Mindbender marathon: Lain/Kon/Ōtomo simulwatch

WMD

Death Scythe
Perfect Blue

Hands down my favourite psychological thriller. Every aspect of this movie is so well constructed. And on repeat viewings the final truth is so well seeded but still shocking and surprising the first time you see it.

"Excuse me, who are you?" Is such a perfect quote do describe the theme of this film. Identity. How we see ourselves, how we try to present ourselves and how we are perceived.

The way there several conjoined stories taking place at once is such good story craft. The real story, the story in Mimas head, the story in the tv show and the story in Rumis head. The way these pieces are blended so we dont always know which one we are watching adds to much to the disquiet of the film. Also the use of the soundtrack is brilliant. We start with this happy poppy jingle then no music in Mimas normal life then music starts to creep back in as the mystery and threat grows. One of the absolute highlights of this being the mournful piano while Mima trashes her room. A perfect encapsulation for the loss of innocence and dignity coupled with the frustration and self doubt shes feeling.
 
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HWR

CCG’s Reaper
AUKN Staff
Perfect Blue (Film)

I think my initial thoughts from just over two years ago still hold merit when discussing this film:

Satoshi Kon was an auteur like no other. He had a unique style of psychological intensity that resonated in most of his work (this being his first feature length project), and here it's visceral and thought-provoking.

The story of an ex idol becoming an actress and slowly losing to delusions of her past, Perfect Blue blurs the lines for both the main character and the viewer as one tries to decipher which events took place and which were simply part of the in-universe drama Mima starred in (or are just in her head). This was quite the experience, and I highly recommend it.

I think the last sentence definitely holds truth-this is definitely a must-see for anime fans who like mystery and psychological thrillers.
 

Neil.T

Chuunibyou
You know, I've never been able to decide whether Perfect Blue or Tokyo Godfathers is my second-favourite Satoshi Kon film, and I likely never will. It's probably Perfect Blue when I'm watching Perfect Blue and Tokyo Godfathers when I'm watching Tokyo Godfathers!

I feel a bit bad for cheapening out here, but I doubt I'll be doing actual full posts for the Kon films, because my enthusiasm for them honestly prevents me from knowing where to even start, so I'll likely just bounce off of whatever you guys post. 🙂

And so...

And on repeat viewings the final truth is so well seeded but still shocking and surprising the first time you see it.
It's actually grotesque, hilarious and utterly disturbing all at the same time, isn't it? I remember that, when I first saw the film, I did not see it coming, but felt afterwards like it probably was possible to foresee it, because it is so well seeded, exactly as WMD says.

I love how the reflections in the glass show the ugly reality of the pursuit, which is a far cry from the light and floaty serenity of the illusion. I love as well how the chase scene finally breaks the logic of reality completely, in terms of how Mima's pursuer is able to keep up with her. This can't be happening; this shouldn't be happening; but it is, and Mima is suddenly forced into a life-or-death struggle for survival against someone who was the only sane element of her out-of-control life only a few minutes before.

We start with this happy poppy jingle
The film's opening with the live sentai stage performance is one of the best fake openings I've ever seen, and the way that Kon transitions between the different elements of the story — from incidental shots establishing the setting, to Mima's everyday life, the apparent delusions, and the TV drama — is utterly sublime. The very realistic animation style only helps to heighten the overall impact: if everything looked cartoony and fantastical, then it would diminish the gut-wrenching effect of the abrupt transitions between the "real" and the imagined. But the fact that everything looks so real instills the feeling that there genuinely is no escape from any of it.

And to end this post on...
Satoshi Kon was an auteur like no other.
I can only applaud this sentiment. 👏
 

WMD

Death Scythe
I love how the reflections in the glass show the ugly reality of the pursuit, which is a far cry from the light and floaty serenity of the illusion.
Indeed. The shot of Remi running, all sweaty and looking like shes about to have a heart attack is something I'll never forget. It's the symbolic ugly truth made real amid all the fantasy.

But the fact that everything looks so real instills the feeling that there genuinely is no escape from any of it.
The style is so key to the way the story is told. Theres that one shot of an anime advert that's super cartoony and it's so jarring that the rest of it is made more real by comparison.

You can just tell that everything is a deliberate choice.
 

