Introduction | Annotated Glossary | Lain links |

thought experiments lain

version 2.0

(last modified: November 21st, 2009)

Related pages on this server:
misceLAINeous (images, basic info, merchandise, figures, publications, music, etc.)
Infomania: What is the relationship between Apple and lain? (Apple Computer references in serial experiments lain)


By: Lawrence Eng
e-mail: leng@cjas.org
URL: http://www.cjas.org/~leng/lain.htm
Personal Page URL: http://www.cjas.org/~leng

First draft: July 14th, 1999
Beta Tester: Anthony Yan
Opened to the public on: August 4th, 1999
Originally based on serial experiments lain translation Ver1.1 by Keisuke Shindo

Introduction | Annotated Glossary | Lain links |

Introduction

(below: fanart by Janice)

click to see full-size version

serial experiments lain is an anime which begs to be interpreted (read my review for a basic description of the show). While the story gives us a lot of hints as to what might be going on, nothing is ever explicitly explained. Even when things are explained in the form of commentary and "speeches" throughout the show, we are shown that the views put forth in those speeches (such as given by Eiri Masami) are not necessarily correct and truthful. When dealing with prophetic speech or prophetic anime, it is our responsibility to be skeptical and questioning just like Lain was, even though the uncertainty can be painful at times.

Yet, it wasn't so painful. serial experiments lain could have easily fallen into the same trap that so many other "meaningful" anime fall into, that is: take itself too seriously. By refusing to explain itself any more than it did, serial experiments lain avoids that trap. If anything, it explicitly showed (through references) that there is a lot more out there beyond the scope of what 13 episodes of anime can explain, that these ideas are not brand new, that other people have a lot to say about all of this, and those sources are available to anyone with more than a passing interest in what serial experiments lain is all about. Although serial experiments lain does not attempt (or pretend) to offer a totally new vision, it succeeds wildly as a new and wonderfully constructed synthesis of older elements. In that sense, lain the anime has a distinct postmodern identity, the type of identity that Lain the character is searching for.

The creators of lain have made a progressive cyberpunk anime which is highly informed and operative on multiple layers, both figuratively and literally. No single explanation or speech or essay can hope to encompass all that is serial experiments lain. As such, lain will always be open to interpretation and always encourage us to do our own research, our own experiments, which is why I call this document thought experiments lain.

Initially, I wrote these notes as a reference to help me in a paper I am writing. However, as I researched and wrote, I realized that such a reference could be useful to other fans of lain, or at least provoke some interesting conversation. The interpretations offered below are personal opinions and the result of multiple (and continuing) iterations of watching and thinking about the series. They are not rigid beliefs, and should not be taken overly seriously. I have tried to separate what is more-or-less factual from what is less clear and more interpretive. If there are obvious factual errors, I will be appreciative if you bring them to my attention. Finally, if you have different theories (you probably do) or something to add to mine (also likely), let's talk. Feel free to e-mail me privately. I am also subscribed to the various lain mailing lists.


For my latest thoughts and lain news, be sure to check out my blog:
lainspotting
(New version! Updates no longer listed here)

Old Version

(Final update: 4/26/05)

Also see:

layer:14 SIMULACRA
(a serial experiments lain fanart contest)

(This ended on 3/1/03, but check out the gallery and results)
My thanks to:
Anthony Yan, who was an invaluable sounding board over the Wired (IRC) and put up with my wild late night speculations.
John Garza for layout advice.
Jerry Hsu for the screen captures.
Janice (whose art I discovered on Joysuke's page) for the beautiful fanart. Be sure to visit Janice's webpage.
The people on the lain mailing list for being so generous with their resources.
Everybody who has made a lain webpage, thanks for the good reading!

This one I'll dedicate to my absent friend, Daisuke "kaie" Chew, who knows what it means to be Wired.


Introduction | Annotated Glossary | Lain links |

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

Annotated Glossary

Wired Real World Protocols Protocol 7 NAVI
Devices Schumann Resonance Accela Infornography Cyberia
Douglas Rushkoff John Lilly ECCO Roswell Alien(s) MJ-12
Vannevar Bush Memex Ted Nelson Psyche KIDS
Knights PK Taro Myu-Myu Tachibana Lab
MIBs Homunculus Think Bule Count One Tow Yomoda Chisa Iwakura Yasuo
Madeleines Iwakura Mika Mizuki Alice Eiri Masami Iwakura Lain
Wired
Network/Internet.

