Serial Experiments Lain

  • Kiss of Death 09-19-2015, 04:01 AM (Edited 10-20-2015, 08:13 AM)
    [Image: Serial-Experiments-Lain-Restore-04.jpg]
    [header]Serial Experiments Lain[/header]
    don't kill me please

    Before I start this review... if you enjoyed this anime, don't read any further. I don't want to argue with anyone about anything, neither do I want to repeat hundreds of times that what I will write below this point is my own opinion and my way of looking at things only. If you have a few points, I'm willing to see your view on it, so long as it's a humble explanation instead of emotion-influenced discussion. If you fail to comprehend it and came here to argue, you will be ignored. Thanks a bunch for understanding.

    Welcome to my review on Serial Experiments Lain, everyone who decided to read on. I just had to put that huge and ugly disclaimer there, since the views on this anime differ in many aspects from person to person. Now then, you might find yourself asking - what exactly is a review of an anime deemed a classic doing here, in the segment devoted to all the bad anime? The answer is simple - this classic, as original as it is, as loved as it might have been and as thought-provoking as it certainly makes people think it is... is indeed nothing more (and it hurts me to spell it out, dear Lain fans out there) than a fresh topic of old times, something that used to provoke people to think about what can be possible in the future back in the day (and we're talking 1998 there), that holds no meaning nowadays. Serial Experiments Lain (and I'll accent it once more, IN MY EYES) is a fad. It used to be an actual representation of what people back then called unknown, going out of the box with the theories that people found interesting, original. Right now it's but an echo of the past, the artifact of old times that doesn't stand any ground nowadays.
    As I already mentioned, the views on this anime differ greatly from person to person. Before even attempting to write my tyrade on this anime I made sure to research the reviews on MAL and see how the community there perceives this title. As I thought, the views there are in vast majority positive - most of the reviews claim that the anime is too deep to comprehend for a normal person and is therefore disliked. That's the place where mine and their views do not go hand in hand - from my point of view, the anime is simply a pile of random events thrown together, and only if you dwelve deep enough, you will understand what was the originally intended meaning of it all. The question remains - why would you even attempt to understand it, if it's long overdue?

    For an anime made before the Y2K, it's hard to expect any wonders if it comes to visuals. All it really took back then was going with a scheme that has been tested and worked, avoid excessive frame errors and people were satisfied. The creators of Lain, however, decided that if they're going to mess with viewers' heads, they might as well mess with their eyes a little bit. The visuals here consist of pretty much two layers - one of them is your ordinary pre-2000 anime look, with pointy shapes and all that, character designs with 'edges', that sort of thing. The frame erros, sadly, were all over the place. The other layer is the whole cyberpunk/mystery aspect... and it does look intriguing. Leaving alone the obviously futuristic aspects, so neons, lasers, mysterious machinery and all that, at certain points in time we're presented with scenes that do not belong - blurred colors, multicolored moving gradients, in short - as if they made it to represent the results of intaking LSD. And to be perfectly honest, I liked that. Thinking out of the box at its finest, producing an aura that makes the anime feel out of this world. And, not to end up with a score too harsh in the end, I'll remove an additional point for the bear pajamas.
    Graphics: 6/20

    I can't really say much about sound in this anime. It just... is there. The voice actors do their job well, and looking at the cast there, I'm impressed with the performance of English actors in the original version. As for the soundtrack... I have to admit, some pieces were really up my alley, and I was surprised to hear them to say the least, so huge plus for that. All in all, this paragraph pretty much does the series justice of saving it from the total doom I'm to bring about in the next bits. I'll just let those mild words soak in and we can move forward.
    Sound: 2/20

