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Review: Lain

Lain is an introvert. She grows up in a family which for the most part ignores her. She is quiet and uncomfortable in crowds. In many ways, she’s an utterly unexceptional girl. Only one thing makes her unique.

She is God (of the Wired).

Lain is an interesting series: it’s cyberpunk in the Gibson sense, which means that instead of starting with the current state of technology and extrapolating forward, it starts with an interesting conclusion and fits a possible path there. Its central thesis is that the Wired, the evolution of the Internet, is a realm in its own right. A user’s presence there is no mere avatar, it is an entity in its own right. While there are interactions between the Wired and the world, and mappings between the inhabitants of each, neither can truthfully be said to be dominant.

Figuring that all out is a strange process not easily explained.

Here is the thing: on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog. Truth is a matter of consensus, and your face is anything you want it to be. Fundamentally it follows a completely different set of rules from the physical world. The question, then, is this: what happens when the two worlds come into conflict? What happens when the Wired, for which bits are what atoms are to the Earth, wages war against the physical to become the base, essential reality? How could that happen, and what would be the effects?

From a tech standpoint, it’s all nonsense. When it bothers to get as specific as technobabble, there is nothing that makes any sort of sense at all. However, that’s really not the point. The point is the premise, the point is the question, the point is the style.

It is not storytelling in any traditional sense. It’s a series that generates strong reactions: I think it’s a pretty good series, and one of the best to push the envelope of anime as a medium. Nyren, the man who introduced me to anime, thinks it’s the worst show ever made. Nothing about the series is simple; figuring it out takes work.

If that sounds like fun, though, this series is well worth your time.

Genre:  cyberpunk philosophy
Emotion: wtf
BTFS: .83

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