Interpretation:
A reality that is on a continuum with Real World.
Stimulated, as in "This Accela makes me Wired".
The state of being connected (such as to a network).

A consensual hallucination (as in William Gibson's description of the Matrix in Neuromancer). We all agree (more or less) to share (more or less) the hallucination that is the Wired. Meaning, how much each person agrees to hallucinate the Wired will vary, and furthermore, each person's hallucination will vary (more or less) from the statistical average "consensus Wired."



Real World
Everyday human existence.

Interpretation:
A consensual hallucination. We all agree (more or less) to share (more or less) the hallucination that is Real World. Meaning, how much each person agrees to hallucinate Real World will vary, and furthermore, each person's hallucination will vary (more or less) from the statistical average "consensus Real World."



Protocols
Internet protocols.

Interpretation:
A protocol is a set of rules or procedures that people agree to use.
Therefore, protocol implies consent, an agreement to believe in something and use it.



Protocol 7
The protocol that fully links the Wired and Real World together. Devised by Eiri Masami while he was a Tachibana Lab employee. Against the wishes of Tachibana Lab, Eiri Masami designed Protocol 7 to utilize Schumann Resonance to connect everybody to the Wired (and therefore each other) without devices.

Interpretation:
As the series progresses, Protocol 7 seems to become more and more pervasive in the world of serial experiments lain as evidenced by the progressive "blurring" of Real World and the Wired, which appears to be correlated with Lain's increasing power and awareness.

Protocol 7 makes the collective unconscious (as described by Jung) become the collective consciousness. As such, it may also be in reference to the Leary/Wilson 7th Circuit of the nervous-system/consciousness, aka the Collective Neurogenetic Circuit. On that note, it is interesting that Tachibana Lab also "succeeded in analyzing the molecular structure of the genome of human"--(quoted from Shindo's translated script, layer:11 "INFORNOGRAPHY"). That Tachibana Lab was able to do this may have provided the means for Eiri Masami to create Protocol 7. Leary and Wilson describe Circuit 7 as the DNA memory/genetic archives whose total collective information (beyond the individual, gene-pool, and species levels) is the consciousness of Gaia, the living global brain. So the evolution of the 7th circuit is the evolution of Gaia. Those who develop 7th circuit consciousness gain awareness of the DNA memory/genetic archive and of Gaia.
The biosphere--Gaia--the DNA script--is more intelligent than all individuals, gene-pools and species. It has survived everything thrown at it for nearly 4 billion years, and is getting smarter all the time. It is on the edge of achieving immortality.--from Prometheus Rising by Robert Anton Wilson.
Note: Our current Internet Protocol is IPv4 and we are in the process of transitioning to IPv6. The number 5 is some other non-IP protocol. If Protocol 7 has anything to do with our current numbering system, it is unclear.

Related links:
The Eight Circuits of Consciousness A model proposed by Dr. Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson
A multiple perspective view of the same model
Robert Anton Wilson page on deoxy.org
Timothy Leary page on deoxy.org
Robert Anton Wilson's official webpage
Timothy Leary's official webpage
Carl Jung An excellent summary of his ideas



NAVI
NAVI are the personal computers that people use in the world of serial experiments lain. They include both desktop and handheld models (HandyNAVI). NAVI computers are linked to the Wired.

Interpretation:
"NAVI" is most likely a contracted form of "Knowledge Navigator." John Sculley, the CEO of Apple from 1983 to 1993, described the Knowledge Navigator in his book titled Odyssey (1987). The Knowledge Navigator was his vision of Apple computers in the 21st Century. Accurately predicting many of the changes eventually brought about by the World Wide Web, the hypothetical Knowledge Navigator would allow people to communicate with each other from anywhere in the world, would be connected to a vast shared hypertextual (Sculley cites Ted Nelson in reference to hypertext) database of information (like the Web or the Wired), and would also utilize intelligent agents or artificial intelligences to actively search out information of interest.

The Knowledge Navigator Sculley envisioned in 1987 would be suited for multimedia applications, utilizing large, high-definition, flat-display screens to support text, full-color, graphics, and computer generated animations. It would also feature high-fidelity sound, speech synthesis, and speech recognition. Sculley emphasized that the Knowledge Navigator would not need to take any specific form; it could be a desktop computer, a handheld, or even built into one's clothing.

