The Reality-Bending Anime That Inspired The Matrix Is On Streaming

By Britta DeVore | Published

Although the plot of Lana and Lily Wachowski’s penned and helmed global phenomenon franchise The Matrix certainly fit in plot-wise with where society was headed (in terms of technology), this theme and other aspects of the features were heavily inspired by Japanese animation. Serial Experiments Lain draws parallels between the story surrounding Neo in The Matrix and that of a young girl named Lain Iwakura in the Japanese production.

Now, those who may want to see how it all got started can head to the streaming service Funimation where Serial Experiments Lain is now streaming.

In Serial Experiments Lain a teenage girl named Lain Iwakura discovers her ties to a worldwide communications network that mirrors the internet

In Serial Experiments Lain, a teenage girl named Lain Iwakura lives a mundane life in the suburbs of Japan. That is, until she discovers her ties to a worldwide communications network that mirrors the internet called, The Wired.

serial experiments lain

Essentially, because of its wide-reaching web of technology, The Wired could alter reality itself – quite like what happens in The Matrix and its follow-up films.

Penned by Chiaki J. Konaka and directed by Ryútarō Nakamura, the artwork that went into Serial Experiments Lain is a true sight to behold. The folks at Triangle Staff are given credit for these dazzling animations which stem from original designs by Yoshitoshi Abe.

Although it was just one season in length, the thirteen-episode anime production packed a punch and undoubtedly shaped how the Wachowskis would mold their celebrated franchise.

Not your run-of-the-mill animated series, Serial Experiments Lain was formed with a handful of hard-hitting themes in mind. For one, when penning the story, Konaka knew that he didn’t want his tale to go in a linear line, rather mixing things up for audiences to piece together. He also wanted it to be a thoughtful production, and one more close to the understanding of Japanese audiences over Americans.

serial experiments lain

Throughout its episodes, Serial Experiments Lain hit on a variety of themes. Included in the overarching story were introspective dives into communication, loneliness, theology, reality, and mental illness. If these themes ring a bell, it would be more than easy to see how they parallel the struggles that varying characters of The Matrix face in their journeys toward the truth.

Serial Experiments Lain was received much better in Japan than in the United States

As for how Serial Experiments Lain was received by its audiences, many in Japan loved the unusual art that went into the production, also praising the deeper meaning surrounding the young girl and her entanglements with The Wired.

Just as Konaka presumed, American audiences wouldn’t get it quite as much. Those in the United States were taken aback by a different type of anime work than they were used to, with the non-linear storytelling also throwing them off.

While Serial Experiments Lain may have been a head-scratcher for those in the U.S., it is known in Japan as a classic in the sprawling world of anime. Finding itself going down in history alongside other favorites including Cowboy Bebop and Neon Genesis Evangelion, Konaka’s work has been highly celebrated for its darker themes and non-cookie-cutter patterns.

serial experiments lain

As far as the ties between Serial Experiments Lain and other pieces of anime and The Matrix franchise, there can be similarities just about everywhere you look. From the towering, out-of-this-world buildings and other backdrops, the now legendary fight sequences, to, of course, the struggles of the main characters, the Wachowskis obviously had a soft spot for anime.

Just as Neo struggles to separate the truth from fiction, reality from mirages, as does Lain as she ventures farther into the technological world of The Wired. 

A Los Angeles Times article published two decades ago goes in-depth about how Serial Experiments Lain and other animes heavily influenced the Wachowskis on their adventure of bringing The Matrix franchise to life.

Also listed in the publication’s lineup of important titles that lent ideas to the sisters are RahXephon, Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Ninja Scroll, Berserk, Movie Fighter G Gundam, and Evangelion – just to name a few.

For dedicated fans of The Matrix franchise, catching Serial Experiments Lain is the perfect way to better round out your understanding of just how much the Wachowskis not only turned to anime for their project (and others after that) but also how they paid homage to the craft. Luckily, with the season currently streaming on Funimation, fans can do exactly that.