Mindbender marathon: Lain/Kon/Ōtomo simulwatch

Neil.T

Chuunibyou
Serial Experiments Lain
Layer 13: Ego


That electronic voice, eh? 😛

What isn't remembered never happened. Memory is merely a record. You just need to rewrite that record.

Wow, you can really feel Lain's sadness after Alice hits her and draws blood, can't you? Look at that quivering bottom lip. The detail in the close-up of Alice's tearful, bloodshot eyes is superb too; the opening scene of this closing episode brings the atmosphere again. Alice is finally reduced to the same uncommunicative state as Lain's old sister, and Lain is in pain, despondent at how badly everything has panned out.

And so Lain resets everything, editing her very existence out of reality. We see a familiar sequence of shots that track her journey from her home to school.

But she is not in any of them.

By rewriting people's collective memories to remove herself from them, it's the same as if she had never existed from the beginning. Now that Lain does not exist on a physical plane, she instead exists everywhere, elsewhere. She is omnipresent. She learns from her other equally non-existent self that, by that very definition, she is God.

This is why others should love her, because "Lain" is their deity.

But not now. Because that world — of Lain of the Wired and of Lain and her many, many selves, one for each person who ever knew her — no longer exists anymore. The ripples sent out by Lain's press of the reset key extend out in all directions. We have learnt that it is perfectly possible to receive information before it has been disseminated, and that memories, records, can be of future events too. If the two Men in Black have memories of finding gainful employment as telecommunication engineers, and their employers hold the records of their employment and their payroll numbers, and passers-by recall seeing them replacing the cables just a little further down the same road yesterday, then this is the world as it is and always has been. Perhaps Eiri will finally tell his employers to stick their job.

It is just Alice alone who began with the vague recollection that things were once different. But memories fade. Memories are retrieved and rewritten with each recall, much like the function of any electronic archival system. By the time Alice is a young woman — and old enough to forget her past — she remembers, or at least thinks she might remember, a young girl's face. But the name "Lain" convinces her she is mistaken. She has never encountered anyone with that name before.

Even Chisa is with us again. She never left us. No-one remembers her suicide in that old world, because this is the only world that people can recall, and so this is the only world that anyone alive can conceive of. How are you doing, Chisa? How have you been?

The world of the Wired will never trouble anyone in this world again, because Lain has deemed it so. At the end of her trials, this sequence of events with its unexpected outcome, this is the answer that Lain has arrived at, the world that she has created. This is the world of Serial Experiments Lain. Close the world. Open the next.
 
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D1tchd1gger

Claymore
Well that answered nothing. A load of pretentious philosophical nonsense obfuscated behind a load of techno-babble! And again it comes down to the logical thing for me, how can a program, a piece of software have a physical presence.
If it had gone with the twist that the "real" world was actually some sort of Matrix like world and the people who were killing themselves had woken up to that fact then that might have made sense.
And to top it all everything is just reset, which is what I didn't like about another sci-fi show that everybody lauds, but at least that was fun in its first half and had great characters!
Unlike Paprika though there's very little in the way of production value to bump the score. Minimal animation, repeated use of scenes and terribly stilted acting, although I watched the dub, I'm sure the awkward pauses in nearly every scene was down to the writing as they're only following the lip flaps.
6/10
II might rewatch at some point because the schedule was so stretched out, but for now I'm off to YouTube to see what some other people think.
 

HWR

CCG’s Reaper
AUKN Staff
Layer 13: Ego

I had forgotten exactly how this series resolved itself and essentially rebooting everything does carry the emotional weight of Lain never existing but also feels rather straightforward for a series that decidedly steeps itself in uncertainties and open interpretation.

Overall, this series does have its flaws but I can’t think of a series that quite has the same tone and feel, and it’s unlikely another series could quite capture it without feeling too similar.

It was certainly interesting reading others’ interpretations of each episode and it made for a fun, if weighty, simulwatch.
 

