Serial Experiments Lain, with its vision of a world where the lines between the digital realm and real world blurred and blended into one, was a groundbreaking series. Twenty years later, anime fans are still deconstructing it (we’re doing our own series of posts on the show to celebrate its anniversary). The storyline, character designs, and themes remain ripe for revisiting, and so, too, is its music. The opening song—”Duvet” by Bôa—was as startling and addictive as the rest of the series. With its introspective lyrics and an alternative rock sound that was more reminiscent of Natalie Merchant or The Cranberries than anything one would expect from an anime, and layered on top of mesmerizing opening visuals, “Duvet” is now cemented as a classic of anime music.
The song made its way to Lain through a winding path. Although Bôa’s lead singer, Jasmine Rodgers, is half-Japanese, she only speaks the language a “really little bit.” The band is British, and its roots are fairly deep in the rock scene there. Jasmine and her brother Steve, also a member of Bôa, are children of Paul Rodgers, the lead singer of famed rock bands, Free and Bad Company. But Bôa was able to make a transition by reaching out to Polystar, a Japanese record label, who signed the group. A connection was made between the band and Yoshitoshi ABe, and “Duvet” was selected as the series opening. “Lain was a happy coincidence, I think,” says Rodgers; it was also a different experience from her other work in anime, having been selected and not written particularly for the show, as opposed to Armitage: Dual-Matrix, for which Rodgers specifically wrote songs.
At first listen, though, “Duvet” seems a strange fit—an alternative, indie song about relationships sung over animated scenery of an adolescent, cyberpunk, sci-fi story. But perhaps that’s why it works so well—the song is unexpected, just as the series is, and undeniably thoughtful and poetic. There’s depth in both (“I think people who like things like Lain have got deep souls”). The themes of the song and series also seem to cross over. Although Rodgers is careful to note that one’s analysis of the song can be as authentic as any others, she explained that “it’s about expectation and hope and maybe, at the time, about relying on other people.” Serial Experiments Lain, too, is anchored in hope (a theme easily missed in a dark series) and revolves around communication and the relationships we develop.
For Rodgers, writing the song was cathartic. “I had a lot stewing in my mind and the words were coming out as poetry, and then I kind of worked them around and put them into this song.” Meanwhile, the rest of the band came up with the music, with keyboardist Paul Turrell, who passed away last year, playing an instrumental role in how Bôa arranged this and other pieces.
“Lain was a happy coincidence, I think.”
The song was an immediate success. Remixes followed, as did a wonderful response from the public. “I think we were quick obnoxious,” Rodgers mused. “We also didn’t have any money.”
Reception in much of the rest of the world was also strong, in places like Colombia, where Rodger’s ex was living: “I gave him my CD and when he got to Bogota, his mate had the CD already! That was quite bizarre. When I went out there, it was really lovely to know that people already knew what we were doing—more than in the UK.” In fact, the album associated with the song, “Race of a Thousand Camels,” was never released in the United Kingdom as planned.
As the success of the song continued, the members of Bôa were invited as guests to conventions. Rodgers admired Serial Experiments Lain and anime in general. “Even now you see people commenting from all parts of the world and its really beautiful. One thing that’s really cool about anime is how it transcends so much stuff. Most people can put their own inference onto it. Everyone has their own valuable voice.”
“I think people who like things like Lain have got deep souls.”
It’s now been a number of years since Bôa has created new music. One reason for the break is that Rodgers went into higher education, studying zoology. “I’ve been in the band since I just turned sixteen. It’s a long time. And then I started working on other stuff as well because when you’ve been in a monogamous band relationship for so long, you kind of want to see other things, too. ” But after academia, she continued to work in music. Today, from writing a piece for a classical Indian musician doing tabla playing to coming up with ideas with a cellist friend for Edinburgh Fringe, Rodgers keeps herself busy. She released an album in 2016 and will be touring later this year as well.
But “Duvet” doesn’t remain too far away. Rodgers doesn’t sing it solo (“It’s ours, not just mine”), but it remains an active part of her life, especially in regard to fans who message her about its impact. “When you’re creative, sometimes you get dark nights of the soul, but then you get a message that’s beautiful and you feel very empowered by it. Just a big, big, big thank you.”