VKK 320: Decoding Virtual Culture in the Media - a case-study of Serial Experiments Lain

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Katherine Caromba


Karlien van Heerden

Department of Visual Arts

Dr. A du Preez

17 October 2007


Serial Experiments Lain (1998) was an animé series broadcast on TV Tokyo from July to September 1998 and was released in conjunction with a Play Station game with the same title. The animé was directed by Ryutaro Nakamura, with original character design by Yoshitoshi Abe. The screenplay was written by Chiaki J. Konaka, with the animé produced by Yasuyuki Ueda for Triangle Staff (Serial experiments Lain – wikipedia the free encyclopedia 2007).

The series consists of thirteen episodes (described as “layers”) which deal with theme of the the merging of the real world with the virtual realm and the central character Lain's search for identity in this unstable enviroment. Lain struggle with the realisation of the self in this dystopian vision of reality that is set in our “present day, present time”.

Communication is a central theme throughout the show, and most of the characters are extremely lonely and alienated from the rest of the world. People try to connect through the virtual realm (the internet is called the “Wired” in the show’s terminology), but this is eventually discredited as a way of creating authentic relationships .

Technologies like virtual reality and nanotechnology are explored, along with the post-modern condition of alienation, paranoia, and identity crisis. While the series has many of the characteristics of science fiction and cyber-punk, post-humanist thought is eventually rejected when material concerns are superceded by an underlying concern with spiritual transformation and Enlightment; making Lain a modern rewriting of Jesus Christ.

Plot Overview

The character of Lain Iwakura is a singularly unassuming fourteen year-old girl who appears initially as a normal, albeit introverted, junior-high school student. However, her everyday concerns of family, school work and friends quickly become overshadowed by a series of inexplicable events. As Lain begins to become aware that the borders between the real and virtual are eroding, she begins a process of transformation that makes her question the reality of her seemingly normal existence.

From the beginning the series, Serial Experiments Lain (1998), resists a clear distinction between real and virtual, with many scene’s taking on a dream-like hallucinatory feel emphasized by the story’s deliberately slow pace. Initially the series has the uneasy tone of a typical horror, with Lain receiving e-mail from her classmate, Chisa Yomoda, several days after she has committed suicide. When Lain questions Chisa’s motive for suicide, she replies that “God is here” – in the Wired, leading Lain “down the rabbit hole” and into the virtual world.

Interestingly, Layer 01: “Weird” (an anagram of “Wired”) introduces many of the themes that later become central to the show. While Lain’s family does not initially appear to be dysfunctional there is a strange tension between the family members which foreshadows the eventual breakdown of the family unit. Also introduced is the character of Arisu (Alice in the English version) who will become Lain’s only true friend and the one enduring connection she form with the real world.

When we are first introduced to Lain she has no interest or knowledge about computers. But this all changes when she receives Chisa’s e-mail, and prompts her to ask her father for a new Navi (short for “navigator” the series’s term for “computer”). When she receives a state of the art Navi she initially has no idea how to use it, but over the course of show she begins to modifying and upgrading it until it becomes a technological monstrosity. The comfort of a child’s room is replaced by a disarray of technological components that turn the room into a chaotic laboratory.

But while Lain becomes more active in the virtual world, more focus starts to fall on her in the real world as well. A strange man starts watching her, a westerner his status as an outsider is confirmed by his otherness.

When Arisu and her friends think they see Lain at a nightclub they decide to invite along on their next outing. The club, “Cyberia”, introduces the world of youth cyber-culture and is a trigger for Lain’s growing interaction with others. We are also confronted the mystery of a possible other Lain, a doppelgänger figure whose existence Lain was unaware of. This other Lain, we learn, is far more outgoing than the shy introverted character we have been introduced to, with none of the naïve and childish qualities of the ‘real’ Lain.

The episode climaxes when a man whose consciousness has been altered by the drug-like nano-mechanism, Accela (short for acceleration), starts shooting people in the club. When he starts ranting that “the Wired can’t be allowed to interfere with the real world”, Lain reacts uncharacteristically by walking up to him and in a different voice asserts that “no matter where you go, everyone is connected”. Shocked he turns the gun on himself.

