Posts Tagged ‘Serial Experiments Lain’

In the Shinichi Hoshi short story Bokko-Chan (which, for those interested, can be found in The Best Japanese Science Fiction Stories), a “bar-master” constructs an emotionless robot girl, who soon becomes the object of many of his patrons’ affections. A sort of futuristic folk tale, it combines dark humour and wordplay, with a clever and totally unexpected ending. While this isn’t the first appearance of a robot girl in fiction (Hoffmann’s 1816 short story The Sandman featured a similar gynoid character), Hoshi’s does seem to have been one of the predecessors to an archetype that would end up becoming quite popular in Japanese comics and animation.

 Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of the most well-known anime series of the nineties, as well as one of the most influential. The character of Rei Ayanami fascinated so many viewers that many of her clones began appearing in other series, to the point where she’s almost become a stock character. (There’s even a chapter of It’s Not My Fault I’m Not Popular where Tomoko attempts to imitate one, with little success.) Rei is not a robot, but she does bear some similarities to Bokko-chan, if only on the surface. With her blank face, bluish-white hair and inexplicable behaviour, Rei is a beguiling character.

The interesting thing about Rei is that she is more than a human who acts like a robot. She also embodies aspects of the kind of mysterious waif character who often appears in fairy tales and mythology. Rei’s true nature is never fully revealed, and there is always a hint of something otherworldly about her. Unlike those fairy tale characters, however, Rei has no knowledge of anything supernatural, and she seems almost as ignorant of the source of her otherness as everyone else is.

Despite her popularity, Rei was not my introduction to this kind of character. For me, it was Echo, from Pandora Hearts. She ended up becoming my favourite character in the manga, but it was only with a series I later watched that I started developing a proper interest in the archetype. (Though when I started reading Pandora Hearts, I had only a vague idea that this archetype existed.)


Serial Experiments Lain (the greatest work of fiction ever made) came out in 1998, a few years after Neon Genesis Evangelion.  Its protagonist, Lain Iwakura, has a lot in common with Rei, though the creators of the series claim that they hadn’t seen Neon Genesis Evangelion when they first began working on the series. Serial Experiments Lain is my biggest obsession, so when I found out about this, I became interested in Rei, and other characters like her. The similarities between Lain and Rei are undeniable, but there are differences, too. While both have extreme problems with social interaction, Lain’s comes more from shyness, while with Rei it appears to stem from her upbringing. I see Lain as being what someone like Rei would be in real life, though she also has that same sense of otherness about her. Both have mysterious origins, and both blur the lines separating the artificial and the human.

Lain of the Wired.

Lain attempts to reach out to the viewers.

Despera, a kind of thematic prequel to Serial Experiments Lain, is supposed to be released sometime in the future, though sadly the director, Ryutaru Nakamura, died of cancer. Luckily, they plan on continuing it with a new director, though it will not be the same without him. With a protagonist who, like Lain, has a strange aptitude for computers, it will be interesting to see what sort of character Ain will be like.

Yoshitoshi ABe’s artwork is wonderful.

Rei was not the first socially inept, robotic girl to be featured in anime, anyway. Tokiko, from Key the Metal Idol, came before both Rei and Lain, and it’s difficult to imagine that she didn’t have an influence on either character. The show, with its experimental nature, paved the way for both series to follow. While I didn’t think it was as good as either of them, it’s still interesting watch, especially if you like nineties Science Fiction anime.

Even before Key the Metal Idol, characters of a similar nature existed in anime. Ami Mizuno from Sailor Moon is a quiet girl with blue hair, and Naoko Takeuchi had even planned for her to be a cyborg at first. Like the Zashiki Warashi from CLAMP’s xxxHolic, Ami shows that it’s possible to have a shy character who isn’t extremely troubled or dysfunctional.

Ami Mizuno.

The Zashiki Warashi.

Interestingly, Rei Ayanami was named after another Sailor Moon character, Rei Hino, in an attempt to convince Kunihiko Ikuhara, a friend of Hideaki Anno, to work on Neon Genesis Evangelion. Ikuhara’s own series, Revolutionary Girl Utena (which is often seen as the shojo counterpart to Neon Genesis Evangelion, a shonen anime), has two characters who resemble Rei: Anthy Himeymiya and Miki Kaoru (who is male). So far though, I’ve only seen two episodes of Revolutionary Girl Utena, so I still don’t know how far their similarities go.

