—What is your name?
—First year in junior high? Second?
—Is school fun?
Episode four is where Serial Experiments Lain begins to open up. The most important refrain throughout the episode is that “Lain has changed,” as is stated by her sister, agreed upon by her father, and spoken amongst her friends at school. Lain asks, “have I?” Maybe her thoughts themselves haven’t changed at all—but now she understands how to express them.
—What’s your favorite subject?
—Are you in a school club or anything?
[(shakes head without speaking)]
—So you go straight home after school, then.
Diary of an Anime Lived:
I never knew how to talk to people growing up. I’ve only ever known how to be honest, and over the years I got bullied and shunned, so I stopped talking to people. Spending time on the internet allowed me to find my voice, although at first, I was still largely picked on because I was being a dumb kid on the internet. It’s through talking to the people who helped me to improve that I learned to speak well, and to speak offline as well as online. I could still be called shy when it comes to new people, but I’m known for spilling my life story on the lap of the first person silly enough to speak first.
—Do you have friends?
[……yeah, I do.]
—What kind of games do you play?
But why the lack of realization in her change? Simply, one isn’t so quick to notice change in themselves when it happens naturally. It’s something like one thing breaking a person for another thing. Let’s use a story to explain this: there was a time when I was embarrassed about watching anime full of cute girls, so I would only watch anime when no one was around to possibly walk in and see what I was watching. Over time, it’s not as though I consciously decided that I didn’t care anymore—it just sort of happened. As I got more obsessed with anime, I was bound to watch it more frequently throughout the day. The deeper my obsession got, the bolder I was. I went from hiding my hug-pillow in the closet to having it on my bed and having a semi-pornographic bedsheet tacked to my ceiling. It happened in a flow, and people outside noticed it more drastically because they don’t know what’s already happening inside my head.
—Then what do you do?
[(thinks a bit)……talk.]
—Where do you talk?
The reason this episode is called religion is that Lain has found hers. Not unlike the way I found anime (again) in 2007 and let it become my entire life, Lain has found the wired, and it’s entirely taken over her life. Now that she has the psyche processor, she can pretty much do anything to her navi in terms of modification. She’s been grabbed by the balls and yanked in, so to speak. She even has a bible:
Lain brags to her father that soon she’ll be able to enter the wired in full range. She tells him frankly that he’s wrong when he says that the wired and the meat are two different things. And this brings me to the sprinkling of glorious truth that came through in this episode.
—You don’t like to talk to them in person?
—What kind of place do you think the wired is?
[……it is a place where people connect, the uppermost level of the real world.]
—(smiles wryly) Those are someone else’s words, aren’t they?
1. The wired is the meat, and this fact will not be understood by outsiders while the wired is young. We’re experiencing a transition out of the Lain stage already. Lain’s wired is something like the Internet of 2005, when it was becoming ubiquitous, but still widely unknown outside of the basic social networking sites and email. Just by stepping into a deeper realm of the wired, Lain has already passed all of her friends in knowledge and caring about the wired, because she understands that it and the meat are intrinsically connected. We know this. I know this better than anyone—I spent a month in the Philippines with a guy who I knew solely from meeting him online. I’ve defended the fact that friends you have online are the same as any other friends. We’re living in a time wherein this is becoming an accepted truth—a time wherein 1 in 5 relationships in the US begin online.
—Do you like your father?
[(Is quiet for a bit)……(nods)]
—What navi do you use to access the wired?
[the one…my father bought me…in sixth grade…]
—Do you like fiddling with computers and things like that?
2. The Knights are anonymous. To quote one of the background voices in the wired, the Knights are not a physical existence, but more like an idea that exists in the wired. They are a group of hackers with the nerve to call themselves Knights, and as we realize in this episode, they are trolls. The episode’s plot revolves around an immersive online shooting game that somehow gets crossed with a children’s hide and seek game. These things mix, blend with the meat, and physical deaths occur. This is the Knights playing anonymous in a very cruel way.
—Do you dislike these types of questions?
—You don’t like to talk about yourself?
[……(fairly long pause)……because……]
Who is Lain? A better question might be *where* is Lain? What’s become apparent is that the wired lays over the meat in several layers. There’s a layer on which the wired is interacting with the meat immediately, and a layer in which the wired is merely on top of the meat, observing it. We see this when Lain follows the troubled gamer who ends up murdering a little girl. The player is trapped in the wired, even while he is physically running around in the meat. Meanwhile, Lain is at home on her computer, but she is accessing the wired in its position over the meat that she can interact with the gamer. It’s all a rich tapestry.
