Aug 04, 2008 - 03:52 AM
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Lain Men: Yasuyuki Ueda

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Lain Men

In reality, Lain Iwakura was not born of the Wired; she was born of Yasuyuki Ueda. Prior to creating and producing Serial Experiments Lain, Mr. Ueda worked on fare like the dating sim Noël, as well as many of Pioneer LDC's animation projects. In order to shed a little light on Lain's unique ideas of online life, Anime Jump talked to Mr. Ueda at Otakon 2000. Here's what we learned.

Yasuyuki Ueda

Anime Jump:   Today, it seems as though the Wired as depicted in Lain is actually real. Everything from videogames to cars can be bought on the internet. Even children have personal computers and mobile phones. Was Lain a reaction to this sort of thing, or a prediction?

Yasuyuki Ueda:   It's not so much a reaction... What I wanted to express was that the Wired was simply the medium that all the characters used to communicate. It was depicted as similar to internet usage just to apply some real-world details to the story.

AJ:   Why is Lain a 14-year old girl? Do you think the wave of new technology is hard on kids?

YU:   For me, I don't think that it's hard on them at all. Because, if you think about it, that particular age is when kids absorb the most, and it's not a burden. In fact, kids learn the most at that age. It's hard to understand what kids at that age are thinking at times, so I think 14 would be the perfect age. I wanted to depict the younger generation, a generation with a different set of values.

AJ:   Do you think young teenagers and children should have mobile phones, computers, etc.?

YU:   Yes, I think it's a good thing! When you look at it from the perspective of when I was a kid and I used to play video games, I got yelled at by my mother, "Don't play video games when you could read a book or go out and earn some money, or go to college..." But that kind of value changes, since now I'm grown up-- in my late 20s/early 30s. My values are such that I grew up playing games, so looking at these kids spending so much time on the net doesn't present too much of a problem with me. I think it's actually better because they get so much extra information. Kids today learn more, way more, than kids in previous generations did.

AJ:   Do you yourself use the internet a lot? Do you see it getting more and more widespread?

YU:   I use it for fun-- that's how I found Mr. ABe. There's a large community of amateur artists online.

AJ:   I'm not sure if I'm getting this correct, but in an interview with Animerica last year, you mentioned that you weren't sure you wanted Americans to understand Lain. What exactly did you mean by that statement?

YU:   I talked about this earlier in the panel... it goes like this. Basically, you have American culture and Japanese culture after WWII. Everyone knows that war is ridiculous, it comes down to killing people. But what I hoped to see between American and Japanese reactions to Lain is a war-- a war of ideas... because through conflict of ideas, you understand yourself better, and you gain insight on the culture of your opponent. I don't so much want Americans to interpret Lain exactly as Japanese fans do, as I want them to hold on to their own point of view, and in doing so, establish conflict, and hopefully, new communication.

Yasuyuki Ueda
Lain © Pioneer LDC / Triangle Staff

AJ:   What ingrigued me about Lain was a couple of episodes that linked Lain to the real world, particularly the one regarding Dr. Vannevar Bush. Do you see him as a grandfather to the Wired, because of his invention of the idea of hyperlinks? Was he actually a character in the story?

YU:    Well, there's a connection, definitely, between Dr. Bush and Lain. It's not so much that's Bush is the forerunner of what produced Lain... you see, Lain was something that was born out of the Wired. Bush would be more closely related to the creators of the Wired, so in that respect, he has more connection with the black organization that created Lain. Since those people created the Wired, however they did it, the Wired itself bore forth Lain. So OK, in that respect, Bush does have a connection with Lain, but not a very direct one.

AJ:   You also took some time to touch on UFO mythology. There's a large culture of fascination with UFOs in America. Is something like that also present in Japan?

YU:   Yeah, there used to be a lot of UFO maniacs in Japan. But recently, there's just been a kind of X-Files-ish thing happening, with people getting into mysterious happenings and conspiracies.

AJ:   Another thing presented in Lain is the idea that a person could be driven to murder because of overexposure to a violent video game. This has actually happened in the U.S.-- people tried to pin the blame for real life violence on a video game. Do you think this actually happens?

YU:    It happens. And while it's sad for the victims of this kind of violence, it's a tiny percentage of people who actually do copycat murders based on games or media influence. If you think about it, cars are the things that kill the most people. The other thing is that these people who copy video game violence or kill because of media influence.... they'd end up being killers anyway, in my opinion. The video games are just an excuse. Again, it's sad when this happens, but it would almost be better if we could look at this kind of violence more broadly instead of trying to pin the blame on video games, because there's usually a problem with the person.

AJ:    Enough of this gloominess. What are you currently working on?

YU:    We're currently working on NieA_7. It's about a poor student living with an alien at home. Since Lain was so depressing, we thought we'd do something light-- NieA_7 is a comedy that plays on Lain a bit.

AJ:    Lain is popular in America. How do you feel about that?

YU:    I'm glad that everyone likes Lain! But at the same time, I kind of wonder, do people over here really understand Lain? The way I percieve things, the way Japanese viewers percieved Lain would be different from how Americans viewed it. But when I was in L.A., the fans I met seemed so very Japanese in their perception... and that kind of isn't what I wanted, because like I said earlier, I wanted there to be a clash between cultures. I wanted American fans to see Lain and think, "No! That's screwed up! That's so wrong!"

Yasuyuki Ueda

AJ:   Anything else to say to your American fans?

YU:   I want everyone to enjoy Lain, of course. I hope the show provides some kind of impact, because in America... well, Disney isn't the only American animation studio, but when you look at the way animation is perceived over here, it's a little... iffy? from my perspective. I hope somebody out there gets influenced by Lain enough to make something different. Since everyone has computers now, there's so many tools to publish your own work, like Flash... I hope that people are willing to express themselves more and more, and not just look to media giants.

Extra-special thanks to Chad Kime and Hiroe Tsukamoto of Pioneer and Otakon staff translator Robert John, without whom this interview would not have been possible.


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