Eventually, Sculley would implement some of his Knowledge Navigator ideas into the Newton, Apple's more-or-less unsuccessful PDA (personal digital assistant). The Knowledge Navigator concept was promoted in a video called "The Knowledge Navigator: Technologies to Get Us There and Beyond" as well as a shorter commercial for general consumption.

John Sculley's vision of the Knowledge Navigator, even if not fully realized, was important for the technologies it inspired as well as predicting the change of the personal computer's role as a productivity tool to one which is used to mediate information exchange and transfer.

Other Apple Computer references in serial experiments lain include Copland, Lain's old NAVI, Alice's iMac, BeOS, Openstep, nExt, and "think different".



Devices
All and any technologies.
Tools which allow interface.

Interpretation:
All devices extend and amputate us at the same time (see McLuhan link below). According to Eiri Masami, Protocol 7 allow humans to connect to the Wired without devices. With devices, we extend into the Wired, but cannot fully enter it. As such, we are both enabled and handicapped by devices. If we enter the Wired without devices, we potentially lose our sense of self. Good or bad, total connectedness also implies total loss of ego and identity.

For further discussion, see my Explanation: "device" sequences in lain

Related links:
The Official Site of Marshall McLuhan



Schumann Resonance
Put very simply, the resonance frequencies of the Earth's electromagnetic field as measured by W.O. Schumann. 7.83 Hz (which is an average of several measurements) is the figure most often cited as the fundamental (base) Schumann Resonance frequency, in that electromagnetic waves of that frequency can propagate extremely quickly with little attenuation around the planet within what is known as the Schumann Cavity (a thin membrane of non-conductive air between the surface of the planet and the ionosphere). Schumann Resonance frequencies fall in the range of 6-50 Hz.

Interpretation:
It may be of particular interest to note that Nikola Tesla, who first observed the existence of what would later be called Schumann Resonance, theorized that it could be used for "... power transmission and transmission of intelligible messages to any point on the globe." In other words, a wireless system of energy transmission.
"So astounding are the facts in this connection, that it would seem as though the Creator, himself had electrically designed this planet...." -- Nikola Tesla describing what is now known as Schumann Resonance (7.8 Hz) in "The Transmission of Electrical Energy Without Wires As A Means Of Furthering World Peace", Electrical World And Engineer, January 7, 1905, PP 21-24.
Related links:
Schumann Resonance A textbook explanation
Tesla Memorial Society of New York
Nikola Tesla Another interesting Tesla page



Accela
A "smart drug." Upon ingestion, it oscillates at a particular frequency which causes the secretion of a hormone (neurotransmitter?) which influences the user's sense of time, causes the user to feel as if his consciousness is accelerated, and also improves the brain's speed of calculation. The drug disappears from the body after one day.

Interpretation:
"Machine" as "drug." Suggests that machines can produce altered/expanded states of consciousness.
"Drug" as "Machine." Suggests that "drugs" are technology.

Logical/rational thought is a function of the 3rd Circuit (Leary and Wilson). Computing is a highly 3rd Circuit-intensive activity. Therefore, stimulants are the most obvious drugs of choice for the Wired generation. On Accela, one can move closer to the speed of the Wired, so Real World seems slower. Accela might function by temporarily bringing the user closer to Schumann Resonance frequencies, and therefore closer to the Wired even without the use of a NAVI. Accela possibly acts on Circuits 3 and 7 at the same time.

Related links:
See Protocol 7: Related links



Infornography
The title of layer:11

Interpretation:
"Infornography" seems to be a made up word combining information and pornography, the idea being that--in the world of lain and increasingly so in our own world, information is being considered not just a valuable commodity from a practical point of view, but something that generates an almost sexual thrill, something that we lust after and enjoy hunting because it is special and gives us power.

Some of the Knights portrayed in lain played their online information power games, not with cold detachment, but with an illicit thrill. The temptation and prospect of finding new information completely dominated the life of Nezumi (the hacker with the VR rig in layer:07 "SOCIETY"). It "turned him on" so to speak. The concept of the sexual turn-on gets confused and combined with the idea of turning-on one's computer and getting information on the Wired.

Related links:
Infornographic Design



Cyberia
Club where kids go to hang out and "have fun."
Also, the title of a book by Douglas Rushkoff (1994), describing various cyber-cultures and their philosophies, as well as discussing notions of an evolving Global/Gaian Brain (such as described by James Lovelock and Peter Russell), of which humans are the neurons.

