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Serial Experiments Lain's Chiaki J. Konaka Discusses Writing Game, Anime's Stories

posted on by Jennifer Sherman

The enigmatic classic anime Serial Experiments Lain can be a riddle for fans to decipher. Many viewers struggle to completely wrap their heads around the plot. However, one of the series' creators is shedding light on the origins of the project and the meaning of its name after 20 years.

Scriptwriter Chiaki J. Konaka explained the meaning of "serial experiments" on his blog on Saturday. Konaka said that the work was originally planned as a PlayStation game and added the he is "questioning even now whether the resulting game can really be called a game." Although, the project's creators envisioned the game first, it was the anime that debuted ahead of the PlayStation game of the same name in 1998.

Konaka noted that while the PlayStation is a stand-alone game machine, it "behaves as if it's connected to the net." The unconventional game is made of a large amount of text, and "users pull in and collect various information through the interface of the girl called Lain."

At the time of the game's development, Yasuyuki Ueda of Pioneer LDC mainly wrote the text, and Konaka was only in charge of the scenarios for 30-second animation parts of the game. Because they also planned an anime, there was a "main line" of the story, and Ueda was in charge of the basic plot. Konaka said he only handled the intermediary work that filled in game director Tetsuya Endo's video content. In the game, "the network ultimately existed as an information-gathering route, and the main focus of the game had content classified as 'psycho thriller.'"

Konaka said that while the Serial Experiments Lain game confronted serious topics, he also thought of it as an interesting experiment.

Ueda found the project's character designer Yoshitoshi ABe online when he was still a college student. Konaka was impressed with Abe because he not only created pictures and writings, but also freely presented original ideas. For example, without being instructed to, Abe created Lain's father and presented his design to Konaka. After Konaka asked him about what it was, Abe's concept directly became part of the project.

Konaka said the all the staff members besides himself were struggling to finish the game, and they decided to make a one-cour late-night anime to promote it. Konaka has always vaguely thought of the words "serial experiments" as referencing the shift of the project from a game to an anime. However, even he is still somewhat unsure of the meaning and said that it may relate to the idea of continuing experiments.

For the anime, Konaka revealed he had freedom to make it completely different from the game. With Kaori Shimizu voicing Lain in the anime as well as the game, Konaka said he thought about ending the series with Lain shooting herself with a gun as in the PlayStation game. He then thought of composing the rest of the story with that end in mind. Still, Konaka continued to struggle with the story.

He said, "Though I always felt inconvenienced with various restrictions as the scriptwriter of a commercial work, I was at a loss when I got complete freedom." As a result, he wrote an "extremely rough 12-episode composition" for the anime and considered it further while later writing the scenario. In that way, he tentatively began to put the story together. Konaka realized much later that there was no other way the anime could have been made.

Crunchyroll is streaming the anime, and it describes the story:

Acclaimed artist Yoshitoshi ABe (Haibane Renmei, Texhnolyze) brings to life the existential classic that paved the way for blockbuster films such as The Matrix. Follow along as fourteen year old Lain—driven by the abrupt suicide of a classmate—logs on to the Wired and promptly looses herself in a twisted mass of hallucinations, memories, and interconnected-psyches.

Funimation announced in 2010 that it licensed the 1998 psychological cyberpunk series previously held by Geneon, and it has since released the series on DVD and Blu-ray Disc.

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