Serial Experiments: Lain

A junior high girl commits suicide, and the next day her classmates receive e-mails assuring them that she is still alive in 'the Wired', that she has merely abandoned her body.

Is it a sick joke? Or is the barrier between the real world and the virtual world breaking down, or even vanishing?

The incident prompts the meek schoolgirl protagonist, Iwakura Lain, to finally take an serious interest in computers, which only deepens as more and more people tell her they've met her 'in the Wired'--a more all-encompassing virtual world than today's internet, that integrates internet, telephone, television, and (by implication of the visuals) is carried piggy-back on power transmission lines--or seen her at a computer-themed disco, Cyberia.

What is going on? Will Lain be able to find out?

Another anime mediation on the nature of personhood, and in a way more disturbing, than Ghost in the Shell, especially if one believes in strong AI.*

The series is beautifully animated, with a surreal quality often created with very pronounced shadows which aren't merely black, but are filled with colored patterns, and the use of visuals which simulate coarse raster scans or are pixelated to communicate (at times) when something is virtual. Definitely one of the must-see classics, no, more than that , a must-see-twice classic. The first time out unless one has read a review full of spoilers, Lain is at once engaging and hard to follow. The second viewing is at once more enjoyable and more disturbing from the first episode on.

Suicides are the main parental warning in this one, with gore, albeit in subdued visuals. The series is also too confusing for children to enjoy. Any teen up to engaging the philosophical issues the plot raises should be up to dealing with the whole plot, suicides and all.

*I don't think I do, since I tend toward mathematical Platonism, and Penrose, while not disproving strong AI has proved mathematical Platonism and strong AI to be mutually contradictory. On the other hand the 'electromagnetic room' counter-argument to Searle's 'Chinese room' thought-experiment is somewhat compelling.

Ratings (out of 5, 1 being worst, 5 being best)

Plot 4.8
Voice-Acting (original)4.0

Comment on this review

Return to the Outside the Uni Anime Homepage

Return to David Yetter's Outside the University Homepage 1