A show good enough to seduce bored housewives with...
I've watched Lain twice now, and I am still amazed at its mood and power.
The animation is distinctive and beautiful, and the show is worth watching for this alone. Combined with the fantastically judged pacing, this creates a haunting atmosphere that lingers throughout the entire 4 hours of the series. There is a huge focus on the mise-en-scene throughout, with many scenes bathed in a dominant, almost creepy, wash of yellow glow, like that of a late afternoon on a sunny spring day, while scenes set at night use cool blues and greens instead.
The animation is very limited, and often simplistic (though highly effective); but the attention to detail in the still imagery is incredible. Note the patches of colour, usually red or violet, sometimes other colours, visible in the shadows. Then note how Lain's shadow is visibly glowing, with so many patches of colour in it that the black of the shadow itself becomes barely visible. It's subtle details like this which make this programme the triumph it is.
Most of the character focus is given to the titular Lain, with other characters (the possible exception being Alice/Arisu) only given minor attention, and yet the focus given to them is more than enough to tell you all you need to know about them, such is the quality of the show's writing.
I would recommend this show to anyone, although I would warn them that the plot is complicated, disturbing, and often ambiguous. Lain's creators have stated themselves that the meaning of the show is up to personal interpretation
, my interpretation being that it has no inherent meaning. It's meaning is art. Nothing more.
The show also does an incredible job (remember it was produced in 1998) of predicting the rise of modern social networking and many of the internet's other aspects, and elements which at first appear random, pointless, and a bit stupid (episode 9) actually do a fantastic job of explaining meme theory.
The show's soundtrack is also another highlight, often consisting of nothing but silence and the sound of character's voices, at other times using white noise (specifically buzzing power cables) to create atmosphere, before suddenly switching to a badass rock and techno soundtrack, which cuts out as unexpectedly as it does in, catching the viewer out to haunting effect.