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Panel discussion with Yasuyuki Ueda and Yoshitoshi ABe
held on August 5th at Otakon 2000 in Baltimore, Maryland. Transcribed by Lawrence Eng

Although I tried to be as accurate as possible, there are bound to be some mistakes in this transcription, especially since some of the questions were difficult to hear.
U was Ueda
A was ABe
M was the moderator/translator
M(U) was the moderator/translator speaking for Ueda
M(A) was the moderator/translator speaking for ABe
Q was the audience

Much thanks to...
Yasuyuki Ueda for giving me permission to post this transcript.
Jerry Hsu for letting us use his trusty minidisc player, and John Garza for setting up the recording
John Garza and James Kao for asking questions for me since I couldn't attend
U: Good morning everyone, my name is Ueda Yasuyuki, Pioneer Laserdisc Company, lain producer, (points to) Mr. Abe

M(A): I am Yoshitoshi Abe, lain's character designer. I'm so sorry I don't understand English, but thank you.

M(U): so what do you guys want to talk about? or any questions? anything in particular?

Q: could you ask both the gentlemen how they initially became involved in lain?

M(U): about 4 years ago, I was fiddling around with the script of lain, and I had this idea sitting in my head, and I happened to be surfing the Net when I ran across Mr. Abe's homepage, and so I contacted him, and that's how we both got involved.

Q: this is a question for Mr. Abe. What are some of your artistic influences? are there anime or manga creators that you find inspiring?

M(A): ok, so I wasn't really influenced by manga, per se, but when I was in college, I was studying a traditional Japanese art form where they crush rocks and use epoxy or some substance and make art out of it by you understand washi? it's handmade Japanese rice paper, and basically you spread it over the rice paper and you make images and art and so forth. he was studying that and at the same time he was dabbling in illustrations, and art and so forth. he happens to like...among Japanese artists, there was a oil painter called chinai-san and another artist called tabuchi-san, and I guess he had some influence from them.

Q: ok, we're going to delve a little deeper here. the question is specifically referring to the ending credits, with lain in the fetal position wrapped within all the wires and technology. was that intended to represent like a trap or more like a womb or both or am I reading way too much into it?


M(U): yeah, you're pretty much right, (laughter) but it's not a trap at all.

Q: did you extensively plan the significance of sounds within lain? such as the sounds of wires, club music, city sounds, short wave, etc. did you specifically plan that earlier on, or did that kind of thing evolve while you were doing it?

M(U): ok, since you asked that, he's going to go into a short little explanation of sounds in general in Japanese television animation series. so although each episode is shown once a week, they can't be making sounds on the fly for each episode, so they make a sound palette before the entire series is finished and they just choose from that. so, normally they wouldn't do sounds on the fly for each episode later, but he knew Takemoto--the second sound unit is Takemoto and Kasamatsu--and he was friends with both of them and basically they would go up to the director's area and they fiddle around with the sound for each episode and so that was an exception from the norm.

Q: can we consider lain to be a part of the experience in the same way you would consider the movie Jacob's ladder as a part of the experience?

M(U): he said, I've seen it before, but I've forgotten what it was about. (laughter) could you explain the story?

Q: the movie Jacob's ladder is about a man who is a soldier, and he's wounded, and he gets better, but what he doesn't realize is that he's dead and he's experiencing part of the transition phase between life and death and at the end of the movie he goes up to where he's supposed to go and then he realizes that his whole experience of reality is an illusion, and so it draws from this Buddhist concept of reality, but again you go through this experience to get rid of all attachments, and I seem to think for myself, at least, that's what's going on in lain.

U: well, I personally never had any experience with Buddhism in practice per se, but if you want to look at it that way, then the ideas in lain are very closely similar to that.

Q: there's a quote in the program, "this work itself is sort of a cultural war against American culture and the American sense of values we adopted after ww2." my question is what does he consider an American sense of values, since what he considers an American sense of values might not necessarily be what we do.

M(U): what was it from? the quote?

Q: from the program. from animerica

U: aaah, from the program!


M(U): ok, so basically, when I was growing up, American culture had a huge impact on the way I am now, and while I find American culture to be very interesting, there are some things that are very complex and hard for me to understand, and the way Japan and America is now, we're on good terms, but there are still some things, there's a communication barrier, that we can't talk about certain things or we're not ready to, that we just kind of skirt around the subject of certain taboo issues, if you will, culturally, and it's not because we're avoiding them, it's just that we're not aware of them because of the communication barrier. I wish we would go further into that.

