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Lain, nodding once, dipped the madelein into her teacup. Feeling as if she were doing something ill-mannered, she stole a glance up at Yasuo’s face.
Yasuo only smiled, looking at lain through squinted eyes. Did he used to look this old? Lain tried to recall the Yasuo she had known when he had been her father.
No – Yasuo was, and would always be, her father. Whether this was because Lain desired it, or because Yasuo wished it, Lain did not know.
As she closed her eyes and raised the tea-soaked madelein to her lips, the sweet aroma wafted up, gently tickling her nose. Lain closed her eyes and bit into the madelein.
The sweetness and warmth of the soaked madelein spread throughout her mouth, washing over her cold, tense body, filling her with kindness.
From behind closed eyelids, she sensed that the evening light enveloping them had grown slightly brighter. Lain slowly opened her eyes. This evening light… Lain had basked in it before, but now she had no memory of it.
Yasuo continued to sit in front of Lain.
“Isn’t it good, Lain?”
Yasuo’s low, gentle voice resonated tenderly in Lain’s ears.
Her father’s voice.
A different warmth welled up inside her chest and, feeling hot tears in her now open eyes, Lain nodded, “yes.”
Lain recalled how she had, for no particular reason, always cowered at the sound of Yasuo’s voice. Why had she been so scared? It was such a kindly voice. Such a pleasant voice.
The tears fell down her cheeks, one after the other. The tightening in her chest was so severe that it was painful. And yet, Lain must have wished that this pain would last forever. For this pain could only be felt, would only be understood, because she perceived a physical body. And now, all she had obtained at the cost of the suffering she had endured now existed as memories inside of Lain. That is why Lain was happy for this kindness. The sheer magnitude of kindness was clear to her.
And that was not all she understood.
The last two episodes of Lain can be taken as one complete piece–a climax for the story in which Lain makes her final, decisive realization.
At the start of episode twelve, Lain states how she had always seen the world as a big, terrifying and confusing place, which she has now realized is more simple and easily understood. I think this makes an interesting parallel for the layout of the series itself, which starts off as confusing and obtuse as possible, and then slowly opens up and becomes clear in its intentions.
Lain has concluded that memory dictates existence, but over the course of these two episodes her understanding of this concept expands. At first, she is thinking of it in human terms, which is how the God of the Wired thinks of it. If no one remembers who you are, then it’s like you never existed. However, in episode thirteen, Lain’s other self helps her realize that memory is not a human creation, but a state of being of existence. In other words, existence itself is a memory.
Memory and existence can be thought of as the same thing, with memory being merely an abstract way of contextualizing existence. Everything we perceive is a memory, really. When you stare at the sun, you’re perceiving light that was generated eight minutes prior. Perception always lags behind existence, meaning that existence is only perceptible through memory.
Moreover, memory itself is a lucid concept, as memories do not exist as solid objects, but as constantly reconstructed elements created in our brains. In other words, when we look at a person, we’re not really seeing that person, but a memory of that person which our brain is constructing through the data we’re collecting. The structure of the brain dictates what we see, and so no two people can really be said to see the exact same thing.
Lain’s ability is to tap into the memory of everything and everyone, and alter it. She can shape reality by changing reality’s memory of itself. I can’t posit a scientific way that this is possible, and the series doesn’t bother either, but this is the conceit it works with.
When Lain realizes that the God of the Wired is simply a human being who has tapped into the powers of the Wired and tried to alter the world to his will, she decides that her will and his are not shared. Masami’s belief that the Wired is an upper layer of reality, and that the human body is worthless, are simply his personal ideas, and not any kind of objective reality. Lain decides that she values the physical existence of humanity over the wired one, and resets the world in such a way that everyone has physical bodies again, and no one has a full existence in the Wired except for herself. She also deletes herself from the world so that she can’t hurt anyone again.
At first, Lain is upset with her decision, as it’s left her alone and unhappy inside the wired. However, she ends up meeting what I think it’s best to assume is the true God of reality. Whether this is an absolute God, or simply one who exists on a layer higher than Lain does, can’t be said, but it definitely goes to show how there are powers even higher than our concept of reality. In the end, Lain decides to remain an observer of the world, existing in both reality and the Wired as a sort of guardian and controller–a God of the reality we can perceive.
And that concludes my analysis of Lain. I’m sure I’ve left some unanswered questions, and there are still some things about the series I can’t pretend to understand. Lain is very dense with symbols and moments that don’t obviously connect to its central themes and story, and most of these things are deliberately left open to interpretation. That said, if you have any questions for me, I’d love to continue the conversation in the comments on these videos. I may not have an answer for everything, but I’d be interested in hearing some of your interpretations and attempts to fill in the blanks.