Interpretation:
For those who are unaware of connection, or who are forced to connect against their will: Cyberia->Siberia->feelings of coldness, isolation, being lost.

In serial experiments lain, people go to Cyberia to be with others, but the "connection" can be impersonal, distant, or "cold," as well as disorienting. Cyberia equals condition of cyber equals state of communication between technology and human (which can be lacking in warmth).
On the other hand, those who willingly go to Cyberia and are aware of their connectedness are more likley to be well-adjusted Cyberians.

Related links:
See Douglas Rushkoff: Related links



Douglas Rushkoff
Author, professor, consultant, radio commentator. A friend of Leary. Lectures on and writes about media, society, technology, computers, cyberculture, etc. As alluded to in layer:09 "PROTOCOL", he discusses the notion of the Global Brain (or Gaia) in his book, Cyberia:
The people you are about to meet interpret the development of the datasphere as the hardwiring of a global brain. This is to be the final stage in the development of "Gaia," the living being that is the Earth, for which humans serve as the neurons. As computer programmers and psychedelic warriors together realize that ``all is one,'' a common belief emerges that the evolution of humanity has been a willful progression toward the construction of the next dimensional home for consciousness...

Evolution is seen more as a groping toward than a random series of natural selections. Gaia is becoming conscious. Radzik and others have inferred that human beings serve as Gaia's brain cells. Each human being is an individual neuron, but unaware of his connection to the global organism as a whole. Evolution, then, depends on humanity's ability to link up to one another and become a global consciousness.--quoted from Cyberia (1994)
Interpretation:
It seems that Eiri Masami successfully "hardwired the global brain" via Protocol 7.

Related links:
Douglas Rushkoff's official webpage
Cyberia A direct link to Rushkoff's Cyberia, where you can find the full text online!
Towards a Global Brain A chapter from Peter Russell's The Global Brain Awakens (1983)



John C. Lilly
Scientist. Interested in human consciousness expansion. A friend of Wilson/Leary. Did isolation tank and drug experiments to study effects on consciousness. Famous for work on dolphin intelligence and long-distance underwater communication. Proposed ECCO.

Related links:
John C. Lilly page on deoxy.org
John C. Lilly's official webpage
E.C.C.O. John C. Lilly's explanation of the Earth Coincidence Control Office
John Lilly, Ketamine and The Entities From ECCO



ECCO
Earth Coincidence Control Office. John C. Lilly's model/metaphor describing an extraterrestrial/higher intelligence which determines our coincidences.

Related links:
See John C. Lilly: Related links



Roswell Alien(s)
Appears to Lain briefly in layer:09 "PROTOCOL".

Interpretation:
Suggests that humanity was contacted by a higher intelligence which provided us with the ability/inspiration to create what would eventually become the Wired. Either there is an alien influence that contacted us, or the "alien" was a manifestation of our collective unconscious preparing us for future evolution. The alien is the trickster figure as is commonly found in various religions. The trickster appears, but it is never clear if it is real or a part of our mind. People in altered states of consciousness have sometimes reported encounters with alien intelligences (see ECCO).

Also, in layer:11 "INFORNOGRAPHY", when she is in the doorway speaking to Alice, Lain has grey legs and hands and is dressed like the alien in layer:09 "PROTOCOL" (they both wear a "green and red striped sweater"). This scene may be hinting that Lain is of alien origin, or was created directly or indirectly (via the Wired) by a non-human higher intelligence...or that, like the "aliens", Lain is a product of our collective unconscious.

Related links:
UFO Crash at Roswell One of the many Roswell sites on the web



MJ-12
aka Majestic-12. Supposedly, the organization formed by President Truman to investigate downed UFOs and the possibility of alien life contacting Earth. Allegedly formed in response to the Roswell Incident. Even within the UFO theorist community, the existence of MJ-12 is highly uncertain based on the questionable authenticity of the "MJ-12 Documents" made public in 1987 by William Moore and Stanton Friedman (UFO analysts) along with Jaime Shandera (TV producer) who received the materials from an anonymous source in 1984. Specifically, the signature of President Truman on Attachment A of the MJ-12 Documents was shown to have been copied from a different document.