Despite Lain’s father’s assurances that there is nothing to be scared of online, because the Wired is simply a medium for communication, this incident proves that interaction with the Wired can have consequences in the real world. Lain however becomes increasingly entangled with the virtual world. She receives the psyche chip in her locker, a device enabling her to immerse her full consciousness into the Wired through her Navi. In the Wired Lain is now aware of overlapping voices of users which become a collective unconscious, symbolized by a constant hum. These constant rumors become presentiment of events that will occur later; an alien figure dressed in red and green, the Knights of the Eastern Calculus, and Lain of the Wired are all mentioned as legends of the Wired. These myths of the Wired become reality as the borders between fantasy and reality become increasingly fragile.

Lain is asked whether she has already gotten inside the Wired, leading her to probe the Wired in more depth. With this increased mastery of technology Lain begins to acquire almost divine abilities; she seems able to move her consciousness at will. In contrast when Lain’s sister is also confronted with the dislocating effects of the Wired, she has no control over the process and eventually and loses her soul in the shadowy realm of the Wired.

Lain uses her abilities to investigate and becomes aware of a game, Phantoma which was responsible for the deaths of several people. This incident seems to be the work of a mysterious group called the Knights. It is later revealed that the Knights are actually related to the Knights’ Templar; however, their true intentions remain a mystery throughout the series. What is clear is the fact that the Knights become identified as Lain’s followers, adding to her status as a god-like being.

Delving deeper into the Wired Lain finds herself at the center of what can be called a cult. She notices the random presence of children with their arms raised to the sky in worship. These seemingly isolated events are revealed to revolve around her when a vision of a naked and exposed Lain parting the clouds appears in the sky above a busy intersection (Figure 1).

In search of answers Lain enters the Wired and meets Professor Hodgeson, known as the “child-killing scientist”, due to the tragic results of his work. Hodgeson’s work; the Kensington experiment, was an attempt to harness the latent para-psychological abilities of children, but the large amount of energy unleashed triggered an explosion which killed all the children involved. Although the professor had tried to destroy all his research the experiment was now being reproduced without the use of laboratory equipment, with children being manipulated to participate in the experiment as form of game.

Lain becomes aware that the man stalking her is not an ordinary pedophile but rather part of a larger organization. Their methods of surveillance become increasingly technological and the watchers themselves take on almost cyborg-like characteristics (Figure 2). It is revealed that these men are working for the General Tachibana Laboratories which are trying to take back control of the Wired.

The introduction of these “men in black” is the beginning of a larger exploration into conspiracy theory which is combined with real events as a historical backdrop to the series. Documenting this “history” the series takes on the conventions of a documentary in an ironic comment on the supposed rationality of the media. The result is a complex interaction between real and alleged truth, in which the viewer is unable to distinguish between reality and fiction.

The show’s timeline begins with the 1947 Roswell crash and the discovery of a secret treaty between aliens and humans, which exposed Veneer Bush as one of the signatories. Bush was head of MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering, and was responsible for the development of the MEMEX memory expansion concept. What Bush envisioned was the rapid compression and access of information even before the advent of computers and had already created the basis for our current multi-media.

John C. Lilly was another cult pioneer investigating the collective human unconscious by conducting sensory deprivation experiments using Native American narcotics and isolation tanks. Lilly believed his experiments connected him to cosmic entities by way of a communication network. Ted Nelson studied under these two pioneers and proposed a giant electronic library called Xanadu, in satellites in stationary orbit, which could be used at any terminal on earth via radio and phone lines.

The earth has its own electromagnetic-waves called the ELF Band which maintains a constant resonance between the ionosphere and the earth’s surface dubbed the Schumann Resonance. The extent of this constant resonance on the human brain is unknown. The show proposes that since the human population is reaching the amount of neurons in a brain, it might be possible for the consciousness of the earth itself to awaken, when all the humans on earth become collectively networked.