Neil.T

Chuunibyou
Reaction.

Well that answered nothing. A load of pretentious philosophical nonsense obfuscated behind a load of techno-babble!
↑What a load of pretentious nonsense! 😜

(Sorry, couldn't resist.)

And again it comes down to the logical thing for me, how can a program, a piece of software have a physical presence.
Well, remember that Eiri describes Lain as "a homunculus of artificial ribosomes".

The feverish recap of episode 11 outright spells it out for us, though:
"Tachibana General Laboratories' Biochem Elementary Research Group has announced that they have mapped the human genome."

And as I wrote in a couple of previous posts...
Lain originally came into being in the Wired, and the Lain we know, our Lain, is no more than a genetically engineered construct to bring that consciousness out of the Wired and into the real world.
And...
The concept of an artificial personality who originated in a digital environment being biologically recreated in the real world and going on to influence it to a great degree is very similar to the central idea of Japanese author Koji Suzuki's novel Loop.
In that book, the main character turns out to have been created using an unexplained piece of scientific equipment called a "genome synthesiser". Perhaps Lain was created in a similar fashion.

If it had gone with the twist that the "real" world was actually some sort of Matrix like world and the people who were killing themselves had woken up to that fact then that might have made sense.
It actually does do that. If my interpretation of the series is accurate, then the real world is basically a reflection of the Wired, which existed first; it's just that people had only recently tapped into the idea of plugging their computers into it. People like Chisa had woken up the fact that the real world is a bit of a sham when you could exist more freely within the Wired instead. The most devout Wired users, through their sustained and intense exposure, have become aware that their very consciousness is inherently linked to it. At that point, they see no need to keep maintaining their physical body and simply discard it. They would encourage others to do the same.

terribly stilted acting, although I watched the dub, I'm sure the awkward pauses in nearly every scene was down to the writing as they're only following the lip flaps.
That's definitely a problem created by the dub, then, dude, because the original Japanese has none of that. This is my own personal opinion, of course, but I feel that there will always be a problem with dubbing in that it's a bit like listening to someone tell you about something they've watched rather than actually watching it for yourself. You're getting it through someone else's filter. (It's a problem with subtitling as well to a lesser degree, but at least the original dialogue is still there to be able to refute any poor translation.)

Japanese naturally has some pauses in sentences, and it becomes an issue of how well a foreign rewrite works around that. I can think of no worse example than the English dub of Macross II, which has its voice cast have to regularly pause suddenly in random places to match the mouth flaps. Evidently the script was never checked or rewritten for timing.

The mark I should've logically given Lain on MAL is 9 out of 10, but I felt like I wanted to add on an extra mark because of how bold the series is and how different it is from anything else I've ever watched. Just because I can. 😛

I can’t think of a series that quite has the same tone and feel
Me neither. 👍
(See above.)

Also it seems to hint/confirm that one of MIB guys was the guy at Cyberia feeding Lain the new parts for her Navi system.
I think that's a bit of an unintentional coincidence myself.

It just so happens that the episode 11 montage cuts together a shot of the agent followed by a shot of the DJ. They both have beards, but they're different styles.

I say that, but then you called something in the Jet Alone episode of Evangelion spot-on during the simulwatch when I got it completely wrong so...

And lastly... ("Thank god." 😅)

Dreams invading the real world and destroying cities - um, WUT!

And just because of that, I guess it my least favourite.
What?!? Paprika is???! 😱

I can't even...

😵😵😵😵😵😵😵😵😵😵
 
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WMD

Death Scythe
Lain 13

I think the thing that hits me most here is that the final musings on technology are actually quite positive. Which given the general paranoia, fear and horror that filled this show is quite surprising. The chat Lain has with herself ultimately paints the wired for its is (and incidentally what Lains father always said it was) a way to share knowledge and let people communicate which is a good thing. This is shown simply when the guy stops to compliment Taros gunphone.