    This part is what makes Lain what it is. And, truth be told, it's kept in a constant tempo, from the beginning to the very end. But we can't really talk about pace here, since what unfolds in this anime is not a story - rather, it's a series of randomly assembled riddles, that only solved, and only together, assemble an answer the viewers are looking for. Sounds noble? That might have been the idea behind it, true. But the way those riddles are presented leaves a lot to ask for. Lain Iwakura, a junior high student, leads a normal school life. Lain Iwakura, who isn't really into technology, decides to get herself a good computer. Lain Iwakura, someone who doesn't really understand how computers work, assembles a tremendous supermachine. Lain Iwakura, a normal junior high student, witnesses the suicide of her classmate. Sounds pretty chaotic, doesn't it? That's pretty much just how the plot works in this case. If I were to give the creators credit for their originality, I'd also have to add a hefty amount of whining and bonus points, so I just won't.
    The problem with this anime is more on a fundamental basis rather than lying somewhere deep. For me it ended up forming in a simple question - 'Why bother?'. This question has been with me ever since the start until the very end, ans I still haven't found an answer. I believe I already mentioned in one of my reviews that the purpose of an anime is really significant to how it's percepted, but how does that work if the anime has seemingly no purpose other than the made up explanations for what happens in a fictional world. In this aspect, it slightly reminded me of a title I have watched before, a title that I still can't quite forgive for how bad it has wasted the huge potential it had. A title that was created years after Lain, but caused the same feeling of boredom and lack of interest despite my brain working at full speed just to comprehend what's going on the screen - ChaoS;HEAd.
    Plot: 24/20

    I'm not quite sure how to tackle this paragraph. Given the nature of the anime, the only significant character the series relies on is Lain Iwakura, the rest of them falling considerably behind. Why? Lain Iwakura, as I have already mentioned, is a junior high student, who never really had any special interest in technology. One day she wants to try out what the Wired everybody talks about looks really, so she slowly dives into the vast world of what we would call the Internet. At this point the character development pretty much went to shit and Lain started doing things she normally shouldn't... and that's one of the big features I hold against this anime. I am aware that Lain is something else from the very beginning, but that doesn't justify going against the current and just skipping large chunks of character development for whatever reason. 
    If I were to describe the other characters in this series... Lain has a seemingly normal family. Her mother behaves odd no matter how you look at her, her father has all the money in the world for the computer parts and her sister for some reason imitates a phone call. Of course, some of it is explained later on, but I prefer to just look at things the way they are. The rest of the cast features Yomoda Chisa, Lain's classmate who killed herself (and that's not even a spoiler), Mizuki Arisu, who really wants to know what's going on with Lain, Men In Black who can't erase the memories of a person for some reason, Taro, the super knowledgeable kid who 'kissed an angel' and Eiri Masami, the Deus Ex Machina of this series... literally. Somewhere in this mess there once was logic, I've even seen it around, but I can't seem to find it anymore.
    Characters: 19/20

    I'll be frank. The idea of this anime at first appealed to me. I was longing for an anime that would require me to use my brain, hiding a deep meaning that would make me question what is real, or, in case of this anime - where is the border between reality and virtual world. What I got instead was a whole bunch of stuff put together with Super Glue that imitated a really complicated Rubik's Cube. The catch is, solving the puzzle isn't precisely worth it.
    I have hidden a message in this review. To uncover it you'd have to analyze the whole article with utmost precision and make quite a bit of research just to see what kind of encryption I used. And the typos, grammar mistakes and everything else are all intentional. I'm sure none of you will ever find what I hid here, and it's quite alright, because there's also no meaning for you to try and decipher the message. That accurately represents my feelings about this anime. It's just a whole load of time I wasted trying to enjoy the anime and the ideas behind.
    Enjoyment: 20/20

    Total score: 71/100
  • Clickbait 09-19-2015, 09:27 AM
    Great review Nanashi! Even if I don't completely agree with it.

    I can see how you could feel the way you do about SEL, I think it's more of an acquired taste.
  • Orion41 09-19-2015, 09:30 AM
    Aaaaa Nana-chan well-written as always!

    Oh god I can see the haters coming already
    you just went there
    and you don't even care
    [Image: picard_clapping.gif]

    well played
  • None_At_All 09-19-2015, 02:51 PM
    Huh, I guess I'll have to lower my expectations for this anime, then.

    Thanks a lot for the review!

