Synopsis: Present day. Present time. The day after a classmate commits sucide, 13-year old Lain Iwakura receives an e-mail from the dead girl. A wave of deaths follow, mostly involving young people. Lain is haunted by visions, and soon she finds that the line between the real world and the wired world have begun to blur. As Lain translates herself into the Wired to investigate the suicides and deaths, she finds that there seems to be another Lain, who is totally unlike herself. Who is Lain? Or rather, what is Lain? Is Lain even a person?
Review: Serial Experiments Lain is really something else. I was very much intrigued right after watching the alternative MTV-style introduction sequence. Lain dares to be different from the usual anime formula, and I find that quite refreshing.
The plot focuses on the connection between the real world and the wired world (cyber world). It's very timely since computers and the internet are booming at this point. If the advent of TV brought about the birth of couch potatoes, now we have people who'd rather live online in front of the PC for the most part of their lives. Lain herself is one of those people. She gets caught up in the wired world so much that the lines between her online and offline life have started to blur.
The series is divided into layers (their creative way of referring to episodes). Each layer has its own theme and title, which is loaded with double meanings. There is a lot of visual imagery, which is yours to interpret or ignore. Splotches of red on shadows cast by objects... shadowy, faceless figures who are supposed to be the people around you... The imagery doesn't get in the way of the plot, it's there as more of an enhancement to the overall Lain experience.
Lain's cinematography is the best I've seen in an anime. Each scene is well-thought out and exceptionally composed, conveying more than words ever could. I find the art and animation fascinating as well. No one is pretty or handsome by the usual anime standards, but something about the way they are drawn just draws you right in. Some may find the artwork un-pretty or un-glamorous compared to the usual anime art, but it's actually very much suited for the series, and is very unique and appealing in its own way.
The overall mood is on the dark side, and there is a bit of existential philosophy involved. Some parts of the anime are admittedly difficult to grasp, but the overall concept is pretty understandable. Lain features some very good alternative music as well. I especially like the opening theme, "Duvet". The English dubbing is very good, but they change the names slightly (like Arisu to Alice, etc.). The only qualm I have about Lain is the lack of background info that supposedly came only with the Sony playstation game, which doesn't even have an English version.