The narrative of the series follow shortly after these ”historical” events when Masami Eiri encodes the Schumann Resonance into the newly developed Wired protocol (Protocol Seven). Although Eiri dies mysteriously a few days later, his consciousness lives on and his memories are encoded into the neural network of the Wired. Eiri appears before Lain claiming to be her creator and God. Eiri constantly attempts to manipulate Lain, trying to persuade Lain to abandon her body and serve him. As Lain realizes that her family is only an illusion she is forced to question her place in the world and her true identity.

This, however, becomes increasingly difficult as Lain becomes aware of the existence of her multiple selves, in particular three distinct “Lains” come to our attention (Figure 3). The Lain of the real world is shy and child-like the opposite of the “advanced” Lain who is more mature, assertive and questioning. The third, “evil”, Lain is a collection of her worst traits, and tries to harm Lain and all those around her. As her different selves come into conflict Lain tries desperately to rewrite memories and events, but with unintended consequences, becoming further alienated from the world she creates.

To try and escape this reality Lain finds refuge in the artificial love of the Wired where the users adore her as a god, while her physical body becomes immersed in technology (Figure 4). Abandoned by her family and separated from the rest of the world it is only Arisu who cares if Lain exists in the real world. Arisu saves Lain when she reminds her of the importance of her body as proof that she is really alive.

By challenging Eiri’s assertions that Lain is merely software, Arisu manages to sever his hold on Lain. Lain confronts this so-called “God” by questioning his rights to control the flow of information in the Wired and his status as an absolute being. When Eiri asks “you mean there is a God after all” Lain dismisses him saying “with no body you can’t understand”. In one last attempt to control her Eiri tries to reform his body, but the result is a mass of bodily flesh which he struggles to control (Figure 5). Now mortal, he dies a permanent death.

To put everything back to the way it should have been Lain erases herself from memory. There is a sense of waking up from a dream as all the characters (including those who died) become normal people living everyday lives. Even Eiri is now only a frustrated business man.

But with reality restored Lain now has no purpose and nowhere to go. She remains alone in the purgatory of an empty Wired, mocked by another self. Lain finally overcomes the temptations of her other self and transcends to the heavens where she sits with her “Father” at a hovering table, restoring a sense of family and the domestic (Figure 6).

The final scene shows Lain still as an adolescent while Arisu is now an adult. She promises herself to always watch over Arisu. Lain’s transformation is complete.


The style of the animé is minimalist; having the effect of turning everyday objects into symbols. While in the beginning of the series Lain’s strange experiences seem to be the result of her own subjective experience, we later come to understand them as a reflection of a higher reality with Lain perceiving what others can’t.

In particular shadows occur as a leitmotif throughout Serial Experiments Lain (1998) to represent the Wired - another level of reality that exists parallel to our own, lurking behind the domesticity of Lain’s suburban existence. When Lain leaves her house in the morning, her path is crossed by the shadows of power lines and there is an ever-present electronic hum. This scene becomes symbolic of how Lain unconsciously traverses the boundaries between the real and virtual worlds (Figure 7).

The shadows appear to have depth with blotches of red (symbolizing blood) and blue. The effect creates a contrast with the white background they are set against. These splashes of color can be seen as a reference to the gaseous clouds of outer space, with alien conspiracy becoming a theme later on in the show.

But by far the most important source of symbolism throughout the series is the Bible. In this Biblical meta-narrative the story takes place during the End of Days with Lain as the second coming of Christ and Eiri as the serpent. Eiri is a false god who continually attempts to manipulate Lain. He offers her knowledge and power - the fruits of temptation (The Holy Bible 967-998).

In the book of Acts, prophecies are made about the End of Days that relates to events in the show. The book states that people will prophesy, see visions and that God will show wonders in the heaven above. Lain’s sister is confronted with the ideas of an impending prophesy which must be fulfilled (The Holy Bible 967-998).

When Lain appears in the clouds, she is praised and worshiped as if holy. Lain is characterized as Jesus at many other instances during the course of the series, often appearing with a heavenly glow (Figure 8). During the last part of the series, as Lain becomes so immersed in the Wired that she physically surrounds herself with the wires and technological devices, she comes to resemble the tortured figure of Jesus (Figure 4). The series ends after Lain finally transcends, to be immortal with her father in heaven.

