Posted on 30 July 2019 with categories: Anime Reviews, Finished Series: Mystery/Suspense, Reviews by Lenlo, Serial Experiments Lain, Throwback Thursday

Serial Experiments Lain is weird. It is a series unlike any other, wholly unique in anime, both modern and historical. Every aspect of it, from presentation to narrative, is best described as an experience. It is because of this that I believe Lain is a must watch, if only to experience a piece of anime history. That said, Serial Experiments Lain can hardly be said to be an “enjoyable” series. It is certainly evocative, Serial Experiments Lain will bring about emotions and force you to confront reality in a unique way. But I at least did not end the series thinking I would watch it again anytime soon, and this density will no doubt be off putting for many. However while these may keep it out of my favorites, it is without a doubt worth your time. Lets go.

(Disclaimer: I am working to make 50 the new “average”. 70 is not an average score people. 70 is above average. Carry on.)

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Posted on 25 July 2019 with categories: Serial Experiments Lain, Throwback Thursday

Welcome one and all to the finale of Serial Experiments Lain, perhaps the oddest of the series done for Throwback Thursday yet. This week Lain moves on, Arisu grows up and everyone just… goes back to normal. Lot’s going on, none of which I am qualified for, but let’s jump in.

Now before we get into the meat of the series, I want to talk about “enjoyment”. You see, I am not entirely sure that I “enjoyed” Lain. Don’t get me wrong, it was incredibly interesting, and very evocative. Lain made me feel a lot of emotions throughout its run. Think about a lot of topics anime normally doesn’t. Yet, were they positive emotions? Was it… enjoyable? I don’t think it was, though I don’t think that’s necessary either. You don’t need to enjoy something for it to have value. For an extreme example, I never enjoyed textbooks, yet the information was valuable. I don’t enjoy many of my favorite moments in Berserk, because of their tragic nature. Yet they have value and cause me to feel emotions I normally don’t. For someone as unexpressive as myself, that’s an accomplishment. Enough about me though, onto the finale itself.

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Posted on 20 July 2019 with categories: Serial Experiments Lain, Throwback Thursday

Welcome, one and all, to the penultimate episode of Serial Experiments Lain! This is a weird one, yet I feel like I got it on some level. As Lain questions peoples perception, her place in the world, and Masami’s words, let’s just dive right in.

Starting off, I haven’t been bringing it up as much recently, but I want to draw attention to Lain’s production. This was a really good week visually, rivalling 8 even. The outstanding finish aside, which was incredibly fluid, the presentation of Lain’s house and Masami were great. Lain really nailed the atmosphere of the virtually abandoned home. The entire thing trashed and dirty, Mika sitting upstairs and droning on like a modem. It was incredibly creepy and disconcerting, with only simple stills and a locations history to really go by. Meanwhile, the aforementioned final scene was the episodes capstone. Really belying the fact that Lain is from the late 90’s. None of this is even mentioning the sound design. So yeah, I suppose the only thing to say is Lain had a good week production wise. Now let’s take a look at the story.

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Posted on 12 July 2019 with categories: Serial Experiments Lain, Throwback Thursday

Welcome one and all to a 2 parter for Serial Experiments Lain! Apologies for missing last week. Between end of season reviews, first impressions and a boxing match, I was a bit busy. But we are back on track with some Lain weirdness, so lets dive right in!

Starting off, I once again was forced to appreciate how good Lain looks and sounds. It’s nothing flashing, like your modern sakuga showcases. Lain doesn’t show off the same way Mob Psycho or Attack on Titan do. With huge showcases from big name animators. Lain does much better with pointed imagery and interesting composition. So my eye roams the screen during the stills, and I don’t notice the lack of animation until it’s moved on. At the very least, it succeeds here more than Paranoia Agent did. The sound design also caught my attention. Specifically episode 11’s opening, with the sink and dishes, the dripping water. I don’t know what it stood out to me, such a simple thing. But I still remember it a week after watching the episode. I wonder what happened to get this kind of effect. Still, enough with production. Onto the madness!

