25 Days of Anime - #20: Serial Experiments Lain

The single trippiest series I have ever watched, Serial Experiments Lain messes with your head each episode, giving you false leads and exploring the many facets of a mind trying to understand just what it means to exist. Titular protagonist Lain is a young girl who has many questions about human relations, both in the real world and in the online realm known as the Wired. After she receives an email from a classmate who committed suicide, Lain ponders the idea of someone gaining a consciousness in this alternative electronic reality.

This leads her to dig deep into the past of the Wired by hacking and modifying her Navi computer to extreme ends. She comes across a number of articles pertaining to projects that preceded the Wired's inception, as well as articles regarding the death of one scientist named Masami Eiri, who was instrumental in shaping the Wired. At the same time, Lain finds herself wary of individuals keeping tabs on her daily, and an organization known as Knights who seems intent on hindering her research progress.

Lain's relationship with her classmates takes a back seat for a period, while she decides to spend more and more time in the Wired. She begins to drift from them, all the while discovering new things about herself. She recognizes different elements of her psyche as dominant, and a schism between Lain and Lain of the Wired occurs. Serial Experiments Lain is bold, exploring many complex and thought-provoking ideas in a matter of thirteen episodes. It's a dark and deep existentialist work that incorporates a grungy industrial atmosphere and a character who identifies as a 'stranger in a strange land'. Like most notable sci-fi anime from the mid-to-late 1990s, it isn't afraid to do its own thing and covers a lot of unfamiliar and previously unexplored ground for said entertainment medium.

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