There are also references to several other Biblical narratives. In class, Lain witnesses the words forming on the blackboard, beckoning her to “come to the Wired”. This encounter can be related to Biblical narrative when God used his fingertip to write on a stubborn King’s wall.

The ever-present pylons are a reference to the tower of Babel. The Wired is the upper-layer of the real world, becoming a metaphorical tower linking reality with heaven, creating the potential to connect to a Higher Reality. But, as in the Bible, the natural order of things is disturbed and people are punished.

The series also places the same importance on child-like qualities as the Bible with Lain depicted as the ideal; innocent, without fear and without questions. In contrast, most adults in the series appear to be unenlightened and incapable of belief.

When Lain looks at her own shadow she sees a swirling cloud in the center of her being (Figure 9) which later oozes as smoke from her fingertips, a reference to the soul and the concept of chakra with the fingertips being seen as energy points (Figure 10). Similarly, God does not take on a physical form in the series, but rather appears as a swirling mass of colour similar to some depictions of the Wired (Figure 11).

Lain’s transformation is an archetypical spiritual narrative of death and rebirth, and the series has also been influenced by other sources. In Hindu religion, transformation is realized through re-incarnation. This cyclical process is reflected in the structure of the show itself with the plot developing in layers of subjective experience instead of concrete events (Jivanam 2007).

As the realm of the collective unconscious the Wired can be interpreted as a type of dream-world, which threatens to become a nightmare for those who become caught up in it. Lain’s eventual mastery of the dream world makes her a shaman-like figure able to traverse the worlds and reflects the Hindu idea that the Divine being can be reached more successfully when one is asleep or through meditation (Horsely [sa]).

As Lain herself is transforming, these changes are mirrored by her changing environment. Initially, Lain’s room is clean, sunny, orderly and free of complication. Her soft toys represent the comfort she seeks when in confrontation with her family. The room however is seen as cold, isolated and unwelcoming, depicting her loneliness. As the story unfolds, Lain’s darkening room becomes overwhelmed with technological apparatus which adopts an ironically organic, womb-like quality (Figure 12). This reflects how the Wired becomes a source of comfort for Lain as her family structure is torn apart.

Serial Experiments Lain as a Post-Modern Narrative

Serial Experiments Lain (1998) has many the characteristics of post-modernism and rejects a traditional binary world view, challenging oppositional concepts of child/adult, man/woman inside/outside, self/other, and fantasy/reality. In particular the question of the location of the self is dealt with throughout the series, with Lain continually questioning who or what her ‘authentic’ self is and whether this self requires the central location of a body.

Hayles (1993: 69-91) has argued that in post-modernism the fundamental dialectic of presence and absence is replaced by one more concerned with pattern and randomness. Analyzed in these terms Serial Experiments Lain (1998) the fact that Lain is supposedly the physical embodiment of the larger consciousness of the Wired becomes of central importance, signifying the crucial point in which randomness acquires order.

Serial Experiments Lain (1998) is also typically post-modern in its use of multiple inter-textual references, and in much the same way that compressed information was inserted into the Wired these often function on an almost subliminal level. In addition to Biblical references there are also references to Alice in Wonderland, Free Mason symbolism and theory, Apple product placements and even a reference to Proust.

Virtual Culture Themes in Serial Experiments Lain

Virtual Reality

In Serial Experiments Lain (1998) is an excellent example of the depiction of virtual culture in the popular media. In the series technology has advanced to the point where people are able to fully immerse themselves in the Wired, while the body stays in an artificial coma, making the Wired perhaps the ultimate expression of virtual reality.

Theorists however, stress that the reality of virtual technology has been greatly exaggerated by the popular media. Michael Heim (1993: 109-128) states the following: "VR is not a state of consciousness or a simulated drug trip. VR is an emerging field of applied science".

It is understood that Virtual Reality is not only a technology, but also an experience that relates to the idea of the “organic” human. The experience of virtual reality is so to speak a sense driven “application”. It is an interactive system. The three "I's" of Virtual Reality are immersion, interactivity and information intensity (Heim 1993: 109-128).