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Posted on 29 June 2019 with categories: Serial Experiments Lain, Throwback Thursday

I will admit, this episode of Serial Experiments Lain was difficult to get through. This week we learn about History, both of our and Lain’s world, and get more information on the Knights. So lets just jump into it!

Starting off, this episode felt… weird. I don’t want to say it was a waste, as it introduced the series endgame with Masami. But it feels like beyond that, not much happened. Like a lot of exposition and additional information got thrown at us solely to setup the ending of said episode. That isn’t to say there wasn’t some progress, I think Lain demonstrated Lain’s deteriorating mental state well. With her difference in personality when dealing with Taro, or the Alien who came into her room. It’s making a very clear point that Lain feels isolated from society now. Just like she was, if not more so, at the start of the series. It’s just the conspiracy stuff surrounding that which I felt really broke up the episode for me.

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Posted on 25 June 2019 with categories: Currently Watching:, Sarazanmai

I must admit that days after watching this finale I still can’t wrap my head around all the events happened in this episode. Sarazanmai ends in a happy tone, something I didn’t expect from Ikuhara to be honest. On the most surface level, it’s a rescue mission from Kazuki and Enta to bring Toi back. Toi has lost all the hope after the death of his brother, and with the influence of Otter, ha’s about to erase his own existence from this life. This finale saves much of its budget in the first half (hey, I have no complain. It’s an artistic choice) by recycling all the events happened before with Toi’s slowly spirited away. Before this finale, I was thinking Sarazanmai would delve into physical desire vs love conflict, but turns out it’s more about existential crisis, about the desire to live in order to make connection, knowing that it will hurt. That might sound abstract but hey, even the Otter mutters that he is a concept (I have a good laugh here because it could apply to all of Ikuhara’s works). This time we have a musical number playing in full, prince Keppi resolves his own issues by literally embracing his dark self, Reo and Mabu come back like a light, and the trio taking shirikodama out of butt for the last time.

If we split this finale in half, there are some interesting parallels interplay between these two. Just as the first half concerns with flashbacks, the latter half brings us to its flash-forwards about possible futures of the trio. These flashforward images aren’t the happy ending though, as we see either they have to face the harsh truth (Toi is in the youth detention for his actions), the disappointment (Enta still can’t express his love) and the pain as well (Kazuki breaks his leg that caused him not to play football again). Keppi sums it nicely with “Hope and despair are both one with life.” Also metaphorically, the two halves have the motifs of these boys diving down the water. The early half is when they face the circle of connection, and the second half is when Toi jumps off the bridge and meets the others there. Well, I said “metaphorical” because it otherwise makes no literal sense to me why Toi jumps.

As a whole, even with me as a hard Ikuhara fan, Sarazaimai’s events sure are hard to pin down and make sense of it all. I enjoy the ending well enough as I think it does wrap up the story nicely, and for me Sarazanmai is a tad bit better than Ikuhara’s previous YuriKuma. I will give this show a rewatch once the year ends to see if the story holds up by then, and this is a kind of show that requires multiple viewings (and reading, too), but as far as this first watch goes I’d safely say that Sarazanmai once again proves Ikuhara as one of the most original anime directors in our lifetime. Full review will come shortly.

Posted on 21 June 2019 with categories: Serial Experiments Lain, Throwback Thursday

Welcome to another episode of Acid Trip Weekly, also known as, Serial Experiments Lain! This week is one of the most confusing, yet simultaneously coherent episodes of anime I have ever watched. It’s impossible to summarize, so let’s just dive in.

Starting off, like I said, this episode was an acid trip, both visually and narratively. From the crazy colors and sequences, to crazy metaphorical representation for ideas/situations. In particular I loved the fiery explosion of Lain when she was just done with everything. Now, I started the episode having only the faintest idea what was going on. One could argue I ended the episode not much better, but personally, I at least feel more informed. Some of it no doubt went over my head. However I think Lain did a very good job of getting the core of the episode across. The specifics of rumors, acknowledging your true self and anonymity on the internet were clearly shown. Both through visuals and dialogue. To show this, let’s move on to the actual story and take a look at some of these moments.

