Serial Experiments Lain and the Understanding of the World and Ourselves

Spoiler alert!

Serial Experiments Lain is a very special anime. It’s one of those shows that never seem to be talked about enough. One of those anime that have been on my watch-list ever since getting into the “genre”. One of the shows I always wanted to watch but never did in the fear that I would misunderstand it. It might sound silly to say, that you misunderstood art. But even though I know that it’s stupid to feel bad about having a different conclusion to art than others, it’s something I think many of us feel. That our perception of art is somehow less “deep” or wrong, in comparison to others. 

I’m not pretending to know everything about Serial Experiments Lain, many people have rewatched the show tens of times, and I’m just here watching it for the first. But I’ll try to discuss the show as well as I can even though I know rewatch would give me a better understanding of what the show is about both from a plot perspective and a thematic one. 

“Oh, okay. So that’s how it works. I had no idea the world was this simple. I always thought the world was such a big and scary place, but once you figure it out, it’s all so easy!         

I told you it would be”

It isn’t often that I am fascinated by a work of fiction. I have seen many interesting shows and movies, but few of them have truly encapsulated me into its world and ideas. Where I feel like the show stays on my mind for longer than an hour. Cause even some really good movies and tv-shows just leave my mind after I wake up the morning after. Maybe it’s just the immense amount of media I consume every day that makes my brain throw out what it feels is less important, or if it simply isn’t worthy of my memory, but that’s how it is. I was in a need of something that could stay, and I got that I think. 

In many ways, Serial Experiments Lain’s own existence is what compelled me. If it hasn’t been said enough before, it basically predicted how the 21st-century internet works. And while I expected that to be since I had heard so much about it, not to this extent. From episode one I was just in wonder of how similar “the Wired” was to the internet we use today. Both the sense of community and the feeling that everything is fake is conveyed with the Wired, and it is really fascinating to witness. 

And continuing the show, I found myself enjoying more than just that. There are many movies and series that I feel like have a lot of symbolism and a lot to interpret, but fail to make it interesting after 10 minutes. Where you just get bored with the same symbolism over and over and over again. But just analyzing every detail of every scene was really enjoyable, from the large number of shots of telephone lines and eyes to the excessive lighting. It became more than I expected, more than a prediction.

At the beginning of every episode, there is a sequence of shots of the city and its people as we hear a voice. The voice isn’t from anyone or to anyone specifically, but I always figured that they were from Lain’s psyche. And in a way you can see how her character changes throughout the story with this opening, beginning with her curiosity and temptation of the Wired and ending with an understanding of the world, or rather accepting the complicatedness of it.

And that’s a big theme of Serial Experiments Lain, our understanding of the world and ourselves.

Throughout the story, we see how Lain becomes increasingly obsessed with the Wired and the connection it creates. We see how she wants to understand the world and its people, she loves all of them. But it makes her understanding of herself grow less and less.

A big plot point in the series is how a copy of Lain is created in the Wired, who worsens her relationship with the friends she has. It’s a very overused trope, but I think sets itself apart by reminding you over and over again that they are the same. It isn’t really a copy of Lain, but a manifestation of Lain’s mind. It is a part of her that she won’t accept. 

In one of the later episodes, Lain tries to strangle this “copy” but is yet again reminded that it is herself. She questions why she can feel warmth, why what she is killing is living? 

After this point, Lain’s character has a big shift. We start to see how she becomes a zombie in the real world, only really living in the Wired. She meets the self-proclaimed god of the Wired, who tries to convince her that the Wired could be a better alternative to the real world. As protocol seven is released, the Wired basically becomes another reality making the idea of switching less and less absurd. Our bodies don’t define us so why be restrained by them?

Arisu’s point of view, as she tries to get Lain out of this spiraling obsession. She finds Lain is But this is where I think the message becomes clearer. At a certain point, we start to follow a pile of wires and stuffed toys in her room, convinced that converting her consciousness would be a better alternative. That her body isn’t necessary for her existence and consciousness and therefore useless. 

But Arisu tells her that she’s wrong. That even though her body might be cold and weak, it is alive and so is Arisu’s. There’s a connection made because they’re physical, one that couldn’t be made if it weren’t for that.

And I think it’s here where we see what the show wants to say. How we shouldn’t try to understand the world and its people but to just try to understand yourself. As the voice says at the beginning of episode 12, the world might seem like a big and scary place, but once you figure it out it’s all so easy. The universe isn’t out to get you, there’s a reason why you’re physical. While it might seem like some sort of god wants you dead, there’s a reason why you’re not.

In the end, Lain decides to reset the universe but takes away the existence of herself, or at least the memories. She creates a world where she can be absent, a world where the memory of her is no more, where no one’s trying to figure out more than themselves. There’s a sense that everything is right in the world. Everyone’s happy or at least in pursuit of it

Still, there’s something off. While Lain still exists in a weird plane of existence, she struggles with the reality she had created. We are told over and over again that Lain has erased the memory of herself in the world, and that if you aren’t remembered then you might as well not have existed at all. And while it’s an interesting idea, I think the show wants to say in the end that you make your own existence. In the last scene, we see how an adult Arisu meets Lain years after the events of the show. Arisu can’t seem to figure out why she feels some sort of familiarity with this stranger. Lain has successfully removed herself from the memory of the world, but she remains. Even if she wasn’t remembered, she made her own existence. And I find that interesting.

10/10, I guess it is closer to a 9 than an imaginary 11 but whatever

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