Serial Experiments Lain

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How come that girl is out of the kitchen?

In 1998, when you were still using Windows 95, a television show came out of Japan called "Serial Experiments Lain." As far as animation quality goes, it was pretty much on par with anything else from that period - no fancy 3D CG or expensive Korean inbetweeners. However, something about the show made it popular enough in America that it's been seen by a large portion of Internet users and the theme song is a cult hit, even becoming certain dramacrats' ringtone.

Why This Show Matters to You

In the early days of home computing, before Encyclopedia Dramatica, 4chan, or Satan's lair had been invented, the internet was a fresh, new thing which wasn't even used by most people and couldn't be found in the nearest Starbucks. It held exciting possibilities and many technology columnists and academic types made great promises of a future ability for all people to connect and grow. It was a rosy world which Bill Gates predicted in The Road Ahead, a world of instant and customizable content being shipped from person to person everywhere.

In hindsight, the optimism of the early nineties was generally unwarranted. In 2010, cable companies have yet to deliver decent and egalitarian internet service (which was a prediction in The Road Ahead), and Facebook and smartphones are the closest things to a global network dense with easy access to all of one's own personal information. The grandiose projections were nothing but useless conjecture because they ignored the unpleasant underbelly of newsgroups, which would only be magnified by graphics and real-time communications into the downright degenerate realm of the modern internet.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the chans. Before any were actually invented, folks would have said that nothing could be better for advancing knowledge than a group of anonymous users writing on a shared bulletin board. Now we know that chans are only good for furry propaganda and the human waste called the "hivemind."

But That Didn't Actually Help Me Understand

"Serial Experiments Lain" weaves itself into the tapestry of the Web's development because Madman (the show's production house) didn't have the rose-colored glasses everyone else had. That's right - Madman was pessimistic, so they were able to make a hit. In the show, a young girl named "Lain" decides to get on the internet because a girl she walked home with once committed suicide. On the internet, she discovers all of the bad things that we're quite naive about today. She sees folks addicted to computers in general and people addicted to small computerized mind-control devices. She runs up against mysterious gun-toting strangers, a bizarre monster, and merry pranksters.

Eventually, she realizes she's caught up in a huge mystery. The clues that informed her were that her sister went totally freaking insane and her parents decided to just quit. She goes farther into the internet as she quests for an answer. What she finds, with wires dangling out of her head and computers stacked up all over her room, is that she isn't even a human being. Not a human, but a person "born on the internet," in the absurd wording of the show. Though no concrete explanation is ever given, a focused viewer can elicit that she is a collective consciousness. She's just all of the memories and ideas that folks have written online.

This is The Crazy Part, Kind of Like Every Episode of Code Geass

Even though she's like 11, Lain gets busy doing deep thinking. She starts to remember the girl who jumped off a high-rise in the first episode. She comes to the conclusion that she's God and should delete herself from everyone's memories. What this amounts to is an IRL flounce. Her "mind" is still alive online, but the body everyone had hallucinated about for over a decade just disappears.

Madhouse, in 1998, was able to visualize the modern internet. Lain is essentially a more benevolent version of the "hivemind" that comes out of places like 4chan. She is the personification of modern internet subculture.

Madhouse? More like Arthouse, eh? Eh?

Serial Experiments Lain caught a lot of attention just for presenting a strange viewing experience. Just listening to the show is hard on some viewers because the sound engineers decided to stick a 60Hz hum in the background. Wearing sunglasses is probably a good idea because many of the daytime scenes are so very bright as to cause macular degeneration in susceptible viewers. As the show progresses, strange visual elements are brought in to help out with storytelling through symbols. This mostly amounts to bizarre patterns floating around in shadows - things like pools of blood and weird 2D CG vortexes.

Layers

Weird: A high school girl becomes an hero, and her spirit lives on in the Wired, where God exists, apparently. The An Hero e-mails her classmates for the lulz, which prompts the main character, Lain Iwakura, to beg to her father for a new computer. This marks the beginning of a long, downward spiral into the world of an average /b/tard.

Girls: Lain joins her friends at a retarded techno club, where someone chimps the fuck out and goes on a shooting spree. Lain tells the man to GTFO, and then he kills himself.

