Infornography (Serial Experiments Lain: Layer 11)
Episode 11 is half-recap and half-narrative. Unlike the vast majority of anime recap episodes however, in Serial Experiments Lain, the recap assumes you have seen all of the past episodes already (as you really can’t recap the series’ first ten episodes in one episode anyway) and just throws images of the most important moments from the earlier episodes at the viewer. It achieves this in a novel way through the episode’s first half by showing Lain in her room as she wires more facial sensors and cranial sensors to the outside of her body creating a dense network of lines connecting her to her advanced Navi and to the Wired.
A white screen: ‘No, it’s nothing as ambiguous as “memory”.’ Lain’s home is shown as unkempt, clothes strewn upon the ground, the faucet dripping water onto dirty dishes from who knows how long ago. A soundtrack begins to play that will carry on through much of this opening section as Lain enters a hallucinogenic state, remembers her past memories, and slowly uploads Navi’s capabilities to her own brain, eventually making Navi and any port for the Wired unnecessary as Lain begins able to automatically connect to the cloud of the Wired with just her augmented brain.
In the sequence, flashbacks occur reminding us of the centrality of the Cyberia murder-suicide by the young Accela-freak and of Chisa killing herself to enter the Wired. Flashbacks to Mika disappearing, her father and mother figures ignoring her, Tachibana’s president, Professor Hodgeson, Taro and his friends. There are bits of information throughout like the fact that Tachibana Research Labs mapped the human genome. Lain sees the young girl killing herself once again, by walking in front of a train, and remembers Taro kissing her. She remembers her confrontations with the Lain of the Wired and with Eiri, and finally a message appears: ‘A loving heart is searching for you.’ And another, ‘alice, LOVE needs you…’
The sequence ends and Lain is shown in her room, awakening from her experience and coming to once again in the real world. As she lays down to sleep, Eiri appears and asks if she is tired from her herculean effort. He explains how incredible this undertaking truly was as she’s ‘loaded an emulator of that Navi into’ her own brain. He explains how dangerous the process was, that downloading that much content at once puts a strain on even the most resilient of bodies and that at her current capacity she should stop there or else overflow and destruction of her brain is a possibility.
Eiri may be right here, but his advice should be suspect to Lain who realizes by now that Eiri is definitely not a trustworthy figure, and worse, is certainly a figure with plans to manipulate her to his own ends. Lain responds to Eiri’s concerns: ‘Am I a machine? Don’t talk about me like I’m a machine.’ Eiri apologizes and explains that her’s is not a hardware problem, a machine problem. Rather, she is just a piece of software, albeit a rather complicated one, ‘an executable program with a body.’ The information isn’t exactly news to the attentive viewer, but may be so to Lain who seems confused. At any rate, the information isn’t any better than being a machine, as software is more malleable, but even less substantial than a machine. Amorphous and filled with latent potential at the cost of being on a lower order of reality ontologically speaking. Eiri disappears and Lain falls asleep.
Later that night, Lain awakens and begins to walk about the streets below her home. Still angry at Eiri’s proclamations, and thrashing about verbally, she screams to the sky: ‘Shut up!’ A form recognizes her call and gets up from the sidewalk nearby. A static man with an amorphous form, some kind of shade also betwixt and between the Wired and the real world. He moves to cross the street and as he passes Lain, the digital ghost of Chisa is revealed behind him. Lain is overjoyed to see her friend: the one who alerted her to the possibility of breaking the border between the real world of the Wired in the first place, the one who told her that having a body was unnecessary. However, Chisa is no longer so happy-go-lucky and appears sorrowful, mournful, a mere ghost of her once vibrant digital self (as in the days following her suicide in the real world).
A boy appears. The one at Cyberia who was hooked on Accela and shot up the club before he killed himself. ‘It’s easy to die, Lain. Right?’ Chisa combats the boy’s shade: ‘There’s nothing easy about dying.’ The boy talks over Chisa and explains that she’s wrong, that dying really is easy, and tells Lain that she already has the tool to get the job done. And in Lain’s hand is, indeed, a pistol. the boy tells her how to operate it and directs her to do so, but Lain is indecisive. He tells her that bodies are meaningless and needless, that she should escape her current body. But for this version of Lain, the version I have consistently referred to as the real Lain, and the one the series purports to be our protagonist throughout, the boy’s truth may not be her own.
This Lain is instantiated into a body. Her consciousness in this body is that of a young girl, which has modified how her software operates and is implemented. Without the body, this vagary of Lain may even be subject to warring with and against the other more powerful digital Lain’s like the Lain of the Wired, or the Social Lain. Furthermore, this Lain instantiated within a body has modified her body and brain to carry a Navi emulator. Her augmentation makes her more powerful than her digital selves in this current form, it makes her relatively invulnerable to their influence, and it may be the key to defeating Eiri whilst simultaneously not destroying herself in the process. Lain tells the boy that he is wrong and Chisa addresses Lain. When Lain turns in Chisa’s digital ghost’s direction, she sees a digital sky on the horizon: a mess of wires with free flowing electric currents running between them and giant telephone wire terminals beyond, looming like spectres of some great infrastructural force, some icon of domination and hegemony in this social-digital space in which Lain is one of the few real denizens (especially after the fall of the Knights of the Eastern Calculus).
