Secret Santa: Serial Experiments Lain – The Wired
Well first, I have to thank the person who recommended this show to me. I’m totally interested in anime that touches the topic of cyberspace since it feels very meta. Aside from this, the psychological aspect of the show was greatly executed that it resonates well to some of my own self-aimed questions. Well then, here’s a “review” of the series.
No matter where you are… everyone is always connected.
It was rather obvious during the start of the series that it touches the topic of cyberspace and the thin line that separates the real world and the cyberspace. The verity of the latter is often disregarded due to the absence of any corporeal manifestation and I think that the show was successful in making the viewers more confused (intentionally I believe) through several revelations and irregular situations that show Lain’s other wired existences.
I liked the heavy and timely dead air present in the series. It makes me feel more conscious and wary of every scene. Most of the time, these scenes are the more compelling ones to watch because they are harder to comprehend simply through Lain’s doubtful facial expressions.
The ominous feeling starts off when Lain started acting creepy right after she finally showed interest to NAVIs or basically the computers. This part is crucial in such that it began showing Lain’s slow transformation in her personality. Despite this development, I’m actually puzzled on what the trigger was for her sudden interest. Was Chisa’s death really that significant? I bet not because it was stated that they only went home together once. Was her message that persuasive for Lain to check out NAVIs? Curiosity, and nothing more? I beg to disagree. This is why, despite the nice build up during the middle, I still find the series weak in terms of exposition. It was mind-boggling, yes, but it failed to register as a nice set off for everything that happened so far.
I already had a feeling that Lain possessed different personalities since I thought it’s just normal for anyone to use a different persona (it’s always different to some degree) when communicating in cyberspace, and she was just hiding it from everyone else. Also, I thought that the series has this nice mysterious atmosphere due to the series’s style of relying on rumors and on thoughts of other people (but not that of Lain) when the series tried to introduce the existence of her wired version.
It was very apparent that the chip Psyche’s function could be attributed to an individual’s very own consciousness. It was an outright reference to the psychology term psyche which refers to the human mind. NAVI provides only the essential and default functions but the Psyche chip allows her complete control over the Wired. The source of this chip was ambiguous. But I believe, probably just like the others, that it came from the Knights.
One of the interesting things that the series presents is Lain’s dilemma towards her real identity. Is it the one existing in the physical world or the one in the wired? I thought that it was very surreal that Lain wasn’t capable of controlling her other ‘selves’ in the wired world because humans should be ordinarily capable of doing so. Despite the ramifications on cyberspace, humans could still grasp and remember their actions. Contrary to that, Lain was acting forgetful of almost all the things that her wired existence has done. I thought that it was just a way of trying to portray the wired world’s frightening power to rule over that of the physical world (just one way of interpreting it). Of course, another interpretation would be to emphasize Lain’s peculiarities to that of an ordinary human. Psychologically speaking though, I enjoyed the moments she pondered on who’s the real her. Is there only one real Lain? I honestly believe that every Lain is part of her collective conscience, the same analogy with a person’s varied facades to dynamic settings and situations.
I would have loved if the series explored more on to the game Phantoma that’s capable of killing people in the wired world because it readily obscures the border between the two worlds via death. This would further push the topic on the duality of the worlds via Protocol 7. Also, is it just me who didn’t understand the deeper connection between the KIDS Project and the Knights? Its involvement to Knights was very vague such that I didn’t even understand its connection to Knight’s objective regarding the unification of the human consciousness. I thought that this one was a shallow plot tool because Lain was shown to care for the kids used in the experiment. I thought that it was out-of-character for her to react that way because she didn’t even budge when a man shot himself in front of her.
The series is rather overwhelming on the complex plot it laid. I don’t even fully understand all the scenes, especially the ones that are borderline hallucinations and events in the wired but all I can say is that it has a very engaging subject which is worthwhile to explore and discuss further. If I had to comment though on the totality of the concepts used, I loved science-fiction especially the ones mentioned during the episode, Infornography. Although, I never really liked the plot tool explaining that Lain wasn’t human but some sort of a program/ artificial human since this pretty much beats the purpose of self-insertion of the watcher, seeing that Lain is probably the most appropriate character to relate with to feel the utmost message of the story.
The ending was abrupt, especially the cut off scene right after Alice’s breakdown simply showing the menu window. It was a let down and too much simplification to the execution of Lain’s decision. Still, I didn’t like her choice of action because it was such a cowardly decision. I was hoping for an ending where she could achieve a balance between her two dominant personalities existing in the Wired and the physical world but it didn’t happen. Then again, her existence’s nature as an artificial human must have been a factor for her decision.
The scene with Alice at the end was beautiful though.
PS. If you are planning to watch this series, I suggest watching it at least twice to clearly understand the gist of the story.
PSS. It’s not that I didn’t like the ending, I just felt that it lacked impact due to what Lain has become at the end. Someone who’s existence was erased from everyone’s.
image credits: pixiv user E9L, and Yoshitoshi Abe