A couple of our faithful readers pointed out after episode four that it’s difficult to tell what’s real and what’s not in Lain, what the truth is and what isn’t. It’s a tricky series, one that keeps you guessing and, if we didn’t already know how acclaimed the show is, at times makes you wonder if the series has any real depth at all. But we know it does—we just have to go along for the ride, keep thinking, and do our best to try to tell apart what’s real and, as the title of episode five tells us, what’s distorted.
As the episode beings, Mika leaves a boy’s home and wanders into the city, where a car runs into a group of pedestrians; meanwhile, Lain speaks to a doll, and later, to images of her mother and father. At nearly the same time, Mika sees Lain standing in an intersection before switching places and appearing there herself, as she begins to hallucinate—soon, she loses all sense of reality on a final visit home—or has reality lost her?
There’s a creepiness factor to Lain, but episode five feels full out like a horror film—not a slasher pic, but something like Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Mika, who has become a “normal” voice to us in this unusual series, is the victim here. The viewers watch as she gets nearer and nearer a disturbing (distorted) end.
Meanwhile, Lain is growing, both in knowledge and in power. In a worldly sense, she is very strong now, having become a hacker of some extraordinary extent, as explained to her by her friends. But further, she continues to make impressive and even supernatural events occur in the real world. It seems that “god” has selected Lain to express this skill, but for what reason she’s being indoctrinated and powered, we don’t yet know.
This distance between the sisters, the normalcy of Mika and the extraordinary quality of Lain, is but one difference explored in this episode. In fact, episode five can be viewed in light of a comparison between the two. Lain is pictured throughout the series as innocent, as I mentioned before—and even in this episode, we continue to see her as the child she is, speaking to a doll and reaching out to images of her mother and father. Mika, on the other hand, is trying her hand at being an adult, leaving an apparent sexual encounter at the beginning of the episode (immediately after “god” notes that humans are silly for wanting to fulfill fleshly desires). And all along, she has of course expressed typical teenage attitude toward her parents, part of an adolescent selfish streak which culminates in a lack of concern when a car runs into pedestrians walking nearby her.
The juxtaposition is purposeful. As “god” explains to Lain the idea of prophecy preceding an event, images of Lain are seen, but when the event actually takes place, it’s Mika that becomes the actual victim. Lain is in the intersection during the time that Lain is learning about prophecy, and replaced by Mika afterward. Mika is there to “fulfill the prophecy,” while Lain is learning about and perhaps even providing it.
The idea that Lain is experiencing and maybe even speaking prophecy into life makes me wonder if she’s a different life form than Mika. After all, Lain is starting to move into the Wired and affecting the real world, not a human feat by any stretch; she also has progressed to ridiculous levels of hacking power in short time, while learning like she’s a robot, obediently and calmly processing information given to her by voices, some disembodied and some represented by objects or people she knows. Mika, as I mentioned, is all too human, and that humanity—the selfishness, lust, and indifference—may contribute to why she is chosen as a sacrifice of sorts, why she isn’t in on what’s happening to Lain, like the parents seem to be.
But despite Mika’s flaws (perhaps because of them), I feel for her. I know what she’s like, because I was there, too—I still am in many instances, choosing my own desires over helping others. The price she pays is unfair. It’s too high.
I believe the god of wired knows this, which is why he effectively hides Mika’s replacement from his student, Lain. He knows that she’s too innocent and too kind to approve, and he needs Lain on his side as he continues to manipulate her, though to what end and what level of success, we’ll have to wait and see.
Present Day. Question Time.
- The voice in the Wired doesn’t mince words—he introduces himself as “god.” He’s not all-powerful, though Lain’s dad indicates that within the Wired, he might be approaching that level. At the very least, he’s transcendent.
- At the beginning of the episode, “god” mentions that humans get cancer at a lower rate than animals. I did some research (meaning that I looked through Google for a couple minutes), and the indication is that this is probably untrue. One articles notes that the rates are similar, though what we new 20 years ago may have been different.
- “God” also mentions the idea of neoteny. It’s an interesting concept to learn about—plus, the Wiki article about it contains a manga-style drawing to illustrate it.
- It was interesting to see how an automated car is involved in an accident in this episode—I immediately thought of recent crashes of self-driving cards.
- The director loves to focus on eyes—there’s a lot of this in episode five, particularly to show different emotions, like Mika’s fright. We also get a close up of her nostrils, which seems to build this fearful tone. Typically, such close-ups have been reserved for Lain and Mika’s mother.
- When “Fulfill the prophecy” appeared in red in the bathroom, did anyone else think, “Redrum?”
Let us know your thoughts below! And join us next Friday for the next installment.