“Explaining Iwakura Lain” Q&A [2018]

Since finally pushing out the Explaining Iwakura Lain Site B that’s been a mainstay of my drafts folder for so long, I figured now was also the best chance to do the same here. This is just a transcript of a 2018 conversation I had with a user on MyAnimeList regarding my video Explaining Iwakura Lain. A lot of my answers that could have been phrased better, and many would have perhaps benefited from more time spent thinking before answering. However I believe that going back and editing them now would be disingenuous, and perhaps unfair to the other party who has no opportunity to do the same for his. In any case,  since I figured it was interesting enough to document I decided to post it here too.

His prompts will be in bold, and my answers as plain text.

Q) Do you really think Lain caused the gunman to commit suicide? I am pretty sure he killed himself of his own free will or was maybe manipulated by the Knights. Lain loves everybody.

[Reaktor] Serial Experiments Lain - E02 [1080p][x265][10-bit][Dual-Audio].mkv_snapshot_21.46_[2020.02.23_09.45.06]I do think she was the one that made him kill himself yeah. I think the shot of the gun’s light shining in her eyes is meant to be a visual cue that signifies this*. Sure she didn’t want to have to hurt anybody but her Wired personality came out as a defence mechanism in order to protect the safety of her friends who were with her. The gunman clearly proceeds to commit suicide as a direct response to Lain’s words prompting a reaction inside of him. It’s also worth mentioning that as per the argument I put in the video, I believe she seals/represses her memories immediately following this event, so abusing her powers like that clearly took a toll on her mental well-being.

* Side note: As mentioned in Explaining Iwakura Lain: Site B, the game also features Lain using a glow in her eye to compel a gunman to suicide, serving as a counterpart that therefore cements this assertation.

Q) About the Alien: wasn’t it a living meme caused by internet rumours (the girl on the Wired that said someone was spying on her)? What Lain believes becomes reality. 

I think what you mentioned is a component of the alien’s existence too yeah. As a commentary on the growing role of media in interpersonal/societal communication, each individual episode of SEL functions as a self-contained thematic piece exploring different facets of the fears and concerns surrounding this. In that aspect the alien represents the idea of “mass misinformation causing conjecture to become truth” – that the public acceptance of something as true situates it within the public perception regardless of the actual truth of the matter.

However I decided not to mention this stuff about the alien in the video since it was meant to focus on Lain herself and not necessarily the other thematic aspects of the show, so instead I talked about how the alien could be interpreted as a clue-in to Lain and the importance of the body. Explaining Iwakura Lain, not Explaining Serial Experiments Lain.

Q) Also what happens here? Is Mika in the same coffee bar of Arisu and the other girls?

[Reaktor] Serial Experiments Lain - E05 [1080p][x265][10-bit][Dual-Audio].mkv_snapshot_16.38_[2020.02.23_09.46.48].png

For your question about the coffee bar, yeah that’s clearly the same place. If you’re asking whether they’re meant to be happening simultaneously then personally I would say no. That sequence is where Mika (as a result of the Knights doing something to her when they hand her the tissue pack) is starting to lose her perception of reality and time. The specifics are ambiguous but I think that what’s important for us as the viewer to get out of the scene is that Mika is losing track of her identity – which directly leads into the end of the episode where her original consciousness fades away and is replaced by one put in place by the Knights.

Q) I guess the Lain in blue is the one who talks to the viewer.

You mean from the start of 13 where Lain has the discussion with the viewer about her essence/memory being inside lots of different people?

[Reaktor] Serial Experiments Lain - E13 [1080p][x265][10-bit][Dual-Audio].mkv_snapshot_02.45_[2020.02.23_09.47.43]

I don’t think that’s a possibility. That’s clearly still the main Iwakura Lain personality. The thing I saw about “The Lain in Blue” was marking it as a unique personality like Iwakura Lain and Lain of the Wired so that can’t be it. Besides, “the Lain in blue” suggests to me that she’s actually wearing something blue rather than just appearing in a blue-tinted screen.

