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The role of typographic elements in lain
Regarding the random text (typographics) shown onscreen during serial experiments lain, I think much of it is there for stylistic purposes--to give the anime a certain feeling/atmosphere. Text such as "Close the World, Open the Next" "Make me sad. Make me mad. Make me feel alright" "Have you ever seen the Lain?" "existence" "Metaphorize" (and so on) are very jargon-like in that they are obscure and mysterious to the uninitiated but hold (or pretend to hold) some kind of elite secret meaning to those who are "in the know".
Everyday in the media and especially on the internet, we are bombarded by jargon and tech-speak, and the electronic collage-like typographics in lain are a reflection of these new modes by which we are being fed data. We no longer learn things one-by-one in a linear fashion; rather, we're exposed to multiple feeds at the same time, with the various bits of information often unrelated to each other and out of context.
The typographics are a part of the anime's overall postmodern style of presentation. Many people have commented that they noticed different details each time they rewatched lain. That has a lot to do with the fragmented and non-linear way the story is presented and the shear amount of information compressed into various scenes. Furthermore, not all of the information makes immediate sense, and some things remain vague even after repeated viewings.
Some of the background text that scrolls by in various episodes includes various documents that can be found on the web, including an essay on artificial life, an article on speech recognition by computers, and a page of online modern art. These too are probably stylistic moreso than plot elements. It's possible these webpages were/are frequented by the various creators of lain.
(I posted an earlier version of this article to the (now-defunct) Anime Grapevine on 10/25/2000.)
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Last updated on March 23rd, 2001