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Serial Experiments Lain

And now, it’s time for another classic series to review. This time, it’s a treat for my not-so-inner computer nerd: Serial Experiments Lain.

The series begins with a schoolgirl, Yomoda Chisa, throwing herself off the roof of a building and dying. The next day, she sends emails to her (now former) classmates telling them that she wasn’t gone, she’d just abandoned the flesh. But this isn’t her story.

Iwakura Lain is a fairly introverted and somewhat reclusive Year 8 girl who hasn’t got much interest in computers, so she doesn’t know about this email until she hears her classmates talking about it. She gets curious about it and digs up her computer to check her email, finding that she too has received one from Chisa.

This sparks her interest in computers and other matters, so she asks her dad for a new rig, which he readily buys for her. It’s a top-of-the-line model, but before long she begins upgrading bits and adding to it, until it takes over and even expands out of her actually pretty spacious bedroom. She even mods her PDA pretty seriously.

Lain modifying her computer

Minus the doing it in underwear part, I can relate to this a lot

Holy shit, now that's a computer

I relate to this a little less. A little.

There’s a lot going on in this show, so much so that I could go on for pages and pages and not come near doing it justice. And to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure that I actually understand all of what’s going on. See, this was a tremendous mindfuck when it came out in 1998, and is still to this day right up there with the other mindfucks that have come since.

Computers are just one of the things that this show is heavily about. Philosophy, conspiracies, psychology, literature, and gods know what else, all packed very densely. One episode was effectively one huge infodump.

And it’s brilliant. There are very few shows that I feel warrant buying again when it’s re-released in a new video format, but this is one of them. It’s written by Konaka Chiaki, who does great work, and this is often considered his best. It’s also outstanding visually, featuring character designs by Abe Yoshitoshi and some seriously out there designs generally. Oh, and the audio, too. The show does some odd things with sound, and has an awesome soundtrack. This all comes out especially well on the recent Blu-Ray release, even if some people have complained about some minor imperfections in the transfer.

It’s also noteworthy how well it’s aged for a show about technology. In fact, in some ways it’s because real life computer technology has more or less caught up to some of what Lain has on display. There are some details, of course. Like most other shows, it didn’t quite predict how important mobile phones became, but is halfway there for PDAs that seem to have constant network access.

So if you like things that make you think, things that you notice or realise something new about every time you watch them, or just seriously love computers, this is a must-see.