Q: when I served in Vietnam, there were some of the same difficulties between the Americans and the Vietnamese.

M(U): For many countries in Asia, the second world war left a lot of scars, and I assume this will kind of put a cloud over this room, and I assume most of you are Americans, but as for Japan, this generation has pretty much forgotten about it because the new generation always wants to step forward. they don't really look back, and while my grandfather and grandmother both died in the atomic bombing, to me actually, it doesn't leave anything in me. I don't harbor any, hatred is a strong word, but you know, any feelings of regret and so forth, so basically I just want to keep on moving forward.

Q: I have a question about the colors swirling in the shadows. was there any significance to that, or were they just stylistic

M(A): which shadows? I mean, there's a lot of them. there's a lot of weird shadows

Q: red splotches that appear frequently

M(A): actually, that wasn't Abe-san's idea, but the director's, to signify that the Wired is in the shadow, even in the real world, it's still there beneath the surface.

Q: I heard that Lain's concept is based on the novel Snow Crash? is that true?

M(U): When did snow crash come out?

Q: 1995

M(U): Actually no one here has read Snow Crash, at all
they know what it is, but none of them read snow crash, and actually it was right after they finished the TV series and they were making the game, that somebody said that snow crash was kind of cool.
that was about the end of it

Q: I have a question about some of the imagery in lain, does each the one where her fingers are going up in smoke, does that have special meaning or is it just added in for mood?

M(U): oh, that's a given in Japanese high school


M(U): if you want to know about the meaning, for her the smoke coming out, it's reality to her, but to everyone else that's around her, they can't see it, it's not part of their reality. so in that respect, everyone has their own reality that another person can't see, and it's kind of a playoff between realities for each individual person.

Q: this isn't actually a question: I'm the translator of this, and I'm having psychological counseling. (laughter).
according to some of the supplementary material I received included annotated scripts and notes from the various writers, and according to one, the whole paper thing is actually a fairly common hallucination for psychotic patients, it's an ectoplasm kind of thing. this is just one source.

U: yes! exactly!


Q: I got the impression that Lain's family was not really her family, that they were put there by someone else, but I didn't really understand exactly who they were working for or why.

M(U): as to actually who they are, and who they work for, it's left up in the air for you to decide, but they're basically there to collect information and report to somebody else in the background.

Q: do you find it best that the viewer leave lain and interpret it for themselves instead of coming out and explaining everything?

M(U): yeah, because when we made this, we had certain goals and certain things we wanted to express, but everyone has their own opinion, their own reality--if you were--that they posses, and so just because I think a certain way, or I want this certain thing to be understood, that doesn't mean that I don't think you should get something else out of it, that "oh that I disagree with this, there is no kind of life like this." As long as you enjoy it and get something out of it for yourself.

Q: This is a question for Mr. Abe. You use computers to color in your work on your webpage. do you think that by the use of computer coloring that the art of using ink and water color paint, that the technique will be forgotten? do you use ink or paint or do you use computers only?

M: so you also want to know whether he uses watercolor?

Q: I want to know if he uses hand painted also

M(A): um, about the thing he used to study, I think I may have misunderstood that a bit. it's actually rocks that are crushed very fine and turned into a paste or a paint, and he used to paint with that. he does do pictures with watercolor and so forth, and namely the thing he studied in university. and he think it's very important you have a basic understanding of the value of color. when you use the computer, you have rgb and cyk, and you just fiddle around with those values. if you take classical art and learn painting, you have to think about the way the paint flows off the brush, the thickness with which it's laid and so forth, and there's a lot of other factors that you have to put in and when you do that, you develop your own palette inside your head that you can then paint with. But with a computer, the colors are already set, you can pick the same color again and again and again, but with real painting you can't do that, it's a little bit different each time. so in that respect, computers still, they're like a ruler, by which you can clean things up, it's just a just a tool, but if computers can get to the point where they can simulate actual paint and all those other aspects, maybe then everything could be purely digital.

Q: I really like watercolor. computer is very beautiful, but I still wish more artists would do more of watercolor paining.

