Why you should watch Serial Experiments Lain

Serial Experiments Lain is a psychological thriller anime that is a masterpiece in my opinion. This is because the concepts, possibilities, even the plot this anime showed is just so much fucking awesome!

What's the story about?
Why is it so fucking good!
Storytelling
Ambience
Philosophical views
Soundtracks
Foreshadowing the current state of the internet
Conclusion

What’s the story about?

Here’s a quick summary of the initial plot

This is taken from MAL rewrite

Lain Iwakura, an awkward and introverted fourteen-year-old, is one of the many girls from her school to receive a disturbing email from her classmate Chisa Yomoda—the very same Chisa who recently committed suicide. Lain has neither the desire nor the experience to handle even basic technology; yet, when the technophobe opens the email, it leads her straight into the Wired, a virtual world of communication networks similar to what we know as the internet. Lain’s life is turned upside down as she begins to encounter cryptic mysteries one after another. Strange men called the Men in Black begin to appear wherever she goes, asking her questions and somehow knowing more about her than even she herself knows. With the boundaries between reality and cyberspace rapidly blurring, Lain is plunged into more surreal and bizarre events where identity, consciousness, and perception are concepts that take on new meanings.

Why is it so fucking good!

This part of the review contains no spoilers

Storytelling

This anime goes with a simple and linear way of story telling. A lot of anime, games, movie series and other forms of entertainment tells a story with a complex form of progression such as it will tell you both the story in a frontwards and backwards fashion, sometimes it will tell you the story in a non-linear progression and sometimes it will repeat the story to give you a deeper insight on what is happening.

But the way SEL (I will call Serial Experiments Lain as SEL from now on to make things short) tells the story is very simple. It tells the story in a linear progression but at the same time it will provide tons of information about points related to the story to understand the plot.

A lot of people would say that SEL’s way of story progression is weird and different due to overloading the viewer with information but the story progression is actually simple. It doesn’t just tell you the story, it tells you a lot of information about how things and plot points in SEL makes sense. But as we’re all used to analyzing/overanalyzing information we are given in any form of media, this should not be done in case of SEL or it will leave the viewer very confused.

Because SEL will give you tons of information to help you understand the plot, instead of analyzing the information, simply remembering it until near the end of story, will help it make a lot of sense. As Gerald Sussman1 said,

“The key to understanding complicated things is to know what not to look at and what not to compute and what not to think”

Because of the storytelling being so linear but geniously informative at the same time, it is what you all may call, simple but gorgeous. The storytelling is just epic.

Ambience

It isn’t exactly dated when the story takes place, but by the aesthetics and ambience of the anime, you can easily guess it took place in an era like that of the 90s but diverged on a different time.

The devices and machineries seen in the anime represent that of time in the 90s but there are some futuristic concepts and technologies in the anime which we won’t get into for spoiler’s sake.

The animation looked junky of the first few episodes, facial structures and lines not matching up, deformed structures of people and things etc. But this adds more beauty to the aesthetics of this anime. It’s hard to explain like most part of the anime but the more you keep watching it, the better this type of animation will suit with this anime.

Another lovely part of the aesthetics is with the old computers and clubs CRT monitors, white keyboards, neon-lights etc. gave a big boost to this old ambience. There is also this cyber-ish (not that I’m not saying cyberpunk-ish) aspect. Futuristic but within a bound.

Each characters individuality and words feel a lot different than IRL people. Some characters sound silent and emotionless, some sounds full of emotion but sometimes, the environment controls how they sound. It’s distorting but yet uniquely beautiful.

It’s very hard to describe the ambience in SEL as it’s a lot realistically futuristic piece of art.

Philosophical views

SEL explores a lot of philosophical concepts as the point of the story goes around debating those philosophies. It talks about individualism vs collectivism and about a fabricated human history based on collectivism. It also talks about a lot of humanist values which I can’t explore here due to spoilers. It also explores about eternalism and existentialism. It even goes far as exploring perspectivism in the story.

You might have a thought that author added these philosophies to make the show unique and deep but really, this show only explores the possibilities of a world connected through a communication medium (in real life: the internet, in SEL: the wired). And as it explores, those philosophies easily emerge which results in exploration, debate and discussion about it. Rather doing this directly, the creator of this show merged it all to the plot and it entirely made sense.

You don’t need to search up nor research about those words. These concepts will be simplified through analogous examples in the plot of SEL and you will have an enjoyable time.

Soundtracks

Soundtracks in SEL is matches with the ambience the most. However, for the most part, you will hear none because it takes place in an emotionless ambience. In cyberia club, you will hear 90s breakcore and dubstep DJ music, which goes so well with the time. In other places, you will hear noise or ambience music, sometimes EDMs of that time etc.

Wasei “JJ” Chikada, one of the music artists of the anime and also the VA of JJ in the anime, has a youtube channel that uploads tons of music similar to a cyber-ish type music that suits very well with the time of that anime.

Check him out!

Foreshadowing the current state of the internet

SEL was an anime way ahead of it’s time. It was like the Matrix before the matrix and about the internet. About how people will be like in the future. It explored all the realistic (and a few key-points of supernatural possibilites) of the current state of the internet. It metaphorically pointed out a lot of things about the internet and it’s current state. Because again, since it will be a spoiler elaborate it, if you start watching it, you will see and understand it for yourself.

Conclusion

Although I made this clickbaity title about Why you should watch Serial Experiments Lain, I wouldn’t say this anime is for everyone. It has a very low amount of action, near to none comedy, none of that drama or tropes etc. It doesn’t have any anime waifus and all that weeb shit. It’s very slow and boring to some people but in my opinion, this is just worth watching. :^)


  1. Structure and Interpretations of Computer Programs, MIT OpenCourseWare, Spring 2005 link 

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