Serial Experiments Lain

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Anime, Culture, Visual

Possibly spoiler-ish musings below.

So last night I finished watching Serial Experiments Lain. My reactions are alternately,

“Wow.”

and

“What?”

I’m still not sure I understand what happened. If anything happened. The show reminds me a lot of Ghost in the Shell, not merely for the fact that both deal with science fiction ideas of identity/being and the internet, but also in that both seem to tell stories with a similar sort of incoherency. Ghost in the Shell is more of a Matrix-like blend of philosophy and action, whereas Lain reminds me more (to be kind of generous) of, say, the Sixth Sense, but a lot of the narrative techniques seem pretty similar.

Or maybe they’re only similar in that they are frequently incomprehensible to me. Any given Ghost in the Shell plot is going to try, if it can, to have a twist. Maybe everything you see is fake, an elaborate illusion conjured up by the Major. Maybe the person the Major is after isn’t the real culprit or, even better, doesn’t exist at all. Maybe a character we think we know is actually someone else, an action we see turned out to have happened an entirely different way, or some other trickery. Lain pulls from the same stock, but instead of eventually culminating in some [usually somewhat anti-climactic] reveal, it keeps pulling and pulling and pulling.

It must have the most complex plot I’ve ever seen in a story. But, that said, since it’s so huge, so incomprehensible, I don’t get the feeling of fulfillment when everything falls into place — Because not everything has fallen into place. In fact I only have the sketchiest idea of “what happened” and am mentally just not even bothering to try to string the other ninety percent of the anime into my conception of it. Maybe one of these days I’ll get around to watching it again, but I don’t know. I’m not one to really watch things repeatedly and I am kind of daunted by the idea of watching the series again with a mind to “Get” it. That’s not to say I found it difficult to watch the first time through, but a second time watching it would be purposeful and thus open itself up to becoming difficult.

I’m kind of happy with where it’s residing mentally right now. Basically, floating around free-form inside my head, not as some coherent whole but as bits and pieces — Fragments and associations that pop into existence and then disappear. It’s like the mental process of eating a meal, moving from experience to experience, enjoying the richness of each without appealing to a systematizing process of ordering and establishing hierarchies.

Maybe I’ll write about this more again later.

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