Mindbender marathon: Lain/Kon/Ōtomo simulwatch

Professor Irony

CYBER FUNKER
Moderator
Layer 4

Disjointed is definitely the word.

"I don't need parents. Humans are all alone" is certainly an interesting choice for the opening lines here - I think this episode is our first clear incling that Lain's parents are not all they seem. Lain's mother does seem to show genuine affection for her father, however, and she is quick to rebuke Mika for questioning the change in Lain's personality, although I suppose it's open to interpretation whether that's out of consideration for Lain or just determination to avoid the subject. Actually, Mika's role in the series generally is still a bit puzzling to me, but again we probably don't want to get into that yet.

The game sequence is a very strange aside, it seems like we're being given a lot of new concepts that don't obviously tie in to anything we've seen before. Namedrop for the Knights notwithstanding, Is it all just a round about way of establishing that, if you die in the Wired, you die in real life? I presume the victims did really die, in a rare display of emotion, Wired Lain seems genuinely upset by the sight of the covered bodies.

I like the 3D game sequences used in this episode; it's clear that the likes of Doom and Wolfenstein 3D were a thing around the time this series was made!

Have you seen Dorohedoro, Neil? The ED sequences are quite a thing.

 

Neil.T

Chuunibyou
This was very disjointed
Disjointed is definitely the word.
And yet it all flows wonderfully.
I think I can safely say that this simulwatch is exceeding my hopes for how differently certain things are being perceived by different people. 😁

Is it all just a round about way of establishing that, if you die in the Wired, you die in real life?
And yet Lain pre-dates The Matrix by some eight months. Lain started broadcasting in Japan on 6 July 1998, and The Matrix saw the light of day in the US on 31 March 1999.

Obviously, The Matrix would have already been well into production when Lain started airing; I'm not suggesting anything, just pointing out the timing.

Have you seen Dorohedoro, Neil? The ED sequences are quite a thing.
I haven't, no. You rate it highly, though, don't you, Prof?

I looked it up on MAL, and the character designs look rather nice. The illustrations I saw suggested they've got a wee bit of a retro, or "all hand-drawn" sensibility to them. Is that at all representative of how the show itself looks?

That ED you showed was really nifty.
 

Professor Irony

CYBER FUNKER
Moderator
Oh crud, I forgot we were on a day off today - I watched episode 5. Oh well.

I was really impressed with Dorohedoro though, yeah. I'm actually surprised the manga began as late as 2000, it has a very scratchy, late '80s / early '90s look about it, to the point where I wondered if Hayashida might have started out as an assistant to Masamune Shirow. The anime does a very good job of remaining faithful to the look of the manga as well; it does show that they're using 2D/3D hybrid animation at times, but I think it looks as good as it possibly could have in the current economic climate.
 

Neil.T

Chuunibyou
Oh crud, I forgot we were on a day off today - I watched episode 5. Oh well.
Yeah, there's plenty of breathing space for us this time around: Lain episode 5 is actually Sunday's episode.

As for today, well, I had a go at writing a post for the film after all.

Millennium Actress

"But I like this moon the best. After the full moon, everything starts to wane, but with this penultimate moon there's still tomorrow. And so there is still hope."


Satoshi Kon's second feature film is by far his most moving work, and is also further evidence of just how wide-ranging his talent was.

A couple of shots that really jumped out at me on this viewing both involved our heroine Chiyoko's wooing by, and subsequent marriage to, the awful, manipulative film director Otaki. There was the brilliantly executed scene on the balcony when Otaki moved in for a kiss, only for Chiyoko's cocktail glass to clink against the souvenir key still dangling around her neck, destroying her suitor's meticulously set-up moment.

Then later there was that powerful shot of an upset Chiyoko standing unflinchingly, dangling her newly rediscovered key in front of Otaki's face after he had orchestrated its disappearance some years before.

Throughout the film, Susumu Hirasawa's wonderful soundtrack helps guide the viewer's emotions, providing the perfect disconcerting compliment to Kon's mesmerising visuals. I'm looking forward to seeing more of their work together in Paprika and, later on, Paranoia Agent.

With all of this sublime effort meshing together to form something very special, what could possibly spoil things? Well, Manga Entertainment's mangled DVD release, unfortunately. We've got apparent dubtitles that don't always match the timing of the actual Japanese dialogue they're supposed to be translating, and what's more is that this singular subtitle option is actually intended for the deaf and hard of hearing. I mean, it's absolutely fantastic that the option is included on the disc, but it's unacceptably lazy that it's the only option. Hearing viewers should have the chance to watch the film with typical subtitles that don't repeatedly telegraph upcoming sound effects with on-screen captions. And with that, I'm off to have myself confined to a darkened room while I try to get over their botch. If you'll excuse me...