Related links:
The Majestic-12, Members, Documents Scanned images of the Majestic 12 Documents
The Majestic 12 History and images
Revelations Concerning MJ-12
Official FBI document on the Majestic 12



Vannevar Bush
Engineer, scientist, alleged member of MJ-12. Truman's scientific advisor. Organized the National Defense Resources Council in 1941 and the Office of Scientific Research and Development in 1943 (which helped create the Manhattan Project). Considered the major player in the founding of the National Science Foundation. Invented the Differential Analyzer, an early analog computer. Proposed Memex in his landmark article, "As We May Think," published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1945.

For more detailed information, see my summary of Endless Frontier, G. Pascal Zachary's biography of Vannevar Bush.

Related links:
Vannevar Bush a brief description
Vannevar Bush a more detailed summary of his work
As We May Think The full text of Vannevar Bush's landmark article
The Godfather A Wired magazine article discussing Vannevar Bush and his contributions to science and information technology
Vannevar Bush page with Memex conceptual drawings.



Memex
A system of archiving and retrieving information that is analogous to human memory and therefore designed to aid it.

Interpretation:
In other words, Memex is a method by which the collective library (unconscious?) can be tapped into and any info can be drawn from it efficiently.

Related links:
See Vannevar Bush: Related links



Ted Nelson
Outspoken member of the computer industry. Inspired by Vannevar Bush, he expanded upon the Memex concept and proposed the Xanadu system, where there will be a globally accessible electronic archive of all the world's text, possibly implemented by putting it in a satellite in space (though this latter idea has been more or less dismissed). According to Professor Nelson, the core Xanadu concept is "a specific family of data structures". Nelson's vision of Xanadu has never fully come into fruition, though many of his concepts have influenced and been incorporated into other technologies such as the World Wide Web. Ted Nelson coined the term "hypertext" and is currently a professor at Keio University in Japan.

On March 13th, 2002, I received an e-mail message from Prof. Nelson. I thought our brief correspondence might be of interest to readers of TEL and would possibly help Prof. Nelson clarify some oft-misunderstood details of his work and personal history. As such, I've obtained his permission to publish our e-mails here.

Related links:
TED NELSON HOME PAGE




Psyche
Add-on chip which enhances the power of normal NAVI computers, especially the newer models. This chip is not readily available to the public. It is believed to have come from Taiwan (sorta like SM CDs, ^_^). May have originated from the Knights. Using the psyche chip, one can connect and interface without the use of devices such as keyboards and mice or even voice control. Instead, it allows "full motion and full range"--(quoted from Shindo's translated script, layer:04 "RELIGION").

Interpretation:
Psyche chip seems to allow one to access the Wired completely (by using Protocol 7?). Through Psyche, use of the computer becomes analogous to human thought processes. Perhaps this is the true analog Memex that Vannevar Bush envisioned?



KIDS
aka KID System. Part of the Kensington Experiment, the research work of Professor Hodgson 15 years before the story of serial experiments lain. A method of collecting and joining the PSI power (Psychic power, as in ESP or telekinesis) of children via a device called an "outer receptor." The children experimented upon were "killed" (or made unable to return to Real World) by the experiment.

Interpretation:
The KIDS technology was eventually resurrected, possibly by Eiri Masami to be incorporated into Protocol 7. Also, possibly through Eiri, the Knights had access to the technology and used it for their own purposes via a "game" on the Wired called PHANTOMa, which blurred the border between Real World and the Wired.



Knights
A powerful secret society on the Wired. aka Knights of Eastern Calculus

Interpretation:
Consists mostly of computer otaku and some people who like being in secret organizations. The Knights are hackers/manipulators/crackers. "Knights of Eastern Calculus" evokes the image of the Pythagorean mystics/mathematicians. The Knights possibly originated from the Knights Templar (or the Knights of Malta, even?) who were hermeticists/alchemists. The Knights' goal might be to unite human consciousness with the "divine" "true" consciousness.

"Knights of Eastern Calculus" also seems synonymous with "Knights of the Lambda Calculus".
Knights of the Lambda Calculus n.
A semi-mythical organization of wizardly LISP and Scheme hackers. The name refers to a mathematical formalism invented by Alonzo Church, with which LISP is intimately connected. There is no enrollment list and the criteria for induction are unclear, but one well-known LISPer has been known to give out buttons and, in general, the members know who they are.... --from The Jargon File
"(Woman's mouth) Knights doesn't exist. It's just a joke by an American student."--(quoted from Shindo's translated script, layer:08 "RUMORS").

