Lain (Japan 1998)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 7/24/99

Uh... This is a bizarre, but fascinating cyberpunk head trip that's refreshingly twisted and more than just a little disturbing. Very challenging to watch, it constantly pokes at your brain, questions reality, and smears the boundaries between the real world and the world beyond. Lain is an unassuming young girl who just listlessly floats through her sad and lonely life with no ambitions or connections to anything. She doesn't fit in at school, her classmates tease her, and her parents hardly pay her any notice. Her life starts to change when she gets an e-mail from a recently deceased classmate whose soul now somehow lives in cyberspace. At her gentle urging, Lain's father buys her a new computer and she soon gets more and more involved in the online community, and less and less connected to the real world. Her hallucinations become more frequent and intense, and voices from cyberspace start calling out to her to join them in "The Wired." But is she already there? The animation is pretty slick and the character design varies from fair to good. It's one of the very few animated shows I've seen that features a young female protagonist who actually looks and acts like a young girl. Watching her mature and transform through the course of the show is quite fascinating. The art direction is visually captivating and very surreal. The use of light and color is intriguing, creating a cold and paranoid offbeat world, and the recurring theme of blood spattered patterns is delightfully disquieting. This is definitely an anime series for the cerebral crowd - fans of "Akira" (1989), "Ghost In The Shell" (1995), and the sci-fi works of William Gibson will likely devour this show with glee. And the fact that there's nary a giant mecha, sex idol, or cute furry mascot in sight is alone enough reason to give it a look.