Anthy Himeymiya.

Miki Kaoru.

While I do love this character type, there is one thing about it that unsettles me. Though I did not know about it at first, I later learned that there are some people who sexualise this sort of character. While there’s nothing wrong with feeling attracted to fictional characters, turning them into sex objects is not a good thing. All it shows is that you don’t have any respect for the character, and it reflects how you see people in real life, too. (And it’s also really creepy.)


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A young girl emerges from a cocoon to find herself in an idyllic, yet enigmatic town which seems to be a sort of afterlife. She has no memories of anything before this, apart from the dream she had of falling while in the cocoon. The girl finds herself among a small community of winged beings named Haibane, who inform her that she is one of them. She is given the name Rakka, which means “falling”, as all of the Haibane are named after their cocoon dreams. Soon, she sprouts wings too, and is given a halo, which somehow hovers over her head. (Even if it does cause strands of her hair to stick up messily.) The scene where Rakka gains her wings is strangely cathartic. It’s bloody, and it’s obvious that Rakka is going through great pain, yet this is accompanied by beautiful music, with Reki, the second-eldest Haibane, staying by Rakka’s side the whole time to help and soothe her.

This scene gives you a good idea of what Haibane Renmei can be like. For the most part, it’s calm and gentle, but it’s never the sort of series to deny the existence of darker things. It’s not that the world Rakka finds herself in is a dystopia disguised as a utopia; the town genuinely is a nice place to live in. However, there are some aspects to the setting that are puzzling, and even unsettling. It is never explained what is beyond the walls of the town, or why the Haibanes can never leave. There are strange taboos they have to abide by, and while they coexist peacefully with humans, there seems to be a sort of distance between them. In some ways, it reminds me of real life, in that we are brought into a society that we did not choose to belong to, with rules and boundaries so rigidly constructed that we can never break them. The difference is that we enter that society as babies, and are brought up to take all of that for granted. The Haibane may have no memories of their past lives (if they even had past lives), but all the main characters are old enough to already have formed ideas of what is normal. The town itself is like what you’d get if you applied the idea of mukokuseki to a setting rather than to a character. It would be hard to place it within any set time period or culture; it’s the sort of vague place where you know that something isn’t right, but there are too many familiar elements to pinpoint what it is.

Haibane Renmei is the creation of Yoshitoshi ABe, one of my favourite artists thanks to his character designs and other work for Serial Experiments Lain, the greatest work of fiction ever made. (I am a little bit obsessed with Lain.) Both series have many things in common, though I’m afraid that after Serial Experiments Lain, I found Haibane Renmei slightly disappointing. ABe’s designs are beautiful, as always, but his detailed artwork doesn’t translate well to the style of animation used here. Compare the two images below:

While the animation is still nice, it looks a little flat when put next to the original artwork. The animation used in Lain wasn’t perfect either, but its use of darkness and shadows gave it more of a texture. Haibane Renmei is a far more light-hearted series, with most of it taking place during the daytime, so visually, it loses that sense of depth. And while it is slow-paced, it never quite reaches the same level of subtlety as Lain. While I mostly enjoyed its combination of slice-of-life humour and the supernatural (I found it kind of similar to Xxxholic), it sometimes resorted to anime conventions that kind of took away from its tone.

The creators of the show were apparently influenced by Haruki Murakami’s novel Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. (Which happens to be the first of his books that I read.) Half of the book took place inside the protagonist’s mind, in a walled fantasy world constructed in his dreams. The other half  takes place in a dark, slightly futuristic world that reminds me of Serial Experiments Lain. This makes me wonder if maybe the connection between the two series is more than just a stylistic or thematic one. Crows are used as a motif in both series, Rakka and Lain  are similar in both appearance and personality, while Hyoko and Midori are basically just older versions of Taro and Myu-Myu. Maybe Haibane Renmei is just an alternate reality created by Lain Iwakura. The only problem with that theory is that Alice seems to be absent from it. Reki, the older, caring character who develops a strong friendship with Rakka, is in some ways similar to Alice, but then there are other ways in which they are different, and I cannot imagine Lain wanting to exist in a world without Alice. Unless, of course, the crow is meant to be Alice.

