Anime Autobiography – serial experiments lain

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Though I had already seen Pokemon and Spirited Away, I would consider serial experiments lain my ‘first’ anime, because it was the first show I sought out because it was anime. In October 2004, I worked my first job as a one-week temporary employee, for which I received the seemingly massive sum of around $350. I don’t remember what else I purchased with that bounty, but one of my first priorities was lain, which I think I ordered from (and which, I learned a couple years later, was bootleg!).

Now, I cannot for the life of me recall what piqued my interest in this stuff. I know I first heard of lain specifically from some online quiz that gave you anime recommendations. How did I come across that quiz? Hell if I know, but I can guess. At the time, I had started following several webcomics, among them Megatokyo, which of course draws heavily from anime. So, I’ll guess that prompted me to look into this stuff more closely.

As for lain itself, I loved it then and still love it now. It remains my favourite anime, and that position has never been seriously challenged, except briefly after I first saw FLCL a year or so back. I loved the dark, eery atmosphere; I loved the surreal imagery; I loved that plot that only told its viewers the bare minimum needed to keep up; I loved Lain the character. At sixteen years old, I was just starting to think seriously about art, and just old enough to appreciate much of what I saw, and I scoured the internet looking for information on the series, though the best site by far was thought experiments lain. Like Spirited Away, I had never seen anything quite like it; years later, I still haven’t seen much like it. For the first time, I saw what animation can do, and that there existed cartoons aimed primarily at an adult audience, and that’s what plunged me into this hobby.

Lain has provided me with several fond memories. Sometime in 2006, I found lain illustrations by Yoshitoshi ABe,the series’ character designer, which was my first art book. Later that year, Dallas anime convention AnimeFest invited ABe and lain producer Ueda Yasuyuki as guests, and both signed that book for me. Also at AnimeFest, I bought my first figurines, Saki from Genshiken and, of course, Lain.

My favourite lain memory, though, is a bit difficult to describe. In Fall 2006, my freshman year at university, I lived on-campus. One night, while alone in my room and in a slightly gloomy mood, I decided to watch some lain. The combination was perfect, with the darkness of the series perfectly matching my mood and surroundings, and that remains one of the most potent experiences I’ve ever had with media.

Introduced now to this whole new medium, I knew I wanted more. Though anime would not become my primary hobby for some time, I had begun to close one world, and open the next.

Next: Anime Autobiography – A Rental Hobby –>


  1. Piragon (@Sir_Piragon)

    This was a very interesting read for me personally because It’s almost the mirror opposite of my experiences. Watching the series in 2015 it was more of a nostalgic time capsule back to the 90’s era and the early days with my first computers.Like lain must have felt there was an incredible pull when I first got the internet and the chance to sit down alone with it.Even with my primitive dial-up reaching out to other people on underground message boards was an amazing wellspring of experience and knowledge. I never built my own computers like Lain did but their style is still familiar.
    As a long time anime fan the pacing,visual style of lain and simply stand-alone style of it was something to really appreciate.In a world filled with CGI,bright flashing colors and sweeping scenery lain was a bit of a break from all that. Lack of animation honestly left time to reflect on the great scenery, and cinematography. This detail was especially noticeable by the loud buzzing of the power lines driving a message straight into your head that the architecture of the wired is ever-present in our modern world.
    Finally being someone who has read his share of sci-fi and cyberpunk this particular Japanese take on it was really something else.Cyberpunk usually focuses on politics,crime,and other stuff involving the adult-centric world. Having a series with a young female protagonist living a typical Japanese life was a very fresh take.Once again Japan impresses me with how amazingly they do justice to the science fiction genre in a visual medium.

    • Richard Carroll

      It’s funny in a way; in 1998 part of lain‘s appeal was that it was the future. Now it’s a 1990’s nostalgia trip. The internet that lain extrapolated from was more primitive, but it was new and exciting; now it’s better in many ways, but it’s more like a utility, like water or power.

      I’ve mentioned this elsewhere when talking about Funimation’s blu-ray release, but lain is one of those shows that isn’t particularly well animated, but still has a lot of great shots and design work in it, so it’s still very visually interesting.

      I’ve often thought I may appreciate lain more if I knew more about cyberpunk, but for some reason I’ve never really gotten into it aside from dabbling here and there. When Madoka Magica came out there was some interesting discussion on how it compared to other magical girl shows; I’d be interested in seeing something similar about how lain relates to cyberpunk generally, but don’t think I’ve ever come across a write-up like that.

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