U: he used to offer coffee drawing. it's true!


M(A): when he was going to university in Japan, he didn't have much money, so he had to resort to unorthodox methods like painting with coffee and tea.


Q: I just wanted to comment that lain is being used as a teaching aid in some university departments. My question is, did the psychedelic movement of the 60s at all influence lain?

(laughter and applause)

M(U): (understanding question before translation) man, I'm good! it's not like I want to start a revolution or anything with this. like I said earlier, with the war behind Japan and everything, there was a 60s peace movement, but in the 80s and 90s it kind of died down and trailed off. now, in modern day japan, if somebody were to start up something so serious as a movement against something in a university or something, people would say, "that's not cool, what are you doing? you going off there, nerd boy" you know. but the kind of values we possess now, that we look at somebody who holds those kind of values, and we think "oh, that's so uncool" Is that really right? so in that respect, I wanted to put that into lain so we could question ourselves, our values and morals, not morals so much as values of what we perceive to be important. so if you look at it that way, yeah the 60s peace movement had some influence on lain.

Q: I realize this is a broad question, but if you could narrow it down, but what is your motivation for animating and art?

M(U): for me, the reason that I'm doing animation is because in live action, there are so many professionals, and where there are so many people involved, your original idea gets skewed somewhat. when you do animation, you can do highly imaginative things with a small group and keep it still true to the original idea that you had. I guess it's easier to express through animation what I feel, which is why I'm still doing animation.

Q: since human interaction with electronics is increasing everyday, do you think that some day people will choose to live in a virtual world rather than a real one? and does that scare you?

M(U): yeah, it's a possibility that's crossed my mind. it's not really scary, because if you think of it, if you wonder who you are or what you are, even if half of your body (or even more) were to become mechanized, that doesn't mean that you wouldn't be you, and if you're confident about that, it shouldn't be scary at all.

Q: throughout you see people's lips chisa, lain's sister, alice...

M: Oh, when they speak and nothing comes out?

Q: yeah, what does that mean?

U: Lain's sister, Mika, you say? gaa gaa pee pee. No?

M: Mika, not Chisa.

(general confusion about the characters in question)

M: There's a scene where she's speaking and nothing comes out?

Q: There's a girl that jumps off the roof.

M(U): ok, the girl that died, when she's speaking, she's already dead, now lain sees that image and she can see her mouth moving, and while she understands what's coming out of that, that doesn't mean that person is actually breathing in air and words are spit out through the vocal chords, so it's just the idea that comes out that is interpreted through the text that is written right after.

M(U): is that ok, did you understand?

Q: so what does that mean for the other people? would that mean that Alice is already dead? Is that why it upset lain so much to see her doing that?

(confusion about question and translation?)

M(U):yeah exactly. (??)

Q: you mention mika. there's much speculation on the wired about what happened to Mika. perhaps you would care to add your own rumors to the throng.


M: so there's rumours?

Q: there are lots of people who are trying to guess what happens to mika, in episode 5 right? and something happened after episode 5 and she just sort of loses it. what happened to her? It has something to do with the knights probably...

M(U): mika became a victim of the wired. lain started delving into the wired, so did mika, and mika got stuck in this nether world in between, so while she still exists in the physical world, anything she says and does is kind of like a fax, it just comes out, but it's not actually her because her self is still kind of stuck in the wired, so her existence is kind of like a puppet state.

Q: I want to know about the technical details, because they use very obscure computer names and things. How did they know about all the very obscure computer stuff?

M(U): that was all the scenario writer's doing.
when he does that he has to do some background research. so when he does all these designs and so forth, he has to do research. it's that plus his imagination.

Q: tell him that really impressed a lot of people

M(U): I don't really understand why, but that's cool.

Q: I'm referring to... I think it's infornography, it's kind of an x-files kind of episode. all of the people and scientists referred to in that episode are actually real, like xanadu, john c lilly, and that kind of stuff...except for harry truman(?). there are few more names that popped up in the original screenplay that didn't make the final cut. There's one guy named Jerome C Glenn, and I wasn't sure how to spell that, and I found his personal webpage, and I was going to ask him, "pardon me but you show up in a show called lain and I'd like to know how you spell your middle name."

M: wait, this is in Lain? there are two characters that don't show up in the final cut?