On a grander scale Lain users her connection to technology to make the ultimate sacrifice. It may have been intended just for Alice but actually saves everyone. And I liked that both Alice and Lains father seemed to have retained at least a sense of her. I like to think that Lain actually was talking to her father perhaps through a pc screen but it was nice to see him just sit and talk with her in a fatherly way. It gives Lain the confidence to be able to sit back and just watch the world content in the fact that for Alice things are going well.

It was interesting that the Present Day, Present Time (with the image of Lain that briefly appear through the static) was moved from the start of the episode to the middle and gives a new context that this is the present form of Lain. Peeking out through the static at the world. Generally out if sight but keeping an eye on things.

Overall I've very much enjoyed giving this a rewatch. I had forgotten pretty much everything so was able to experience it with a fresh mind. Also the way the digital world has changed since this was made has given some new context and perspective on things. The rise of fake news and the way we consume media is so different now that this feels like it's made for today not 20years ago.
 

D1tchd1gger

Claymore
What?!? Paprika is???!
Yeah, Tokyo Godfathers is my favourite i.e. the least mindbendy and straight forward of his films. Tells you where I'm coming from. Tell me a story and if you want to put some philosophical stuff in, either interweave it better or hide it in the background for people who want to look for it. The Matrix, again, (at least the first film) and Ghost in the Shell (the original films) come to mind.

unexplained
Exactamundo! If there was an explanation spelt out, even a BS sci-fi mumbo-jumbo one then it would make it a bit better. Rather than a calling her a hologram in one line and then a homunculus the next! And only dropping hints in a different episode.

the real world is basically a reflection of the Wired
I got, from the episode that explained hypertext, that the world generates it own energy field and Eiri wanted to use that energy for the Wired and by putting his consciousness into protocol 7 he could become a God, but Lain was already that God (I may nicked that from one of the videos I watched).
 

Neil.T

Chuunibyou
More rebuttal. 😋

If there was an explanation spelt out
Like I say...
The feverish recap of episode 11 outright spells it out for us, though
I still honestly believe that it's actually addressed surprisingly directly. A lot more directly than I'd remembered, actually.

And the "unexplained" you quoted was actually talking about Loop, not Lain. ☝😉


As for the real world's relationship with the Wired, this conversation is found in episode 13:

Lain of the Wired: You said it yourself: the Wired isn't an upper layer of the real world. That's what that man [Eiri] was mistaken about. ... People's memories aren't just personal or one part of the history of humanity. ... Do you think that humans could create something that could store memory that's that vast?

Lain: (realising something) The Wired was just connected to something else. But where was it connected to?

Lain of the Wired: Do people really need to know that? Look at how far they've come without knowing.


The whole thing reminds me in tone of a discussion seen in Akira between Kaneda and Kei (with help from child psychic Kiyoko). It's about the inspiration that humankind taps into to create things and where it comes from. The episode 13 conversation above feels to me like it could very well have been inspired by that and is exploring another angle to the question.

The answer in both cases, though, is that it is something that goes back aeons. Added to that, one way of interpreting Eiri's misconception is that it's all actually the other way around and that the "real world" is an upper layer of the Wired. There's also those eerie shadows that make it look like the world is just superficially painted over the top of something else.

One thing is for certain: humankind did not create the Wired. They merely tapped into something which had already been there.

Rather than a calling her a hologram
I was thinking about this this morning, and one possible explanation for the use of the word "hologram" is...

You know that sci-fi idea of communication via a holographic projector? A person is actually located in one place, but the hologram shifts their apparent location elsewhere. It's the same with Lain: her normal location is within the Wired, but Eiri has "moved" her elsewhere. In that way, real-world Lain is like a hologram of the original.

That's my best shot at explaining writer Konaka's choice of word.
 
