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Chiaki J. Konaka interview

(Note: This e-mail interview was conducted in June 2001, and was publically presented for the first time at Anime Expo 2001 on July 7th at the serial experiments lain Fan's Discussion Panel that I hosted, with approximately 100 con-goers in attendance. Mr. Konaka is not a native English speaker, so he requested that I correct his mistakes. As such, the answers below have been slightly edited for grammar and spelling, but the content remains the same.)

LE: You once told me that the name "Armitage" is from HP Lovecraft. Would you call serial experiments lain a Lovecraft-style horror story? If so, what parts of the anime are inspired by Lovecraft?

CJK: Sometimes, I use the elements of H.P.L. and other authors of the Cthulhu Saga in my scenarios, but I think there are no such elements in "lain". It was not necessary.

LE: Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll often shows up in your writing. Do you like American science fiction and fantasy? If so, what American SF movies or books have influenced the writing of serial experiments lain and your other works?

CJK: For me, H.P.L. and Lewis Carroll are very close. They each created their own style, and their own world (and history). I'm a story maker. I don't have the desire to create an original world for each new production. So when it's effective, I use their elements. I said that "lain" didn't need the elements of H.P.L. That's because I wrote "lain" as the story of the "Present Day, Present Time.".

LE: What Japanese books, anime, manga, or movies do you like?

CJK: Mostly, I have been influenced by movies from all over the world, including Japan. I think I was especially influenced by '70s movies. "Taxi Driver", "The Exorcist", "The Legend of The Hell House", "Obsession", "Videodrome"...and so on. But I was born with Tezuka's manga, "Astroboy". I grew up with a lot of anime.

LE: Are there any particular anime artists or directors you would like to work with?

CJK: Of course, working together with Mr. Ryutaro Nakamura was so exciting. I can say that I've been very lucky to have met and worked with many talented directors.

LE: serial experiments lain was intended for a Japanese audience. How do you feel about the international popularity of serial experiments lain, and why do you think it is so popular worldwide? From what you have noticed, how are American fans of serial experiments lain different from Japanese fans?

CJK: I feel that the reaction of the people who liked "lain" is not so different between Japanese and non-Japanese fans. They all found their own point of the theme in "lain". That is what I wanted.

LE: What have you written in the past that you would like more people to see? Can you tell us anything about your future anime-related works?

CJK: I've written so many movies, anime, and TV dramas. But I want you to see the production that I'm now writing. I'm now working on season 3 of "Digimon". It's the brand-new series called "Digimontamers" in Japan.

LE: You told me that Alice, Reika, and Juri are from Alice in Cyberland, which you wrote. Who made up the name "Lain" and where does the name come from? Is there a real person named "Lain"?

CJK: In "Digimontamers", I included the characters "Juri" and "Reika". "Alice In Cyberland", "lain", and "Digimontamers" are all "Cyber fictions". That's the only reason. But in my heart, maybe I like the characters even if their faces and ages have changed.

In fact, I originally created the characters of "Alice", "Reika", and "Juri" in one episode of a domestic live action TV drama in 1994. (that was the "Haunted High" episode of "Gakkou No Kwaidan"-"Terrible stories of School")

LE: The lain anime has a lot of computers, and your website is very impressive. Do you love computers very much?

CJK: I love and hate computers...

LE: Are there any questions you would like to ask us American fans? Do you have any message for us?

CJK: I believe that U.S. fans caught the "Kernel" of lain. I believe that you recognized what I and Mr.Nakamura and Ueda the producer wished to tell you.

But I wonder...What do you think about the dogma of Eiri Masami in the anime ? Were Eiri's thoughts totally insane? I'd like to hear about it.


We discussed Mr. Konaka's question at the panel. Most of us agreed that Eiri Masami's philosophy regarding human evolution was not necessarily wrong--that there is indeed something to be said for transcending bodily existence--that transcendance mediated by computers or some other technology. In our discussion, we avoided two extremes: we felt that a Wired existence should not completely replace being in a (flesh) body, but at the same time, one should not completely reject the Wired, either, in favor of a (flesh) body. Eiri was problematic, we thought, not because of his philosophy of human evolution, per se, but because of his politics of evolution. Whether he was right or wrong about the future of human evolution, he didn't have the right to forcibly impose his personal beliefs on others against their will (and sometimes without their knowledge). By doing just that, Eiri caused a lot of damage that Lain had to fix when she RESET the world.

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Last updated on June 8th, 2002
Lawrence Eng