Serial Experiments Lain. The title suggests a series of experiments that aren't obvious when watching the anime. What are the experiments? What are the guinea pigs? What is the purpose of the experiments? And who is designing them?
The last episode, Religion, introduces a whole new cadre of questions. Who are the men in the car? What is that game Phantoma? What is up with those murders/deaths? And most importantly, who is Lain? Many people seem to think that there is another Lain who dresses older, is more world-wise, and hangs out with a lot of weird people. Others seem to think that they hear Lain's voice. So who is Lain? Are there two Lains? Lain in the Wired and Alice's Lain? Or does Lain have a split personality? Yet how come the Lain in the Wired seems to have existed from before the time that Alice's Lain received the Navi? The way the people spoke of Lain at Cyberia was almost as if they had known her, or rather, known of her, for some time. Then there was also the Lain that appeared when that boy shot that freaky girl with his imaginary gun. Which Lain was that? Is Alice's Lain aware of Lain in the Wired? Did she know what she could do when she got rid of the black car and its laser-headgear occupants? Why did her Navi speak when the car left?
I guess the question boils down to what is real and what isn't. Lain's father hinted at this when he warned Lain to remember the distinction between the Wired and the "real world". Lain replied that the borders were blurring. Therefore, Lain believes that the borders between reality in the Wired and reality in the physical world may not exist. Hence her Navi was somehow connected to the incident where Lain ran off that black car. Does this mean that what happened to the boy playing Phantoma and being chased by Lain was also real? Yet was it real in the Wired or was it real in the physical world? Or perhaps it was real in both?
This week's episode, Distortion, deals a lot more with questions of religion concerning the Wired. The first, of course, is the voice in Lain's Navi claiming to be God. Its explanation that history is created by a series of fulfilled prophecies is a disturbing one. It seemed to imply that there is an existing prophecy that requires someone or something to fulfill it and create another event in history. This implication gains more solidity when we see the red letters scrawled across Mika's room. "Execute the prophecy." What is the prophecy? And why are those words directed towards Mika? For that matter, what was up with Lain's Mom? As Lain asks, is she really Lain's mother? The black and white image of her mother seemed to be instructing Lain about how the Wired fit into and influenced the physical world. Her statement that the human consciousness is just a phenomenon of electrical synapse signals is very significant. Does that mean that the Wired influences only the consciousness and not the physical world itself? Is then the "blurring of borders" only in the mind?
As I said earlier, it all boils down to the question of what is real. This is only the 5th episode of Lain and more than half the series is still left. Watch carefully because the next few episodes really take off and pack a lot of philosophical debate and an immense amount of plot into each episode. The underlying theme is the redefinition of religion and power and reality because of the creation of the Wired.
Gaming fanatics and CS junkies beware -- Lain will blow your mind.