Professor Irony

CYBER FUNKER
Moderator
Looking at any of Kon's films again always gives me mixed emotions; it's a tragic reminder of how his time was cut short so early on, but even in what I feel is his darkest work, there's this real energy and joie de vivre. However bad things get for Mima, she always seems unfailingly determined to fight for her right to live life on her own terms.

In the past, I tended to question Perfect Blue's regular comparison to Hitchcock's work, as I always thought it was closer to the surreal mania of Dario Argento (particularly Suspiria), but thinking about it now, you can actually draw a lot of paralells with Vertigo - everyone is obsessed with the image they have of Mima and can't handle the fact that what they see on stage isn't the real her.
 

Neil.T

Chuunibyou
Looking at any of Kon's films again always gives me mixed emotions; it's a tragic reminder of how his time was cut short so early on, but even in what I feel is his darkest work, there's this real energy and joie de vivre.
Again, I couldn't agree more. I'll go as far as to say that animation as a whole will now never be what it could have been because of his untimely passing. That's how highly I rate his work, and how long a shadow I believe his absence casts over the medium he leaves behind.

I'm just glad we have a lasting record of his contributions to marvel at and enjoy.

In the past, I tended to question Perfect Blue's regular comparison to Hitchcock's work
I'm admittedly nowhere near enough of a cinephile to be able to add to that discussion, but it was certainly something that was actively played up on Manga's DVD art sleeve back in the day. The front cover read:
"If Alfred Hitchcock partnered with Walt Disney they'd make a picture like this."

The quote is attributed to American film director Roger Corman. (I take his point, but it seems like a bit of a lazy comparison to me; he's basically just saying that it's a cartoon film with psychological horror as its main theme. 😅)
 

D1tchd1gger

Claymore
So much red! I remember it being mentioned in a YouTube video about the film, but can't remember what why they said it was significant. It the brightest colour and appears in nearly every scene. Can't actually remember who's video it was, so many channels have covered it.

I was trying to watch very hard to try and work out what is fantasy and what isn't, but it's so mixed up sometimes that it's hard to keep track.

I did come to one realisation Mima basically plays Rumi in the show she's filming. The detectives say at one point that the killer used guys to kill their victims then bumped them off themselves, so Rumi using ME-MANIA and off course the last scene filmed is about the split personality so Rumi the failed Idol vs her fantasy of becoming Mima.
 

Neil.T

Chuunibyou
So much red! I remember it being mentioned in a YouTube video about the film
. . .
Can't actually remember who's video it was
As luck would have it, I still have the link to it saved because I still haven't bloody gotten around to watching it yet. And here it is:
 

WMD

Death Scythe
Lain epsiode 3

The first half of this epsiode feels like a Shining style horror film that like the Shining is about detachment from reality. This is all made explicit when the girls are talking about not being able to acknowledge the shooting as a real event. But the highlight of it for me was the sequence of Lain in her empty house at night. Everything in shadow, the wierd camera zooms in the corridor, the stuffed animals on the window sill, the rhythmic piano that sounded like a tinny heart beat. All very atmospheric and all very disconcerting. Also notable that the only light, which draws Lain in, is from the pc. She's less attached to reality and is diving towards the wired.

The rest of the epsiode is more about building mystery (the different Lains, the MIB etc) which is interesting but will have its pay offs another time.
 

Neil.T

Chuunibyou
Also notable that the only light, which draws Lain in, is from the pc. She's less attached to reality and is diving towards the wired.
Hmmm, that's clever. I didn't even consciously pick up on that. 🤔

Here's my contribution for this episode. Some language-related stuff in here again:

Serial Experiments Lain
Layer 03: Psyche

"You're Lain, aren't you? I saw you once. In the Wired. You were totally different then from how you are now."

Episode 3, then: "Psyche" (or "Puh-SHAI-ku" as the electronic voice at the start would have it 😛).

You know, I thought for a moment at the beginning of the episode there that Lain was being interrogated by Gendo from Evangelion, but it turns out it's just voice actor Fumihiko Tachiki playing the role of the police commander.

