Serial Experiments Lain – Episode 6

Episode 6

1:58 – A question just occurred to me – is there someone the audience is supposed to “root for” in this series? Does it have a “protagonist” in the traditional sense? The original Lain is a cypher – she’s curious and lonely, but exhibits only the slightest traces of personality. The other Lains have more personality, but they seem like intruders, since the original Lain doesn’t seem aware or in control of them. Is the amalgamation of these various personas supposed to amount to a single person/identity we can empathize with? It seems difficult, since the personas seem so willfully constructed – normally, you empathize with characters because you understand them, and how their experiences led to them being the person they are. In this case, those personas seem fabricated to serve various purposes, and not honest reflections of anyone’s actual experiences

Outside of Lain’s continuous sinking into the Wired, the narrative here is also pretty loose as well – last episode this was taken to an extreme, but often the events on-screen seem to exist in service of the underlying ideas. And even earlier on, before this show’s philosophy was overtly established, it was more of a mood piece than a strict narrative, both because of the pacing and because of Lain’s minimal presence as the central character. It’s honestly normally not my kind of thing (character and storytelling generally take precedence over theme or aesthetic for me, though if the characters are the theme  we’re really getting somewhere), but I’d like to think I can appreciate any well-articulated piece of art, and I’m enjoying this so far


3:43 – He steps into her room and show actual concern for her sinking. So it seems like her father is still here, at least

5:30 – All hail our wire overlords!

6:26 – “Everybody comes to see me… no, that’s not right, maybe I go to see them.” A cute allusion to the line getting blurrier here

8:20 – Unsurprising that it’s the younger kids who are first to adopt the new reality

9:53 – Thrilling discourse between zombie mom and zombie sis

10:20 – Another cute extrapolation of the themes – her Navi is secured by voice recognition, but that really doesn’t mean much when it comes to Lain

10:58 – Okay, so this talking mouth confirms my suspicions from last episode – those figures that appeared in her room (the mask, the doll) were almost certainly Wired avatars

13:47 – “Experiment data from fifteen years ago.” Oh man, are they giving me the final piece? All I needed before was Lain’s personal significance, and this is looking promising

15:11 – In case you’re wondering, yes, I repeatedly paused the episode to read that scrolling text. Most of it was just experiment jargon, but it mentioned recording a variety of “utterances” across several months using the phone lines. So, basically just noise. I regret nothing

16:24 – Our collected mental energies forming an energy independent of our bodies, eh? Hm…

17:14 – “That’s all you can think about? What about those children?” “Talk about self-centered.” You’re contradicting yourself, Lain! He’s thinking about the information – about our collective self. You’re the one bringing self-generated values and empathy into the equation!

17:50 – “The rogues that run this simulation.” You’ve been running with a tough crowd, Lain. I think you just figured out why those Knights are all so nice to you

20:24 – Ohey, just realized the red of their tracers is the same as the red of the “Don’t Walk” sign. I’m sure that’s just a coincidence

And Done

Whew! I was worried for a second there, when she was accusing them of being the Knights, that my whole understanding of the series was about to come crumbling down. But no, Lain’s silly, obviously they’re a separate group working against the Knight’s plans for singularity or interconnectedness or general mayhem

I think that’s enough chaos, guys. The Knights. An experiment from 15 years ago that led to many children being subsumed into one unit. Lain, a girl of about 15 years of age who seems to contain multitudes, and be strangely fluent in manipulating the Wired. The power of thought to form a kind of energy, which could then be used to affect the real world. Yes… [RES ignored duplicate image] Yesss… [RES ignored duplicate image] YESSSS

Ahem. Anyway. There are still details to iron out (whether this “God” is a fabrication of Lain, the Knights, the children, or its own thing, who specifically was responsible for Lain’s sister’s lobotomy, who the G-Men represent, etc), but we’re getting there.

Oh right. What I thought of these episodes.

Pretty good! I think when it wants to be atmospheric, it can be incredibly atmospheric. I really liked the stuff with her sister, as well as the ways the show portrays Lain interacting with the Wired. I like that it actually has a coherent central story now, and isn’t too wedded to its ideas to maintain a valid mystery. I like the various ways it plays with the pedestrian traffic motif, and I liked some of the questions about what defines something as substantive or real in the information age

On the negative side, I think the show has a few issues with pacing, and one fairly large one with exposition. Most of the time, its themes and ideas are being continuously portrayed visually and through the pieces of the mystery that are handed out to us – I wasn’t a fan of the moments when the show sat Lain down and talked to her directly about what the Wired might represent. I mean, we’re all watching the same show here – it exists as a narrative exploration of those ideas, it doesn’t have to outline and underline them on top of that. Those segments also worked against the pacing and mood of one of the show’s best sequences so far – her sister being broken down by the Wired – which was a shame. This show’s philosophical elements and sci-fi thriller elements are both strong, but I think at that moment they were working at cross purposes

Aside from that, I don’t really have any complaints – it’s a very enjoyable show with a great aesthetic, some interesting ideas, and a generally keen understanding of how to pace a mystery/thriller. Any other complaints I might lob (that it’s impersonal/lacking in character, for instance) are basically wishing it was a different kind of show entirely, which is not a fair complaint. This show is quite good at doing what it is trying to do.