Serial Experiments Lain
Copyright: © 1998 Triangle Staff / Pioneer LDC
Length: 25 minutes
Rating: NR, Recommended for Mature Audiences
Format: DVD / VHS, Original Japanese Dialog / Subtitled / English Dub
14 year-old Iwakura Lain is some what of a social loner -- she has some friends, but for the most part, she's an introvert. One day at school, she finds one of her friends distraught over what some believe to be a terribly cruel prank -- an e-mail message, from Yomoda Chisa -- a young girl who had earlier committed suicide by jumping off the top of a building. Later, Lain discovers that she too has a message waiting. A message from Chisa. Stranger still, the person originating the message is responding real-time, and claims to be Chisa. She informs Lain that she had decided to die because she no longer needed the body -- and that she decided to become part of the "Wired." And the reason for her death: God exists in the Wired.
Lain is intrigued, and asks her father to get her a new NAVI -- a navigator for the "Wired," a sort of super-internet, where the limits of its influence seem to extend beyond the virtual world...
I have had more requests to review this series than any other before it. Problem was, I was feeling a little poor from the Christmas holidays, and wasn't really ready to buy this series quite yet. Luckily, my sister had bought the tape, and lent it to me. After watching the first volume, I immediately went out and bought all four DVD's.
Serial Experiments Lain is what I would describe as Pink Floyd: The Wall meets Altered States from the flip side of The Matrix, as directed by Stanley Kubrick while taking breaks from editing the last scenes in 2001: A Space Oddessy. I'll explain some of this further in later reviews; but we're getting ahead of ourselves in this volume...
The first episode opens with the events leading up to the death of Chisa Yomoda, a young girl in middle school. We initially see her running, distressed over something. Yet when she finally jumps from the top of the building in Shibuya, there's a look of calm serenety across her face -- somewhat reminicent of the look on Marje's face prior to jumping off the SDF-1 in Macross Plus. And like the scene in Macross, it's done to a strangely tranquil soundtrack, until the sounds of the body crashing into objects below jerk you back into reality. From the outset, this is a dark series with a very different take on presentation. Imagery is stark, and there's extensive use of juxtaposed ideas. One of the most prominant is the powerfully intrusive 60 Hz hum from the overhead powerlines which criss-cross the city skyline. In one of the first scenes, Lain is on a train, and she finds herself overwhelmed by the onslaught of the constant noise from her surroundings -- the chatter of her fellow travellers, or is it noise from electrical interference? I was struck by the sheer impact of the scene, especially when the interference is shattered, leaving only the noise of the train itself. (You must watch -- and listen -- to this series on a system which can take advantage of a rich audio track. The tinny sounds from your average TV just won't give you the same impact; the use of audio here is just as important as the visuals.)
I had heard that SEL was done entirely using computer animation, but I don't believe this to be the case -- there are unmistakable signs of cels being used for much of the foreground elements; CGI seems to be used primarily for detail fills and backgrounds. Frame rates vary -- computer animated scenes are full rate, while the cel-drawn elements are usually 1:3 or even 1:4 ratio. Still, the animation quality is above-average, and overall animation direction makes excellent use of the visual medium.
It's easy to forget that this was a TV series -- it could have easily been an OAV, and I'm sure that many viewers simply said, "huh?" But the visuals play to the subconcious; in fact, one of the Café's regular readers referred to SEL's imagery as a "Rorschach test on video." Perhaps not a bad analogy after all...
- AN, 2000.02.06
café rating (subtitled):
A complex story which seems to connect on many different levels. A refreshing, if somewhat challenging take on the virtual/real world cross-over.
Stark, disturbing, minimalist and deliberately vague to the point of frustration. This is a "quiet thriller," if one could use the term.
Decent if somewhat detached performances by all in the opener. English acting is surprisingly similar, and works well. You might lose some of the edgy voice acting if you switch to the English version, but it's better than average.
Superior animation, due largely in part to the effective use of computer-generated imagery.
Largely innocuous, though if I was rating the entire soundtrack, I'd give this a four. Opening theme is hauntingly effective, almost bohemian, while the ending theme reminds us that people of limited vocal talents often get to showcase their material on anime series.
Fairly literal translation. I didn't really pick up any significant differences between the Japanese dialog and English versions.
When was the last time that I bought an entire series after watching only one episode?
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