Joking aside, I paid attention to the part where Lain checks her Navi for messages to see what keys she presses, and it turns out that she types "messezi". There's a reason for the spelling, and it's that the Japanese English for the word "message" (or "messages", plural) is メッセージ (messēji, with the long vowel sound represented by a macron there). It's too long-winded to explain here in full, but basically the last syllable can be rendered in English as either "ji" or "zi" depending on whether you prefer to represent the actual sound being spoken or show what the katakana represents within the scheme of the Japanese equivalent of the alphabet. I'm risking going off topic here, but this is why, on Manga's UK release of the film Redline, champion racer Machine Head Tetsujin's name is annoyingly rendered as Tetsuzin in the subtitles: they've gone with the effective spelling instead of the actual pronunciation. (If they're going with pure spelling, they should actually go all the way and make it "Tetuzin", but that would be another story for another thread.)

But anyhow, it's taken me until this fourth viewing to notice just how many recycled cuts there are in this episode. I can't say that it remotely bothers me, though. To me, Lain has always felt like it was made on a very modest budget, but it's able to turn that into a virtue. Take that recurring shot of Lain stepping outside the front door of her house into brilliant white light and walking down the stairs: it already feels like something of a motif. That repetition actually suits the story. It becomes a comment on the tedious, mechanical nature of the processes that Lain needs to carry out to sustain her everyday existence in the real world, such as having to transfer herself from location A (home) to location B (school) to perform task C (studying), and then return. The oversaturated whiteness shows how everything eventually just melds together into one big vacuum of great bland nothingness. It's alarmingly concise as a visual representation of what the show wants to say.

Come the end of the episode we understand that Psyche is actually a model of advanced computer chip. But who are the Knights who are rumoured to have developed it? And why was Lain's father so cagey when confronted with the chip that she'd mysteriously acquired?
 

HWR

CCG’s Reaper
AUKN Staff
Layer 3: Psyche

I’m liking how this episode starts to peel away at the very fabric of Lain’s existence and you start to question just who, or what, Lain is. The quote that @Neil.T used is a good indicator of this. I’ll also echo @WMD and their sentiments that the house sequence is quite the highlight for the episode.
 

Professor Irony

CYBER FUNKER
Moderator
Layer 3

Not much else to add that hasn't been touched upon, I think. The use of red in the shadows during the outdoor scenes is an interesting touch. If you wanted to see it as something literal, I suppose it could represent flowers in someone's garden, but it also seems again, like the remnants of something horrible just on the edge of our vision. Taro's question about whether Lain has 'gotten inside' her navi yet also struck me as slightly off kilter - maybe a bit of 'return to the womb' metaphor?

Don't like to get too much into Lain herself just yet, but I think something that puts me off the series generally is that I find Lain's fractured personality makes it difficult to invest in her as a character. By contrast, I've thought before that Alice actually seems like, in other circumstances, she would have been the protagonist (she certainly seems to be one of the few unequivocally 'good' people in the series), and, funnily enough, she actually was.



Alice and her two friends are modelled on the protagonists of a previous Konaka project, 'Alice in Cyberland', which comprised of two games and a one-shot OVA. Although the plot is very different, Alice's character is supposedly very similar, and both even have the same VA. Fansubs do exist, so I may investigate that one, although I seem to remember hearing it's not very good.
 

Neil.T

Chuunibyou
Alice and her two friends are modelled on the protagonists of a previous Konaka project, 'Alice in Cyberland'
Crikey, they've even got the same names. 😆
I had no idea.

Alice in Cyberland has a very low average score on MAL of 4.94 out of 10, but one reviewer defends it, arguing that it's merely average itself and not as terrible as they feel that the people who have scored it on the site have evidently made it out to be.

###

Today's offering...

Serial Experiments Lain
Layer 04: Religion

"Let me give you one little warning: when it's all said and done, the Wired is just a medium for communication and the transfer of information. You mustn't confuse it with the real world."

"Religion"... (Or "Le Reejoan" as the electronic voice would say. 😛)

Budget saving could be said to be this production's religion, and this episode starts with a very skillful demonstration of it. Ten of the first 11 cuts after the episode title are essentially static images with only some minor effects and the whirring noises of Lain's Navi hard drive and cooling fan for distraction. The 12th cut has some animation in it, but even that one holds a static shot for a few seconds first. And yet it all flows wonderfully.

The movement must've been saved for the chase scene with the man being pursued by the little girl. That sequence feels like it could easily be something out of either Perfect Blue or Paranoia Agent given the dramatic tension it creates, even if the guy does make an implausibly complete a*se of trying to put his key in the lock of his front door.