While it has its flaws, Haibane Renmei is still wonderful. (The final episode is especially good.) It’s also commendable for its depiction of female characters. Most of the main characters are young women, all of whom are treated as people rather than objects. Some of them are quite androgynous, but are still comfortable in their femininity. The tomboyish Kana is just as much a girl as the more traditionally feminine Hikari. In fact, it’s never even treated as an issue or anything, with the other characters seeing this as totally normal. So, while the world we are presented with does seem to be in some ways a problematic one (if I found myself there, I’d probably start to feel like everything is pointless), living there also has many positive aspects, too.

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Note: This post contains minor spoilers.

There isn’t an awful lot of variation in the clothing Lain wears, but many of the outfits that do appear in the series are pretty significant. It’s not that Lain doesn’t care about her appearance, but her style is pretty subdued, like her personality. In general, she seems to prefer cute things in soft colours, and is uncomfortable with the idea of trying on the kinds of things her friends wear to clubs. Her most iconic outfit is a bear onesie, which makes her even more adorable than she already is.

Lain’s bear suit fulfills the same function for her as Linus’ blanket does in Peanuts. While there are other Lains, her true self is quiet and vulnerable. (Though it’s stronger than she might think, as this is the aspect of her that ends up as the dominant one.) Despite hints that she isn’t fully human and the possibility that she might even be omnipotent, Lain is still a normal teenage girl with insecurities and doubts. Unlike her friends, she isn’t ready to be an adult yet. Going to Cyberia for the first time, she wears a little hat with a bear on it, because that makes her feel safer. It might not offer as much protection as the onesie, but its presence is a reassuring one.


The bear motif was first suggested by Takahiro Kishida, who worked on character designs and animation for the series. This idea fit well, as the series’ writer, Chiaki Konaka and his brother Kazuya often include bears in their works. Chiaki Konaka was initially reluctant to use it, however, as bears had become such a trademark for them, until the idea of Lain using it to shield her was put forward. Lain also has a number of teddies in her mostly bare room at the beginning, though later they are overshadowed by her ever-growing (almost organic) collection of Navis (computers) and coolant systems as she becomes more obsessed with the Wired, and other sides of her emerge. She still needs the bear suit, though, and it’s useful even if she can’t wear it outside. Aside from her father, Lain’s family can be quite hostile towards her, and the onesie provides her with the safety and warmth that they don’t give her. In later episodes, when things get more confusing, the bear suit becomes needed once again. In the final episode, however, Lain’s father (or at least a vision of Lain’s father) appears, and gently explains to her that she no longer needs it any more.

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Let’s all love Lain.

Lain is one of my favourite Strange Girls. The protagonist of the avant-garde anime  Serial Experiments Lain, she’s pretty much the definition of an innocent, and so, for the most part, she’s way out of her depth in such a dark, adult series. I spent a lot of time just wanting to hug her, to be honest. Seriously, if you don’t end up feeling some form of sympathy for her by the final episode, you must have a heart of stone.

Serial Experiments Lain is a Cyberpunk (or maybe Post-Cyberpunk; I’m not entirely sure) story, set in an only slightly futuristic version of Japan. It was quite ahead of its time, predicting how the use of the internet would affect society and our perception of reality in many ways. In only thirteen episodes, SEL deals with a lot of different issues and themes, including identity, isolation, the nature of reality, the human mind, and even God. And it does this all through Lain.

One day, Lain recieves an e-mail from a classmate who had supposedly committed suicide. The girl informs her that she had merely taken leave of the physical world, and that God is with them. What follows is a series of events told in a non-linear pattern, many of them as seemingly disconnected from one another as human beings can be when their lives end up taken over by technology.

Lain ends up uncertain of everything, even her own self. She ends up confused, lonely, and, at points, cut off entirely from her emotions. She even starts to develop multiple personalities radically different from her usual self.

Science Fiction has dealt with the idea of the cyborg many times- the idea of the human and the machine becoming one. Lain could be seen as sort of a cyborg, I guess, but not a physical one (maybe). The series is more concerned with the concept of the human and the machine merging. As the plot progresses, Lain gets more obsessed with technology, and becomes engrossed in the world of the Wired, the show’s version of the internet.