Q: yeah, it was the episode that started off with the majestic-12, roswell stuff, vannevar shows the development of the internet, hypertext, and that kind of thing.

(some confusion about characters, episode number, etc.)

M: two characters that aren't in the series?

Q: Jerome C Glenn...oh, and Douglas C. Rushkoff.

U: Mr. Chiaki's idea. (laughter) I don't know.

M(U): that was all scenario designer Konaka's doing. I had nothing to do with that...he's happens to be a maniac on UFOs and stuff. We have nothing to do with that guy. =)


Q: what was the meaning of the little girl with the stuff animal?

M(U): she's a normal person, but it's kind of to signify the breaking down of the barriers between the real world and the game world (the net world). they use the expression of fear on her face to really show that. do you get it? it's OK. if you don't understand, just ask more.

U: hey hey come on. are you ok?

Q: It looked like she wasn't really afraid, but she was having fun, because she was behind a man, and he was trying to run up to his room with his keys, and she comes up behind him and goes "gotcha" and I was like "wow!" she didn't really appear afraid. she looked like she was having fun.

M: oh, right. She runs up behind who?

Q: there was this man who was running up to his room, and he was trying to open the door, and he appeared really frightened, and she came up behind him, and she was like "gotcha" and he was freaked out...

M(U): when she runs up to him and she says "gotcha", she doesn't actually do that. that's his perception. it's his perception of reality. that's the breaking down between the net and the real world, in that he feels like he's being chased, and the "gotcha" is something he thinks he's being chased, and he feels he's been trapped, but the girl is just a little girl. and that's what that means.

Q: in the last layer, when lain resets herself, where does she go, does she still interact with the real world?

M(U): that's a hard one. ok, so with mika and the way she got caught between reality and the virtual world, and the man who thought he was chased. so basically, the wired world and real world get confused because of lain's existence. so lain, in an attempt to repair that, took her existence out of that entire reality and reset it so that the realities would be separate, and everything would be back to normal. she herself, she's gone, she's bye-bye.

Q: This is a question for Mr. Abe. Can you tell us a little bit about how you go about creating a character, the process of it?

M(A): for lain at least, this was my first job, so I had really no idea how to go about doing it, but we'd all meet together in a group and say who we think lain is, how she would look like, how she would feel, etc etc. then I'd go home, write a whole bunch of character designs, rough sketches, bring it in they'd say "this is closer closer closer" and they'd just repeat the cycle of meetings until they got lain.

Q: Is there any specific significance behind the names in lain? especially, the one I'm really curious about is the name "knights". just that name, because we actually use an operating system at work that monitors incoming phone calls, email messages, faxes and keeps track of where everyone is in the system.

U: Knights runs on what kind of machine? Unix?

M(U): What kind of machine does Knights run on?

Q: It's a computer system, it's used for listening in on incoming phone calls, and checking the email of people who are working there.

M: is it an OS or an app?

Q: it's not an operating system. it's just a program. I'm assuming it runs on Windows.

M(U): I have no idea. it's the traditional meaning of knights

Q: any significance of the names in general?

M(U): yeah, when you choose names for characters, there is a certain feel for them, the way the name sounds when you say it that kind of fits the character, so there's a certain meaning behind each name, but other than that...

Q: how did your original vision and plan for lain differ from what came out in production?

M(U): of course when you make any thing like this, when you have the scenario designer, the producer, the director, and all these other different people working on it, you have an exchange of ideas, and inevitably whoever came up with the original idea, it's going to skew from that, because it's a combination of all those ideas, but in this case it happened to go in a good direction.

Q: the director, nakahara-san, his group, he had an earlier OVA series called alice in cyberland and it starred a trio of girls named alice, juri, and reika...

M: you mean konaka-san, right? they say konaka-san

Q: okay, but one of the production staff made an earlier show called Alice in Cyberland, and the character's names showed up earlier: Alice, Juri, and Reika.

M(U): the guy that was doing it, he was working for a game company and he made this game called Alice in Cyberland, but the company went bankrupt, and the game didn't sell spit, and he really liked those names, so he wanted to put them... it wasn't really a revenge thing, but he went to the producer and said, "I really liked these names, could I name some of the characters these names?" and he said "yeah, go ahead."

M: that's it I guess. times up.

U: thank you

A: thank you


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