Every event serves to emphasize the existence of one’s own personal reality, and as individuals separate from all others, we desire a place to belong.
Serial Experiments Lain is the longest-standing item on my favorites list, even though I haven’t watched it since 2007. I’ve seen Lain in its entirety twice, the first four episodes thrice, and the first episode now five times; and I’ve never felt that I knew the show well enough. Most Lain fans claim to have watched the series four times before “understanding” it—though everyone’s “understanding” of the show is a bit different, and tends to change no matter how many times they rewatch. Certain things like reading the Lain artbook changed my perception of the series without even watching it.
However, that, too, is but an egotistical concept. In order for there to be mutual understanding, it is necessary to recognize here and now that, like the brain synapses, we are all—in a logical yet chaotic manner—connected.
As such, I don’t feel it would be enough to watch Lain a couple of times and episodically blog it. Instead, I’m going to episodically blog the entire show twice. The two runs of the series will be called “First Serial Experiment” and “Second Serial Experiment.” That way, not only can I cover more ground, but I can use my initial ideas of the series and episodes as a springboard into further exploration of the series.
lain is lain. lain is lain.
Most of Layer: 01 consists of Lain tripping balls in numerous fun ways; therefore the most important question in my mind is, “why is Lain always tripping balls?”
Each is separate—yet they are one.
The impression I get is that Lain is a genius, and is thinking on a level higher than she herself can comprehend. One could say she’s thinking past reality. Because Lain doesn’t talk or do very much, she appears at first to be absent-minded and childish, which is both how I saw her in the past, and how the characters in the show see her. Lain’s father thinks that her newfound interest in computers is a result of her being a middle schooler and her friends leaving her in the technological dust—they are, and they call Lain a child for it—but Lain hardly could give a shit about that. What’s caught Lain’s attention is a dead girl talking to her through the internet, which is a far more engaging mystery than probably anything Lain has encountered.
By connecting, humanity gains first awareness of its function as a seed.
A moment early in the episode, Lain is on a train, hearing a cacophony of voices, even though no one on the train appears to be speaking. She complains, “can’t you all be quiet?” and the sounds suddenly stop. (This description hardly does justice to the glorious sound direction by Tsuruoka Yota.) This scene has always struck me as odd, especially in how it contrasts Lain’s apparent aloof demeanor, so I’m trying to make sense of it.
By connecting, a human no longer remains a mere endpoint, a ‘terminus,’ but becomes a junction to another point, having won the right to serialize itself.
Many have said that the weird red shadows and telephone poles are representative of The Wired overlapping with the real world. However, these weird shadows exist before Lain enters the wired, and after she enters the wired, they all turn blue, as if to signify a change in Lain. I don’t think I have the materials yet to decide what those shadows represent, but my theory about Lain’s response to the voices on the train is that they’re the voices in her own head. Lain is thinking so much, so fast, that it aggravates her and she can’t deal with it. This is why she can’t concentrate on reality—too much is going on inside her head. It’s also why the Wired will eventually become such an important way for her to communicate—it gives her the materials to occupy her many channels of thought, and eventually the materials to make those channels into exclusive separate existences.
The ability to connect is the ability to continue—they are one and the same.
The prequel manga to Lain by ABe Yoshitoshi, Nightmare of Fabrication (which I won’t get into too much yet) suggests three things about Lain: that she is lonely, that she is insane, and that she is a genius; and it’s much more direct and dramatic about these things than the series is, being purely ABe without the heavy bearing of Chiaki J. Konaka that the series has. Only a couple of things in this episode suggest to me that Lain might be lonely: the first is a shot of her watching Alice comfort a classmate, not assigned an emotional reaction, though I’ll go ahead and consider it “admiration” for my purposes, and the second is Lain’s appeal to her father that she wants to enter the Wired because “there is someone (she) want(s) to meet.”
This not only applies to the connection of axial coordinates but temporal coordinates as well. Therefore, at the time when a conscious, intentional connection is made, surely the dead will rise from their intended place, appearing at the time coordinate of the connection’s origin.
Whereas Lain will definitely be shown as lonely later in the show, and the manga suggests that she is even now, I don’t think that she’s lonely just yet. I think that she’s merely an island. She’s wrapped up in herself and not connected with others, which is why so much of this episode is either Lain alone or Lain spacing out in public as everyone else fades into shadows. There are only a couple of scenes of Lain communicating with others, which are the exceptions proving the rule, and Konaka’s message that “we are always connected” in one way or another.
In that moment, the realization shall dawn that the time in which we inhabit our physical bodies is but the starting point of connection, and the very meaning of possessing a physical body at all will be questioned.
Lain’s genius and insanity are perhaps two sides of the same coin. As I’ve said, I believe that she thinks on such a loud level that it drowns out the rest of the world, leaving her to haze out and fabricate her own mental reality over the real world.
You must not fear this tale.
What you must fear—is lain.
I wonder, does Lain instantly grasp the possibilities behind her classmate’s, Yomoda Chisa’s, rebirth in the wired? How quickly does it occur to her that with sentient technology, connectivity, and an outpouring of oneself into the wired, one could replicate oneself into technology, becoming a second being outside of oneself, capable of living even if their physical body is destroyed? Lain has no idea where this realization will eventually take her and potentially betray her, but I feel like when she heard the voice of Chisa and asked for a new computer, she knew what she was doing.
Recognize that you are connected.
– Chiaki J. Konaka on Layer 01, from ab# rebuild an omnipresence in wired