If you’re saying that her role is to be a character that speaks to the viewer then that’s still possible (although I’m not convinced she’s supposed to do that), but in the entire video I was trying to look at things from an in-universe perspective. Perhaps from a viewer’s outlook she served as a character to refresh us on the messages and events of the show leading into its culmination, but in the reality of the anime I think she could only have existed as an inner manifestation of the complete (as opposed to her usual fragmented self) Iwakura Lain’s subconscious mind that helps probe her into reaching her final decision.

Q) Regarding “The Lain in Blue”, I also thought she might be the Lain in the coloured (turquoise) sundress that appears near the end, like you said in your review. Maybe she represents the original Iwakura Lain, as she was before the series begins. As you said, she sealed/repressed her memories in order to live like a normal human. Then, after experiencing her life on Earth she decided “to delete” the old self.

I think moreso she’s just meant to be an avatar for Lain’s subconscious mind that serves to help Lain confront her inner desires and ultimately reach the decision to erase her presence from the world.

Q) As for her body, do you think it is possible that Eiri created the Lain of the Wired and Tachibana the Lain of the Real World?  I started to believe in this theory after reading this review – http://animuislaifu.com/explanation-serial-experiments-lain/.

  1. From my understanding that’s not possible. The way I see the process going is as follows:
  2. The collective unconscious/Earth’s planetary consciousness exists.
  3. Out of some kind of unconscious desire it influences Eiri to create Protocol 7. Protocol 7 is stated to be based on both the Schumann Resonance Factor (Earth/the Collective Unconscious’ innate frequency) and Dr Hodgeson’s KID System that attempted to alter reality and manifest certain unnatural phenomena in real life using psi energy.
  4. Protocol 7’s Schumann Frequency resonates with the Planet’s Schumann Frequency and pulls the Collective Unconscious into the Wired.
  5. Protocol 7 places it into human perception as Lain.

Once the CU gets caught in the Wired through Protocol 7 she gains an ego (self-recognition and capacity for conscious thought) and from that point on is recognised as the individual called Lain.

The most significant thing Protocol 7 does is treat reality itself like a malleable open-source space; its endgame is to make the real and the digital one and the same. Your question is specifically separating Lain when she’s in the Wired and the real world, but to Lain she didn’t really have that difference because (as she said herself) she was in both.

One of the key points in the series is about how “people only have substance in other people” – that reality is subjective. And this is the final key to understanding why Lain (whose consciousness was actually pulled into the Wired) is able to be in the physical world. Protocol 7 is utilising Schumann and Hodgeson’s frameworks to allow phenomena to manifest in perceived reality, with the primary phenomena in this case being Lain’s physical body. As a digital entity she situates herself within the unconscious perception/memory of humankind and because of that they recognise her in their reality. The way her body manifests is the exact same way that Eiri’s does in episode 12/13, the difference is that since she had much more knowledge of how perception works and a greater affinity to Protocol 7 (due to her own Collective Unconscious Schumann frequency being a core component of it) she was able to manifest much more neatly than Eiri did.

Also just in case you were unclear Iwakura Lain and Lain of the Wired are the same person, but Anti-Lain is a creation of the Knights entirely separate from our protagonist. And the Tachibana Labs president was revealed to have secretly been working with Eiri the entire time, so you don’t really need to separate Eiri and Tachibana like that either.

Q) It still hard to me to understand Protocol 7. I know it is based on Timothy Leary and his eight-circuit model of consciousness – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eight-circuit_model_of_consciousness (see level 7),

So in the world of SEL originally the digital world and the real world were entirely separate just like they are in real life.

lain copy

Before the show began the Wired was running on Protocol 6. Eiri was employed at Tachibana Labs working on the next update to the Wired called Protocol 7. However Eiri secretly included the Schumann Frequency into the coding for Protocol 7 which then resonated with the Collective Unconscious and channeled it into the Wired. I don’t think the Wired and the CU were connected on Protocol 6, it wasn’t until Eiri invented Protocol 7 that they connected and Lain began to exist in her current form.