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Neil.T

Chuunibyou
It was interesting that the Present Day, Present Time (with the image of Lain that briefly appear through the static) was moved from the start of the episode to the middle and gives a new context that this is the present form of Lain.
It really was interesting, yeah. I liked that. 😀
It was a very clever restructuring of the episode. (Kind of reminiscent of how Lain has restructured reality itself, in a way. 😋)

To be fair that took me about 5 watches AND a read of the manga!
Yeah, no wonder. Akira's ending isn't something anyone's gonna wrap their head around first time. 😆

I remember when I first watched the film that I was on a thrill ride all the way through, and then the ending suddenly pulled on the brakes and I was like... 😵❓

In fact, the abrupt change in expression for me was probably a bit like in this post by @Patient-X. Just replace his captions with "Watching the film" and "Watching the ending". 😅
 

D1tchd1gger

Claymore
Lain is the perfect poster girl for all that anime could and should be, if you ask me. 😛

[looks at Blu-ray front cover]

Just put those scissors down, though, yeah?
Yeah, that picture is actually from a doujin published in a Lain artbook that relates to the game (see below). Apparently there's an English version out there of the book, but probably way OOP and expensive. Plot details:

The PlayStation 1 game never left Japan. Apparently even more confusing than the show:
.
 

Professor Irony

CYBER FUNKER
Moderator
Afraid I kind of fell off this one. Lain is one of those series where I'm glad it exists, but it just doesn't resonate with me the way it seems to with others (I know quite a few folk who're really into it), and that frustrates me. I know other people are getting incredible kicks from the show, but it grows so increasingly abstract as it goes on that I just find it hard to invest in what's going on and, when the ending rolled around the last time I made it that far, it didn't really mean anything to me. I did watch Roujin-Z though and I'm quite glad I did.

It’s the first I’ve seen Roujin-Z in a good number of years and I don‘t think I fully appreciated how good the film actually is; it has a real lightness of touch without trivialising its subject matter. Its satire is spelled out very broadly, but it certainly hasn't gotten any less relevant for our aging populations and I find it hits rather close to home these days, given the increasing amount of time I spend looking after my own parents.

I also really like the English dub for the film, I think it's some of Manga UK's best work that does not involve vampire bites in awkward places, with a great turn from Toni Barry as Haruko in particular. The script does take quite significant liberties with the dialogue, most notably adding in pun-laden acronyms for various parts of the welfare ministry's schemes (the elderly patients are referred to as 'ACHES', for example), but it feels appropriate for the material, even if it's not strictly accurate.
 

ayase

State Alchemist
So, a few months late but I did really regret missing out on this simulwatch, but perhaps it was for the best as I think it's a show I need to be "in the zone" for (rewatching Twin Peaks probably did that, I wonder what David Lynch would think of it? Surely he'd appreciate the dreamlike, "what is real?" atmosphere and all the shots of humming wires). I also think I'd have struggled to limit myself to watching Lain slowly - I marathoned the entire series yesterday evening, once I got started I didn't want to stop. Apologies in advance if I retread any ground that's already been covered, but I wanna get my impressions out of the way before going back through the thread and reading others' thoughts.

It's been many years since I fist watched Lain, but on second viewing I think it's probably more relevant than it ever was. It's one of those odd laws of the universe that Japan seems to be constantly about 10-15 years ahead of the Western World, and looking at Japan is a pretty good way to see the future. All the things they experienced or are experiencing have later come for us, or likely will be coming. The economic boom followed by a financial crisis, the challenges of an ageing population. Widespread adoption of the internet as a means of communication was one of those things.

In 1998, the internet was a rather different place, at least from what I remember. I can identify pretty strongly with Lain as I was around the same age at the time, a quiet kid with next to no social life or skills who found in the (then relatively young) online world a compelling substitute for my lack of a real life. It's no exagerration, I think, to say that elements of my personality were certainly forged on the web and I probably wouldn't be the same person I am today without those online experiences. Certainly it gave me confidence and allowed me to say things I might not have dared say out loud, so Lain's alter-egos make absolute sense to me in a way that perhaps is less relatable to people in the age of social media; the old internet really did allow people to disconnect from their real life identities and forge entirely new ones. I'm sure this has already been pointed out but the tag line "Close the world, open the nExt" is a deliberate referance to NeXT computers, Steve Jobs' project in his years in exile from Apple. So that can be taken, quite literally, as "Shut out the real world, turn on the computer".