    Will we ever know the secret message, though?
  • darkengine 09-21-2015, 10:25 PM
    I found SEL to be much better the second time around. Perhaps it may not be as timely in 2015 as it was in 1998, but I found it not difficult at all to slip into the 1990s mindset. After some time, I actually enjoyed it, like a vacation through time inside my head.

    I actually talked to Kyle Drake, the creator of neocities, about the meaning of SEL when we met by chance at a conference. He perscribed to the interpretation of the show as an allegory of the history of the internet. Sort of a Paradise Lost for the teens and twentysomethings of the nineties. He specificially posited that one of the so-called "men in black" was Steve Mann, a pioneer in wearable computing. The upgrading versions of the Wired protocol that makes up a major plot point later in the series also extends the show's position from allegory into prediction. After the conference, I watched it a third time through this lens. It was quite interesting thinking about the show in this way.

    Oh yes, the show suffers from production quality issues which they attempt to sweep away through heavy stylization and the contradictory juxtaposition of eye-piercing color palettes with dull greys. Visually, the show is not really offerring anything close to the best that '90s anime has to offer -- hell, even Buttobi CPU looks better. The soundscape is unique, but sparse, and the Japanese-language dialogue seems inconsistent and understated (I have not watched the English dub).

    Powered almost solely by its plot, the show fails to create a consistent atmosphere because of its production issues. It's quite sad, because an enveloping atmosphere could really complement its strengths. But overall, I think the show is worth a watch for anybody interested in the culture of technology.
  • suicid3Panda 09-22-2015, 07:02 AM (Edited 09-22-2015, 09:04 AM)
    It seems i may have to watch this a third time to remember why I dint't like it. In any case I do love the soundtrack from that cyber cafe they frequented. I liked it enough to buy the dang thing! Also, I find grays and blues and the cyber punk atmosphere to be very visually appealing.

    On the other hand, I watch anime for story or for laughs. I found the story to be less coherent than the end of a Final Fantasy game, and it wasn't funny at all. Nana, you nailed it! Lain's personality shifts are what make the story most confusing for me. The riddles throughout the anime are convoluted, and when you figured them out you just think to yourself "huh, that's it?!" You feel like you wasted your time trying to crack some stupid code. "Don't forget to drink your Ovaltine!"

    Thanks for this Nana!!! I've been on a 15 year long mission to prove that this anime had some legitimate flaws. Now that the wowing factor of its cyberpunk can no longer thinly veil its shortcomings, we can finally have civil conversations about it.

    One thing we can agree on: Lain has cable management issues.
  • Clickbait 09-22-2015, 07:31 AM
    > Lain has cable management issues.

    Cables are hot.
  • Gapho 10-19-2015, 12:00 PM
    I agree, it's an absolute trip to watch, but it really needs a good remaster...
  • mis 10-24-2015, 04:08 AM
    Honestly, I've been putting off watching Lain for a while now, not just because I have awful time management and can't watch any series' full season (though I am guilty of that), but that Lain always struck me as being a bit too deep and philosophical for me, though the cyberpunk was definitely a draw for me. As someone who really loved '90's style anime though, it might be worth it to push it up on the list, if anything.

    I agree with @Gapho though, I'd watch this series hand down if it got remade or remastered.
  • Kiss of Death 10-24-2015, 04:27 AM
    Well, time to respond and throw a few cents of mine on the table. First off, thanks for all the great responses! It's amazing this thread got so active, though it kinda pains me that's not the case with other reviews. That said, I didn't come here to complain, so I'll just get to the point.

    If you manage to decode my review, you sure will~ I doubt anyone will ever succeed, however.

    While it might not be too difficult to perceive this series as any 90s person watching this anime, it doesn't really define that SEL is good; if anything, it just adds another point as to why it's not that good of a production. As someone who's been pursuing great heights of art for years, I can tell that something is truly amazing if it is timeless. Having to forcefully adapt into a different mindset just to enjoy a means of art is in no way a process I'd call worth it.
    As for being an allegory, sure, that's the deeper meaning to this series. Which still doesn't justify the amount of bullshit a person has to go through just to be able to enjoy what this series has to offer.