Q) I know SEL is not a show about the internet, like most people think, but it is focused on the Collective Unconscious/Noosphere/Earth Brain. Initially I thought that Eiri has coded the Schumann Resonance to the Protocol 7 in order to connect the Wired to the CU, but I guess they were already connected, somehow. Protocol 7 only strengthened that connection, giving Eiri the ability to manifest real Phenomena by manipulating the Weird/CU (aka the world’s perception of all the people). But I am still kinda confused XD

So, Protocol 7:

  • Blended the CU and the Wired
  • Gave Eiri full power on the Wired (that’s why he wanted to bring Lain there (Ego Death) so that he’d have been God)
  • It comports that if you manipulate human unconscious, human perception of reality, you’ll change the world itself.
  • The CU=Lain turned from a “unconscious” level to a “conscious” Level in the Wired (which is now the same with the CU, and so she can manifest a body in the real World)
  • KiDs project was used to change world directly from the children’s psi, without using the Wired (or better the Schumann Resonance factor, i.e. the CU)

Yep, everything you said is correct to my understanding of the series.

Although for what it’s worth I don’t think the aim of the original KID System was anything as grand as to “change the world” per se but just to test if it was possible to alter reality for the sake of scientific knowledge, and then Eiri later instructed the Knights to adapt the KID experiment into the network tag game that was passed onto the children to harvest their psi energy. The psi energy was needed as a power source to let the Collective Unconscious in the Wired (Lain as a digital consciousness) project it itself into physical reality.

Q) Maybe the psi energy was used to create the Anti-Lain?

I think it would have been. Anti-Lain was being forced into reality like Lain and Eiri so she had to have been doing it through the same methods (Protocol 7’s usage of the Schumann Frequency and psi energy).

Q) Having a body in the real world might be just symbolic. If you can manipulate the CU and force everybody to believe that you have a body then they will see it. World is perception, anything resides in people unconscious. It’s like nothing was “real”. With the psi energy the Knights can manipulate the unconscious of the people (like they did with Mika and Lain herself). Only Lain and Eiri, who entirely reside in the Wired, have full power over the CU.

What do you think of this scene on ep 3, where Lain smiles weirdly and greets her sister (her face pixelating as she does so)? Is this Anti-Lain already? It can’t be, she hasn’t used the Psyche yet.

[Reaktor] Serial Experiments Lain - E03 [1080p][x265][10-bit][Dual-Audio].mkv_snapshot_22.15_[2020.02.23_16.42.45]

I believe that scene in ep3 is supposed to be from Mika’s perspective. I think that while they were living as a surrogate family Mika did start to love Lain like a proper sister, and that scene is a visual representation of her sadness that Lain was now beginning the process of her technological awakening and becoming increasingly emotionally detached. Mika isn’t happy about the changes in Lain’s personality and she misses the closer sisterly relationship they had before Lain started connecting to the Wired, so she has this vision imagining Lain welcoming her home like a sister again. The pixellation is just meant to indicate that Lain’s happy expression isn’t real but rather a figment of Mika’s desires.

I guess it’s also worth mentioning that in the past I have considered that perhaps Mika wasn’t aware of the true nature of Lain’s existence like her parents were. She’s a proper 16 year old girl so she wouldn’t have been employed by Tachibana like her parents were. Although there’s not really enough information in the show to make any definite claim on this in either camp.

Q) Also, this part may imply they have created Lain with genetics?

tachibana-labs-genome

As for that part about Tachibana Labs mapping the human genome, personally I think that doesn’t specifically apply to Lain but rather to the show’s broader message. I believe what’s important to get out of that statement is about how technology has started to mix with biology – that humans were starting to tamper with the domain of god. It’s similar to later in the series where there’s that episode that briefly discusses how humans have ceased evolving due to no longer having any true environmental threats or predators, this in particular was talking more about broader human society’s use of technology rather than about Lain’s existence.

Q) I thought Mika was Yasuo’s real daughter, but there really aren’t many information about it. But since Yasuo was working with Eiri (like it is shown in the picture of them realizing Protocol 7), I don’t think he would put her biological daughter in such a risky situation. So probably Mika has nothing to do with her parents, same as Lain.