[bolts clunking, door creaking]

[gasping]

[keys jangling]

[receding footsteps]
 

WMD

Death Scythe
Millenium Actress

What a wonderful film. As it's my first time watching I've just sat back and gone along for the ride rather than watching with my critical simulwatch eye.

I loved how, like Perfect Blue, theres actually more than one story going on. The obvious Chiyoko's story but also that actually this was Genya's story. It should have been obvious really when he turned up with the key at the start but it's not until the end when we learn hes been carrying the truth of the mystery painter with him for 30 yrs that we learn what this story was all about.

The dub was also joyously fantastic. Everything out of Genya and the cameraman was amazing. The cameraman especially added so much humour to what was quite a dark film. It was the right move though as when the emotional core was exposed at the end I was crying as the humour had made everyone feel so relatable. Especially with all the genre changes and general weirdness of the "story in a story" style the film was presented in.

Great film.
 
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Neil.T

Chuunibyou
at the end I was crying
I've seen the film around half a dozen times now. This was the first time I'd seen it in a good while, and I actually felt myself well up a wee bit when the key was first revealed early on, knowing the outcome.

The scar-face man's confession is just... It's brutal every time I watch it.

Bravo. 👏

What a wonderful film.
It really is. Believe it or not, Millennium Actress is probably only my fourth favourite of Kon's four films, and it's still wonderful. He never even made an average film, let alone a bad one.
 
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WMD

Death Scythe
The scar-face man's confession is just... It's brutal every time I watch it.
Indeed. Early on I thought the films twist was going to be that Genya was the mystery artist. I'm glad I was wrong as the direction the film actually went in was so much better! Much more brutal as you say, but it made for a much better story.
 

D1tchd1gger

Claymore
Millennium Actresses
The eternal search for a lost love. It turns out that it was good practice for every film she was cast in that she had that experience. Unlike Perfect Blue most of the time you could tell what was real and fantasy mainly because of the different genres, but there were occasions when the lines were blurred like when she chases after the train and collapses at the end of the platform, only for it to transform into a poster with Tachibana saying "I remember that".
I would like to have seen a full version of the Samurai film where the Princess has to turn herself in a badass Ninja to find her Lord. Would be cool.
 

HWR

CCG’s Reaper
AUKN Staff
I don’t have a copy of Memories so would probably skip those, same with Millennium Actress tomorrow. I may be able to get the Blu of Paprika before we watch that though-will let you know if I source a copy.

As for Paranoia Agent, I may wait for Funimation’s Blu Ray release before I rewatch.
Okay so I have now ordered a copy of Millennium Actress - not sure if it’ll arrive within the duration of the simulwatch but if it does I’ll try and watch and put my thoughts in here.
 

Neil.T

Chuunibyou
Serial Experiments Lain
Layer 05: Distortion

"Here in the real world, God only exists as a concept. But in the Wired, there may be a Deus-like embodiment. ... It's possible that the Deus of the Wired may already have enough power to affect the real world in some instances."

(By this point, by the way, the electronic voice that reads the episode number and title totally puts me in mind of Radiohead's interlude track "Fitter, Happier" from their 1997 album OK Computer. Both this series and that album very much tap into the same vein of pre-millennial technological paranoia.)

In this episode we're firmly into Instrumentality territory as Lain becomes increasingly aware of a higher state of being through experiencing a series of metaphysical meetings with various figures, all of whom meditate on the nature of the passage of time, of existence, of the Wired, and on the possibility of a Creator who exists within it. Lain is seemingly also able to communicate, however briefly, with none other than God himself.

Back in the (fictional) real world, there's the concept of the unseen fatal car accident — witnessed by Lain's unmoved sister — being caused by computerised traffic signals interfering with the self-drive software of ordinary cars. It's used here a full 15 years before its inclusion as a major plot element of part 2 of Ghost in the Shell: Arise. In the actual real world of 2020 its realisation remains something for the future.

For anyone unfamiliar with one little element of Japanese advertising culture that crops up around this part, the reason for Lain and Mika's annoyance at ending up with one of the little promotional packs of tissues is simply that they're handed out willy-nilly in busy places like Shibuya. If you don't keep your wits about you and decline, you'd end up with an armful of them. They don't usually contain mysterious messages apparently written in blood, mind.

