At the series beginning, Lain exhibits few personality traits. She’s even keel, slow to speak, and doesn’t drift to any extreme. Through the course of the show, her personality has become more pronounced, like a robot learning what it means to be human. Unfortunately, that means with highs there will be lows, and Lain, learning more about her origin and beginning to accept the uniqueness of her circumstances, is drifting to a low from which she may not be able to recover.
Continuing from episode nine, Eiri and Lain have a discussion about what she is, what a god is, and what Lain has done and might do next. She returns to her home to find it in an abandoned and dying state—there she sees her father, who tells her he loves her and that she is not alone. Going to the Wired, she asks about the Knights and her actions lead to their names being revealed in public, and then their deaths, reported as suicides. Lain meets Eiri again, who tries to drown her in sorrow, but she is unwilling to accept his words and plans without a fight.
There are lot of choice words that can be used to describe Serial Experiments Lain: cyberpunk, sacrilegious, experimental, prescient. But the title of layer ten, “Love,” wouldn’t be one of them. The series is purposely cold. Warm elements in the world of Lain, like Lain herself and Alice, are constantly shaken up and tossed against a background literally devoid of color and against technology and philosophy that devalues ideas and relationships that exude warmth. It’s not surprising, then, that the three characters who tell Lain they love her in this episode don’t use the word in any way we might see as typical.
The first to express love is Yasuo, Lain’s “father.” Layer nine confirmed what we’d known for quite some time—Lain has been adopted into this family, and at nearly the age she is now. Miho and Yasuo are actors, pretending to be Lain’s parents, and the real world image of Lain is in fact a “homunculus.” As Lain comes ever closer to the edge of insanity, returning to her unkempt home and seeing dead plants that represent her dying world and the loss of her family, she’s rescued by her father. Yasuo is by no means a good dad, but there’s no doubt that he cares for Lain. He tells her so and then immediately exits. It’s not a touchy-feely scene, but it helps Lain return to a better road, one in which she keeps her sense of self.
As strange as the scene is, the next mention of love is weirder still. It involves Carl, one of the men in black. As their organization continues to watch Lain and see how powerful she is becoming, and after they’ve caused the suicides of the Knights, Carl (the taller, unshaven man) tells Lain he loves her. It’s an odd confession in many ways, not least of which is for the creepy factor of a young man having romantic interests toward a young girl (a plot point that the show uses to great effect earlier with Alice and the teacher). It also brings up the question of what the word even means—Yasuo had some love for Lain, even though he was part of the fraudulent world that is meant to break her, but the man in black seems to love her for her power, akin to worshiping a deity.
Which leads to the last confession, that of Eiri to Lain. He is her creator, a god to her as much, or more so, than the rest of the Wired. Lain should love him because he is—at least that seems to be Eiri’s thought. But as a child rejects an abusive parent, Lain rejects Eiri as the episode ends as she begins to demonstrate her immense power.
Lain is not human; she’s a tool. In fact, Serial Experiments Lain can be viewed as a story about artificial intelligence that explores what it means to be human. But unlike Metropolis or Time of Eve, the audience begins the series seeing the non-human as a person, before it’s slowly revealed that she is not. Lain demonstrates humanity through her weakness, her rage, her shortcomings, but even more so through her compassion and a desire to love and be loved. The love she receives from Alice and gives back shows her to be more than a homunculus.
In fact, Lain is showing something else to the self-proclaimed God of the Wired. Omnipresence and creation may not be the greatest mark of deity—it instead might be love.
Present Day. Question Time.
- The opening sequence had no words this time—I wonder why?
- Lain standing in the classroom, ignored, as if she doesn’t exist, seems like an effective way to break a young person if it was done intentionally, a terrible way to bully a child.
- The animation in this episode is especially sharp. Lots of close-ups, lots of flashy effects, and some really nice background action in the final scene, setting the stage for a showdown.
- Lain’s denial of Eiri’s godhood because of his death to the flesh contrasts nicely to Christ, who also died—the differences from there are extreme and could make for a wonderful discussion of Christ’s deity versus claims that are made by Eiri and which could be made by others.
- There’s a feeling of comeuppance when it comes to the Knights’ deaths, but there certainly was no satisfaction to be had in those scenes.
Let us know your thoughts below! And join us next Friday for the next installment.