Serial Experiments Lain
Episode Layer 01 Weird
"And you don't seem to UNDERSTAAAAAAND!!!!!!" *cough cough* sorry. So this is my third viewing of Serial Experiments Lain and since I'm gonna be completely unemployed for the next two weeks I figured 'Hey what better way to spend my time then writing an episodic analysis on one of the most mind-fucky shows out there!' (yay) I almost made this blog entry about how terrible Fate Apocrypha is but given that I was complaining in my last entry, I've decided to change the mood a little. (Fate Apocrypha can wait)
oh and uh here's a quick Synopsis if you don't know the show for some reason.
Lain Iwakura, an awkward and introverted fourteen-year-old, is one of the many girls from her school to receive a disturbing email from her classmate Chisa Yomoda—the very same Chisa who recently committed suicide. Lain has neither the desire nor the experience to handle even basic technology; yet, when the technophobe opens the email, it leads her straight into the Wired, a virtual world of communication networks similar to what we know as the internet. Lain's life is turned upside down as she begins to encounter cryptic mysteries one after another. Strange men called the Men in Black begin to appear wherever she goes, asking her questions and somehow knowing more about her than even she herself knows. With the boundaries between reality and cyberspace rapidly blurring, Lain is plunged into more surreal and bizarre events where identity, consciousness, and perception are concepts that take on new meanings.
Honestly to understand this blog post I seriously recommend just watching this episode first. (edit: I have added a plot summary)
But James why are you doing this?
'Well I'm glad you asked hypothetical nobody.' You see Serial Experiments Lain is not quite as loved as most of it's fan-base would have you believe. No actually a lot of "
anime critics" Random ppl on the internet* Believe that this show is fucking garbage and I cant really blame them. I've given it a 9/10 on MAL but I'm not sure I could prove that Lain isn't an incoherent piece of shit if someone confronted me with that argument. So here I am. Does Lain actually make any sense at all? Well we're about to find out.
So far I've re-watched the first episode and taken a shitload of notes categorizing them into three types of information. Stated Info, Implying info and interpretive Info. All my notes will be presented in italics below. Don't worry you don't actually have to read it. I'll be making my points below it so I can reference it every now and then. (so in order for this to make sense you are going to need to look at my notes whenever i reference them.) But shit you can probably just skip to my analysis summary at the end and still get it.
Anyhow... Let The Analysis Begin!
Notes (with time-stamps)
[1A] (02:10) Spoken: “Why? Why won’t you come? I wish you could come here…” (by who?)
Text frames(TF): [2A] (03:03) “Why you should do that is something you should figure out for yourself.” TF
[2B] (03:53) “I don’t need to stay in a place like this.” TF (These are possibly Chisa’s words based on the fact that we see her lips moving without sound before the second text frame appears. It also makes sense as something she would say before she kills herself.)
 (05:00) “If you stay in a place like this you might not be able to connect.” TF
[4C] (06:52) “Everybody, hurry…” TF
[3.5] (05:46) Lain tells people on the train to shut up (uncharacteristic of her).
More text frames:  (09:28) “What’s it like when you die?” “It really hurts.”
Yomoda Chisa’s email to Lain:
Chisa: “Hello, how are you? Lain I walked home with you just once. Do you remember?”
Chisa: “I have only given up my body. By doing this I can explain to you that I am still alive. I wanted to let you know this, Lain, so I sent this email to you. Do you understand? It’s okay if you can’t right now. You will all understand soon. Everyone will.”
Lain: "Why did you die?"
Chisa: “Rumour at school has it that this is a prank email. But I want you to know that it isn’t, Lain.”
Lain: "Why? Why did you die?"
Chisa: “God is here.”
Lain: (only spoken)"Huh?"
[7A] (15:54) Lain’s Fathers Words: “You know Lain, in this world. Whether it’s here in the real world or in the Wired, people connect to each other, and that’s how societies function.” *looking at headless people on computer* Lain’s father goes on to reassure her that she can make friends easily and that there is nothing to be afraid of. We see Lain silently mouth something with one syllable. She then says. “I’m not scared” She also says that there is a friend she wants to see.
[8A] (17:11) Lain is on a train when suddenly it stops and the train driver announces that there has been an accident.
[8B] (17:38) Lain looks out the train window to see blood dripping from the power-lines.
 (20:31) Again Lain’s vision goes blurry as she stares at the blackboard. However, this time the board’s words change into a message to Lain saying “Come to the wired as soon as you can.” The message although she views it on the blackboard appears to have come from her Navi.
[1B] (02:55) Chisa is surrounded by black and red shadows before she goes to kill herself.
[4A] (06:30) Lain staring at her shadow (shadow is not black and red. Instead it is green and blue.)
[4B] (06:40) Lain looks at other students in the courtyard when her vision begins to blur and the students disappear as her vision fades to white.
[5A] (08:45) Once again while Lain is in class her vision goes blurry and the words on the board become illegible.
[5B] (09:18) This is the scene where steam seems to emerge from Lain’s fingers and trails throughout the class.
[7B] (16:55) Lain’s father makes weird laughing noise.