Nowadays, as predicted in the show, people's lives on and offline have indeed merged. There is no differentiation for many people between their online and offline personas, pushed along by social media and their encouragment to share your real details and lives for the benefit of advertisers. Indeed, not using your real identity on certain online platforms can even get you kicked off them. What you do online can have real life consequences. The warning of Lain's father about the Wired that "You mustn't confuse it with the real world" has been paid no heed. So we now live in a world where people can be driven to suicide by cyberbullying or fired from their jobs for a social media post. For most people, it's no longer the retreat from real life that so appealed to Lain (and I have to admit, myself) it's an extension of their real lives. In her response to her father, it's clear she isn't interested in bringing real life and the Wired together, but rather breaking the barrier between the two so she can physically escape the real world for the Wired.

There's a lot of nice visual imagery in the show that I think is very telling. On multiple occassions, Lain fades people out of her vision until there's no-one there. Real life, for Lain, is a stark, empty, austere world (so much of it is flat white) where little attention is paid to her (not least by her distant parents, whose disappearance physically can perhaps be explained by the fact they're "not there" for her emotionally) and she pays others little regard in kind. The interesting things in Lain's world are happening in the shadows, they're happening in the Wired, a place with no physical presence. Yet we do see many of Lain's interactions in the Wired presented visually, which makes me question how much of "real world" we see is even the real world at all. Cyberia is certainly one such location I have strong suspicions isn't actually real with the drug, accela, being simply a metaphor for time having no meaning in the wired and users being overwhelmed by the amount of information they now have access to. And when the sadistic Lain sits on Alice's bed and mocks her, she surely isn't there, rather it's a visual representation of her being taunted and harassed in the Wired. I don't believe Lain's different personas are different physical entities, so any instance of them in the real world is either Lain taking on these personas in real life (which we do see happen in the course of a single scene on more than one occassion) or it is happening in the Wired. The first time Lain communicates with her shadow self, she first BECOMES shadow. In order to have a two-way conversation, she has to first realize that her other selves are within her.

Shadow Lain is someone big in the online world. She's cool, she's attractive and well liked and not some kid in a bear onesie with a shelf of stuffed toys. There, she can find the love and attention, even adoration she is missing in real life and who can really blame her? Certainly her father gets no sympathy for neglecting her and introducing her to the Wired, what did he really expect? But emboldened by her admirers and freed of consequences and limitations, the Lain of the Wired is also capable of cruel, terrible things. It's an easy enough hole to fall into. Only when these consequences start bleeding back into real life and focusing negative attention on her (the scene in the school particularly, where everyone is staring at her in judgement) does she realize the negative effects the Wired has also had on her. It's no coincidence I think that the series begins with a suicide and ends with Lain believing only her "deletion" of herself from people's memories will put things right. And the major difference between Lain's new world and the old one is that people are now communicating positively. A lot of the more fantastical elements of the show are window-dressing in my opinion; metaphors for both the amazing potential of the internet to connect and empower people and do good, but also to enable the viscious, power crazed and attention seeking to do harm. It's a parable for the dawning of the internet age and not one I'm sure has been heeded, but Lain Iwakura died for your sins. Let's all love Lain.

Addendum: Reading the thread, it would take forever to reply to so many individual points but what I think is interesting is that (like Twin Peaks again, funnily enough) some watchers like to unravel the mysteries in a more literal than an abstract or metaphorical sense. I don’t believe anyone is really wrong because it works either way you look at it, which is the mark of a thoughtfully and well written show, I think.
 
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