“Everything is connected” is a phrase which has much significance in SEL, and it is Lain who seems to be at the centre of all these different connections. Lain is the kind of character who manages to be disconnected at the very same time, though. One of the reasons that I can relate to her so well is because she doesn’t have much social skills, and she only ends up more detached from the world around her as the Wired’s influence over her continues to grow.

Lain is really what makes the show work. Serial Experiments Lain isn’t just a series composed of intelligent, thought-provoking ideas; it also tells a great story on an emotional level, too. I absolutely love art that’s abstract or experimental, because not only is it imaginative, it can express things in new ways. While the plot (because there is indeed a plot, despite how disjointed it may appear) is universal in scope, the character of Lain makes it a very personal one, too. Lain is both us and the Wired. And to understand fully what I mean by that, you’re just going to have to watch the show. Though, of course, your interpretation will most likely differ to mine; SEL is one of those works that definitely encourages viewers to come to their own conclusions about it.

I mentioned above that I can relate to Lain, and I guess that’s why I like her so much. Like me, she’s quiet, and seems much younger than she actually is. I think her friends talk down to her a bit too, which is something that has happened quite often to me in the past. Another reason I’m so fond of Lain is because she’s a waif. (And, as long-time readers know, I find waifishness to be incredibly groovy.) She’s slight, childlike, delicate, etc. One big difference between her and most waifs I’ve talked about here, though, is that she doesn’t have any affinity for nature or anything. Serial Experiments Lain is a most unnatural anime.

Finally, can I just say I love Lain’s hair? I think it’s some sort of side ponytail, but whatever it is, it’s adorable. I’m seriously tempted to try and do my hair like her’s. (I think it’s meant to symbolise something- like some sort of Japanese legend or something like that -but I forget where I came across that piece of information.)

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Most days are rather boring and unexciting, with really nothing of interest to note. But not today! Oh, no! For, on today of all days (that is, Tuesday) I have been very kindly nominated by MIQ for something called The Versatile Blogger award, which is absolutely lovely.

The rules for accepting this award are as follows:

1. Thank the award-givers and link back to them in your post. (Yay! Done that bit! Going good so far!)

2. Share 7 things about yourself. (That bit might be difficult. I have trouble remembering my own name.)

3. Pass this award along 15 or 20. (I don’t know that many people in real life, but I’ll give it a try.)

4. Contact your chosen bloggers to let them know about the award. (Okey dokes!)

And now, without further adon’t, seven little tidbits about me, Tridecalogism, the (rather youthful and relatively handsome) Man Behind the Curtain….

1: My favourite place in all the world is a little path near to where I live, which I have named the Twisted Path. It may not seem much to most people, but I find it to be one of the most magical places ever. I usually take a walk up and down it during the weekend and use it as inspiration for the stories I write.

2: I will believe in practically anything, as long as there is the tiniest sliver of a possibility that it might be real. (So basically, I’m gullible.) The only thing I really do not believe in is logic.

3: My two greatest ambitions in life are to get some of my writings published and to get married.

4: I can make excellent hot chocolate, based on one of the original Spanish recipes. I won’t tell you how I do so, but I can make it dark, rich and thick.

5: I consider myself a feminist.

6: My favourite song is Golden Brown by The Stranglers. My favourite book is Kafka on the Shore, my favourite band/musician are The Residents/Voltaire, my favourite shows are Serial Experiments Lain and Daria, while my favourite movies are Amelie and Donnie Darko.

7: The two things I value most in others are niceness and imagination. And while I’m not a very good person, I can be nice enough, occassionally. At times.

Okey dokes, now let me do the nominations bit and we’re through!

* A girl who is afraid of life….

* Angels Burn Faster

* Gall of God

* howtobecharming

* T.A. Grey’s Blog -because I’m definitely not forgetting her. 😉

* Soulish Exhortations

* Weaselgal’s Haven

* Okay, finally, I’m not sure if non-Wordpress blogs can be nominated, so special mention here goes to Roses and Vellum as well as The Ultimate Josha.

I like Kate Bush, mm’kay?

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There are many different types and variations of waifs, so I thought I’d outline a few of them for you. Often these different types will overlap in most waifs. Usually in fiction though, the waif will fill one distinct role rather than a few. But in reality most people have many more sides to them than just one.