The shot composition of this series continues to pull aces from up its sleeve, this time interrupting Lain and Mika's "conversation" across the dinner table by using their mother passing tea to their father to cut off Mika's line of sight and terminate their stilted dialogue prematurely. The show's ability to create a mood remains awe-inspiring, too: the way he slurps his tea, his eyes obscured by the glint of the electric lighting on the lenses of his glasses; how she robotically transfers rice into her mouth and chews morosely, eyes down, one bite at a time; the way Lain plays with her food, staring hypnotised into her weak soup, stirring it around and around and around in circles with no move made to actually eat it; and how Mika observes all of this with utter teenage disdain. Everything is accompanied by the sound of unrelenting, awkward silence and is executed with a profound brilliance I don't think I've seen matched. Even the viewer, watching this on digital media in the relative comfort of their own home, sitting at what should be a safe distance from the on-screen tension, could cut the atmosphere with a knife.

And then Mika is suddenly whisked away. (The shot of her on her knees, looking up into the sky recalls that creepy close-up of Rei seen in Evangelion.) When she snaps out of her daydream, whenever that began, she is no longer at home. We as viewers are not any more sure of where she is in reality than she is herself anymore, though. When she eventually returns home, wide-eyed with panic, gasping for breath from running, she breaks down and cries. But she is interrupted by the presence of another person walking by the entryway. That person is... herself. Her other self can seemingly sense Mika, but cannot see her. Lain can, though, in some form, and watches with a mix of puzzlement and fear as this shimmering apparition is erased from existence.

Lain returns to the darkness of her room to consult her ever-expanding Navi network. "Who is it today?" she enquires.

"To be continued..."
 
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WMD

Death Scythe
Lain 5

I enjoyed the full on horror tropes being used in this epsiode. Lains sister gets a rough time of it and the epsiode did a great job of taking her from apathy to full emotional panic by the end.

It was also interesting just how unhinged they made Lain seem at the start of the episode when shes talking to the doll.

That dinner scene though. More awkward and painful that Breaking Bad dinner scenes!
 

Professor Irony

CYBER FUNKER
Moderator
Layer 5

While she may not be the most immediately likeable person, I do feel sorry for Mika. Of all the characters in the series, she seems the most ordinary and relatable, perhaps more so even than Alice. Whatever Lain's parents are involved in, she clearly isn't part of it, to the point that they want to keep her at arms length. I'm not sure there's much more I can say without having to start blanking things out though.

Does Mika actually appear in the series after this? Despite her or her doppleganger's appearance at the end, I don't remember her after this episode at all.
 

Neil.T

Chuunibyou
Serial Experiments Lain
Layer 06: KIDS

"Tell me about the Kensington Experiment."

As a result of the psychological trauma she suffered last time out, Mika appears to have become dazed and unresponsive. Not that her mother seems to have particularly noticed — or, at least, if she has, she refuses to outwardly acknowledge it.

Lain's appearance on a giant screen in Shibuya seen last episode also escalates greatly in scale. This time an even bigger image of her appears in the sky itself above Tokyo as the clouds part!

But the main event of this episode is a conversation that takes place within the Wired between our heroine and a scientist by the name of Professor Hodgeson. Again we see that Lain's personality while she navigates the Wired is very different from how she usually is in real life: she's a much pushier, more angry character.

She shows some of this side of herself back in the real world, too, though, actually confronting the two mysterious agents outside her house. At this point, it would appear that this duo are not in fact the Knights of so much urban rumour and legend. I myself had certainly reached the conclusion that they were when I first watched the series. Our writer is Chiaki J. Konaka, and he played another blinder.

(Did you ever notice, by the way, that the show's full title, Serial Experiments Lain, doesn't actually appear anywhere during the opening titles? It just says Lain in the same lowercase typesetting that's seen in the logo used on the box. Fun fact.)
 
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WMD

Death Scythe
Lain 6

Lain has really developed a proper super villian esque lair for herself! So much water on the floor must be an insane electrocution hazard with all that equipment around! A part of me wonders if the dads growing seriousness is at the thought of his skyrocketing electric bill.

It's also interesting that although shes sinking further and further into the wired she is still able to go to school and interact with others. Even putting on more of normal persona than usual and wearing make up and the like. Although she cant fool Alice who seems all too aware that something is up!

It was really cool to see Lain with so much agency in the second half of the episode. The way she wipes the lipstick off to get down to business and start investigating what the hell is going on was really cool to see. We get some answers which was nice but the end is once again a wierd cliffhanger. And now it seems they are coming after Lain directly!
 