Psyche: The Partyvan stalks Lain as she slowly becomes a paranoid schizophrenic.

Religion: Lain plays an MMORPG called PHANTOMa, a game that emo bitches like to obsess over. While playing this game, she discovers a group of 1337 hax0rz known as "the Knights of the Eastern Calculus", who are apparently causing suicide rates to increase in Japan.

Distortion: Lain hallucinates, and upgrades her Battlestation to the size of the kitchen she should be confined to.

Kids: Lain discovers the truth behind the botched 'KIDS experiment' that took place 15 years ago. Said experiment killed dozens of small children, and the Knights have obtained the project's schematics. The Knights attempt to bomb Lain's residence for being an edgy fuck, but fail because she is God.

Society: The FBI escort Lain to an office where she is forced to do manual labor for them.

Rumors: Lain puts her Sysop powers into use by "reverting" the rumors that have spread about her friend, Alice, having sexual fantasies about an oldfag teacher.

Protocol: Lain discovers Archive.org, and wastes moar time in the Wired. She also asks a guy out on a "date" to her house, where he fucks kisses her.

Love: Lain publishes the Knights' dox, and summons Eiri, the God of the Wired.

Infornogrpahy: Eiri wraps Lain's body in electrical cords and transforms her into a supercomputer.

Landscape: Eiri and Lain have a bitchfight over who should rule the internets.

Ego: Lain decides to do a "factory reset" on her life, after traumatizing everyone with her internet addiction.


This is 4chan's Brain on Lain

4chan is very proud to be what they are. They more or less worship the "hivemind" that they've become, and because of that, it's an unwritten rule that Lain was queen of /b/ before Boxxy or anyone else showed up to claim the title. Lurking on any 4chan board for an hour will result in seeing a couple of Lain jokes, at the very least.

The Lain fanclub extends farther than 4chan, though. Countless websites left over from the early days when Geocities was hot stuff are buried on the web. They include such things as plagiarism, primitive simulations of Lain's computer interface, and a drinking game. The drinking game has been lovingly reposted below.

The rules are simple: Take a sip of your favorite beverage whenever any of the following actions occur in the series. Game begins at the point in each episode after the "People walking around in traffic/neon lights/buzzing wires" expositionary sequence has ended. Those who wish to play this game are not required to drink real alcohol, but those who choose to do so are encouraged to drink as strong a brew as they can get their hands on, in keeping with the spirit of the lain series, and with it's unofficial motto: "If you're going to get f*#@ed up, you might as well get f*#@ed up good!"

Of course, those of you who are REALLY brave and who have a notably high tolerance for alcohol may want to try playing our special edition lain drinking game EXTREME VERSION. But don't be too surprised if you find yourself lying unconscious on the floor thirty seconds into the first layer...


And now...Let the game begin!

