Society (Serial Experiments Lain: Layer 07)
The street opening, our characteristic beginning quote, this time from the vocal chords of an unseen girl: ‘I’ll tell you but it’s just between you and me. I’ll tell you what’s happening in this society, what’s beginning, just because you don’t know about it.’
Lain is shown back in her room, a new and improved coolant system is in place to replace her previous one that was blown up by a parasite bomb sent by The Knights. The machinery of the new system is too massive to fit within the confines of her space within the home itself, and as such, much of the ventilation tubing and wiring hangs outside of the room from the previously blasted out window pane (ala tech noir like Blade Runner). Lain is networking on the Wired through her terminal, as opposed to travelling within with her avatar. Her older sister Mika stands within her doorway, murmuring under her breath and looking absent-minded. Once Lain notices her and catches Mika’s attention, Mika leaves. Lain notes she that she has been acting weird lately and we know why, this Mika is a stand-in for the real Mika who was destroyed or banished from the real world two episodes prior.
In the city streets, a man wears a complex apparatus of wiring, processors, metal detectors, and a virtual reality headset that connects him with the Wired. He states that he knows the real world and the Wired are connected ‘end to end’. He also states that he can exist anywhere, even without his body, he believes, that he has the ability to send his consciousness elsewhere (a theory we know is false in reality, but works within the metaphysics of Serial Experiments Lain, which is much more mystical than the world in which you, reader, are reading this message). The man is a creep. He’s unshaven, has crooked teeth, and looks like he rarely bathes. the people who see him on the street as he passes, stop and stare in disbelief.
An upscale office building. A woman inside, a secretary enters an office. Her legs are alluring, shot in such a way as to make the audience voyeurs within the sequence. She flips her hair and sits down at a chair adjacent to her boss’s desk. ‘It’s time for the EMA Motor Consortium Banquet.’ The man, like us, is entranced, fixated on the woman’s legs. There is a Knights symbol on his laptop, very similar to the Masonic emblem. He asks the woman for three minutes time before joining her outside of the office for the upcoming meeting.
Lain is shown in class with her cell-Navi, networking in the Wired instead of paying attention to schoolwork or teacher instruction. Her friend Alice seems worried for Lain as the once interior young girl had shown some promise of becoming more socially adept and outgoing in the previous weeks, and is now spiraling back into interiority. Her obsession with the Wired seems to be blurring her distinction between the real world and the Wired, or worse, giving her a taste for the former over and above the latter.
A man is shown in his bedroom, typing vigorously upon his computer (much as I am at this moment). He has long hair and needs to shave (as do I) and is overweight (I’m getting there if I don’t do some exercises soon). The symbol of the Knights is on his computer screen (It’s currently my laptop background, what’s wrong with me?!?!), though he is obviously not one amongst their number as he states: ‘I’m better than you bozos!’ He seems to be competing with The Knights in some way.
Next, Lain is shown outside, on the roof of her school, looking down at the line of houses below, across the street. She is talking to herself: ‘The real world isn’t real at all.’ Her friend Alice appears and asks if Lain is okay, says she’s been slipping in her gregariousness, that she and her friends have been trying to take her out to make Lain happy. Alice also explains that if she is burdening Lain with their outings, that’s okay too and she’ll be fine if Lain wants to skip out in the future. Lain is overwhelmed by Alice’s concern and distraught that she has been hurting quite possibly her only close friend in the real world. The moment takes Lain out of her interiority and back into the real world she just dismissed. she apologizes to Alice and thanks her for her concern, thereby re-establishing their friendship and connection for the time-being.
The next scene is odd and hard to place spatially insofar as the only visual happenings for the viewer are animated traditional Japanese wall scrolls of birds flying about painted treetops and skies. A computerized voice speaks about a compromising of the ‘Information Bureau’s Information Control Center’ that has been cracked and destroyed by some online group. The information has been leaked to the Wired. The voice then alerts its recipient(s) that this news report will not reach the mainstream media outlets until tomorrow, or more obscurely, ‘or possibly yesterday.’
On the Wired, speculation is rife that this event, this terrorist seizing of classified documents relating to the potential safety of the Japanese public, may be the work of The Knights. The full name of the organization is revealed as The Knights of the Eastern Calculus. The group is said to have great influence within the Wired though their members are unknown. A computer voice speaks: ‘They are not only involved in mere information manipulation, they are also involved in the development and distribution of illegal information devices.’ Another voice claims that someone is after Lain, while another person mentions her absence from the Wired for some time.
Another voice describes Lain as powerful for her “Metamorphosis. Her will…. The light in her eyes. Her existence.’ We know by now that Lain has an alternate personage on the Wired. This may be her metamorphosis. Her will is evidenced by her ability to will the world into change such as when her alternate persona threw itself through time and space to the heavens above in the prior episode, or onto the Wired when she is simultaneously interacting in the real world, or when her will destroyed her window pane and the eyepiece of the man in the black suit. The light in her eyes and her existence are more vague and harder to pinpoint meaning behind at this moment within the series. Someone asks if the speaker of these lines is a member of The Knights, and the screen fades to black, revealing that the man gave no answer. Though his lack of a reply is telling in an of itself.