Alonzo Church, in 1930, introduced lambda calculus as a model of computation. In The Jargon File entry for "canonical,"
The jargon meaning [of canonical], a relaxation of the technical meaning, acquired its present loading in computer-science culture largely through its prominence in Alonzo Church's work in computation theory and mathematical logic (see Knights of the Lambda Calculus).--from The Jargon File
It seems that the Knights of Lambda Calculus, if they really exist, are interested in "truth" and "canon," which sounds similar to Taro's description of the Knights of Eastern Calculus. "Knights fights in order to make only one truth real...Truth is strong because it is true...Truth is justice because it is true...Don't you think it is very persuasive?"--(quoted from Shindo's translated script, layer:09 "PROTOCOL").

In serial experiments lain, the Knights were used by Eiri Masami, who needed them to believe in him so he would be perceived as a "God." Therefore: Religion, like Real World and the Wired, is a consensual hallucination. The flaw of the Knights is that they thought they knew what was really going on, but Eiri manipulated them so they'd believe he was a God.

Also see my analysis of the Knights symbol

Related links:
Jargon File Resources
The Original Hacker's Dictionary
A History and Mythos of the Knights Templar



PK
The boy playing PhantomA yells out: "Are you also a "PK"? Help me!"--(quoted from Shindo's translated script, layer:04 "RELIGION").

"(Lain (wired)) Why are you interested in killing other players so much?
(Taro) Nobody knows what is fun and why it is fun for me."--(quoted from Shindo's translated script, layer:08 "RUMORS")

PK is short for "Player Killer", a person who kills other players in online games, though the term is most often reserved for such players in games which are at least partially social in nature. People who play first person perspective shooters, for example, are not usually called PKs. The terminology may have originated from the early days of text-based online MUDs ("multi-user dungeons"). The term is still used today in the more modern (fully graphical) online gaming environments in which players can socialize, kill monsters, or (in the case of PKs) kill other characters. For online gaming worlds which allow characters to grow over time, PKs are controversial in that they add an element of risk to the game, where players who have developed attachments to long-term characters must constantly be on the lookout for dangerous PKs. As such, many people want to ban PKs, or at least weaken their effect on the games. PKs, on the other hand, consider the risk of combat a thrilling and vital part of the online experience.

Interpretation:
Lain does not understand the appeal of "killing" on the Wired, even if it's only other players in a game, whereas Taro considers PKing completely natural. This difference in attitude reflects two different approaches to interpersonal relationships on the Internet/Wired. The Knights are concerned with status and power over others on the Wired, whereas Lain is more interested in relating to others. It's the difference between cutthroat competitiveness on one hand versus sympathy and compassion on the other. Perhaps serial experiments lain is commenting on the current predominance of the former over the latter.

Related links:
Player Killers Exposed



Taro
Informal member of the Knights who becomes Lain's friend.

Interpretation:
Taro seems to be a relatively well adjusted otaku-type. Since he has not been fully indoctrinated by the Knights, he doesn't suffer their flaw. He hangs out with Myu-Myu and Masayuki, and is intrigued by Lain.



Myu-Myu
Taro's "girlfriend." Hangs out at Cyberia with Taro.

Interpretation:
Myu-Myu is very good with computers despite being very young. She is an example of how children often adapt to new technologies better than adults do. She is a happy citizen of Cyberia.

Related links:
The Children of Chaos An excerpt from Playing the Future: What We Can Learn from Digital Kids by Douglas Rushkoff



Tachibana Lab
Company that manufactures NAVI computers and Copland OS.

Interpretation:
The former employers of Eiri Masami. They do not seem to approve of Eiri's Protocol 7, and are trying to stop companies from implementing it. They also seem curious about Lain.



MIBs
Men in Black who watch Lain.

Interpretation:
The two MIBs (apparently) worked for Tachibana Lab, Shinbashi Office, or so they thought. It seems that the Tachibana Lab, Shinbashi Office and it's "boss" were either a false front constructed by the Knights and/or Eiri Masami, or the office was real but the "boss" was actually working for (or controlled by) the Knights and/or Eiri Masami. The MIBs didn't realize they were being manipulated until it was too late...



Homunculus
Eiri Masami calls Lain a "homunculus by artificial ribosome"--(quoted from Shindo's translated script, layer:10 "LOVE").

Interpretation:
"a miniature adult that in the theory of preformation is held to inhabit the germ cell and to produce a mature individual merely by an increase in size."--(quoted from Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online).

