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Column by Scott Green
Speculation exists that a contributing factor to the rise in instances of autism is the amount of television watched by young viewers. That children will take to technology quickly is accepted as a given. The effect of this technology on developing minds is something that is new and uncertain and its impact on how the brain is formed and how habits are formed may increasingly be a hot button issue. Desensitization to violence is an aspect, but wider effects on the ability to interact with other humans may also become part of the discussion. Serial Experiments Lain opens with a tableau that isn't unfamiliar in the context of anime aiming to examine the modern condition. A city of people, judging each-other, fumbling in efforts to please themselves with physical intimacy, and generally not connecting on any level. This set is briefly upset when a girl in a school uniform commits suicide by leaping from a building. Lain Iwakura, a withdrawn middle school girl with a hauntingly empty continence begins receiving e-mails from the dead girl claiming that the act was aimed to free the deceased from the physical world in of favor existence as streams of information. When Lain surprises her father by asking for a computer upgrade in what seems to be an act of dull impulse, he gladly orders hers a top of the line Knowledge Navigator or Navi. Drawn into the online world of the Wired and encouraged by classmates to venture out into the clubbing scene, where cutting edge elicit technology mixes with music, Lain begins to hear about another Lain, rumored to be an elite super-hacker with a far harsher, outgoing disposition. Serial Experiments Lain is a head first dive into a boiling stew of technology, theology, rumors and history. An information bread-crumb trail runs through the series from beginning to each, and at each point, the implications or potential implications deepen the intrigue and invite the viewer to probe the themes at work. While Serial Experiments Lain is guilty of information dumps, and there is material that maybe should have been cast as red herrings, it effectively utilizes the starting point of information age isolation to extrapolate the implications into universal metaphysical issues. The duality between mind and body being an obvious branch, but also the relationship between an ego's view of oneself versus collective perception and memory. By its conclusion, the major events of the plot can clearly be deduced, but, sufficient motivation is left to continue contemplating the themes. The concept of an anime canon is almost laughable. With the rapid changes in the viewer-ship population of its audience and volatility of popular trends, a work may go from nearly universally well regarded to largely forgotten in a few years. While works like Ranma 1/2 and Macross Plus are no longer frequently brought up, Serial Experiments Lain is still sure to the recommended by anime viewers. It certainly has been in the AICN Anime feedback. Serial Experiments Lain was first broadcast on Japanese TV in 1998 as an early foray into the late night, 13 episode format, carrying the post Neon Genesis Evangelion vibe of psyche cracking character dissection. It caught on in North America the following year. Between then and now, the poignancy of its view of technology hasn't been muted, it hasn't been dulled by over familiarity from derivative works, it hasn't fallen apart under critical scrutiny and it is still something that many fans of anime would like to see more of, mature work that is innovative in its visual presentation and exploration of ideas. For a near future work, Serial Experiments Lain has been well treated by the passage of time. Technology hasn't changed too radically since its inception, but it was put together at a point in time with far less broadband penetration of less ubiquitous mobile devices. With the current levels of MMORPGs and portable technology use, not to that mention older adults who only knew ".com" from the headlines in '98 now constantly look up facts on Wikipedia, Serial Experiments Lain is looking prescient. There are instances where it does feel a little '98 such as when invoking modem noises or X-Files fascination with UFOs, but these aren't major points of detraction. Whether Serial Experiments Lain is being discovered or rediscovered, its visual elements remain distinctive and enthralling. From its music video style opening accompanying British band bôa that the series is approaching presentation on from a new direction is evident. Designer Yoshitoshi ABe creates a base point of characters whose physical form and facial construction is minimally idealized. Viewing the characters, the impression is that of people rather than anime character patterns. Because of this foundation, the anime is able to utilize Lain's continence as a key vehicle in the narrative. Her face is like an ocean shore; there is a natural composure where the patterns are arranged fluidly, but in a state that is too placid, too choppy to if the patterns are reaching too high a magnitude, the effect is quite jarring. Serial Experiments Lain proves to be a series worth revisiting, and one that will change when new experience and knowledge it brought to it. It seeps from speculative narrative concerning the implications of technology to a more metaphysical bend that finds justification in technology, but could be divorced from it. The former is increasingly unsettling as its patterns are mirrored more prevalently in the non-fictional world. If your older and feel a deeper sense of responsibility, the brand of enabled disconnect that marks the relationships between character is painful to watch. On the metaphysical side, the series originally hit North America shortly after the Matrix and played similar reality head-warp games. A follower of current trends might now find more parallels in post-human singularity sci-fi and a bit of information age beliefs. A reason why revisiting the work is rewarding is that the ideas it engages aren't just repackaged basement level concepts. What it posits about humanity, divinity, perception and reality can be picked out and debated. There are heavy conceits, with events happening with loose connection to real possibilities, but the reaction is to debate the work rather than discount it.
AICN Anime Lain Contest
Serial Experiments Lain is a work designed to be discussed. To commemorate an anime that affords the opportunity for significant inspection, AICN Anime is welcoming readers to submit their thoughts and interpretation of the series. Between now and October 31st, write up your view on the work and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. With any luck, Harry Knowles will also be putting together some thoughts on the anime. Interesting submissions will be posted on AICN. The best non-regular AICN contributors will be eligible for one of the following prizes: Hardcover edition of the art book Yoshitoshi ABe Lain Illustrations ab# rebuild an omnipresence in wired released and contributed by Digital Manga Publishing Reviewed here (two winners to be selected).
10" UFO doll Lain in PJs, contributed by SG
Set of 4 Lain "Limited Edition Collector's Action Dolls", released by Toynami, contributed by SG
Set of 2 Lain mini-lunchboxes, released by Palisades, contributed by SG
Lain Messenger Bag, released by Myth, contributed by SG If you have not seen Serial Experiments Lain, send an e-mail to email@example.com. Four winners will be randomly selected to win a copy of the anime from the Geneon's release of the series. Contributed by Geneon Prizes will only be mailed to residents of the United Sates. Thanks to Digital Manga Publishing and Geneon for their contributions.