I like the 3D game sequences used in this episode; it's clear that the likes of Doom and Wolfenstein 3D were a thing around the time this series was made! Those static shots at the beginning probably freed up time and money for some visual experimentation here. Well, the series is called Serial Experiments Lain after all.
 
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WMD

Death Scythe
Lain 4

It's interesting that as Lain becomes more obsessed with her Navi and being in the Wired that her detachment from reality actually enables her to be more "normal", or at least able to socialise in a cheery way in real life. As her father says the wired is a tool for communication i.e some is good, but dont get lost and forget yourself in it. Lain seems to be on the precipice. Yes its helped her get to know people and open up somewhat but shes also starting to lose her humanity. As we see with the strange manifestations of her on the wired and did she destroy the MIB guys visor with a word?! The repeated shot of the blue flickering reflection of the monitor in her eyes seems kinda symbolic for all this.

All I could think in the game sequence was: Is this the old 90s screensaver?
 

HWR

CCG’s Reaper
AUKN Staff
Layer 4: Religion

Some neat retro content this episode plus that tense chase sequence has indeed quite unnerving. There’s also Lain slipping further into the wired, becoming more obsessed with her Navi - insert smartphone comparison/analogy here.
 

Arbalest

黒い剣士
Moderator
oh i completely forgot we where back to lain on Tuesday(i didn't get time for perfect blue). I'll get the two episodes watched tonight and put them together as a double-whammy
 

D1tchd1gger

Claymore
Was it Lain at the start?
Went back and had a look. It definitely looks like Lain with the same hairstyle with the cross clips on her left hand side, but she has earrings in. An alterego? A doppelganger? Or some sort of hologram projected via the Wired? The DJ seems to know this version of her.
Watching the OP most of the shots of Lain are this version, mostly inside screens, although a few of them in the screens seem to be the more outgoing version, but without the earrings?

The interactions in episode 4 seem to suggest that she's becoming more outgoing, but also gains "powers". I'm reminded of another 90s Cyber related sci-fi, The Lawnmower Man, as Jobe in that film becomes more communicative and then gains "powers" by immersing in a virtual world.
Dad seems to know something, but isn't being straight.
 

Arbalest

黒い剣士
Moderator
Okay catch-up time

Layer 3

This felt like it was a definite continuation to the previous two episodes(i'll explain in a sec), and it's gradual change in Lain is becoming evident. What's interesting is that suddenly, everybody knows her by name, yet this version of Lain seems to be clueless to it all, as if genuinely unsure. There was a small part where she had no memory of Arisu it looked like as well? Which i found interesting also.
The Psyche being a core of a computer essentially makes sense to the way the show is flowing and starting to show more of the crossed lines between it all.
Her house being completely empty when she got back after the events of episode 2 was eerie as heck. I almost wonder if this is a way of the anime saying " the silent, shy, no confidence Lain" is now locked up in the back of her psyche, and the inner, Wired version of her is out in the real world.

Layer 4

This was very disjointed in comparison to what came before, and why comparatively the previous episode feels like a different side of things. This was a pretty big jump in character for Lain. It looked more in line with the "Lain" that the world seems to know,against the one she herself recognises. She now knows JJ, has a contact in the Wired and is a lot more confident in her ability to talk. Her worlds are merging, in a sense. I feel as though the concept of split personality melded in with addition is a bit more on point here. Part of me looks at Lains dad and believes he knew about both sides of her already. My hope is it's going to loop back to where this split came into effect, and why she didn't recognise anything early on, but does now. Is it due to connecting to the Wired more? or is it because her other self like i mentioned above is now the dominant personality?
The men in black are getting more and more active, now wearing what they think looks cool and practical for agents on a spying mission should. i saying spying, it's not exactly the most covert mission ever run by man. However i wonder if this is due to the idea that Lain is possibly the one who controls a lot of the accel distribution or more.

Honestly curious to see where it goes from here. The most common thing though, and i think i am starting to see the importance to it, is how every episode so far has come back to, or has included in some capacity, the humming of all the electricity from cables and towers around the neighbourhood. My guess is to show how closely linked the two "realities" are.

Anyways, that's me caught up.
 
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