Sunday, November 22, 2015

15 Concepts and Lessons from Serial Experiments Lain

 If you lived in the 90s and/or have been browsing around in the 2000s for weird anime, you will probably know Serial Experiments Lain and its existentialism, reality and cyber-punk themes. Get ready to connect once again into the Wired as I review 15 concepts and lessons from this anime explained.

1. Everyone is Connected

The Wired is not just a super Internet but a world of collective human consciousness, by which humans can communicate with just thoughts and no need for physical interface like computers. In our real world today, this is slightly achieved with social media sites but little did we know that aside from the Schumann resonance and similar consciousness conspiracy technologies explained in the series, connection between human beings exists on a subconscious level. Perhaps it happened to you - that when your thoughts are about to explode, at the right place at the right time, someone comes to your aide or an unexpected event happens that you might have subconsciously wished for. It happened to me a lot of times, both in positive and negative aspect. Perhaps you may know it as "Karma".

2. You may not be the only you

Lain's omnipresence in the Wired is more than because she is an AI of sorts or an Internet Phenomenon - it can happen to us in a different way. I recently read about this movie called "I Origins" that explains how when a person dies, his/her soul reincarnates instantly to another place and it can be proven through iris scan matches. The series has a lot of things about souls and subconsciousness, and has a play on multiple personality disorders. I've known SEL before Enigma (and also Yu-Gi-Oh!), which also tackles this alter-ego topic, and I believe all of us have subconscious personalities that we've created or were created because of the world we live in, and sometimes, they resurface when you're in a tough situation, like when Lain Iwakura was feeling lonely in the real world.

3. You are not who you think you are

Roughly same as the previous one, although this one talks more of a viewpoint of reality. There are some people who perceive their reality differently to cope up with depression and hide it, while some might have had their realities completely altered, perhaps to prevent a horrible truth from emerging, just like in Lain's case. In reality's sense, sometimes we may think that we can achieve certain dreams in the future, but reality is harsh and our destiny may not be as we wanted it to be, and it sucks big time.

4. Technophilia / Cyberpunk 

The whole series may appear plotless for a lot of people who watch it for the first time, but for viewers who are into cyberpunk or technophilia themes then SEL is a great recommendation for you and your psychological anime needs. There's even a couple of predictions from the series, much like other sci-fi anime, such as Oculus Rift and mobile browsing.

5. Social Media of the Future

The "Everyone is Connected" phrase is a nod to the boom of Facebook and social media sites by 2010, where the whole world was completely digitized and you can't distinguish the real world and the "Wired" anymore. I was an internet junkie since the 2000s and it's sad for me to know that the border between two worlds has been destroyed, just as Lain did in the anime. I thought it was a good thing, but it wasn't, because now, you won't have a place to run away from because now, even the Internet is connected to banking, jobs, money, news, celebrities and other real world stuff that most of us have been trying to run away from to pursue our hobbies and live a peaceful life. I'm simply saying that back then, you can talk about depression and post sad quotes on the Internet without people questioning whether you need to go see a psychiatrist or not. It's not possible anymore, so we create that small little space from private Facebook or Skype chats, or in the worst-case-scenario, actually go back to real world conversations instead to meet up with our most trusted online friends offline, as some topics may be too sensitive to discuss even on private chat.

6. Escapism from Reality / Virtual World

Like I said int he last one, Lain is an anitsocial and quiet girl who is surrounded by a boring reality. Her parents and family seem cold to her and her classmates are always leaving her in the dust, except for Alice who was always concerned about Lain. The Wired becomes her main weapon of escaping the boring reality and this also ignites her soul searching and eventual discovery of her alternate personalities in the Wired, created by the subconscious malice that the real world has inflicted to her.

7. Religion is a choice

Masami Eiri, founder and creator of Protocol Seven as well as most of The Wired's technologies, is allegedly worshiper by the Knights hackers, but since they got taken down, he has no more followers. Being a "God" is a difficult status to maintain and circumstantial at most, because a "God" only exists when there are followers. My dad gave me an example: if tribesmen from a remote area sees a person from the future or advanced technology, they are likely to call that person a "God" and deify him. Often, when a person has too much talents, skills, charisma and whatnot, we always attempt to deify that person, whether on show business, music, arts, literature, science and any other field. At the same time, Lain's position as the Goddess of the Wired is not something she chose either, but what her creator (presumably Masami Eiri) would've wanted her to be, despite her being an omnipresent deity got a little out of Eiri's hands.

