Mr. Robot & Serial Experiments Lain. Years Apart but Bound together.

Hi everyone, My name is M. Hassan and starting today, I will be talking about some of my favorite things ranging from films, comics, anime, manga and everything in between. I hope you guys like what I have to say. ^_^

Last Wednesday, I was discussing a particular show with a good friend of mine. She was looking for a good show to binge on and I was telling her how incredible this show is. It just began its second season and it has an extremely taut, gripping, almost labyrinthine style of storytelling and that it is the best thing to come out of television post Breaking Bad. I probably made her laugh when I told her my biggest fascination with this show, is it’s incredibly realistic display of how hacking and technology works in reality vs the “fantasy hacking” that is rampant on television. We were talking about Mr. Robot and after our conversation ended, she went back to whatever she was doing and I started to watch another favorite show of mine which I started to realize was just how similar it was to Mr. Robot in tone, character and themes.

I was watching Serial Experiments Lain.

To those who don’t know anything about Lain, it was a Japanese animated cyberpunk show that aired in 1998, literally a few months before Matrix burst onto the pop culture like an atomic bomb. The show’s main storyline focused on Lain Iwakura, an ordinary girl living in suburban Japan and certain events that propel her into the weird strange world of “The Wired” – the show’s equivalent of a social media network a’la Facebook or Twitter. Much like Mr. Robot, Serial Experiments Lain is heavily influenced by themes of loneliness, paranoia, distrust of society, science fiction and most importantly, cyberpunk. Both shows heavily explore the constant dynamic between reality and fantasy, what it means to be human, technology and its effect on us, conspiracy theories, and philosophy.

Let’s take the main characters of both shows, Lain and Elliot. Both are social introverts, both find comfort in being alone and by the end of their respectful seasons, unlock terrible secrets about themselves, and are unreliable narrators. They constantly debate whether the world around them is real or not, and the answers they find push their stories forward. They both have awkward social mannerisms which immediately makes them the odd duck at any social gathering.

Image courtesy of USA Network The hoodie, the blank expressionless face and eyes demonstrate an overall unstable personality.

The worlds Lain and Elliot inhabit are gloomy and melancholic. Lain uses an interesting technique in which she uses colors in place of shadows that create a strange color palette to show the reach the internet has in everyday life. On the other hand, Mr. Robot’s colors change depending on the setting. It’s an interesting choice considering, after all, that no one in Mr. Robot is sane.

Both Lain and Elliot are very shy people who avoid people with Elliot even having an issue with being touched. Surprisingly, both Elliot and Lain use mental crutches to deal with this; Elliot created the persona of Mr. Robot, while Lain uses bear overalls to either confront people or hide from them. It’s sort of uncanny just how similar these two shows are.

Image Courtesy of Google. Notice the expressionless eyes and face.

Now I am not saying that Mr. Robot is inspired by Serial Experiments Lain, but ideas introduced on one show are then carried over by something else and so on. Sam Ismail said that he was influenced by the Matrix when he was developing Mr, Robot, while Matrix was itself heavily influenced by cyberpunk shows and films like Serial Experiment Lain.

But this makes for an interesting question though. I am very sure that Sam Ismail may never have seen Serial Experiments Lain and yet, his character and the show share so much with having to do with Serial Experiments Lain, or could it be that these particular traits of metal and social illness have become a hallmark of anything remotely attached to cyberpunk? After all, given the way Mr. Robot is going, I wouldn’t be surprised to see if it all was just a virtual simulation to show the effects of whatever Elliot suffers from.

M. Hassan
I dunno how to describe myself, you always want to be a little honest but also afraid that sometimes people don't like when you open yourself so bluntly. So I guess subtlety will suffice. First things first, I am a total nerd(so much for subtlety). I Love films, gaming, comics, anime the lot of 'em. But I love talking about them even more. Hopefully, I will be able to use this platform to talk about the things I love and maybe will learn about the things you guys love.