One paragraph in Heim's The Metaphysics of Virtual Reality (1993: 109-128) gets to the crux of his argument. Firstly Heim insists on finding the “true” meaning of the subject. He lists the extensive misconceptions or half-truths on Virtual Culture. Finally a concept on the subject is formalized:

“When we look for the essence of a technology, we are engaging in speculation, but not in airy speculation. Our speculation involves where we plant our feet, who we are, and what we choose to be”

(Heim 1993: 109-128).

Technology is a certain aspect of development and life as we know it. It is interesting to see the apparent connection between the human and a technological device. The “basic” human by nature has a will, a sense of freedom, an ability to choose and a need to distinguish and identify him- or herself. Through Virtual Reality we win games and confirm our status as powerful, able, humans. We choose to watch a film, we interact with it on a virtual level as we can not be a part of the film, the making, the narrative etc. itself. We find identity in Virtual Reality as it does not oppose us and question us. We make our mark by formulating an opinion on the film, being the next “high score”, and developing a sense of god-like superiority. Humans have created virtual reality and an indirect confirmation that technology is not “taking over the world”.

On a more practical level virtual Reality is a technology that convinces us that we are actually in another place than which we consider to be real or current. Our ideas on direct or sensory experiences are virtually realized in for example a technologically advanced device. We are presented with the question of superficiality and ignorance to what may be real. When watching a film, the reader ever so often “remember” that he or she is watching a film, and that it is construed or not real. It relates more to the idea of narrative and fiction than the idea of a science that simulates reality. Virtual reality on the other hand is a “trickster”, taking up the essence of human experience in a new, “not real” real manner. Our bodies may be confused, as nerve-ends do not necessarily process a “why” for a reaction or feeling. You are for example not, in actual fact in a forest, but when you are through a technological device you are virtually exported to a forest, while in reality sitting in a lab, or arcade, or living room handling a shiny stick and a button – having the same or similar experience as that of being in an actual forest. In film, one is aware of where you are watching the film, who is sitting next to you, the acting skills etc. Virtual Reality makes you believe something that is not entirely current or present or in fact, real.

This is where one asks the question what is real, does it really matter if we can not touch the subject. There are also numerous questions that may arise in terms of social and religious aspects. We make a turn into spirituality; God can not be touched. On a very basic level, God is felt or even simulated. We are physically separated from a God, and the experience is in fact, virtual. Again we question what is real. Has Virtual Reality become the substitute for not only sensory input, but also God? And has God in turn become virtual?

It is these questions that form the basis of the fictitious Wired of Serial Experiments Lain (1998) with the plot centered on how the Wired, the virtual realm, becomes increasingly entangled with the real world. The series is made all the more believable because as an animé it takes place in an artificial realm. For example, in the show’s credits we see Lain trying to reach out to people through television and computer screens. The realization that Lain is also trying to reach out to us, implicates the viewer as part of the show’s events. In much the same way that real history and fiction are combined in the series.

Communication in itself becomes a core theme of the series as Lain discovers her ability to communicate on a mass-scale, within her community and ultimately the world. Director Nakamura wanted to show the audience - and particularly adolocent viewers - "the multidimensional wavelength of the existential self: the relationship between self and the world" (Serial experiments Lain – wikipedia the free encyclopedia 2007).

Interestingly Ueda, the producer of Serial Experiments Lain, has commented that he was disappointed the response of American audiences to the series, saying that:

“what I hoped to see between American and Japanese reactions to Lain is a war-- war of ideas... because through conflict of ideas, you understand yourself better, and you gain insight on the culture of your opponent. I don't so much want Americans to interpret Lain exactly as Japanese fans do, as I want them to hold on to their own point of view, and in doing so, establish conflict, and hopefully, new communication.”

(Lain Men: Yasuyuki Ueda 2000).

For Lain communication through the Wired becomes an important strategy to cope with her loneliness, by allowing her to connect with other people. In the beginning of the series Lain connects to the Wired in an attempt to communicate with Chisa Yomoda, despite the fact that they had been unable to form a friendship in the real world. Lain’s father asserts that “In this world, whether it is here in the real world or in the Wired, people connect to each other, and that is how societies function” but ironically the characters of the show become dependant on the Wired for any form of connection whatsoever. This leads Lain to question her sense of self-worth as she starts to believe that she only exists in the memories of others.