8. Internet Trends

Everyone depicts Lain differently, just as there are a lot of versions and inspirations of Slenderman (Enderman and The Operator) and variations of Miku Hatsune (from J-idol to gravure idol to cyborg to almost anything), so it might be also that Lain's different personalities were created by people who know her and depict her as such, and some might be posing as her (e.g. that mischievous Lain who told everyone Alice's dirty little secret), which is pretty familiar to us today in the real world as "poser" or "fake" social media accounts. Lain may be software like Miku or mythos like Slenderman, but she can also be an internet phenomenon.

9. Children have better psychic abilities

The KIDS experiment was mentioned in the series as the source of glitch disrupting an online game for teens by connecting it to an online game for children. I like how the series explains how children have more intuitive powers or "psi" energy than adults. It also explains how Lain is depicted as a 14-year-old girl rather than an older woman, because young people tend to have more vigor and mental capacity than older people. Remember how it's often said that children see ghosts and supernatural things more likely than older people? Oh man, makes me wish I was a kid forever.

10. Memories are merely a record / Alternate Universe 

Lain's ability to alter people's memories is a breakthrough conspiracy in the field of science, specifically the alternate universe or multiverse theory. What if we have a technology that lets us manipulate memories and pretend some things never happen, and altogether, create an entirely new universe? The Multiverse Theory suggests that other universe can exist, by which our decisions split into different "what if"s and make up individual universes of their own, leading to different paths. For instance, there's a universe where I ended up not making this review, and a universe where I might have not been a freelance writer / indie musician, and maybe even a universe where I have telekinesis or something.

Since the Wired is a collective human thought network, it's easy to explain how she was able to manipulate everyone's memories who are connected. Alice's Deja Vu feeling in the last episode explains to us that, what if whenever we get a feeling of Deja Vu, it's because someone might have played with our memories? Pretty interesting, indeed.

11. Death is only the beginning

Chisa Yomoda implies so in the first episode, as she "abandoned her flesh" and her "soul is still in the Wired". In fact, there's a quote in the series: "The body exists only to verify one's existence", which implies a spiritual meaning. Some of us might not believe it, but it's most likely there - our "souls" are something of a different frequency from our physical, three-dimensional bodies, and that someday, we might learn more about the soul and its frequency and other statistics. I read in a book by Ryuho Okawa that our souls are kind of four-dimensional and above (it's The Laws book series, do read it if you dare). Death is a mystery for us mortals, but then again, I don't want to live forever if that forever will be a boring life, so having limits is a good thing, and to awaken our souls for what's really beyond, whatever your religious beliefs are.

12. Your soul inside the internet (literally)

Like what I mentioned above, there is a possibility that our souls could linger in a separate world such as the Wired. It could be that the Wired's frequency has a similar frequency with our souls, allowing us to leave our physical bodies behind and enter with our own souls or consciousness. We've seen it in a lot of sci-fi movies and series and the idea is really awesome (you'll also find it in Johnny Depp's "Transcendence").

13. There's always that one friend

Alice Mizuki is that one friend who will want to keep you safe even if you're an antisocial weirdo, and even if she doesn't understand all your geeky computer hacking stuff and all this existential crisis shit. Trust me, there will always be that one friend in your life like that, by which you question whether they really understand you or not.

14. Extraterrestrial and planetary conspiracies for communication

Lots of alien conspiracies and technologies were mentioned in the series, such as the Roswell UFO crash incident, the Schumann resonance (which became the basis for creating the Wired system in the series) and many other cyberpunk-themed concepts.

15. Better to hurt myself than to hurt others

Tokyo Ghoul fans might have heard this from Kaneki Ken, but many obscure anime back then already made this concept - and one of them is Serial Experiments Lain. In the final episode, (spoiler alert! highlight text) Lain erases everyone's memories of her so that no one would get involved with her unstable time-space-distorting powers anymore. She sees her friend, Alice, engaged to another guy, and pretends that she never met her before when Alice asked her. She just continued to watch over her from a distance. //gross sobbing in a corner

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