A program is neutral. It is neither good nor bad, though it has the potential to do the work of either. As Serial Experiments Lain moves toward its conclusion, part of the excitement is in wondering if the titular program will do good or bad, or if Lain proves herself to be more than a program, able to make a decision that is as human as it is godly.
Eiri continues to employ the program known as Lain, connecting people together in one consciousness as he pushes them evolve. Lain, however, resists in her own way, preventing Alice from becoming connected. Understanding that something is amiss, Alice visits Lain’s house and discovers that Lain is far more than she thought her to be—a supernatural entity, a near-omnipotent program, and a prophet, communicating with a now-angry god.
In layer 12, Serial Experiments Lain reaches its cyberpunk apex, not only in the technological evolution of Lain’s room and the grotesque imagery of Eiri’s incarnation, but in reaching a climax of sorts in the philosophy that’s being expressed. The meeting between Alice and Lain runs two ways—Lain expresses that her singling out of Alice is not to torment her, but to love her, and Alice once again comes through and demonstrates to Lain what love is. All this is key to the confrontation that occurs immediately afterward, as Lain for the first time challenges Eiri’s godhood.
Lain’s basic explanation to Eiri goes like this: something must have existed before you. This “god” that exists may not be active right now, but is still overseeing things, while Eiri only has control for the time being. He is a steward of sorts, only a part of the main god’s plan, the main god’s will. That argument, and perhaps the realization that it is true, drives Eiri mad, as he gathers a physical body for the first time since losing his own in an attempt to hurt Lain and Alice.
Throughout the series, Eiri felt very much like a representation of where mankind is headed in a world that is abandoning religion. Cold and prideful, Eiri treats others mechanically, matter-of-factly. But in layer 12, the model seems to shift—Eiri instead reminds me of one being. He reminds me of Lucifer. Like Satan is called the ruler of this world, Eiri is king over the Wired, a world that he molding into something evil while speaking sweetly with lies that feel like truth. The great battle has been in trying to convince Lain that she no longer needs a body, nor does anyone, and that all humans should be connected into one consciousness.
By the beginning of episode 12, Lain had bought into the lie. She speaks it to Alice, who then disputes it in a simple, innocent way, by placing Lain’s hand over her heart. Alice’s heart is real. The fear behind the heavy beating is real. Her emotions are real, and so are both girls. Having a body means something beyond the physical—the beauty of it points toward existence. And with that simple act, Eiri’s plan begins to fall apart.
I imagine that Eiri acts much like Satan would as well. The devil is described as crafty, and that certainly fits Eiri’s description. He is also prideful, and Eiri’s violent anger erupts out of this sense of pride, rage at the realization that he is indeed not god, much as how Lucifier’s downfall results from trying to be like God. And besides pride, another difference marks these false gods and the real one, expressed in a simple sentence uttered by Lain: “With no body, you can’t understand.”
God is described as spirit, but he of course also became incarnate through Jesus Christ. As such, he experienced the hardship and temptation of man first hand. Athough he is God and could understand humanity without dwelling in flesh, choosing this method allowed us to know that he had been to the same places as we have. He understands us because he is Emmanuel, “God with us.” Eiri was a man, but refuses to return to that fleshly condition; God was not a man, but became one anyway to be with us.
That humanity is also expressed through Alice, who drives past her fear and anger to embrace Lain. It’s also demonstrated through Lain, who though constructed as a program, tries to love Alice by giving her choice and memory and a will, knowing that those are all necessary elements of being able to love, of being human. And in doing so, she shows herself to be far more human than the “god” who was once a man, and more godly than him as well.
Present Day. Question Time.
- Eiri’s plan sure feels like a certain other project involving humans becoming one…
- Speaking of Evangelion, the creators of Lain did not watch Anno’s groundbreaking work before making their own, despite the latter seemingly being inspired from some ideas by the former.
- Again, I feel sorry for the men in black. They’re kind of creepy-neutral, and “death by Lain” seems an unjust way for them to make their exit.
- In Lain’s new school world, the girls react to her differently—is this the world as Lain would like to see it?
- Alice, again, feels so authentic, expressing honest emotion—angry and bitter to loving to scared—as she experiences something unworldly
- And now…just one more episode!
Let us know your thoughts below! And join us next Thursday for the last installment.