As we continue our rewatch of Serial Experiments Lain, 20 years after it first aired, we arrive at episode three, perhaps the first one in which decisions and actions are made which will have an ultimate impact on how the series turns and ends.
12-year olds are supposed to be concerned with school and peer pressure and bullying, but all in one episode, Lain experiences adolescent troubles to the extreme: she is brought home from the club shooting by police to find that her entire family has gone missing for the night; begins to hear even more voices, including one instructing her about the Psyche chip, which enhances Navi units and most any electronic device; and receives a Psyche unit, confirmed when she returns to Cyberia. Lain’s response is to dive deeper into the digital realm; meanwhile, her sister begins to realize something isn’t quite right.
Episode three is a bit of a turning point for Lain. The episode begins with Alice breaking down and crying on Lain’s lap, apologizing for goading her into coming to the club and experiencing the shooting. And finally, through that, Lain experiences an authentic, positive connection to someone, and it emboldens her to move further toward investigating the truth.
Lain must still have a measure of fear—the voices she hears are growing in number and the men in black (or grey?) continue to stalk the household—but she boldly moves forward, first by returning the club and asking about the chip she acquired, which turns out to be the Psyche unit she’s heard about, and then by installing the chip herself, without the help from her father, who knows hardware far better than she but refuses to assist.
Lain’s sister, on the other hand, reminds me of me, the way I would react in such a situation. She bumps into the men conducting surveillance and feels a mixture of fear and resistance. She also reacts to the strangely happy and static-y imagery of Lain at the end of the episode. Mika isn’t jumping into to discover truth like Lain—she’s simply wondering what the heck all this is about.
Perhaps each situation in real life is different, but I wonder, also, if we tend to be one way or the other, like Lain, moving forward without regard to fear, or like Mika, trapped by the reality of the situation. Are we able to change, just as Lain transitioned from the way she acted in episodes one and two to now? And is one way better than the other?
All I know for sure is that Lain is starting to remove her bear hat, as she does in the closing moments of the OP, which makes me wonder if I still have my own bear suit on.
Present Day. Question Time.
- This is the episode where the parents go from strange to being part of the mystery. We can’t just chalk up creepy dad and absent mom to bad parenting—they might be true to that, but they are also suspicious on their own account—their disappearance at night, the dad’s strange refusal to help Lain, and Mika’s own questions demonstrate as much.
- Power lines and transformers, as well as electric and telephone poles, are commonplace in this series. They are frequently seen in the background, and that’s obviously with a purpose. They indicate, of course, a connection. Often seen when Lain is walking somewhere, they’re pointing to her growth in establishing relationships, but also speak of the Wired, a digital connection as well as an interpersonal one. Also, I found out that of all the anime that feature power lines (and there are many), Lain is prime among them.
- If Alice is my favorite character, Mika isn’t far behind. I think I like them both because they are real and they are flawed. In fact, Alice is presented consistently as bratty and ungrateful, but maybe there’s a reason for that—after all, she is a teenager and her parents are distant. She also reacts in a realistic way when the stalker guys are at her front door. She’s just a very real character, helping to anchor a series that might too easily fall prey to its own high intentions.
- According to the random club guy, Lain is apparently a ravemaster. Who woulda known? Btw, hot con tip: stay away from the raves.
- There are a lot of sides to Lain (or a lot of Lains?) in this show. Already we’ve seen regular Lain, Cyberia Lain, and happy younger sister Lain. But my favorite Lain, or more accurately the the one I fear most, was hinted at early in this episode when Lain was hearing the voices of different people. This Lain doesn’t show up until near the end of the series, if I remember correctly, but I felt goosebumps just being reminded of her…
Let us know your thoughts below! And join us next Friday for the next installment.