A delivery boy stops by the home of a young, attractive housewife. This delivery boy is the same one who delivered Lain’s Navi to her home in Episode 2, the same kid who was obsessed with Navis and explained that he would get the newest, top of the line model if he had the money. As the woman retreats further into her home to receive her stamp to sign off on the delivery, the young man admires her retreating end. when she returns, he offers to help her set up and use the new Navi she has displayed on her kitchen table. The sexual tension is obvious and the woman calls him out on it, rebuking him for making the advance. The woman’s kid comes home and begins to set up his video game system as she unwraps her package, which contains an unknown item with a Knights logo emblazoned upon it. She speaks to herself, looking more sinister than mere moments prior: ‘The Wired and the real world are one and the same.’
At this point, the businessman had a Knights logo and may be connected to the organization. A fat otaku at his home may be a Knights competitor or wanna be. This young housewife seems to have some connection with the group. The creep with the virtual reality headset could be a Knight, though an extremely eccentric one. And Lain, we know, has an antagonistic relationship with The Knights currently, as her coolant system was destroyed by them, which would have killed her had she still been inside her room at the time it exploded.
As Lain walks home, the sky is an abrasive mix of dark reds and browns, sinister, hopeless, melancholy, dark, foreboding and very akin to the constant look of the skies in Chiaki J. Konaka’s later anime masterpiece Texhnolyze. The two men with eyepieces in black suits are standing beside their black sedan. They ask Lain to get in, making sure she knows that they only make a request, which could in principle be turned down, and that no harm will come to her if she comes with them. Lain asks who they are, they respond that she will find out if she comes with them. Lain looks indecisive as the screen fades to black. And a mystery looks close to being solved for us if she decides to be gungho and get in.
Back to the man in the virtual reality headset and odd apparel. He is speaking to someone through his headset on the Wired. Says he is breaking barriers between the real world and the Wired (though in a very modest manner that of physical cyborgification that has little to do with actually breaking metaphysical barriers between flesh and data). He wants to become one of The Knights and he receives and acceptance message on his headset. The headset allows him to see the Wired as overlayed atop the real world (much in the manner of those famed glasses by our real world lords and saviors whose names I will not mention here, but should be apparent), but suddenly his vision of the real world is obscured an blacked out. He only sees the image of Lain in his headset, but does not recognize her.
Lain is next pictured within the black sedan, she took the plunge and went on a ride with the men who have been stalking her home and her for the past few weeks. The car stops at an apartment complex and once inside, the group stops in front of a door labeled ‘Tachibana General Laboratories Shinbashi Office.’ They go inside and the businessman is there working on an old Navi system. He asks Lain to fix the machine, which she dutifully does, displaying her advanced knowledge of computer technology that she has picked up in a few short weeks or months. The Navi boots up and switches to the Wired where a voice is claiming that Lain is one of the Knights, while the virtual reality man asks the image of Lain to make him one of The Knights. these vignettes are seemingly unheard and unseen by the real Lain.
The businessman presses Lain for information. He states that online there are not usually real political orders, just otaku-anarchists and idiots that are out to cause trouble and chaos for their own sake. But The Knights are neither of these types. The businessman believes that they are planning to use Lain for something.
Back to the virtual reality man. He claims that he doesn’t believe there is a god in the Wired, though he could be convinced to believe this is he were given the opportunity to truly become a Knight and hear the information they know about the god of the Wired. Three ominous figures appear before him, one of which is the housewife from before. A perfect avatar of her real world form, meaning she has very high computing power, probably uses a Psyche processor, and may in fact be one of The Knights.
Back to Lain one last time. The businessman asks if she is one and the same with the Lain of the Wired. He asks if her parents are really her parents and if her sister is really her sister. It is revealed at this time that Lain does not know her father’s birthday, or her mother’s, or their anniversary, or how they met, or when her own birthday is, or where she was born. Lain breaks down crying, confused by this revelation that she may not be who she thin ks she is, may in fact be the fake one in relation to the Lain of the Wired. Then, she shifts. Her personality does a complete reversal into the shadow Lain, the abrasive Lain of the Wired.
The businessman tells Lain that the borders between the real world and the Wired are evaporating, and that though this may seem exciting and even liberating, it is an extremely dangerous proposition. The abrasive Lain doesn’t seem to care about this and attempts to leave the room. The second bodyguard holds her back, but is told to let her go in an unvoiced command by his boss, the businessman, who merely looks at him and utters his name: Karl. Lain leaves.
At the housewife’s home, a processor is shown in the trash. The processor bears the insignia of The Knights. The virtual reality man is shown lying in a ditch, either knocked out or dead through his encounter with The Knights, even though the encounter was seemingly only on the Wired. The power of that group is beginning to reveal itself. And through the housewife’s spent processor, she gained enough power to destroy the mind of man in the real world through force of processing power alone, through Knights technology, and probably affiliation. Brutal.
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