As Lain becomes entranced by the Wired she must ultimately realize the artificiality of this form of connection created within the virtual community – as opposed to an authentic love which is only possible by interacting in the real world. The different variations of love become another theme of the series, even being the title of an episode. Phiphilia, or philanthropic love, describes Lain’s love and concern for Arisu. Storge refers to the love between parent and child, and is conspicuously absent from Lain’s family setting. However this deficiency is eventually remedied when Lain receives Agape, perfect love, from her true, divine, “Father”. Their conversation is enlightening:

Lain: Dad, do you know?

Lain’s Father: What?

Lain: I…Everyone, I…

Lain’s Father: You love them?

Isn’t that right?

(Lain begins to cry)

(Serial Experiments Lain 1998)

The depiction of Eros, erotic love, in the series is more complex. Serial Experiments Lain (1998) has virtually no erotic content except for a strangely clinical scene in which Arisu masturbates, and yet despite this the series has an almost constant sexual tension. Lain is increasingly seen as being the object of the male gaze with an implied sexual awakening taking place as she becomes more mature.

The “mature” Lain usually wears a revealing slip-like dress (Figure 13) and is also seen wearing only a baggy jersey. Ironically the “real world” Lain’s bear pajamas (Figure 14) also serve to enhance her nymph-like aspect by contrasting her innocence with her maturing sexuality. Hamilton (1997: [sp]) describes the allure of the virtual idol, and comments that “Depriving access to the viewer acts to increase the allure of the figure while ensuring the player that the idol's innocence remains intact.” Similarly the Rorikon (Lolita-style) genre, although infamous for portraying young girls in explicitly sexual situations, take great pains to present the characters was innocent and virginal before they are deflowered (Hammilton 1997: [sp]).

In this sexual fascination is only one manifestation of the power Lain holds over her followers with the chant of “Let’s all love Lain” take on a manic tone. Reality takes on a tyrannical quality, forced onto the minds of others. A misguided attempt to compensate for her own lack of self-love, Lain unconsciously starts causing the world to revolve around her, and the connections she forms on the of the Wired becoming hopelessly one-sided relationships (Figure 15).

In constast Lain’s relationship with Arisu is the only one which is real. Because Lain never connects to Arisu they are both able to maintain their individuality, and when Lain changes events Arisu’s memories are the only ones she can not bring herself to alter.


Our obsession with the bridging of humans and technology has been longstanding, as well as an ongoing relation. It has, however, grown and evolved into an advanced discourse of scientific research. It is said that the human is becoming more robotic and the machine or robot has become more “human” (Haraway 1991). The aim: immortality.

In an interview with Hayles on post-humanity she says the following;

“Recent research programs in computer science, cognitive sciences, artificial life and artificial intelligence have argued for a view of the human so different from that which emerged from the Enlightenment that it can appropriately be called "post-human." Whereas the human has traditionally been associated with consciousness, rationality, free will, autonomous agency, and the right of the subject to possess himself, the post-human sees human behavior as the result of a number of autonomous agents running their programs more or less independently of one another.”…”Intelligent agent programs are being developed using "emotional computing" techniques that allow these artificial systems to respond to unexpected situations in ways that more closely resemble human responses.”

(An interview/dialogue with Albert Borgmann and Katherine Hayles on humans and machines 1999)

Once again, we see the shortening of the metaphorical bridge between the “organic” human and the machine. The idea of Post-humanity is centers around that which comes after humanity. This is not referring to transcendence, the Sublime or the traditional idea of a heaven. Post-humanity is concerned with humanity. It is not as concerned with our souls as with our bodies and how the body and the self are constructed, altered and ultimately advanced. The strive is not only for longevity, but also for perfection is evident.

Within Serial Experiments Lain (1998) this post-humanist perspective is articulated in the character of Eiri who comments that:

“All the functions of the human body, without exception, can be put into words and described in materialistic terms. The body is nothing but a machine. If the physical limitations of the body restrict mankind’s evolution, it would be as if the fall of the species called “man” had already been decided by a God that doesn’t even exist.”