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Posted on 17 June 2019 with categories: Currently Watching:, Sarazanmai

The body count keeps rising up in the final stretch of Sarazanmai. With this episode we get to the end of Reo and Mabu’s pair, and it’s certainly a bittersweet experience. As it turns out, we eventually learn that Mabu sacrifices his “desire” to Reo in order to physically stays behind him. So it’s Reo who upsets by Mabu’s change and ruins their relationship. Their star-crossed love certainly touches on many Sarazanmai’s core themes, those being the desire to connect with the one they love but even to their best interest, they’re still failed to reach it. Well, there’s this evil Otter who asserted himself as “desire” and “take whatever form others desire the most” that always want to mess with others, but Mabu’s final confession to Reo, knowing the outcome, that is emotional powerful and closes their relationship in a bitter end. For Sarazanmai, although the term “connection” is shouted by all the characters, Sarazanmai’s philosophy isn’t simply about the ability to connect (although there are plenty of these – take Haruki and his younger brother, for example), but it’s also about the love vs desire, the feeling of love vs physical temptation – and more than our trio, Mabu & Reo relationship is a perfect illustration of that theme.

With the cops’ relationship, while they fully love each other, evil Otter is the one who exploits their desire from each other. What Otter believe is that love and desire can never be in conjunction with each other, and that the desire is some form of sin (to extract love or desire – if you hit “desire”, you’ll turn into kappa zombie). With that I can understand the condition he gave to Mabu: if Mabu wants to stay with Reo, he has to give up love. Sarazanmai further explores that central theme by having the Evil Otter in the form of Reo going on top of Mabu. It’s all the fitting (and bittersweet) that when Mabu decides to embrace his true feelings with Reo, his heart explodes. Although now in retrospect, I would love to know more about the Cops (who we learn used to be kappa themselves), especially in the first half we barely know about them, the show did wrap their tragic story in an emotional note.

At the same time, we get the reveal where that Dark Kappi in cage is our Kappi split in half. While I don’t mind this flow of information, the manner in which Sarazanmai displays, info-dumping us with details we can’t figure out by ourselves, is a tad bit disappointment. I have never been fully invested by the Kappa vs Otter war, and now I have come to believe the show has the same opinions because they are hardly relevant in this final stretch. Otter turns out to be a manifestation of each character’s desire, but where exactly does he born and how many of them?

In a way, I still think that the 1-cour structure fits Sarazanmai’s story neatly, as the show resolves the Mabu-Reo conflict one episode before the finale, which means that the last episode is when the spotlight again squarely focus on our main trio. And what a series of twists and turns in the final moments when Toi shows up to demand the Golden Dish, when Kazuki in on his verge of reviving Enta. The after-credit scene immediately resolves this conflict, but at a price of Toi being exploited by Evil Otter. Toi is broken at the moment, which serves as a perfect victim for Otter. Only 1 episode left, Sarazanmai is on its way for an ultimate roller-coaster ride.

Posted on 16 June 2019 with categories: Serial Experiments Lain, Throwback Thursday

Hello all and welcome to another episode of Serial Experiments Lain! Apologies for the lateness and brevity on this one, was/am feeling rather sick as this week wrapped up. Oddly enough, the addled state of mind may have helped me understand Lain better. As this week we get a lot of answers, the Knights become more active and the line between Reality and Wired gets even thinner. Lets dive in!

Starting once again with Production, Lain did a lot of interesting things this week. Not that Lain isn’t interesting normally, but it got really experimental with it this week. Specifically, I am talking about the homeless man and his VR headset. Lain tried a lot of different filters to this, experimenting with odd changes to the footage. Whether it be taking real life footage and applying some kind of filter over it or just screwing with reality. It was a lot of fun to look at, and I really enjoyed the homeless man, even if he wasn’t a lead character. Basically, we got to see a lot of the tech/Wired aspect of the show, and I thought that was good. Now though, onto the actual story content of the episode.