[8C] (18:03) Cut to a dream sequence where Lain is standing in the middle of the road, she then appears in a subway; then an empty school grounds; then what seems to be an empty classroom. Finally after a flash-cut of a red train-crossing light she appears on an empty road. Fog swoops in from outside the frame surrounding her as she finds herself on a train track. She then sees a girl walk in front of an incoming train and gets hit. Lain wakes up in her classroom afterward.
 (21:08) In the final scene Chisa appears before Lain in the street and Lain asks “Chisa? Where are you?” Chisa just stares at her weirdly and disappears in a green spiral.
Okay fine I suppose I'll do a normal episode summary before I do my analysis and analysis summary. I can't expect people to watch the episode before reading this. Alright so the show begins with Chisa killing herself. After that we meet Lain and pretty much immediately we know something's not right. On her train ride to school Lain hears voices that aren't there and once she arrives she begins to have vision problems. Lain learns from her classmates that apparently Chisa has been emailing people from the dead. Once Lain arrives home she finds that she herself has received one of these emails and what she learns is that apparently Chisa has found God in the Wired. Intrigued, Lain asks her father for a new Navi(computer) so that she can better interact with the Wired. The next day Lain is on a train to school when the train grinds to a hold after an accident. Lain quiclky falls into a dream sequence where she witnesses a person getting hit by the train. Once Lain wakes up in her classroom at school she experiences more visual problems which twist the words on the blackboard into a message. The message instructs Lain to come to the Wired asap. Finally in the last scene we see Chisa confront Lain. To Be Continued.
OKAY! I am fucking ready for this. So the first thing you hear in Serial Experiments Lain (aside from that godly op ) is a strange bit of dialog(see [1A]) and we have no idea who says it. Luckily though I have a theory. I actually think this voice is one of Lain's other personalities trying to convince Yomoda Chisa to kill herself. She want's Chisa to leave her body and come to the Wired. Now I'm no connoisseur of Japanese voice acting but I'm pretty sure that it was Lain's voice. Also Chisa's suicide scene is shown soon afterwards so I'm almost positive that these words are directed at her. This is supported by the next cut where we see Chisa out of breath and seemingly upset.([1B]) This is a little bit strange because when we see her leap from the building she appears to be at peace.
Real quick this is what I mean when I say text frame:
Given my last assumption we could interpret the next cut to a silent text frame([2A]) as Lain's words to Chisa telling her to figure out why she should come to the Wired, why she should kill herself. And the text frame right before Chisa jumps is obviously her Dialog “I don’t need to stay in a place like this.” ([2B]). In all honesty this theory is a little bit of a stretch, because if they wanted to represent Lain's Dialog again in [2A] surely they would just have her speak them like she did 53 seconds ago in [1A]. However, as it is, I cant imagine these words([2A])
being from anyone else. (these could totally be Eiri Masami's words) On a side note I am going to refer to this version of Lain as 'Lain 0' from now on so as to not get her confused with normal Lain. (If you have no idea what I'm talking about with this multiple personality shit then don't worry, all shall be explained in time.)
The next thing I noted was a text frame that appears just before Lain leaves for school. “If you stay in a place like this you might not be able to connect.” () This can be interpreted as a message to Lain from Chisa. A likely assumption because if I'm not mistaken I'm sure Chisa tries to convince Lain to come to the Wired later in the series. Given these motives it is not hard to imagine these as Chisa's words. Even if this is not the case it is almost certain that these words are for Lain regardless of who they come from.
Lain is riding a train and she is sick of the people on the train talking so she tells them to shut up.([3.5]) However what's interesting about this is the way people look at her when she says this. They look as if they have been silent the whole time. This likely means the voices she is hearing are coming from the Wired.
Now I am still unsure what exactly is the significance of this scene, the different colored shadow([4A]) particularly eludes any explanation of mine.(I just thought I'd note it anyway) What I am sure of however is that it is somehow connected to Lain's partial loss of vision.([4B]) And the following text frame “Everybody, hurry…” ([4C]). Honestly I might have to just let this one sit until I start researching more episodes. This is actually pretty important because one of the biggest complaints I saw in negative reviews is that many scenes are pointless and don't go anywhere. I guess we'll just have to wait and see. But fuck I'll be surprised if I get through this whole show and everything connects to everything else with no plot holes.(But this tangent can wait)
Okay so this is the second time Lain begins to lose her vision([5A]) which means there is clearly some sort of meaning behind this. Then again I had vision problems all the time in school and there wasn't any meaning to that. What happens next however, happened to me slightly less often.([5B]) And I'm afraid I'm going to have to disappoint you again because I have no explanation for this. But to be fair like who the hell does? Even the most knowledgeable Lain fans will tell you 'Yeah we have no fucking idea what this is.' It's certainly cool don't get me wrong but I'm not sure we will get far narrative wise if we waste time randomly guessing at what this might be. Moving on.
Luckily these text frames() are pretty straight forward since we know there's only one character who's died so far. Although we don't know who's asking the question. My first guess would be the next girl who kills herself. Perhaps she is asking what it is like to die before she goes and kills herself. Even though this makes sense there really is no evidence for this so far. Again I will have to come back to this part later.
