Gookie’s Top 3 Anime Mind Trips – Dennou Coil, Ghost Hound and Lain

It takes a certain kind of person to be into the slow moving, obscure, psychological and ‘profound’ anime series. Many people would probably dismiss them as being ‘boring’ or ‘pretentious’ and would merely find them uninteresting, but I confess I am an absolute sucker for the genre. Thus far my favourite three series which fall within this category would be Dennou Coil, Ghost Hound and Serial Experiments LainGhost Hound and Dennou Coil probably being two of my all-time favourite anime series.

N.B: I’m not going to waste time and space recounting the plots properly, as one would do for a proper review. You can find sufficent plot summaries on wikipedia or various sites, easily found with a quick google search, though many of these contain spoilers.

The oldest series from the three I’ve chosen here is Serial Experiments Lain, which was released in 1998. I think it is also the least viewer friendly of the set, as unlike Dennou Coil and to a certain extent Ghost Hound, it makes no effort to conform to convention. I actually watched Lain after seeing the other two series, and confess I was surprised by the amount of critical attention it had received, just because it really was..for the lack of words..so ‘weird.’ [Hey, for all you anagram freaks, you know if you re-arrange weird you get wired – coincidence?! I’m not sure..] I watched two episodes, downloaded the rest of the series but only returned to watch the rest of it much later. The plot is particularly vague, dealing with concepts regarding the human psyche – memory, conscious, thought processing etc. There is not always a coherent flow from episode to episode, though the viewer can make connections between them – as one of the underlying messages that continuously crops up is “everything is connected”. Yet while the ideas are more vague, they are distinctly more adult (in some episodes there are sexual overtones) and sinister than perhaps those explored in Dennou Coil and Ghost Hound. The non-liner progression of the plot is actually perhaps better fitted to the nature of the ideas themselves, and has a very thought provoking effect.

I found that the characters, particularly the protagonist Lain, are part of what make the series unusual or ‘weird’. There are not very many of them to begin with, a large number of these remain so two dimensional that their interaction seems very hollow and impersonal. The dialogue is slow and infrequent. It is sound, rather than dialogue, that plays an important role. This is complemented by the animation, which has its own distinctive style that successfully potrays the empty world the characters inhabit, parallel to the evanescent and mysterious world of the Wired. I have also read the One-Shot manga for Serial Experiments Lain, and I would recommend you read it first if considering watch the series. While it may not exactly be what you would call enjoyable viewing material, the anime series and the manga leave a lasting impression and for the likes of me who are committed to the genre it’s a must watch and a classic.

Dennou Coil is probably the most viewer friendly of the three series and was the first one that I watched of the set. While it considers some of the same themes as Lain, it does so in a much more conherent fashion, interweaving them with a suspenseful plot (thus raising the entertainment factor of the series and its viable audience) hence psychological concepts and underlying meaning of the series are absorbed almost without the viewer noticing. This is a contrast to Lain, where the concepts are still relatively raw. Dennou Coil is also significantly more polished in terms of characterization and animation, though that is to be expected as it is much newer, debuting in 2007. I found the animation somewhat reminiscent of Studio Ghibli (a huge plus for me, as I’m a huge fan) and unlike the wooden characters of Lain, the cast of Dennou Coil is very ‘animated’ (ironic use of the word ^^) as all the major characters have strong personalities which compliment each other well. This also strengthens the entertainment factor of the series, as viewers are better drawn into the story, rather than feeling like distant observers. While it is still very relevant to adults, the cast is almost exclusively children thus the world is portrayed as seen through the eyes of children; there is definitely no element of the adolescent or the adult in Dennou Coil, unlike in Lain and Ghost Hound. I feel this is part of what makes Dennou Coil so powerful – an exploration of these complex and seemingly ‘adult’ ideas from a child’s perspective. The OST also enriches Dennou Coil greatly; it can be fun and light at times, but also haunting and melancholy at others – very reflective of the series’ overall tone.

Ghost Hound is somewhere in between Dennou Coil and Lain in terms of its audience appeal, though it takes a step in a new direction in terms of plot – departing from technology and foraying into fantasy and folklore.

The first few episodes of Ghost Hound may not be quite as ‘grabbing’ as those of Dennou Coil, but if one

perseveres then the plot ripens into something intriguing and suspenseful – much more so than Lain. Like all three series, the plot has some sinister undertones. It is not child oriented like Dennou Coil, but rather adolescent than child. Ghost Hound is very influenced by psychological concepts; the theories and practices of many psychologists and some scientists are raised throughout the series in a very informative manner. It is very interesting that seemingly supernatural occurrences are shown alongside practical psychological explanations for why they may occur. A lot of the supernatural occurrences have their basis is well researched folklore or ancient religious beliefs/legends and as a result Ghost Hound does not host fantastical, thrilling monsters that one would expect to see from a standard anime fantasy series, but instead paints a more realistic picture of what the supernatural world might be like. In this sense, fantasy takes the place of technology, the Unseen World becomes the equivalent of the internet or the Wired which dominate Dennou Coil and Lain.

The main characters of Ghost Hound are also quite unusual and somewhat ‘quirky’ though some might find them less ‘strong’ or ‘memorable’ than the likes of those in Dennou Coil. (Though I didn’t find this the case). However, the characters are more realistic, each haunted by a traumatic event in their past which influences their actions throughout the series.

Like Lain, sound and a distinct animation style are essential in creating the Ghost Hound package. The dialogue is perhaps less wooden than in Lain, but is sometimes as infrequent. There is a degree of subtlety which is lacking in so many other series – where one is left to consider the things left unsaid. I personally enjoyed this, though others may not. I found Ghost Hound to be an extremely enjoyable series, though like many of its genre, people might find it simply to slow and obscure to be satisfying.

Thus concludes my brief summary/comparison/review of my favourite three ‘psychological’ series. I hope people will give these wonderful series a chance, as I feel they are full of merit.

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