Yeah the only concrete information we get on Mika’s backstory is that she was present when Lain was introduced to the surrogate family. Depending on how we interpret the epilogue though that may clue us in. I don’t have the files offhand right now but iirc in the epilogue it shows Yasuo, Mika and the mother still together as a family. If we assume she’s returning the world to how it was on the timeline where she never manifested in conscious reality then that means the three were already a family before they took in Lain.

Q) She isn’t explicitly shown, but I guess she’s there…Also Yasuo remembers Lain while he’s eating Natto (~Madeleine).

I just had a recheck, Mika definitely appears as part of Yasuo’s family post-reset. Her face isn’t shown but there’s that exchange where she doesn’t eat all her breakfast and then her mother comments that Mika is on a diet.

[Reaktor] Serial Experiments Lain - E13 [1080p][x265][10-bit][Dual-Audio].mkv_snapshot_05.51_[2020.02.23_16.46.07]

The two possibilities for the reset world are either

  1. Lain reset to the timeline where she never entered physical reality
  2. Lain resets the world to how she thinks it should be and places her family together despite them not previously being family

I think option 1 is more likely because option 2 defeats the entire thematic purpose of the reset, since if she does option 2 at that point she’s playing god by treating humans like her plaything and messing around with people’s hearts again. So since I think 1 is more likely (she resets the timeline so that she never influenced Eiri to create Protocol 7) the world continues as it would of had Protocol 7 never been invented, which would imply that Yasuo, Miho and Mika were already a family before Protocol 7 happened.

Q) Speaking of which, according an old theory an anon posted on 4chan last week, it seems that Lain changed Arisu’s age in order to ship her with her teacher. But maybe, that last scene is after a timeskip.

Yeah I do acknowledge the possibility of Lain tampering with Arisu’s age. The hairstyles of the two guys are different but I’m uncertain whether it’s meant to be the same guy or not. The faces look nearly identical, but with SEL’s art style it can be hard to tell for sure.

It’s definitely a timeskip. At this point Lain is beyond time, so I think she appears to Arisu at a point years later when Arisu had just naturally grown up. The detail in question is whether Lain changed Arisu’s age to be closer to her teacher’s age or not. If Lain does change Arisu’s age then it’s possible that was kind of a parting gift with Lain finally managing to do something nice for her, who knows. Although then there’s also the potential that once they were older they were able to start dating since people always say age gaps get less important as you get older.

Q) Speaking about the gunman, again, he recognizes Lain as the “scattered Deity of the Wired”, who, allegedly, ordered him to kill those two at Cyberia. Is this the effect of the Knights/Accela? Anti-Lain was made after ep 2, the Lain of the Cyberia was just an “image” of the Lain of the Wired.

Screenshot (166)

He recognises Lain as “…that scattered god’s…” There’s an apostrophe of possession at the end which indicates that he is referring to Lain as a possession of the scattered god. The scattered god in this case would be Deus (Eiri) and he was probably wanting to say that Lain was Deus’ messenger or something like that. Or at least that’s what my subtitles say, it’s entirely possible that the Japanese doesn’t indicate possession (I don’t speak it so idk) but given my reading of the rest of the series I think the scattered deity he was talking about has to be Deus rather than Lain.

Yes it’s the influence of Accela on his mind that is compelling him to commit the murders. He says he “just wanted to get high” but he didn’t know that Accela wasn’t really a drug but a small cognition-altering device that then provides the Knights with a way to control his consciousness. I guess this connection to the Knights (they were the ones producing Accela) is the reason he recognised Deus and Lain.

The Lain of Cyberia was a false projection being shown to the club members by Taro. He was a provisional member of the Knights, and his assignment was to alter the memories of people in Cyberia to make them believe they had encountered Lain of the Wired. There was never a Lain there since Cyberia is a physical space, but Taro had been making people believe there was (which again ties back into the show’s theme that “people only have substance within the memories of others”). I believe that like everything else the Knights do in the show, this was done to try and cause Lain to doubt her own existence and move towards ego death in the Wired which would then let Deus use her powers.

He thinks Lain is the scattered god’s messenger…I believe, when in reality it’s the opposite.

Q) Yeah, the English version seems so. In the Italian version he says: “I don’t know anything about it… With your absurd God”, so he’s clearly talking about Eiri.