    @Gapho and @mis
    While I agree this series would be more appealing to the audience if it got a remaster, I doubt it would change my opinion on it, since the biggest flaw of the series is in its story and the way it's told. Unless they retold it in a more user-friendly way and tackling the issues of the current generation, that is.
  • mis 10-24-2015, 04:32 AM
    (10-24-2015, 04:27 AM)Kiss of Death Wrote: @Gapho and @mis
    While I agree this series would be more appealing to the audience if it got a remaster, I doubt it would change my opinion on it, since the biggest flaw of the series is in its story and the way it's told. Unless they retold it in a more user-friendly way and tackling the issues of the current generation, that is.

    I understand, I mostly just meant it for me personally that I'd probably enjoy it (and watch it) with revamped graphics and maybe a more modern story - though being cyberpunk, probably wouldn't change much.

    But, seeing as we're affiliated with Lainchan now, I might as well give it a go now rather than later.
  • Clickbait 10-24-2015, 04:34 AM
    > I doubt anyone will ever succeed, however.
    Is it something to do with the obvious reference to the thing that plays at the beginning of every episode? "NOT FOR PRESENT DAY... PRESENT TIME!"
  • tomokochan 10-24-2015, 11:08 AM
    Reviews good. But i thought the message was pretty straight forward in the anime, but you gotta pay attention to it all very closely or else you might miss it, specifically the first episode and the last 2 episodes.
    [spoiler]Alienation, depersonalization, societal disconnect, meaninglessness of the message(or philosophy in general) and suicide. The message is in how it makes you feel and how the events relate to you.[/spoiler]
  • Derfy 04-23-2016, 09:39 PM
    I rather like Lain but I don't disagree with your observations and analysts. I really enjoy your reviews, sorry to bump your thread. I just wanted to get the point across that even you just not being afraid to speak your mind from a somewhat subjective and objective standpoint I really respect that. It makes me want to read through your other reviews even more . I should confess though I still say PRESENT DAY PRESENT TIME HAHAHA quite regularly tbqh.
  • Seph 08-17-2016, 01:14 AM
    I'm surprised how little love there is for Lain here.
  • bpseudopod 11-14-2016, 01:31 PM
    What was it like, watching SEL in the 90s? Being a 2000s kid I kind of missed the boat on that.
  • alicemizuki 11-15-2016, 02:38 AM
    lain is for hug
  • bpseudopod 11-15-2016, 05:55 PM
    (11-15-2016, 02:38 AM)alicemizuki Wrote: lain is for hug

    no dude she'll fuck you up
  • FukuchiChiisaia 11-16-2016, 10:10 PM
    (09-19-2015, 02:51 PM)None_At_All Wrote: Huh, I guess I'll have to lower my expectations for this anime, then.

    No. You don't have to lower your expectation. Just don't forget that SEL is not anime for mainstream audience.
  • Derfy 11-16-2016, 10:19 PM (Edited 11-16-2016, 10:21 PM)
    SEL is awesome, praise Lain.
  • Kiss of Death 12-20-2016, 01:14 PM
    (11-14-2016, 01:31 PM)bpseudopod Wrote: What was it like, watching SEL in the 90s? Being a 2000s kid I kind of missed the boat on that.

    I'd imagine it was like being an explorer in 15th century. It must've been really cool then, but being born in the age where everything on Earth apart from the depths of the oceans has been explored, we kinda missed the boat on that as well. Nothing we can do.
  • All in One 12-20-2016, 03:09 PM
    (11-14-2016, 01:31 PM)bpseudopod Wrote: What was it like, watching SEL in the 90s? Being a 2000s kid I kind of missed the boat on that.

    I'd wager that it was roughly the same experience as watching it now, except we might be able to relate to the setting more since we live in a world where the internet and reality and now very deeply intertwined. I do like that it was originally aired at 1:15 in the morning since I couldn't think up a more perfect environment for viewing SEL than being alone during the wee hours of the morning with nothing but the pale glow of the television as a source of light.

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Serial Experiments Lain