Eiri Masami calls Lain a homunculus to suggest to her that he created her. In ancient alchemy, a homunculus is an artificial human created by the alchemist using only his own sperm. The creation of a homunculus is considered a great alchemical secret, but the "secret" method of creating a homunculus might be a cover-up of the true secret. The actual secret may be that it's impossible to create a human with only sperm, and the egg of a female is also necessary (not a fantastic notion nowadays, but reproductive science has not always been so well-informed). Thus, the female role in reproduction was deemphasized (which would be the cover-up) as would be befitting the times, and the actual secret of alchemy was that a male and female is necessary to produce a human.

According to some, Frankenstein's monster was a homunculus he created. So in the context of serial experiments lain, Eiri Masami is calling Lain a "monster" he created.

Related links:
Homunculus Wikipedia encyclopedia article



Think Bule Count One Tow
Iwakura Yasuo's password sequence.

Interpretation:
This appears to be a play on the words "Think Blue, Count Two," the title of a short story by science fiction author Cordwainer Smith (real name: Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger, Jr.) "Think Blue, Count Two" is part of Smith's series: The Instrumentality Of Mankind (this term also features prominently in Gainax's Neon Genesis Evangelion). In "Think Blue, Count Two", a girl named Veesey (the main character) uses the "password" to save the day. Iwakura Yasuo may have intentionally used misspelled words in his password to prevent it from being cracked by a brute-force dictionary search.

Related links:
Password screenshot (courtesy of Per Hedbor)
Cats, cruelty and children A detailed essay about the writings of Cordwainer Smith. The description of Smiths' prototypical innocent-but-wise girl-child characters is of particular interest.
No, No, Not Rogov! A short summary of Cordwainer Smith
Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger, Jr., Colonel, United States Army A short biography at the Arlington National Cemetery Website
Cordwainer Smith and His Remarkable Science Fiction A comprehensive Cordwainer Smith informational website maintained by Rosana Hart, his daughter



Yomoda Chisa
Lain's classmate who commits suicide.

Interpretation:
Chisa represents one extreme viewpoint in serial experiments lain, which is that the Wired is more "real" than Real World, as opposed to Tachibana's view that Real World is more "real" than the Wired. Chisa, for one reason or another, believed those who said that one's body is not necessary. Lain, instead of blindly and easily following Chisa's suggestion to leave her body, takes the more difficult route and goes on a quest to find information, which turns out to be more than she expected. Lain discovers that the Wired is not more "real" than Real World. At the same time, Lain discovers that the other extreme viewpoint, that Real World is more "real" than the Wired, is also incorrect.



Iwakura Yasuo
An actor pretending to be Lain's father.

Interpretation:
Possibly working for Eiri Masami. He seems pretty good with computers, but Lain turns out to be better (of course ^_^). Possibly meant to guide Lain along until she started finding out about herself, at which point Eiri Masami appeared to her. Appears at the end of the series as a father figure, further reinforcing the image of Lain as a Jesus figure in the presence of her Father=God. If this Father/God is real or a product of Lain's imagination is unclear. Perhaps the Father/God sequence is the final manifestation of Lain's fantasy that she has a real father, a normal Real World existence, and is not alone.

I can think of several possibilities regarding the identity of the "father" at the end of the series:

1. He is really Iwakura Yasuo, Lain's father. (Judging from the change in demeanor, I have a hard time believing that the "father" who appears at the end is the same father from earlier in the series)

2. He is the Christian God. (If you take the Lain/Jesus metaphor seriously, this is not an unreasonable guess. However, there is no real evidence anywhere else in the series that would indicate that the "father" is a Christian God or the God of any other specific religion, so to label him as Christian, Buddhist, etc. would be premature)

3. He is some sort of non-human higher intelligence. (This is an intriguing possibility, especially considering the hints we are given throughout the series regarding the existence of an alien intelligence at work. If there is an alien higher intelligence, we're confronted with the question: Was this intelligence responsible (either directly or indirectly) for creating Lain?
Another possibility is that this higher intelligence had nothing to do with creating Lain, but is simply some extraterrestrial/extradimensional being that has contacted the newly awakened/self-aware Lain. This is reminiscent of the scenario in William Gibson's cyberpunk novels, where the merged and fully conscious Wintermute/Neuromancer AI comes in contact with another similiar intelligence in the Centauri system)

4. He is a product of Lain's imagination. For the unusual "tea party", Lain temporarily created her "father" (in a final act of self-delusion) to ease her loneliness before accepting (not without some regret) her role and responsibility as the Goddess of the Wired. (This is the theory I tend to believe, but I'm willing to entertain the other theories, especially number 3.)