Okay so now I'm going to talk about Chisa's email to Lain which is the blue writing in my notes. At first it was difficult to tell whether this was a conversation or just one email because Lain spoke all her replies. It is only when Chisa answers Lain(not even directly mind you) that it becomes evident that this is a conversation.(It's not hard to assume that Lain's Navi converts her words into messages because her Navi was shown to be voice operated to some extent earlier.) Most of what Chisa says is pretty self explanatory, not much to analyse there except for her reply to Lain's question. "God is here." Now I have a pretty good idea of who she is talking about. After all there really are only two people she could be talking about, Eiri Masami or Lain 0. Here is my current hypothesis: Chisa is referring to Lain 0 when she says God. First evidence for this is that it makes sense as a reply to Lain's question "Why? Why did you die?" If Lain 0 is the one who convinced Chisa to kill herself, saying that Lain 0 is here(God) makes perfect sense. There are other reasons as to why I think that Lain 0 is the God Chisa is speaking of but I'll cover this later when I analyse the relevant episodes.
So this is where Lain speaks to her father about getting a better Navi.([7A]) What can we learn from this interaction? Well most obviously Lain's dad is a big Navi(computer) enthusiast. However, I'm not sure how much significance any of his dialog actually holds. If nothing else I'd say it's a kind of foreshadowing for the themes the show will be exploring. Actually given Lain's father's true identity his words may have more weight than I'm giving them credit for. However, I think it's still a bit too early to discus this. As for Lain we can see that this scene shows a bit of a turning point for her, because up till now she has had no interest in technology. So finally her father asks her why she has taken a sudden interest in Navi's and Lain simply replies "There's a friend I want to see."(Obviously Chisa) But before she says that, we see her mouth move silently forming only one syllable. This could be anything from Lain wanting to say something else or a mystery word that the audience isn't supposed to know yet. Regardless there's really not much we can do to figure this out right now. So what happens next I honestly have no words for.([7B]) This crazy ass laugh is weird as fuck and out of nowhere. But it's actually not the strangest thing in this scene. If you look at Lain's father's computer while he is talking to her, you'll find that he is clicking through moving images of headless people. yeah... weird right. The scene doesn't seem to put much emphasis on this but it's just far too bizarre to just mean nothing. So I looked closely at what he was entering on his Navi and this is what I found. He types into a bar under 'application
cya_iiization(illegible word) system' and he types "Think Blue Count One To".(probably a password) I'm not really sure if this means anything but I'll record it just in case. There is also some writing in Japanese next to the headless people so I will see if I can get my friend to translate it. I'm not really confident that it means anything significant but better safe than sorry.
Honestly ([8A]) and ([8B]) don't really need much analysis. The bleeding power-lines are cool visuals for sure but other than representing someones death I don't think its alluding to anything else. Speaking of this person I'm not sure we ever find out who it is that gets hit by the train. We find out in Lain's dream sequence([8C]) that it is a high school girl but other than that i don't remember the show ever bringing this up again. But I suppose we will have to wait and see.
So Lain wakes up in class after her dream to find herself having problems with her vision.() With this I think we can understand the meaning behind its previous occurrences as well. Lain's loss of vision is likely a result of someone trying to bring her into the Wired. Although at this point in the story there's only one person we know to be contacting Lain from the Wired, in the grand scheme of things this could actually be quite a few different people. For now though I think it's still a question between Yomoda Chisa and Eiri Masami. That is one thing that has been bothering me actually. Both my main theories about Lain 0 contacting Chisa and Chisa contacting Lain could just be replaced by Masami and still make sense.
FINALLY WE MADE IT. In this last scene we see Chisa finally confront lain() in person(sort of). This encounter is nothing if not weird and all we get from it is Lain asking questions and Chisa just staring at her weirdly. It doesn't help much.
So the only unique idea I really got out of this episode was my Lain 0 theory wherein Lain's Wired personality was the one who convinced Chisa to kill herself and is the one Chisa refers to as god. Other than that I think my interpretations were pretty standard. Lain's recurring loss of vision is likely Chisa's doing. To be honest there are far more lose ends then I would have liked there to be but It's really not surprising.
- Lain's colorful shadow
- That "everybody hurry" text frame.([4C])
- Steam erupting from Lain's fingers.([5B])
- Who is asking Chisa what death is like?()
- Why Is Lain's dad interested in headless people and why does he laugh like a maniac.([7A]) and ([7B])
- Who gets hit by the train?([8C])
Alright I'm done. This is about all I can get from this first episode. Hopefully we can see this loose end list diminish as time goes on and I analyse more episodes. Or it will just go up in which case the haters are right. I think either way Serial Experiments Lain is predominantly an aesthetic show. It's not about what you know is true, it's about what you think you know is true. Regardless I've always wanted to know if SEL's Narrative actually holds up and you know what they always say, if you want something done right do it yourself.
Thanks for reading if you got this far and if you have anything to say you know what to do.