Style and Grace: Serial Experiments Lain

Today marks the official re-release of Serial Experiments: Lain, a series that while isn’t the most timeless of titles, definitely delivers when it comes to atmosphere, which oddly enough is more than enough to make up for its sometimes confusing story.

The series starts off with a school girl that jumps off a building. Once news spreads of her death, classmates begin to receive haunting e-mails from the girl. However, rather than keeping this as the primary focus throughout the series 13-episode run, it decides to do something a bit different. Soon enough, we’re introduced to Lain, a shy 14 year-old who occasionally spends some time with a group of “friends” that are far from ecstatic about having someone like her tag along on their clubbing adventures. Considering how unfulfilled she feels when around her peers, Lain ends up becoming rather absorbed in her family’s Navi—the series’ equivalent to the internet/computers, and things just spiral into realms of confusion from there.

But as confusing as the series was at times, I still found it incredibly entertaining due to the overall feel and style the series gave off. The series originally ran in 1998, back when themes revolving around computers were starting to kick off. That said, a lot of the “futuristic” tech is incredibly bulky by today’s standards. Even its opening is very much of the time, being performed by British alt band Boa. I mean, just check out the music video for the song used as the opening:

But even with the number of instances the series dates itself, it does so in an appealing way. The alt/rock music is still as great as it was back when it aired, and all the computer imagery better demonstrates how overwhelmed and obsessed our culture was/is when the internet finally started to catch on. There was such a stigma that computers would box us in from the world and somehow fool us into believing we’re living life to the fullest when we aren’t, and with the amount of giant cables and cube monitors in the series, you definitely get a sort of overwhelming feel throughout the series.

Giving the atmosphere more of a priority over the story and still resulting in an excellent series is something I rarely see, though tend to really appreciate when I do. Such a style of story-telling focuses so hard on creating and fleshing out an environment you can invest in. But at the same time, the amount of imagery reaches the point that it seems like the series is going out of its way to distance itself from the viewers. It seems like such a contradictory and counter-productive means of story-telling, but when done right it’s absolutely enthralling.

More recent anime like Bakemonogatari and Penguindrum try a similar “atmosphere over story” approach and are also successful with it. That’s not to say that any of these shows use quirky atmospheres as a crutch for a weak story. Rather, it’s used as a unique means to tell what would end up as a drab story otherwise, therefore enhancing not just the story but all other aspects associated with the series. And that’s just awesome.


About daemoncorps
Gabe (daemoncorps) has been writing about anime and the like since 2005, but has been babysat by it for much longer. He primarily spends his days distracting himself on twitter or writing for Fandom Post until he realizes he has a weekly webcomic ( to work on. He also just finished writing his first full-length graphic novel about unemployment (

One Response to Style and Grace: Serial Experiments Lain

  1. Anne's Anime Blog says:

    Great Review. I’m really looking forward to picking up Lain sometime this holiday season. I think it has aged pretty well, and while there may not be a lot of action the atmosphere really is unique. A great show to watch & just chill out.

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