Madeleines
"Lain, I will prepare good tea next time...and a madeleine. Certainly. They would taste good."--(quoted from Shindo's translated script, layer:13 "EGO").

Interpretation:
Near the end of the series, the entity that appears as Lain's "father" says this to Lain. Madeleines are a kind of French cake. Marcel Proust, the famous French author, used the madeleine soaked in tea as a metaphor for memory, often hidden but involuntarily triggered by objects. At the beginning of Swann's Way, the experience of eating a madeleine triggers Proust's memory, which he then recounts for the rest of the book.

Related links:
The Way the Cookie Crumbles A deeper look at Proust and madeleines



Iwakura Mika
Lain's "older sister."

Interpretation:
Her origin is unclear. Mika is part of Lain's fake family. She was "replaced" (figuratively or literally?) by another Mika early in the series, representing a fracturing/loss of ego and also of sanity. Her breakdown seems at least partly caused by the actions of the Knights (?) messing around with her reality and telling her to "Fulfill the Prophecy." Mika is the representative example of what happens when your reality crumbles around you and you're completely unprepared to deal with it.



Mizuki Alice
Lain's closest friend from school.

Interpretation:
Alice represents basic humanity and Lain's attempt to understand it. Alice is shocked and scared by what Lain seems to be involved in. Lain spares her in the end by taking away her bad memories.

According to Chiaki Konaka, the use of the "Alice" character was inspired by the "Alice" from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. The "Alice" metaphor is present in several of Chiaki Konaka's works.

My thoughts on the spelling debate: "Alice" vs. "Arisu": Through the Looking Glass



Eiri Masami
Former member of Tachibana Lab who devised Protocol 7 and utilized his new power to become a "God of the Wired," aka Deus. When Tachibana Lab found out that he added (without permission) the Schumann Resonance-related function to Protocol 7, they dismissed him and he was found dead a week later.

Interpretation:
Eiri represents the false god, the male magus who oversteps his bounds and has people worship him as a true God. He thinks he understands Lain, but Lain is more powerful and beyond him. In addition to Schumann Resonance, Eiri may have utilized technology devised by Professor Hodgson (Kensington Experiment/KIDS project) and molecular biology(?) to create Protocol 7. Eiri is interested in human evolution beyond the constraints of the flesh. How much he truly believes in his own "Godhood" (his self-defined divinity) is unclear, but he wants people (especially Lain) to believe.



Iwakura Lain
The main character (^_^)

Interpretation:
Possibly a product of Protocol 7, or rather, "Awakened" by the effects of Protocol 7. Her origins are unclear, but she seems to represent the female side to balance/oppose the male. She is the Goddess (Eris?) or Her manifestation who will put the false God in his place, but it takes time for her to find out and accept who she is (and discover her powers). She also represents the Jesus figure (or Joan of Arc, perhaps?), in that she sacrifices her Real World existence for everyone else. Since Protocol 7 utilizes Earth's natural resonance, perhaps Lain represents the Global-Brain/Gaia, the pagan Goddess that is Earth itself (the biosphere, and the collective unconscious) who is/was omnipresent but was "awakened" and given a new form (teenage girl) when Eiri (the magus turned false God) used Protocol 7 to connect the Wired to the collective (un)conscious (and therefore) to Real World. Upon his ascension to "Godhood" (circuit 7 consciousness?), perhaps Eiri discovered the newly-awakened Lain/Gaia and arranged the fake family in order to control her before she got too powerful, pretending to be her equal and to have created her, but Lain eventually discovers that Eiri is only a false God. This would explain why Lain has no apparent memory of her past with her "family" (such a past doesn't exist). On at least one level, then, serial experiments lain might be described as the story of the Goddess discovering who she is (hence, the multiple-personality Lain motif).

Miscellaneous information: The meaning of Lain's name


"Beethoven said...'Anybody who understands my music will never be unhappy again.' That is because his music is the song of Gaia, the Life Spirit, becoming conscious of Herself, of Her powers, of Her own capacities for infinite progress."--Robert Anton Wilson discussing the Collective Neurogenetic circuit of consciousness in Prometheus Rising.




WARNING: SPOILERS ABOVE


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Last updated on November 21st, 2009
Lawrence Eng
leng@cjas.org