Mindbender marathon: Lain/Kon/Ōtomo simulwatch

Neil.T

Time-Traveller
We've got a mindbender of a simulwatch coming up next on AUKN: it's a marathon of late-'90s technofear thriller/psychological mystery headtrip Serial Experiments Lain and the complete canon of films by the late great Satoshi Kon, as well as one optional movie of mecha madness from Akira mastermind Katsuhiro Ōtomo. Check out the links below to read more.


This simulwatch will offer the chance to see all 13 episodes of Lain, four Kon films and also Ōtomo's Roujin Z, and to discuss them as we go. Our schedule looks like this:

Episode/filmDate (July)
Lain #1Fri 3
Lain #2Sat 4
Perfect BlueSun 5
Lain #3Tue 7
Lain #4Wed 8
Millennium ActressFri 10
Lain #5Sun 12
Lain #6Mon 13
Lain #7Tue 14
Tokyo Godfathers/Roujin ZThu 16
Lain #8Sat 18
Lain #9Sun 19
Lain #10Mon 20
PaprikaWed 22
Lain #11Fri 24
Lain #12Sat 25
Lain #13Sun 26

There's a 'rest' day after the first film and more either side of each of the other three to allow for a bit of extra leeway in keeping up with your viewing. Thursday 16th July has two films to choose from, and there's even the option to use that three-day span to watch both.

Please feel free to watch ahead of schedule if you like, but please only post about episodes/films that are covered by the simulwatch schedule to that point so that no-one has their fun spoiled by spoilers. If you're unsure, just hide your comments in a spoiler tag or inline spoiler blur when posting.

There's a lot of mystery and intrigue (and outright barminess) for us to get through here, folks, so strap yourself into your transforming hospital bed, log in to your Navi, and generally keep watch over your shoulder for what might (or might not) be lurking behind you. The plot will thicken. 😉
 
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Neil.T

Time-Traveller
I actually have 3 copies, the Manga Force version, that Blu-ray and the AL DVD that I brought by accident!
Easily done! I've got two copies of Perfect Blue, two of Tokyo Godfathers and two of Paprika. The initial copies of each are their old DVD versions (from Manga and Sony), later upgraded to their currently circulating BDs.

The Lain set I have is a second-hand copy of MVM's old complete DVD box. It includes the live-action snippets after the credits of each episode, which are apparently missing from the current BD.
 

Neil.T

Time-Traveller
And we're off.

Serial Experiments Lain
Layer 01: Weird

"You know, Lain, in this world, whether it's here in the real world or in the Wired, people connect to each other, and that's how societies function."

Present day, present time. This episode (and this series in general) has bucketfuls of atmosphere to it. From the disconcerting and distortion-heavy sound of traffic on the bustling streets in its opening moments, to the menacing hum of the overhead power lines accompanied by the scrambled and compressed audio of the voices travelling through the associated tangle of phone wires, through the eerie, lava lamp-like shadows on Lain's street that give the impression that something is lurking just beneath the surface of everything, all the way to the blinding, eyestrain-inducing, washed-out whiteness of the daylight, everything about Lain's world seems to conspire together to build up an oppressive atmosphere. It's heavy, but by being so spartan it leaves you with this uneasy feeling that you've been left out of the loop somehow and that something you don't know about must surely be just about to happen — likely something unwanted or unpleasant that everybody else has neglected to warn you about, since everyone else seems to know more than you do. It all makes for an unnerving, even suffocating sense of paranoia, and I can't think of anything else quite like it.

This continues through to the awkward silence and wilful avoidance at the family dinner table. The sense of disconnection between Lain, her sister and their mother is palpable.

Lain's father is communicative enough, though, as he extols to her the virtues of networked communication. His apparent obsession with his Navi computer setup is demonstrated brilliantly through his highly absorbed and rather manic-looking expression as he gleefully taps away at his keyboard.

It's a strong start to a series.
 
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HWR

CCG’s Reaper
AUKN Staff
Layer 1: Weird

If there was ever a great way to kick off an ethereally puzzling and often subtly disturbing series, this was it. Duvet by Boa is a sublime OP and I like the accompanying visuals too.

Seeing the cognitive disconnect between Lain’s family is a good explanation as to why she is the way she is, and her fathers’ technological pursuits being her only real means of parental bonding is an interesting set up for later events and as the Catalyst for her exposure to Navi and the world of computers.
 

