Hey everybody! Yes, this is a Lain post. A very large Lain post that in which I’ll try to explain a bit of Lain’s character as a starting point for some of my later Lain articles. On a related note, I’m probably going to make an extra section just for these articles so you all (and I myself) can reference them or read several of them at once. But I’ve got to start somewhere so I figured an introduction to Lain is the best place to start. Note that I’ll be talking about the manga, the video game, and also the anime, of course. Their continuities and relationship to one another are, as all things in Lain, up to your own interpretation. I believe that the Lain in all of them is the same girl, just put into different situations.
THIS ARTICLE WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR SERIAL EXPERIMENTS LAIN
So let’s begin. The purpose of this article will be to explain who Lain is as a person and go over her personality, her strengths, her flaws, her goals, and relationships within the show. Lain is such a dense character that you could write papers on her alone even completely ignoring the show’s other messages. With this article I hope to establish a starting point where I may go into different character explorations as they relate to the show.
Human, God, or Machine?
One of the most important places to start, specifically for Lain, is determining what exactly she is. At initial glance she is indeed a 14 year old girl (younger in the video game, which I may also touch on at some points) with brown hair and a penchant for bears. She has a family (who isn’t actually all that supportive) and at least one good friend which is normal for her personality; shy, quiet, introverted, doesn’t want to make trouble for anyone. Human flesh, human friends, human family. There isn’t anything immediately odd about her situation or the like.
However later on Masami Eiri calls her a “human of artificial ribosomes”. If he is to be believed (which is up for debate) Lain was his own product. She is nothing more than a homunculus that he created for whatever reason; even though he wished for humans to all leave their bodies he gave Lain a human form. Unfortunate for him this granted her power to control not only the Wired but reality as well, to the extent of potentially becoming “God” if she had wanted to.
If Lain is software like Eiri stated then she would be the actual embodiment of Protocol 7, which came about due to the human unconscious trying to become the active human conscious. This would make Lain more of a machine than anything if we accept that Eiri created her both by giving her the body and giving birth to her through Protocol 7’s creation. However thanks to the blurring of the lines between reality and the Wired it’s hard to say how much of Protocol 7 is actually a machine and how much is the actual human mind.
By the end of the show it’s pretty clear that she is a God in some way shape or form. But arguably she has that power from the very beginning of the show. We see her early on in episode 4 manipulating reality around her by breaking the Men in Black’s scanners only by shouting at them to go away. We also see evidence of Lain’s omnipresence from episode 1 where she leaves the train and ends up in her house, her school, a subway station, and the train tracks (which may also be indicative of her time travel).
In addition, according to Thought Experiments Lain, it’s possible that Lain is the spirit of the planet – Gaia, if you will. This reasoning is achieved through understanding that Protocol 7 was achieved through the Earth’s own electronic resonances and that Lain herself is a product of Protocol 7, or a manifestation of it. She is the true God who came to replace Eiri once he was revealed to be the false god – the placeholder god for the true god (goddess in this case). This also brings up several interesting questions about religion, but that should be saved for a later article.
My opinion is that Lain is a manifestation of Protocol 7, though I am still unsure of whether to think she was created by Eiri or came into existence of her own accord. With the game’s continuity of Lain being 11 years old and aging into a 14 year old girl it’s even harder to pin down an exact date that Lain may have been created; it’s also possible that she has always been, but has not always existed in a human form. I believe she is Protocol 7 though because she is part of the collective unconscious and her powers are more easily explained when you take into account the breakdown of reality and the Wired merging together. She’s able to manipulate reality through people’s memories, to the point where they all believe or forget the same thing. But we’re not exactly done with defining who she is; we still have to look at her personality(s).
Me, Myself, and I
Lain’s personality is also extremely hard to define. To make it as simple as we can we’re going to have to break it up into the three defining personalities: Lain Iwakura, Lain of the Wired, and Evil Lain. Lain Iwakura suffers from Dissociative identity Disorder (aka Multiple Personality Disorder) in the show as evidenced by her appearance in Cyberia as well as the switch when she is talking to the Men in Black’s Boss – the explanation for this is that the Wired is breaking into reality thus making it easier for Lain of the Wired (and Evil Lain) to take over Lain Iwakura’s body in times of extreme stress. Let’s look at each one individually though:
The human girl who, at the beginning of the series, likes bears, is extremely shy, has very few friends, and isn’t very good with technology. She doesn’t say much to anyone around her even with her friends. Even when she talks to the delivery man in episode 2 about her computer she kind of hides behind the truck. She’s even reluctant to talk to her PARENTS of all people (although she might just be subconsciously uncomfortable with talking to them because she knows they’re adoptive parents).
But oddly enough, even though she’s introverted and alone all the time, she’s extremely LONELY. She craves human contact. She latches onto anyone who shows her the slightest bit of love. In the video game, when Lain’s father went on a business trip, she built a robot replica of him because she didn’t know when he was coming back. Her most extreme fear is to be left alone by Alice.
In the end she commits the ultimate selfless sacrifice (which ironically is also selfish in a way) by making herself permanently lonely. She remains in her human body and refuses to become the god of a new universe because she loves all humans. Everyone loves Lain and in return Lain loves all of them, even if they don’t know it. She struggles with this to an extreme degree, however. It’s only after being comforted by her father (or rather, the IMAGE of her father) that she is able to accept her sacrifice and move on with the rest of… eternity most likely. She essentially commits suicide in the most extreme way; beyond removing herself from the world she removes herself from existence, remembered only faintly by those who were closest to her.
