Serial Experiments Lain Revisited: Episode 12

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.

Layer 12

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.

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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.

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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.

3 thoughts on “Serial Experiments Lain Revisited: Episode 12

  1. This is my favorite episode in the entire series, and I would even say the highest point all the cyberpunk genre has reached for me. What an amazing way to put things! The way Alice convinces Lain of all she says then to Eiri with a small act of love, even in the heart of the weirdest cyberpunk tale where everything has been deconstructed in numbers, reality is fading and the homo deus is rising, makes me think that God can use the smallest and humblest sign of hope to confound all the pride of any world and its powerful, deadly, seemingly omnipotent idols, and show their true form. True love is meaningful, and if one accepts it as real, he or she will feel and know that there is a meaning to this world. But a meaning implies a God who gave that meaning, and also that a new aspiring divinity is not such, because it cannot given new meaning. Whatever he does, he will be still in the old, true framework. And if the bodies and the Creation have meaning, then the emancipation of the “new divinity” and the purported new order must be monstruous. And so, Lain confronts the false God, the Homo Deus, and wins the good fight, even if her biggest battle is yet to come.

    I´m thinking that Serial Experiments Lain may also be the fullest example of my Beneath the Tangles sort of anime: a story full of created beauty that wisely recognizes love as the sign of God against the idols, and sees these overlooked, meaningful signs of His Providence in our lives, and in some way gives testimony of some kind of humble, unknown hope for Christ and redemption, to which it can also be incorporated afterwards. It happens more frequently in these kind of brave stories that trascend its own genre: in Toradora (spoilers) and the definitively unrequited love accepted as a sacrifice in a romantic comedy, in Haibane Renmei (spoilers) in that unknown Raven who saved the heroine in an unremembered past, so to save a Reki that cannot be healed even in the peaceful world of a “healing anime”, in Nichijou´s (not really spoilers) crazy idea of a suprising slice of life in which all is surprising, all is everyday, all is absurd, and all is a meaningful and a series of miracles, in Sakamichi no Apollon´s unlikely (spoilers) long final episode hiatus, which take us away from the love story of two teenagers. Or in Princess Tutu (spoilers) defiance of its own metafictional approach.Or Now and then non-shonen story. But perhaps it´s never so clearly stated as here, in the cyberpuk Lain reverting the cyberhumans to humanity.

    And the characters who take the role of embodying this hope have all such a hard time! They have to really break the mold and exhaust their energies for a seemingly insignificant sign of hope. Yet, how hopeful do these stories became when they point to a larger, loving meaning.

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