The scene shifts to an apartment building. To Alice’s apartment building. Within, she is conversing over a video screen to one of her friends at school who assures her that if she finds a boyfriend, people at school will have to believe that the rumors about her and her teacher are false, a lie. Once the girl leaves the teleconference chat, Alice speaks to herself: ‘It’s not a lie.’ She really did have the fantasies about her teacher that were reported to the Wired by the Lain of the Wired, who Alice, understandably, mistook for the real Lain, the Lain that was her friend. Alice’s door cracks open and a figure is seen with a red-striped shirt (like the one mentioned time and again by the girl on the Wired who is being stalked by a young kid wearing one), but with grey legs and arms, elongated and distorted into abnormal shapes (like the grey alien that Lain ‘saw’ at her door a fe episodes previously).
Alice, terrified, asks who is at her door. The figure reveals its face as Lain. This new amorphous body has appeared in a horrendous form that would scare the hell out of anyone, and that’s just what it has done for Alice. Why Lain has chosen such a form is unknown. Alice asks Lain what has happened to her and Lain begins to explain that she wasn’t the one who leaked the information about Alice to the Wired. She tells her that she never could have done such a horrible thing, but Alice refuses to believe her as she saw Lain (actually the Lain of the Wired) in her room at the time when she was fantasizing about her teacher. Lain explains that she is not the only Lain and that Alice may not be the only Alice (as we saw previously when Lain went to school, was unseen and unremembered by anyone, but was addressed briefly by a form of Alice who rebuked her and told her she was no longer wanted and that her physical body was a hindrance).
Lain continues to explain that she knows Alice will never believe that she didn’t spread the rumors to the Wired. But she has been developing new strengths and abilities that will hopefully give her the power to really delete the past event. ‘I’ll make it so that it never happened. I’ve been working really hard to be able to do that.’ She explains that she is now has an augmented brain, can freely move between the realms of the Wired and the real world, and, as we know by her appearance in this room in an amorphous form, has broken the barrier between the worlds. This means that Lain can not only access the Wired from her own brain terminal at any time and has become fully cyborgified, but that within the context of the metaphysics of Serial Experiments Lain, she can code reality (as an extension of the coding of the Wired from which it is in some way connected either as a hologram or an extension of that coding) and change reality whilst being within it.
Lain ensures Alice that she should be able to delete the past event and make life bearable for her once more at school and in her social life. Lain then disappears, leaving Alice confused, concerned, and horrified. Scared at the prospect of what has happened to her friend, at the idea of life really being so malleable, and at the concept of a world in which things can be manipulated through coding. And she should be scared as her old friend Lain has become something horrible in the process of her awakening: a cyborg with the power of a god. Power on a level much higher than anything ever demonstrated by Masami Eiri, the so-called god of the Wired.
Finally, the next day, Alice heads to school. When she arrives, her thoughts are muddled and she’s in something of a fog as she walks with her head down and her pride and reputation all but destroyed. Julie and her other friend (whose name I keep forgetting, or perhaps, never learned, like Lain’s parents for instance) approach Alice and asks why she appears so depressed. From afar, they see the teacher Alice was known to have had fantasies about, and talk openly about how they find him attractive, and how there are rumors he is dating an 8th-grader. Eventually, Alice realizes that they have forgotten about the rumors about her. That everyone has forgotten and that Lain has succeeded in her stated mission of manipulating the past event and deleting it from reality.
The world turns white and Alice herself turns around to see Lain behind her, staring intently at her. She is awoken from this white haze by Julie who tells Lain hello, meaning that this Lain is not just a figment of Alice’s mind. Lain smiles in a grotesque, off-putting manner that signals this Lain one other than the real world Lain. This seems to be the Social Lain who split from the real world Lain after Lain initially tried to delete the memories of the past. And in fact, this scene may just be a flashback to that moment episodes ago when Lain deleted the past, but from Alice’s perspective. Or worse, and more confusingly, a mirror of that moment, which somehow initially worked, but only by splitting the worlds into one reality in which the event was forgotten and another in which it was not. If this is what occurred, then hopefully Lain’s new abilities gave her the strength to succeed in her second attempt in the real world. Or else, there is now an infinite series of world-splits and alternate universes in which Alice must continually experience pain and social alienation until some form of Lain, infinitely splitting off as well, saves her by erasing the past and then, splitting the world again.
This scenario could manifest in an infinite number of Lains who are disconnected, but once connected would be the collective god of multiverse, or the demigods all manifesting one true Lain, but ruling their own demi-worlds. Eventually, the universe multiplicity could become so high that, like the Wired (and the Internet) which has a minor mass, would eventually become supermassive and break down and back into itself, eating its own data in an ouroboros black hole fashion, ensuring the infinite loop never ends as information finds itself trapped and unable to escape (minus the evental surplus of two events which might escape as in Hawking Radiation and have an eventual effect on the external world. This external world’s conditions seem difficult to even determine at this point).
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