Review #38- Serial Experiments Lain

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Greetings everyone, and welcome back to another review! Today we will be covering a very strange anime, and also the oldest anime we’ve reviewed thus far, Serial Experiments Lain. As always, this review may contain minor SPOILERS!

Now without further ado, let us begin the review!

Summary: Lain Iwakura appears to be an ordinary girl, with almost no experience with computers. Yet the sudden suicide of a schoolmate, and a number of strange occurrences, conspire to pull Lain into the world of the Wired, where she gradually learns that nothing is what it seems to be… not even Lain herself. -Anime News Network

Plot: 7/10

The plot of Serial Experiments Lain is best described as cryptic. The series offers a lot of details to work out what is actually going on, but it is up to the viewer to decipher what are the important parts of the plot. While this may feel tedious to some, it provides an engaging watch for anyone willing to participate in the game. The pacing and mood of the series are well done, though the ending feels a bit short handed with how every issue is essential solved. A great deal of the plot is up for interpretation, which makes this a challenging series to watch.

Character: 9/10

Realism seems to be the basis for the characters in this anime. It does not idealize anything, and many of the characters deal with heavy secrets and scandals, things all humans possess. The most powerful character (in multiple regards) is the titular character Lain, who is just trying her best. While you may not fall in love with each character, they definitely feel real and are entertaining to watch. Some characters, however, can feel too much like extras, not really adding anything to the show.

Animation: 8/10

For an anime from the 1990s, the animation has aged reasonably well. This being said, the backgrounds tend to be bland and undetailed, leaving much to be desired. This may force some viewers to adapt to the style of the show, but the character designs make up for the weak background.

Soundtrack: 9/10

Serial Experiments Lain has a rather well done soundtrack, while helps to set the surreal and unnerving mood present throughout every moment of the show. The biggest issue is that opening tends to overshadow the rest of the soundtrack, and that it all can sometimes be lost among the complexities.

Themes: 10/10

I personally viewed the series as a parallel to quantum mechanics, which are a major component in computers. Technology in general is a major theme in this series, and how it can consume our lives. Serial Experiments Lain repeatedly question the nature of reality, both from a scientific and philosophical standpoint. Some other present themes of significance include responsibility and loyalty. The biggest message the anime seems to promote is the proverb, “Question everything.” This leaves the themes, like plot, largely up to interpretation.

Final Score: 8.6/10

Final Grade: B

B-Ro’s Take

Serial Experiments Lain was a very out there anime. From the first episode it set this very uneasy feeling that will say with you throughout the whole show. It always feels slightly off, but you can never quite say what it is. Also as it goes it gets slightly weird making it so you don’t really question it, but if you look back to the first episode you won’t be able to say how it got where it did. As far as the plot goes it is difficult to follow. You have to really think to piece it all together and even then you will think of somethings that just don’t seem to fit together, but that all kind of fits with the uneasy feeling it gives you. The characters are very out there. They can change at the drop of a hat or all of the sudden have an extreme development that you can’t really figure out why it happened. With that said it somehow feels like it works with the anime. The animation was a bit off putting at first but again it fits with the oddness of the anime. This is a hard anime to really see problems with because of how weird it is, it makes the problems just fit right in with it all. Out of 10 I would give this anime an 8. I recommend this anime to people who want something new (because let me tell you, you have probably never seen anything like this before) or if you like weird things and feeling uneasy. – B-Ro