*The Innocent/Silent Waif

Very common. Often overlaps with the Dreamlike Waif (see below). These are either very young or appear to be very young. They are basically the original type of waif, with all of the others being variations on them. All waifs are small and slender in appearance, and have a look of innocence and mystery about them. An Innocent Waif is, as the name suggests, almost totally innocent about the world around them. Because of this, they do not talk very often. But waifs never talk much. Waifs are generally introverted or shy. As examples, I am going to use Lain from Serial Experiments Lain (though she overlaps with the Dreamlike Waif) and Echo from Pandora Hearts (she’s a good example, even if she doesn’t meet all the criteria). Please note that despite their innocence, waifs can be suitably badass if necessary.

Echo has the cutest sneeze.Don’t you want to hug her?


*The Dreamlike Waif

This is basically the same as above, only more strange and eccentric. Really, the Dreamlike Waif is even more Waifish than the Innocent Waif because of their slightly otherworldly feel. May have Faerie blood. But it’s not totally necessary. Often these types of waif fit the Strange Girl archetype too. They often can stare into space for a good while without saying anything. This may unnerve the people they’re with (interestingly, there’s usually only one waif per group of friends). The best example here would have to be Luna.

*The Creepy Waif

This is the kind that seems to have all the youthful innocence of the other waifs…except something is wrong. There is something very, very wrong with this child. A sort of subverted innocence about them, like a warped music box. Maybe it’s their deathly pallour, or their sombre expressions, or that they just act too serious for their age. It doesn’t help that they’re often found wandering around graveyards, or in orphanages. Or that they always come up from behind you without any warning.

*The Serious Waif

These are like the creepy waif, minus the aura of evil they emanate. The Serious Waif is someone very young who acts exactly like an adult. They can often seem more mature than their elders for this reason. Not prone to frivolity or smiling. There are two main reactions to this. Either you’ll respect them for this, or just find it too cute to resist patting them on the head.

*The Pissed-Off Waif

These are very closely related to the Serious Waif, except with worse tempers. These are the true badasses of the waif world. They’re not going to take any crap from anybody and if you do manage to aggravate them, you’re going to pay. Daria counts as one of these, though she can resemble a Serious Waif a good lot of the time also.

But I think we all know who the absolute codifier of this character type is: Lisbeth Salander. A skilled hacker with a traumatic past, mental problems and who looks barely legal, persecuted and hounded by practically everyone and yet she still manages to beat every single psycho misogynist she encounters. She beats up rapists with golf clubs! How cool is that? Instant badass. She’s also managed to fight off thugs twice her size. So therefore Lisbeth is the ultimate Pissed-Off Waif.

So those are all the waif types I can think of. I might do a poll soon and see which waif is YOUR favourite. Which waif do you think am I? I always love to get comments.

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I just finished watching the anime series Serial Experiments Lain and I loved it. It is tied with Daria now as my favourite TV show of all time.  

Close the world, txEn eht nepo.

Lain was breathtaking. It was a haunting, beautiful series. Thirteen episodes of strange, melancholic, thought-provoking beauty and art. It is a surreal cyberpunk anime that deals with the internet, and how it affects the nature of reality. Lain recieves an e-mail message from a girl who recently committed suicide, who says she merely transcended her physical body and that God is with them. It all gets stranger from there. I really like how ambiguous it is. Nothing is really explained to the viewer and you have to draw your own conclusions.

I am definitely going to re-watch it many times, but for now I am going to start on something else. I’m going to be doing an upcoming post on what I’ll be watching next, and I do hope after reading it you’ll comment and give me more recommendations. But will anything ever compare to Lain? Its beauty can only be compared to that of Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore, one of my favourite books ever.

Present day. Present time. Hahahahaha!

Now, one reason I thought it might be interesting to do this post is how similar Lain and I are. I have never encountered a fictional character I had so much in common with. She is waifish, has little social skills, is very quiet and strange and spends a lot of time on the internet. That’s quite like me! The only thing she’s missing is the love of nature and rampant eccentricity. So obviously, as you can imagine, I love Lain. I also really liked Arisu (Alice), Lain’s only real friend. Their relationship was poignant and heartwarming. Their bit together at the ending will stay with me forever, just like the rest of the series. I am truly glad to have watched such a show. (Note: the below video may contain spoilers).

Finally, I just have to say I love Lain’s hair. I find it really cool. I like how it’s mostly short except for the ponytail at the side. While I mostly prefer long hair on people, Lain is an exception.

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