When I was younger, Serial Experiments Lain made me very uncomfortable. I was neck deep in my religion, and as a passionate but young believer that was part of a conservative congregation, I was quick to judge those around me and even the pieces of art I watched. Lain troubled me so much that I sold the expensive boxset I purchased before coming to Christ. During this rewatch, I reflected back on all this and have been wondering why I felt that way, but upon viewing layer nine, I think I have a better idea, as the questions asked of the newly presented villain god could be applied to the Christian one, and at a superficial viewing of the show—perhaps all I was capable of at that time—I only saw representations of God that were intolerable. Now upon a more mature viewing, the Christian God comes out of Lain looking pretty good.
Lain continues to struggle with what her existence means. She meets beings on the Wired whom she questions about reality, before going to Cyberia, where she recovers a chip. She later confronts Taro about it, having deduced that he used it to alter memories in the night club, creating the false Lain that appeared there. Later, Lain continues to find out about her existence, accessing memories that show the introduction into her “family.” Meanwhile, the groundwork has been laid for Lain to meet the God of the Wired.
What is truth?
While the characters in Lain, primarily the protagonist, ponder the consequences of truth, the creators of Serial Experiments Lain seem to want the audience to think upon that first question: exactly what is it? To that end, very little action occurs in the episode—most of the time is spent focusing on Lain and how distraught she is at the increasingly real possibility that she’s not who she thinks she is, and that she might not be “real,” as well as on informational snippets given throughout that culminate in the episode’s final shot.
The scenes involving Lain revolve around the idea of truth, and the ideas spoken by her and others hint at its meaning. The power of truth is expressed: it has power simply by being. Truth is truth, and one character argues that truth is just because it is true. These are not empty words thrown about in a series trying to be smart—they make sense. As Taro remarks, they’re appealing.
But make no mistake—as much as the questions are real, this is a story. The episode traces the history of this alternative universe, the major events that led to this point in time. Starting with the Roswell incident, layer nine mixes in real life clips and photographs to weave a tale that strings together history, conspiracy, and the mythology of the series, including the KIDS experiment, to explain how the show has progressed to this point, though not yet why Lain is integral to the Wired God’s (by the way, now revealed as researcher Masami Eiri) plan. The basic path is that aliens provided information to the U.S. government, and through scientists and others involved at Roswell, America started marching toward the idea of one human consciousness with a primacy on communication with one another.
However, we as viewers know that this is a fiction, that despite the real life components leading to Eiri’s ascension into a sort of godhood, events within the narrative are thrown in, as is conspiracy (this episode feels extraordinarily like an episode of The X-Files). Those subtle components send us a message: we, too, need to consider what is truth. Just because Eiri says it is so, just because he has extraordinary power and no longer needs a physical body, just because he’s able to manipulate Lain, who is a powerful entity herself (the extent of her power is just starting to materialize), doesn’t mean he is truth.
I think the argument can be made that God is truth, not just from a Christian perspective that teaches as much, but when trying to define “god” outside that structure. And while Eiri can do godlike things and has demonstrated certain truths of Lain’s world via his research and very existence on the Wired, he may not be the same as truth. And as proposed earlier, truth is just—if Eiri is not just, and it certainly doesn’t seem so, he may not be “truth” either.
Present Day. Question Time.
- A pretty typical representation of an alien shows up at Lain’s door. Nothing’s a surprise anymore in this show, and especially this appearance, as it’s hot on the heels of Roswell and the Majestic 12 being mentioned. Okay, maybe the shirt (Freddie Kruger-esque?) is surprising.
- Did you believe in visitation by intelligent beings as a child? Do you believe in it now? The X-Files was constantly fed into my brain as a teen—it had some effect on me and perhaps even now. I wonder if it’s the same for others of my age, some 20 years later.
- Taro slips Lain the tongue; he also slips her his gum. Gross, Taro.
- Speaking of Taro, are we supposed to feel some measure of sympathy toward him? It’s hard for me to feel that way, not because of the kiss, but because it’s now clear that his role in Mika’s demise was purposeful.
- When I saw the digital Eiri, I thought of Ghost in the Shell…the two pieces certainly have a number of similarities.
- My memory of this show is terrible—I feel like the next episode could be the last one. What’s there still to come between now and the end?
Let us know your thoughts below! And join us next Thursday for the next installment.
3 thoughts on “Serial Experiments Lain Revisited: Episode 09”
1. I’ve yet to find a “god” that compares favorably to the God of the Bible. Even the best gods man has imagined up are at best faint, distorted reflections of the only true and living God.
2. I’ve previously imagined that this show’s elevator pitch must have been “X-Files meets Alice in Wonderland…IN JAPAN!” 😀
3. Watching the episode, I was fascinated by its use of real-life photos / videos. I don’t think that’s something I’ve ever seen another anime incorporate.
4. I am reminded of Anselm’s Ontological Argument for the existence of God, in which he defined God as “that than which nothing greater can be conceived.” Leaving aside the Ontological Argument proper (which I believes holds water but which has some significant criticisms), I find that definition of God an interesting yardstick by which to measure the self-proclaimed god of the Wired. Spoiler: he comes up short. 😉
6. The gum thing. Yes. So gross. *shakes head* Then again, I still find the entire concept of kissing kind of disgusting. Like, it’s not at all intuitive that having another person get literally right in my face so we could touch lips / tongues and exchange saliva could possibly be anything but gross. 😛 Nonetheless, by all accounts it can actually be quite enjoyable (I wouldn’t know, having never done it).
7. “it’s now clear that his role in Mika’s demise was purposeful” – wait what?!?!?!?! Okey-day, please explain this. I apparently how he had anything to do with Mika’s mental breakdown. This show is so confusing. LOL.
The pseudo-conspiracy theory is great, and the way it´s portrayed feels very Internet-like: it´s there, but confusing and mixed with a mountain of uncertain and bizarre data. The Internet is both helpful and an obstacle in the search of truth: on the one hand, you can be harmed by superficiality, easily ignore what you don´t want to see and also have the false impresion that you know everything you can google. On the other hand, there are so many helpful resources at hand! Be it anime and Christianity, old Encyclicals, History, Law and Jurisprudence, Philosophy and interesting thoughts, it´s a wonder of this age how much you can learn.
Wow! I didn´t remember (or found out) that Taro had a part of what happened to Mika. And I remember his creepy digital abilities too. Well, about simpathy… His behaviour towards Lain is something I´ve seen in tweens of the Internet generation, infatuated with the “cool” and older Lain while ignoring her jealous same-age female friend (a là FLCL), wishing to enter the exclusive Knights over everything else, trying to act manly and knowingly but with an immature idea of what these concepts mean, confronted with the distance between his illusion and the real thing. I think that, in the context of the series, the kiss was a small sign of affection (in an admittedly gross way), intended to show that he cares a little about the real Lain, not only the legend, he and Alice being the only ones: physical contact is very significant in this series.
You don´t remember what´s left? That´s great! I bet you´ll be surprised.
Taro is JUST like some of my friends when I was that age, and I was somewhat like him, too. I can definitely see where he’s coming from, and I’m oh-so-glad he wasn’t an official Knight, for what eventually happens to them. In fact, I think all the kids are easy to see ourselves in (at least for me) because they are real and authentic. The adults are not (purposely so).