What does she mean here? Also, it’s the same image of Lain that Mika saw in the street.

Screenshot (167)

Admittedly this part did confuse me. It was a great source of turmoil when trying to make sense of it initially because that’s clearly Iwakura Lain not Anti Lain in that screenshot.

I believe that the Lain that Mika sees standing in the middle of the Shibuya intersection and appearing on the screen is meant to be Anti Lain or a vision shown to Mika by the Knights. I think episode 5 marks the birth of Anti Lain, as it’s the first appearance of another separate Lain outside Cyberia, and I think that the scenes throughout the episode with the Knights speaking to a young Lain alone in her room are meant to represent the Knights programming Anti Lain.

[Reaktor] Serial Experiments Lain - E05 [1080p][x265][10-bit][Dual-Audio].mkv_snapshot_12.58_[2020.02.21_09.16.50]

But as for that line itself “Who is it today?” I’m honestly stumped. That single line is probably the second most confusing part of Serial Experiments Lain to me. The very first scene of episode 6 has Lain happily talking to the Knights before she realised their true nature so “Who is it today” can’t refer to her hunting the Knights.

One suspicion I have is that perhaps she didn’t necessarily recognise Mika’s identity in the scene prior and was wondering who the digital ghost was this time, since she’d previously encountered them as Chisa in ep 1 and as a bunch of randoms in episode 2.

That’s really the best I can come up with it for the moment. It’s been a few months since my last rewatch to write the script so I may have forgotten some of it, perhaps if I had the context of the previous 4 episodes I could give you a better answer but currently I just don’t really have a good understanding of what that line means.

Q) I always thought that scene with young Lain talking to the random figures was meant to represent the first meeting between Lain and Eiri.

Eiri first talks to Lain at the start of episode 3 on the train. Her first time responding to him is at the start of episode 5. I don’t necessarily think your reading is invalid though, but from my understanding and the fact that one of the most important things episode 5 does is that it introduces Anti Lain, I think those scenes are meant to be the Knights instructing/coding their Anti Lain AI.

Q) What is the first most confusing line of SEL to you?

Well I was going to say that I thought the two screaming girls were the most confusing but in the process of typing up this comment I actually came up with an idea I like. I believe I got too hung up in thinking their identities might be important, but now I think they’re just meant to be an example of Lain seeing “dead people’s information leaking out of the Wired”. During the finale, the Lain in Blue specifically says “Dead people’s information isn’t leaking out of the Wired anymore”, and I think that calls a direct visual throwback to the shot of the bleeding power line right before Lain sees the record of the first girl’s suicide in ep1.

yzukhlb

So the “who is it today” line probably gets bumped back up to most confusing for me. I just don’t know.

Q) First, I thought people who die in the real world are “lost” forever even in the Collective Unconscious of the Earth. That’s why Lain told at the “snapshot of Eiri” that without a body he could not have understood. But in the end, Lain re-creates the original Eiri, so it appears that when people die they come back in the CU. The Eiri who’s taunting Lain from the Wired would be just a false image of the original Eiri.

Think about Chisa though. She dies (discards) her physical body yet tells Lain that she is still alive due to a digital snapshot of her consciousness still existing in the Wired. I’d assume it’s the same deal for the other two screaming girls where they somehow became worshippers of Deus/the Knights and uploaded an image of their consciousness to the Wired before killing themselves in real life. So when Lain was seeing images of them she was seeing their avatar and memories/records via the Wired.

Sure people who die irl are just straight up dead and therefore aren’t alive to be part of the CU, but the difference is that Eiri, Chisa (and probably the two screaming girls) uploaded an AI snapshot of themselves to the Wired before their deaths and that continues existing in the digital realm into the future. “Dead people’s information leaking out of the Wired” refers to the fact that people who were dead in real life were still existing in the Wired as dataforms that could influence the real world as a result of Protocol 7.

