So I finally got myself to watch Serial Experiments Lain. I always notice a weird phenomenon in which those works that left a bad impression on me tend to become subjects of praise afterwards, XD Yeah weird, I can’t explain it either. Lain’s graphics were a big turn off for me for a long time. Actually I had no idea the anime was so old but once you get past the initial impression you find a work of exceptional depth. One of the things I seek the most in all works I watch or read is originality, I love those characters that resort to clever tricks or unorthodox methods to achieve their goals rather than brute force or magical might, the same way I praise those works that don’t resort to violence as a central tenet for entertainment. And so I loved how Serial Experiments Lain manages to capture audience’s attention without having to resort to violence in almost all episodes. WARNING MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD
But what’s Serial Experiments Lain about beyond a one way trip through mindfuckland? Well it’s actually pretty open for analysis which is one of the main tenets of the series. Actually one of the authors claimed that the point of the work was for it to be interpreted differently in American and Japan, something that didn’t come true as no one could actually understand much of it, XD The series follows the life of Lain Iwakura, an apparently normal girl as her life turns around and she starts questioning the meaning of identity, of connecting with people and truth itself. It’s very similar to Evangelion if it had no robots and the entire plot was centered on the Magi computers. As an AI researcher in the making this is awesome because one of the underappreciated aspects of Evangelion was the complexity and challenges of creating a system capable of deduction and inference such as the Magi, and I felt sad that it wasn’t given much focus.
One of the interpretations of the series and the first that can be made taking the information given at face value is that Lain is a fabricated computer program that represents the collective of The Wired, that world’s version of the Internet. The Wired as it is, is also an upper (in computer science it would be a lower layer, though but it isn’t really that important just like in electricity we usually draw diagrams indicating energy flows from positive to negative while in reality according to physics electrons flow from negative to positive, its just my OCD bugging me)
So in computer science we have something like in ascending order: *BIOS *Hard drive *RAM *OS *Applications *Virtual machines which increase the abstraction by enabling things like having one or more OS running inside other OS’s.
And those of the lowest order are classified as “more real” than those of upper layers, so Lain belonging and drawing her power from a lower layer that’s more real than reality itself grant her some sort of technological omnipotence (add to that the fact that in a society where everything’s connected she gets a de facto omniscience too) and so she is considered an artificial/technological god. Supposedly before the start of the series that layer of reality and Lain herself remain separated from the “reality layer” but can access it through informatic nexus, places where reality is connected and information flows free. The series big bad Eiri Kitamura takes advantage of that by connecting the internet on a frequency that enables him to tap into Lain’s realm and by a complex plot that involves loading his memories inside the IPv7 protocols (which are yet to be implemented, currently we use IPv6 which we’re still to run out of) and the death of his physical body, he becomes something similar to Lain, an artificial god that’s immortal and omniscient but not exactly omnipotent outside of The Wired. He even contacts a group to worship him called The Knights which are people dedicated to informatics that work for him and do his bidding. His goal seems to be mankind’s ascension towards godhood by having The Wired and reality merging completely. The consciousness of The Wired is disabled and given a human body and a fake family and kept in that state until the time for ascension arrives. Nonetheless the existence of Lain as an aspect of The Wired and her human body (that acts like a Terminal between Lain and the real world) start causing disruptions in reality as memetic agents and Lain’s own psyche starts deteriorating in the merge. This causes human Lain to investigate the source of the disturbance and question her own identity as she learns how her entire life has been a fake. Several groups try to keep her asleep while others try to awaken her and as Lain herself experiments with her powers in an attempt to make things right but in the end after defeating the big bad and seeing how her existence only causes chaos to reality, Lain decides to finally reset her human existence and disconnect herself from reality, effectively cancelling Eiri’s plan and resetting things so that she never existed and was never remembered. She still manages to exist across all of timespace and watch over everyone but unable to affect reality in any major form.