HWR

CCG’s Reaper
AUKN Staff
Layer 6: Kids

Poor Mika doesn’t look like they’ll be recovering anytime soon. We also have Lain in the Sky (no diamonds though).

Interesting observation re the name there @Neil.T
 

Neil.T

Chuunibyou
Lain has really developed a proper super villian esque lair for herself! So much water on the floor must be an insane electrocution hazard with all that equipment around!
I'm guessing that the liquid on the floor is the same coolant that's cycling through the tubes. Lain has always felt to me like it's the work of a paranoiac with little working knowledge of computers. 😅

It makes for a great setting, though.

A part of me wonders if the dads growing seriousness is at the thought of his skyrocketing electric bill.
You gave me a chuckle with that! 😆👍

Seriously, though, I love the atmosphere of paranoia that seeps through every pore of the show, but where are all these upgrades coming from? 😆
Is it perhaps evolving and expanding all by itself, à la She, the Ultimate Weapon? 🤔


(Also, it does seem like rather a lot of kit just to send some messages and receive voicemail. 😅)
 

D1tchd1gger

Claymore
Episode 5 was certainly creepy with Lain talking to the doll and then weird floating manifestations of her parents about a prophecy which then showed up in Mika's part of the episode. Also there was talk of what it is to be human and living on without physical bodies. Whilst none of this really seems to have pushed the story along it is quite interesting how much themes appearing here also pop up in The Matrix, which wrapped August '98 (Lain started airing in July). It well known the Wachowski's were influenced by anime when writing it, so I guess the writer of the show was thinking of the same influences.

Episode 6 starts moving the plot along a bit more as we see the first manifestation of Lain inside the Wired and then talking to the doctor to find out what's been happening. Turns out he invented the Sibyl System 😄 (Psycho-Pass spoiler) and now someone has nicked his plans which appear to be the Knights who aren't happy that Lain is on to them.

Did you catch the website on the pressure gauge? Mebious, I wonder if was supposed to be a reference to Moebius? Anyway the website is up and running, but I'm not sure if it's a fan made thing or not:
 

Neil.T

Chuunibyou
Serial Experiments Lain
Layer 07: Society

"This afternoon, the firewall of the Information Bureau's Information Control Centre was cracked and destroyed by an unknown party, and information in the Wired network is currently in disarray. Although this news report is being sent out at this very moment, please be aware that it may arrive tomorrow or possibly even yesterday."

It's all about the Knights in today's episode. We get a rather clever roundabout way of learning the reputation they have among fanatics of the Wired. Our goofy goggle guy aspires to be inducted into their secret society, but he's also clearly aware of their fearsome reputation and that the thing he's blindly reaching out to grasp in the darkness of the other world is very much a double-edged sword. He ends up apparently slain by it come episode's end. You live by the sword...

The Men in Black grasp the proverbial bull by the horns when dealing with Lain, directly requesting that she come with them to learn some secrets. What she gets instead is a barrage of questions from the agents' boss — questions about her family, revealing just how little that Lain actually seems to know about them. The pressure this puts on her causes her to break, bringing out her Wired persona once more.

"Lain Iwakura"... Is she and the Lain of the Wired one and the same?
 

WMD

Death Scythe
Lain 7

I feel theres so much to unpack here. On the one hand the epsiode jumps around various people who all seem to be at various points of becoming lost on/to the wired. The crazy goggles guy, the business man, the housewife all seem to be losing themselves to the wired in some way. Is what's happening to Lain like a disease? Or is she causing it?

It's also notable that Alice gets to have a serious chat with Lain here. She is the one person who is essentially completely offline and it's interesting that despite becoming more lost to the wired Lain feels genuine panic at the thought that Alice would stop talking to her. The line between the word and reality may be blurring (and as the father said at the start: the wired is for connections and communicating) but Lain still cherishes this one real world connection. Much more than any with her family. As Alice actually shows care towards her. This seems especially highlighted when Lain is on her touchpad in class and from Alice's point of view all you can hear is the tap tapping in the screen, the rest of the world drowned out.

The verbal put down the suit gives Lain at the end where shes confronted with having no meaningful connections to any of her (supposed?) family is then made all the sadder. I'm sure Lain would have reacted very differently if Alice had been brought up at that moment. Instead Lain loses more grip on reality and switches persona. Is the old Lain lost for good? Or can she still come back?
 
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