiments Lain

Serial Experiments LainType: TV Series
Episode Count: 13
Genre: Sci-Fi / Psychological Thriller / Psychological Drama
Vintage: 1998

Version reviewed: Japanese Subtitled
Date of Review: 29 Aug 2006

Grade: A+

A mindtrip and a half, and the series responsible for Yoshitoshi ABe becoming my favorite doujin artist and character designer.

Plot Summary
Quiet 13-year-old Lain Iwakura’s normal life abruptly changes when she receives an email from Chisa, a classmate who has recently committed suicide. In it, Chisa states that she is still very much alive, but has merely given up her body, and asks Lain to come and join her. This leads Lain down a path of discovery that begins to blur the line between her life in the real world and in the Wired (or the internet, as we’d call it).

The Review
Serial Experiments Lain isn’t so much a series that you watch as one you experience. It is also very unconventional. It is also very hard to explain without giving anything away. I will attempt to do just that.

The hum of electrical wires. The churning of computer hardware. These are the sounds that permeate the world of Serial Experiments Lain. This is a series about human communication and connection, and the role of technology in that exchange. Computers and technology are the dominant landscape.

Lain is all but non-linear in the way the story unfolds. Events seem to take place in chronological order, though they are split between events in the real world and the Wired. There is no easy way to tell which is which – especially later on – but this is one of the major themes of the show. Another unique aspect of the storytelling is that each episode, or Layer, begins with the same sequence, though with a different voiceover each time. With episodes being called Layers, that’s just another clue that each episode is more of, well, a layer of the story than a traditional advancing of time between episodes. Time does pass forward, but that’s not as important as the fact that each Layer goes deeper into the story, like an archaeological dig. Once you get to Layer 13, you’ve found what you were looking for.

Or have you?

That is why Serial Experiments Lain is one of my all-time favorites. It is so abstract and multilayered that even after watching it at least four times as of this writing, I still have questions and see new things with each viewing. This is a series I will enjoy with many repeat viewings to come, and I would recommend highly to anyone who enjoys stories that play games with your mind.

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