What she told Eiri at the end follows on from this. Eiri’s entire plan throughout the series was that he wanted to get Lain to give up on life and recede into the Wired so that he could utilise the meshed Digital + Real worlds (the border broken by Protocol 7) and the heightened Collective Unconscious (“raising the CU to the conscious level”) as a way to establish innate, borderless communication between every single human and then situate himself at the top as God (remember he defined a god as an ‘omnipresence’ not as an ‘all-powerful being’). However the problem Lain pointed out was that the Collective Unconscious was something that existed in the physical realm and something you needed a human body to be linked into it, and that since he no longer had a human body (he was just a digital avatar after all) he wouldn’t be able to detect the CU even if he wanted to – that if the CU was a network, he (and all the others existing in the Wired) had been cut off.

And just to clarify, before I said that the Protocol 7’s Schumann Frequency pulled the CU into the Wired which is how Lain was then given form through the psi energy, but I think that may be a poor choice of words. The CU is like an unseen pathway/consciousness swirling around the entire planet, I think what Protocol 7 did was -resonate- with it, which then led to the ego birth of Lain appearing within the Wired, and then her manifesting into the real world from the Wired. It wasn’t like the entire CU was moved into the Wired’s digital space. The massive, raw CU was still existing in unseen physical space but Protocol 7/Lain were like terminals to influence it from within the Wired, and Eiri’s aim was to cause Lain’s ego death and then take command of her as a control system for the CU. However Lain reveals to him that this was fundamentally impossible since with no body he couldn’t join into the CU.

I don’t necessarily think that the Eiri throughout the series was a false image. He was the personality and self that Eiri uploaded to the Wired right before he committed suicide, so he was still a true reflection of Eiri’s desires. It’s just that when Lain resets and wipes Protocol 7 out of existence Eiri’s path in life changes and he never has the opportunity to become Deus like he did before the reset. When Lain recreates the original timeline it’s done through her knowledge of the past she gained as the always-watching planetary consciousness, so she knew how everybody was in the time she was rolling back to.

Q) There was a pretty good theory on 4chan about Lain being some sort of “terminal” and not the full CU.

Think of it like this, the world exists as so because everyone perceives it as so. But what if you took the link of everyone’s perception and handed it to single human who would embody a sort of master control of all perception? She could control everyone’s perception, and her own perception could collectively control reality. So by making human lain and having her recursively link herself back into the wired by dissolving all sense of self (Professor Lilly – isolation tank), everyone would be forced to perceive reality like the wired. Eiri was master of the protocol, so in that state of existence he would be god and Lain would simply be the world as she would have suffered total ego death.

Oh that’s really neat! This was all stuff I came up from my own watching the show without looking into any other kind of outside sources, so it’s reassuring to see that other people independently reached the conclusion of Lain being the avatar of the CU like I did. The theory you linked explains it more eloquently but that’s sort of what I was getting at with the “And just to clarify…” paragraph in my last comment.

Q) I just realized that by the time “Lain” kills Karl and the other buddy the Knights were already dead. Was that anti-Lain or Lain of the Wired being mad, like with the gunman?

jllgtew

This scene? There could be arguments for both sides but I think it’s Anti-Lain

This is during the Men in Black’s last confrontation with the Tachibana president (one of Eiri’s main allies) so we can assume that the president used Anti-Lain to silence them. It’s true that this happens after Lain has already caused violence by leaking the Knights identities, but I don’t see any reason for her to need the Men in Black dead, whereas Eiri & Tachibana did have a clear reason for that – they knew the truth of Tachibana’s loyalty to Eiri and held the view that the Wired and the Real shouldn’t mix. The idea of Anti-Lain appearing inside their digital headsets and killing them from there is also the same way she killed the man trying to reach the Knights in episode 7,  so there’s a precedent for this method.

hpa8apq

That would make this scene Anti-Lain’s last appearance in the show. I suppose it could potentially be argued that this is the main Lain and that after she forsakes her love of humans to act on her own greed in episode 11 Anti-Lain was decommissioned since there was no longer a need for it (she had begun acting according to Eiri’s prophecy). But even then I feel like Lain was only targeting the Knights because they were a dangerous secret society, I’m not convinced she would have killed the Men in Black who she didn’t necessarily have a huge reason to kill.

Q) I see. It’s ridiculous how many obscure points there are in this anime.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s