Disturbing, perplexing, sometimes infuriating, Ryutaro Nakamura’s serial experiments lain
covers some of the same themes as The X-Files and the films of David Lynch.
When introverted 13-year-old Lain receives an e-mail from a dead classmate,
she gains access to “the Wired,” a virtual world that promises unlimited
power to those who can exploit it. Gradually the borders between the real
and the virtual blur, and Lain’s own identity begins to fade and fragment.
Her parents tell her that she is not really their child, her online self
grows in power and independence, and shadowy organizations pursue her in
both worlds. Finally she begins to realize that she is either reality’s
only hope, or its worst enemy.
Nakamura keeps the pace of serial experiments lain deliberately slow, imbuing
the early episodes with a sense of mounting dread that pays off as the
plot develops. The anime technique of panning across static images creates
a meditative stillness that works perfectly, and the repetition of certain
key images gives them a dreamlike significance. Viewers will either love
or hate the complex plot, which seems intent on incorporating every possible
paranoid conspiracy, from sinister nanotechnology to alien plots. However–unlike
many other anime–it somehow hangs together, and frankly not understanding
everything is part of the pleasure of this kind of story. Fans of action-heavy
anime and people who like every loose end tied up should steer clear, but
those who surrender themselves to the slowly unfolding mysteries of the
plot will be amply rewarded. –Simon Leake