Take a drink---

  1. Anytime you see lain walking through a stark, brilliantly lit minimalist landscape. Take a bonus sip if you find yourself wondering how she knows where to put her feet since there doesn't seem to be anything under them...
  2. Anytime someone mentions the Wired.
  3. Anytime someone tries to define the Wired. ("It's another layer of existence", It's a communication network," etc.,)
  4. Anytime you see a shadow which doesn't have anything funky happening inside of it( bloodstains, swirly CG effects, etc.)
  5. Anytime you see a close-up of someone eating.
  6. Anytime someone "discards" their body.
  7. Anytime lain upgrades her computer.
  8. Anytime you see lain's coolant system and wonder to yourself if it's a good idea to be operating that much heavy machinery in a room full of standing water.
  9. Anytime lain sees her parents kiss. (Yuck)
  10. Anytime lain sees a mistlike apparition.
  11. Anytime lain sees a humanoid, ghostlike apparition. Take an extra sip if it looks tormented or in pain.
  12. Anytime someone dies while playing tag.
  13. Anytime lain's sister makes modem noises.
  14. Anytime lain has a good ol' heart to heart talk with her Dad.
  15. Anytime you see lain walking out of her front door and walking down the Stairs That Aren't Really There.
  16. Anytime someone starts to hallucinate or freak out. Take an extra gulp if they die/vanish soon after.
  17. Anytime you see that freaky little Roswell alien in the "Where's Waldo" shirt. (Take an extra gulp if the freaky little alien has lain's head.)
  18. Anytime lain can see her evil twin.
  19. Anytime someone else can see lain's evil twin.
  20. Anytime a child is being waaay too precocious for its own good.
  21. Anytime lain is seen wearing nothing but her slip. Bonus gulp if she's all wrapped up in wires.
  22. Anytime lain is seen interacting in a normal manner with her fellow classmates.
  23. Anytime someone sees lain in the monitor of their computer/palm pilot. Bonus sip if they fail to remember who she is.
  24. Anytime someone receives an e-mail from the dead.
  25. Anytime lain sees/runs into Chisa. Down an extra drink if Chisa happens to be alive.
  26. Anytime someone mentions God.
  27. Drink an entire bottle when you finally see who God is and are disappointed to find out it's a disgruntled, pasty-faced, wide-mouthed former computer programmer who is held together with duct tape.
  28. Anytime lain deletes someone's memories.
  29. Anytime someone commits suicide by train.
  30. Anytime they show text on the screen.
  31. Anytime they show a psychedelic CG expositionary sequence to fill the viewer in on the backstory.
  32. Anytime photographs or live action footage is shown.
  33. If you find yourself thinking "layer" sounds a helluva lot cooler than "episode".
  34. Anytime a laser pointer falls on someone's face.
  35. Anytime the Cyberia cafe is shown and it's dead quiet.
  36. Anytime someone swallows something which looks like it might cause them severe appendicitis.
  37. Anytime lain is in her teddy bear suit.
  38. Anytime the producers of the show wield symbolism like a blunt instrument.
  39. Anytime someone professes love for lain.
  40. Anytime lain professes love for anyone else.
  41. Anytime a character has an inappropriate attraction for another character.
  42. Anytime a Man in Black is shown wearing anything other than black.
  43. Anytime MIB Karl takes off his visor thingy and you get to see his bea-yoot-i-ful blue eyes.
  44. Anytime someone kisses lain.
  45. Anytime lain has that "deer caught in the headlights" look.
  46. Anytime a really unattractive hacker is shown.
  47. Anytime lain speaks to someone while in the wired. Take an extra gulp if said person consists of only a body part (a mouth or an ear).
  48. Anytime someone calls lain an angel or a blessed child.
  49. For every loose plot element which seems to be going nowhere. (Take an extra drink if it actually DOES go somewhere.)
  50. Anytime someone mentions something about the "collective unconscious".
  51. Anytime the Knights are mentioned.
  52. Anytime a Knight is seen.
  53. Anytime a Knight dies.
  54. Anytime you think to yourself,(if you happen to be someone who has only a casual interest in the series) "Okay, if this hacker club is so l33t, how come it's given itself such a lame name as "the KNIGHTS"?
  55. If you think the ending was more obscure than the ending for Evangelion.
  56. If you think the ending was LESS obscure than the ending for Evangelion.
  57. Anytime lain sees any of her classmates all grown up.
  58. Anytime they show power lines buzzing. Down a whole bottle if the power lines happen to be dripping with blood.
  59. At every point in layer 11 when you think to yourself, "Sheesh! I could play the electric guitar better than that!"
  60. At that point in the final layer when the "present day, present time" sequence fires up and you find yourself thinking "Oh NO! The entire series is starting all over again! ARRGGGHH!!!!"
  61. Anytime your brain starts to hurt.

Special rules for MST'ers....

  1. Take a drink if you can refrain from whispering "I can see dead pee-pole!" (like that kid in the 6th Sense movie) whenever lain sees a ghost.
  2. Take a drink if you can resist the urge to say "Ah-thur, King of the Brit-ons!" (like in that Monty Python/Holy Grail movie) at that scene where lain appears all god-like in the sky.
  3. Down a whole bottle if you can resist the urge to make any kind of "Akira" reference in the scene in lain's room where "God" tries to create a body for himself. (Tetsuuuooooooo! KANEDAAAAAAAA!!!!)

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