Lain also struggles with several problems beyond loneliness. She’s a compulsive liar, especially in the video games. She tells her therapist that she has a friend just so the therapist will stop badgering her about having friends; she keeps up this lie for THREE YEARS. She also tries to tell a story about going to her aunt’s house with her family but can’t remember the exact details. She ends by saying that she went to her aunt’s house alone.
She’s also extremely depressed when she is lonely or if she feels like she is causing trouble for someone. Several of her diary entries from the video game say something to the effect of “I wish I was never born”, “I just end up getting in the way”, “I’m a terrible person”, and other things. Some of the entries are only one line. There are many other entries as well but the volume of these specific messages should be reason for concern alone.
Of course, one of her other issues is her identity. It kind of goes along the same lines this article is going over; she is confused about her memories, her personality, her family, and everything affecting her life to where she’s not even sure if she’s in control of her own body or ever was. Her DID doesn’t help with that either. Some of her initial concerns in the show seem to be raised when her friends beginning to ask her if she was at Cyberia the night before. It’s important to also look at her other personalities, first with Lain of the Wired.
Lain of the Wired
The bad girl, the wild child, the bossy and sassy Lain. This is the exact opposite of Lain Iwakura. This is her online personality – in the real world she would be hiding behind a username or an anonymous tag and using this persona to live out her desire to act in a way she never could in real life. This translates to the show through the Wired into Lain’s bad girl personality, which takes over mostly in Cyberia in the early parts of the show (due to Cyberia even further blurring the line between reality and the Wired) but during Lain’s talk with the Boss of Tachibana Labs Lain of the Wired comes out to take over in Lain Iwakura’s state of extreme stress.
This personality is, as said before, a complete opposite of the shy introverted girl known as Lain Iwakura. We see proof that the two are one in the same however when Lain enters the Wired and starts acting exactly like Lain of the Wired. She is much more adult than Lain Iwakura as well – she appears well dressed for a club and talks to people probably twice her age as if she is their superior.
The Knight’s creation. This version of Lain is horribly cruel and Lain’s voice actress even purposely voiced her like an evil villain. Evil Lain kills without any concern for human life; in fact it almost seems that she enjoys it as episode 7 shows. She’s seen laughing at the Wannabe Knight implying she knows that she is going to kill him. She has no fear of death either, finding it amusing when Lain is “committing suicide”.
The most important thing to note about Evil Lain is Lain Iwakura’s line of dialog in which she states that Evil Lain is “all the parts she hates about herself”. This means pretty clearly that Lain at least shares some THOUGHTS with Evil Lain, if not the outright desire to cause chaos. She’s the result of the Knight’s desire to create a clone of Lain and sabotage any ideas she was getting in her head that would go against the Knight’s own objectives.
Lastly I feel like it’s important to look at the relationships Lain has to some of htr friends and family and the other less noble characters in the show (to put it lightly). These characters will possibly be examined later on more in depth in a separate article. Right now I am going to look at the most important people in Lain’s life, specifically.
Lain’s “creator” and the false god of the Wired. He had delusions about becoming an all powerful god and saw the Knights and Lain as pawns in order to accomplish his goals. In relation to Lain he tries to control her and convince her that he is above her. She eventually realizes that she has more power than him and defeats him and his own ideals because he became too greedy and tried to go against Lain’s massive power. He is the false god to the true god of Lain.
As was stated before most of Lain’s family isn’t very supportive. Her mother has a total of 10 lines, MAYBE? throughout the entire series. Her sister is a more of an interesting case for episode 5 alone but she at least shows a passing interest in Lain even after she becomes a fax machine. Which leaves us with… her father.
At first it may seem like her father is a supportive character; he seems to be the only one that Lain has any interest in talking to in the family and even warns Lain against the dangers of mixing the Wired and Reality. But at some point it almost seems like Yasuo Iwakura is more interested to see what Lain will do with her Navi. In the end of the show it turns out that he did love her even though he never enjoyed “playing house”.
But the most important thing to note here is that besides one other character Yasuo might be the one that Lain gets the most support from; he’s the one that she is comforted by in the very end (even if that might not even be Yasuo himself). She uses his image as a comforting thing. He even breaks the rule of not saying good bye to Lain when the family is supposed to leave her.
Perhaps the most important character to Lain, Alice is the one that gives the viewer a way to measure reality within Serial Experiments Lain. More importantly she’s the one who loved Lain without worshipping her. She constantly rushed to Lain’s side when Lain was in a touch position while Reika and Juri stood by on the side. Lain also gets extremely attached to Alice, getting distraught when Alice suggests that Lain may not be having fun.
In the end Alice is the one to remind Lain about the importance of being human and the importance of having a body. She convinces Lain to stop with the plan to connect everyone and Lain listens because Alice is the one she loves the most. She even reminds Lain that Lain herself has a body by making her bleed (even though it was unintentional).
So Lain removes herself completley from everyone’s memories, even Alice’s. Because in the end Protocol 7 caused more problems than it solved and Lain decided to rectify that. She even keeps her body to remember what being a human is like. Alice is perhaps the one who saves everyone from being joined together in the Wired.
So that’s it. I’ve said everything I can think to say on Lain in… quite a lot of words I think. She’s a introverted girl who happens to be insanely depressed and a compulsive liar who has multiple personalities. But she also has a big heart which loves all of humanity and wants those closest to her to be happy. A truly complex character and an incredible example of a character who goes through their own unique struggles and develops from it.
I hope this article has been informative and I hope to write more on Lain’s themes and characters in the future. Thanks for reading, and remember to love Lain.