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Posted on 8 June 2019 with categories: Currently Watching:, Sarazanmai

Well, I definitely didn’t see all this coming. Sarazanmai comes back in a big way, at least for me, now that every plot thread starts to go in the same direction. We have Kazuki, Toi and Leo are all losing someone dear to them and trying to get a Dish of Hope so they can revive that person. Before I get into the details, I consider both the prologue and epilogue this week as Sarazanmai’s highlights, as each segment showcases different side of this show that tell you a lot about its identity. The prologue is the most playful (read: bizarre) segment except maybe for “getting the shards out of zombie’s butt” part, where Sara slips the freeze-Kappi out to the street and he literally gets broken in pieces. It’s bizarre and it’s wonderful. The epilogue goes in opposite direction and serves as Sarazanmai’s most tender moments. Not only the sad piano tune does its job, the use of montage the constantly swifts between their memory together and their current situation pretty much brings the emotions forward.

The rest of the episode is no slouch either. While I’m one of those who lament the fact that Ikuhara’s ambition is too great for a 1-cour series, one of the strength of having only 11 episodes is that the plot is much tighter and has more purpose than his longer series. This week, for example, not only one, but three characters, are having someone close slipping away from them, although it’s hard for me to draw more parallel regarding their relationships. While Reo & Mabu and Toi & Chikai relationships go in dark places, the way Kazuki feels about Enta is in totally different light. It would make much more sense if Entai was the one saving Kazuki. By no mean, what I just said meant to be a criticism, more like an observation, given Kazuki is a MAIN main character. With Enta is in his (death)bed, it’s time for him to re-examine how much Enta meant to him and comes to learn Enta’s affection. At the same time, Keppi is revived (or more like, reanimated) and he also revives Enta (in a way) in his kappa form, although the clock is literally ticking here. Kazuki also has a chance to truly talks to his brother for the first time. Those are nice developments, albeit predictable moves to get Kazuki into the centre of conflicts.

Because the other threads aren’t that straight-forward. I must say that even now I don’t really buy the Otter vs Kappa war and I’m glad that it isn’t really the focus of Sarazanmai. In fact, this episode gives some reasons for me to care about Mabu and Reo. Reo has been struggling with the feeling he has for  the new Mabu (love or desire), one who has similar appearances yet behaves like a stranger. But the interesting twist happens when the red-eye otter intimating himself as Reo to suck out the “desire” from Mabu. The fake-Reo inserts that he’s the “desire” inside Reo, more as an implication that Reo’s love for Mabu is all about desire and obsession. The other interesting angle is that Reo keeps rejecting the current-Mabu. What if it wasn’t Mabu but Reo’s own perspective change? In any case this thread weaves tightly the the “connection” theme and to the main overarching narrative. And speaking of that, the fact that both Otter King and Keppi have the same red eyes strike me as odd. Maybe they are more similar than you would think.

Lastly, the title of this week could apply to any character in Sazaranmai, but it fits best to Chikai. The one big lesson we learn this week about him: he’s an bad egg all the way and he’s incapable of loving someone, save maybe for Toi. It’s this dark and tormented relationship between Toi and Chikai is where Sarazanmai shines the brightest. From Chikai’s point of view, he knows that he’s using Toi, but he does it anyway. “You’re a little too good to be my little brother!” pretty much sums up their chemistry. Toi is desperately following him around and even protecting him, while it becomes clearer and clearer that Toi is walking down the dark path. Sarazanmai raises a red flag right there where Chikai shoots his subordinate to cover his track. Would he do the same to Toi, when Toi is not needed anymore? Maybe. While the flashback and his final remark “Connection is just a pain” and his cash might appear that he was intended to get out for good with Toi, his resentful delivery tells me otherwise. For Chikai, only the bad survives and my take is that with Toi’s unshaken devotion to him, it’s only a matter of time before he self-destructs and kills Toi instead. That’s all beside the point now, though. With the final Dish of Hope that served as the new MacGuffin, the last two episodes are going to be thrilling, and I would expect – unpredictable.

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