WMD

Stand User
Lain episode 1

The first thing that stands out is the use of sound. From the mostly lack of music to the weird otherworldly, slightly uncomfortable quality that the music has when it does come in. Also the general sound design and mixing is great. Things like the power cables hum is so oppressive and the general background noise being suddenly cut off leaving long silent pauses that you dont want to be in. It's all so well done.

The way the sound design coupled with the art design is great too. The stake contrasts of washed out lights and sharp darks. The weird red and purples in shadows. It all makes the real world feel so unwelcoming that the story of suicide, of Lains loneliness, of wanting that escape onto an online world all makes sense.

Also I happen to be watching Devil's Line at the moment and the main character looks like a grown up version of Lain oddly enough.
 

Neil.T

Time-Traveller
The first thing that stands out is the use of sound. From the mostly lack of music to the weird otherworldly, slightly uncomfortable quality that the music has when it does come in. Also the general sound design and mixing is great.
You noticed that too, eh? 😀
Yeah, it's so stark that it matches the visuals to perfection.

Couldn't agree more that the sound design in this is exceptional.

It all makes the real world feel so unwelcoming that the story of suicide, of Lains loneliness, of wanting that escape onto an online world all makes sense.
Again, I think you're absolutely on the money there, dude. I really couldn't add anything to that.


Out of curiosity, are any of us watching this for the first time? (Please forgive my memory.)
According to my MAL, this is my fourth time.
 
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WMD

Stand User
Out of curiosity, are any of us watching this for the first time?
It's the second time for me. I thought I only had a dvd copy but turns out I have the Madman double play version. Also watching the English dub which was very good in epsiode one.
 

Neil.T

Time-Traveller
I thought I only had a dvd copy but turns out I have the Madman double play version.
The DVD version I'm watching (the old MVM one) is spread across four discs, so the quality's very good, actually. (I think the new DVD release is split between only two discs, if I'm remembering that right. 🤔)

How does the series look on BD, dude? Is the image quite soft, or...?

Also watching the English dub which was very good in epsiode one.
That's really good, then. This is a series where you'd have to nail the tone in the dub or you'd completely ruin it. I might have a quick listen at some point as a taster.

I stand corrected on my own viewing count, by the way: two rewatches plus the first time makes this my fourth. (Corrected that in my earlier post. 😋)
 
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WMD

Stand User
How does the series look on BD, dude? Is the image quite soft, or...?
It looked good to me. I'll try to remember to take some photos tomorrow of it on my tv.

This is a series where you'd have to nail the tone in the dub or you'd completely ruin it.
Indeed, given how important atmosphere is to this show a badly made dub would be a train wreck.

I think the new DVD release is split between only two discs, if I'm remembering that right
Mine is 2 dvds and 2 blu rays.
 

Neil.T

Time-Traveller
Duvet by Boa is a sublime OP and I like the accompanying visuals too.
This is something else I meant to give props to. 👍
I think this series is really well packaged, too, in terms of the presentation of things outside of the main episode content.

I'm really rather partial to the ED as well, actually; I like those gravelly tones!

I just looked the singer up, and he's Reichi Nakaido, also known as Chabo (as he's listed in Lain's credits). According to Wikipedia:
"Nakaido composed much of the music for the anime Serial Experiments Lain, which was eventually released as a soundtrack."
[Under the heading "Biography".]

Props to him as well, then.
 

HWR

CCG’s Reaper
AUKN Staff
The LE I have comes with a hefty book containing storyboards and sketches as well as a smaller booklet containing a discussion between the director and producer regarding the remastering process. There‘s even some email exchanges between them featured.

It’s a shame it’s somewhat hard to come by nowadays.
 
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Professor Irony

CYBER FUNKER
Moderator
Layer 1

Lain is a series I think I'm going to find it difficult to say much about on an episode to episode basis, without placing it in the context of the show as a whole, but looking at it on its own, I don't think the first ep offers much insight on where the show is headed. The early part gives me quite a strong giallo vibe though (Perfect Blue will be an appropriate partner), with Chisa's suicide setting a deeply oppressive tone that continues in both the ambient sound, as others have noted, and also the shot composition, with off-kilter angles or weird claustrophobic close-ups everywhere. It's in the dialogue too; other than possibly Lain's schoolmates, the exchanges largely feel like people are talking at, rather than to each other. Lain's father shows interest in her when she mentions her Navi, for example, but his dialogue seems only to express his own enthusiasm, rather than trying to discuss anything with her.

Considering that I don't consider myself a great fan of the series, I realise now that I have certainly seen Lain quite a number of times. This is probably the fourth or fifth time I've started the show, although I think I've only reached the end twice before.
 