LowKev’s Take

Serial Experiments Lain, what a unique experience. Let me start off by saying that Lain isn’t for everyone. It’s deliberately vague and cryptic, very dark and twisted in tone, and wow do I love it! Right from the beginning with the famous “present day, present time” line, it feels like something is off. I’ve never seen something that manages to emit such strange vibes with such consistency. Each episode had me on my toes and out of my comfort zone. While I wouldn’t consider it a horror anime, the way it builds tension and messes with the viewer ends up being far more unnerving and interesting than most horror I have watched. But at the same time, the world it creates is endlessly interesting. I couldn’t help but want to be immersed in the world and learn more about it. Lain masters the use of repetition, bizarre sound effects, and seriously out of left field imagery to create an amazing atmosphere. The rather hidden plot adds to the feeling of intrigue and mystery. A lot about the plot can be open to interpretation, but it always felt like the creators had a clear point and vision to it all. I love stories that keep things vague and let you piece things together. The series has heavy influences from psychology and philosophy, and I’d say that the atmosphere helps illustrate these themes well and in a way that doesn’t bog down the show. It also looks at numerous themes involving the internet and technology, and it’s incredible just how much of it is applicable today. However, if you want to really understand what’s going on, Lain does ask a lot out of you. It demands your attention, making you note every little piece presented. It sometimes tries a little too hard to be vague, and there are still a lot of parts that I believe have explanations, but I can’t definitively say what they are. It keeps my intrigue high when rewatching it, but it can also get a bit frustrating. It’s perhaps most interesting that this series, beneath its seemingly cold and cryptic exterior, still has a lot of heart and emotion. This mostly involves Lain herself. There are some genuinely heartbreaking moments, and I felt a lot of sympathy for her. This series also features one of my favorite anime openings. “Duvet” is an amazing song, and the opening really nails the tone of the show. The closing isn’t bad, but not at the same level of awesome as the opening. I also must mention that alongside all of the eerie sound effects in the show is an amazingly atmospheric soundtrack, with a lot of really cool guitar work and effects. I highly recommend giving this series a shot. It’s one of my favorites, and is well worth the required patience for its atmosphere, main character, and all of the things hidden inside it.

Final Comments: Much like the technology that is one of its major themes,  Serial Experiments Lain is complex in many regards, leaving much of the series up to the viewer to figure out. This can work against it, turning off some viewers when combined with the aged animation.

Thank you everyone for reading! If you want to see some of our other reviews, I recommend checking out our Anime Review Archivepage.Otherwise, if you would like to support us more, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, as we’d really appreciate it, and it helps us out a lot! Thank you again, and next week we will be reviewing the first season of Sword Art Online.

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21 thoughts on “Review #38- Serial Experiments Lain

      1. Death Note is another psycological one, though not to the same extent. ANd then of course, Neon Genesis Evangelion essentially ends with some of the same notes (especially notable between Layers 11 and 12), and many consider Lain to actually have plagiarized from NGE (it didn’t, just similar ideas). Both are best described as Mind Screw/Mind Rape (NGE spawned that term), so be warned.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve heard some great things about Death Note and NGE, and I really need to get around to watching them. I didn’t know NGE went a similar route as Lain, but it certainly has me interested!
      I’ve found Boogiepop Phantom to be really good in the psychological department as well. It’s not on the same level as Lain, but it does some really cool stuff.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. One of my all time favourite anime. I really admired your thematic interpretation of the show, particular in regards to quantum mechanics, something I hadn’t considered in that way before. And I agree, Duvet works brilliantly. 90s British alternative rock and anime make a surprisingly potent combination.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally agree with British Alternative music and anime going well together. I was pretty surprised when Duvet played the first time and was clearly British, but wow did it work well. I feel like some of the themes explored in Lain match what Radiohead explored in their OK Computer and Kid A days. Both to me really look at the world and say “something is definitely off here”.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Couldn’t agree more with Radiohead. Using Paranoid Android on the end credits of Ergo Proxy was especially effective.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The incredibly slow pace made me want to drop it several times, but I’m kind of glad I stayed because, as a whole, the plot wasn’t that bad. I suppose this kind of anime appeals more to people who like to challenge themselves philosophically (something I don’t often do xD).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I would definitely agree with you in that regard (about the nature of the show, not about yourself haha). I can appreciate the show, but it personally was not a favorite of mine haha. Thank you for your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

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