[I’m…me, but not me…I’m not the only me…]
—Who told you that?
In another, similar scene, Lain talks to JJ, the DJ from Cyberia, though he doesn’t get a look at her, and suddenly, she’s gone. He thinks he’s losing it, not realizing that Lain is in the wired and speaking to him from that plane, while he is physically in Cyberia. Again, this brings about an important question: has Lain been to this place physically as Lain of the Wired? We know that the psyche processor is allowing Lain to have such a physical presence in the wired, but we also know that Lain of the Wired existed before she got the processor, and that she’s been seen in Cyberia—by her barely-wired friends even—before having the processor. Has the increased presence of Lain in the wired and her change in the meat eliminated the binary between Lain and Lain of the Wired, or are they still two separate personalities?
[The god of the wired.]
—There’s a god in wired? Do you believe that?
Maybe the most important scene happens at the end of the episode, when the creepy guys with the laser-pointer masks are looking up into Lain’s room. She stares out the window, and yells at them to go away. Next, her window vibrates, and one of the men’s mask explodes off of his face. Lain’s navi tells her, “intruder deterred.” Lain, as her physical self, has issued a command through the wired to interact with the meat. What can this mean?
—I said, answer.
[……if I believe there is, there is, and……]
—I’m not satisfied with that kind of answer.
[……there is…a god……]
—Yes, that’s right. The god of wired is the supreme god of the real world. Therefore, he controls this world absolutely. Understand?
[……who are you?]
– Layer 04, from ab# rebuild an omnipresence in wired
I’ve seen some dislike for Lain on the ‘net — people who deride it for being pretentious, meandering, etc. While I can understand some of their critique (it’s not exactly the most accessible or audience friendly series around) I like your thoughts in this post, because I also enjoyed the parallels between the Wired and the Internet, between people and technology. To me, it felt like a series more about ideas and concepts than anything else — while it had the tendency to feel cold and detached, there are some genuinely interesting elements there. Even aside from all of that, it has a particular feeling to it that I don’t think I’ve come across in any other Anime or Manga…it’s like this strangely unsettling, eerie quality. Really distinctive.
If you’d like to see other shows with that quality, check out other works by the writer, Chiaki J Konaka. Especially Texhnolyze, that one has it even more strongly than Lain.
Excellent post, except for the notion of Lain having balls.
Now, the father does his speech at the end, leaves the room and soon after the men in suits begin to flash lights into Lain’s room. Coincidence?
I’m in no position yet to determine whether there’s any connection between them, but now I’ll be on the look-out for it!
I would like to see Texhnolyze some day. While not my favorite, I did like Lain. Perhaps my favorite show, however is Haibane Renmei. While MUCH brighter than Lain, it is another deeply philosophical series, and all three were worked on by Yoshitoshe ABe. Konaka also worked on another show I really like, that had a strong philosophical undercurrent (though nowhere as pronounced as Lain): RahXephon.
Huh, I hadn’t realized Konaka was involved in RahXephon, though now that I know, I’m not surprised.
Haibane Renmei is no doubt a great show, though I’ve become disillusioned with it from seeing the early episodes too many times and realizing how poor the animation can be at times (though Lain is even worse, so I don’t know why I’m so bothered by it). I owe Haibane a rewatch very badly.
Texhnolyze is an extremely hard show to like no matter what your tastes are. It can offer a lot of greatness, though, if the viewer cares enough to look for it.
Thanks for the suggestion, Digi — I’ll make sure to look up Texhnolyze. As for Haibane Renmei, I tried to watch it a while ago but I just didn’t have the patience for the very slow pace…only got through about two or three episodes before I stopped. I could sense that there were possibly more interesting elements on the horizon, though. (I also liked the sheer creepiness of the ‘wing sprouting’ scene.)
The first few episodes of Haibane Renmei are the set-up for the sucker punch. It changes in character after about episode 4. I wouldn’t say it ever gets “fast paced”, but it gets much darker and more emotional.
Good luck – the first few eps of Texhnolyze are some of the slowest episodes of anime I’ve seen, but they’re also INTENSE. I wrote a post before about the physical pain of watching them: https://myswordisunbelievablydull.wordpress.com/2010/03/11/the-physical-pain-of-watching-texhnolyze-1-4/
Just added to my Netflix DVD queue. It’s the first time I’ve seen your blog and definitely not the last. Keep it up!
Thanks I will. As I have been for the past 5 years. Have fun with the backlogs~!
so lain, r u in all of us?
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