D1tchd1gger

Shinki
First time here. Weird is certainly the right choice for the episode title. Not sure if it'll be my thing, lots of showing without any telling, I'm not always the best at picking things up that are deliberate obscure or left for you to pick out from visual clues. There's certainly some intrigue though as to what is going on.

the exchanges largely feel like people are talking at, rather than to each other.
I guess they're going for nobody cares in the modern world angle. The person who says it's nothing to do with me upon seeing the dead body and Lain's family paying little to no heed of her like her mother not even batting an eyelid at Lain saying she got an e-mail from a dead person!

The dub is OK, seems a bit stilted, but maybe that's just the way it's supposed to be. The actor playing Lain seems to nail her complete disinterest in what's going on, I assume that's intentional. The actual script might be lacking though I watched the scene in the classroom back again both subbed and then English with the subs still on and some of the choices of the dub compared to what the subs were saying were a bit weird.
 
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Neil.T

Time-Traveller
the exchanges largely feel like people are talking at, rather than to each other
That's very much something I associate with Mamoru Oshii. Both Ghost in the Shell: Innocence and Patlabor 2 spring to mind in that regard, where you have two characters in parallel to each other, with no eye contact, each seemingly having one half of two separate conversations about how it all went wrong.

I totally agree that Lain's father's dialogue (monologue?) is entirely self-serving. It's a "Get him on the right subject and he'll talk for hours" kind of thing.

Lain is a series I think I'm going to find it difficult to say much about on an episode to episode basis
For me, by contrast, Lain looks like it's becoming something that I'm going to find it difficult to shut up about on an episode-to-episode basis. 😛

(God help us all...)

Considering that I don't consider myself a great fan of the series, I realise now that I have certainly seen Lain quite a number of times.
That's an interesting contradiction. 😉
 

Arbalest

黒い剣士
Moderator
Episode 1: Weird

So i will say, this is my first descent into Serial Experiments Lain, while my fiancé has seen it before, so she's just keeping quiet as i take it all in. This episode doesn't really drop anything solid to go by on the first episode, but it gives me some ideas of what it may want to do/is doing. First of all, i will say that it is very much hitting the nail on the head with internet culture now with how obsessive people can be with it(Lains Father being the prime example for that), alongside just addiction in general is hit here. It very much connects to what is already said in how noone is really having any form of actual conversation, just talking at.. Noone has any real interest in the next person.

The bloodshot shadows never disappear too after Chisas suicide, and then again with the second incident. Is it bad i get bizarre Ghost in the Shell vibes with that train incident? Where it felt as though the girl looked in fear over it all, but was taken over by something that took her over. I'm not sure how the animation style sits with me, and it feels on a tight budget, but the stills do a very good job at keeping the tone set. No doubt it'll be one i need to keep a sharp eye on to ensure i don't miss a beat, as i'll see more of what it's trying to build through the shots it puts in play, and the deliberate colourings it throws in. It's very nice that there is that lack of any real backing tracks, and the deliberate focus on background noise and the humming of electricity really, in a sense showing our dependence on it, and how it's now everywhere.

Lastly, Lain is quite the mystery and i can't tell how much of what's occurring is just in her head, metaphorical or if it's hinting potentially at this is all a generated program, and Lain has started to show some form of awareness. Chisa "breaking" the system, and Lain slowly catching on. Her aversion to technology, being her way of being more aware of everything else.

Excuse the ramblings of a mad-man, but it's all just ideas after just finishing it 5-10 minutes ago, hah. Roll on Episode 2, i wonder how much or how little i'll be off the mark
 

Neil.T

Time-Traveller
So i will say, this is my first descent into Serial Experiments Lain, while my fiancé has seen it before, so she's just keeping quiet as i take it all in.
Great to have you join in with the simulwatch, buddy, and great to have someone new to the show along for the ride. 🙂
This is gonna be fun reading your thoughts as you put the pieces together as we go.

I'm not sure how the animation style sits with me, and it feels on a tight budget
Let's face it: Lain looks a bit ropey at best and downright hideous at its worst. 😬
And that's coming from a fan.

From a personal standpoint, though, I honestly don't mind that it's not much of a looker. I guess, for me, it all kinda adds to its rough-hewn charm! 😅

I've honestly not read much about the background of the show and how it came to be, but I'm guessing it must've been done on a rather small budget. Surely. I can't imagine that it was in a position to generate much extra revenue through merchandise sales or anything either. Though there was a PlayStation game released in Japan...


By the way, did everyone notice that the episode 1 title is an anagram of "Wired"? I thought that that was quite a neat detail.
 
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