(Serial experiments Lain 1998)

What is interesting about this speech is that Eiri, despite believing that matter flows from thought, still describes the body in materialistic terms, going so far to describe Lain as “software”. A worldveiw in which physical reality is dismissed but a higher Truth is never acknowledged – in other words, it is the post-humanist worldveiw in which only the mankind and its quest for power are ever seen as important.

Despite Eiri, Lain eventually comes to understand the importance of the body, as a vehicle preserving the sanctity of the soul. So that while the Wired makes Lain god-like, it is only through the body that Lain is able to experience God herself.

It is because of this underlying conern with the spiritual that the series does not fall easily into the cyberpunk genre. Sterling (2003) comments that cyberpunk strives to show that there are "no sacred boundaries to protect us from ourselves”, in contrast Serial Experiments Lain (1998) is concerned with little other than the sacred. Similarly while cyber-punk focusses on the transgression of binaries like inside/outside, man/machine Lain eventually restores a natural order.

Colman (2003: [sp]) misinterprets Serial Experiments Lain (1998) by analyzing it in terms of a post-humanist technological narrative. She argues that because Lain still appears as an adolescent at the end of the series, while her friends have aged, Lain has discarded her corporeal body because it causes the censorship of the Wired’s possibilities. Colman also quotes Lain out of context saying “You and everyone else are all just applications, you don’t need bodies, understand?” ignoring the fact that Lain later revises her opinion during that same conversation (Colman 2003: [sp]).

It seems as though Colman, sharing Nietzsche’s revolt in ‘relio-moral idiosyncrasies’, has tried to rewrite the religious content out of the series. Analyzed in terms of a political agenda Serial Experiments Lain (1998) is criticized because by Lain restoring order at the end of the series, she also re-establishes the capitalist status-quo (Colman 2003: [sp]).


The Serial Experiments Lain (1998) is an excellent example of the possibilities of both animé and television in general. On-screen text, dialog and symbolic imagery to create a multi-layered viewing experience which elegantly combines philosophy with a fictional narrative. Made in the 1990’s alongside Neon Genesis Evangelion and Cowboy Bebop, Serial Experiments Lain was one of a generation of animé that pushed the boundaries of the medium. And yet Lain remains the least well known of the three, being described as “weird” almost systematically in English-language reviews (Serial experiments Lain – wikipedia the free encyclopedia 2007). Despite this, Serial Experiments Lain (1998) is a fascinating and open-ended series with considerable scope for academic analysis.

Sources Consulted

An interview/dialogue with Albert Borgmann and Katherine Hayles on humans and machines. 1999. The University of Chicago Press. Available: [1] Accessed 10 October 2007

Colman, F. 2003. The sight of your God disturbs me: questioning the post-Christian bodies of Buffy, Lain, and George. Refractory: A Journal of Entertainment Media 3: [sp].

Hammilton, R. 1997. Virtual Idols and Digital Dolls. Bad Subjects 37: [sp].

Haraway, D. 1991. A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century. [O]. Available: [2] Accessed on 10 October 2007

Hayles, K. 1999. How we became posthuman: virtual bodies in cybernetics, literature and informatics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Heim, M. 1993. The metaphysics of virtual reality. New York: Oxford University Press.

Horsely, J. [Sa]. Gnosticism reborn: the Matrix as shamanic journey. [O]. Available: [3] Accessed: 16 October 2007

Jivanam, A. S. 2007. Beyond death, astral life. [O]. Available: [4]. Accessed on 24 August 2007.

Lain Men: Yasuyuki Ueda. 2000. [O]. Available: [5] Accessed: 16 October 2007

Serial experiments Lain. 1998. [Television programme]. Pioneer LDC, TV Tokyo & Tatsunoko Pro. Broadcast : 1:15, 6 July - 28 September 1998, TV Tokyo.

Serial experiments Lain – wikipedia the free encyclopedia. 2007. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Available: [6] Accessed: 16 October 2007

Sterling, B. 2003. "Cyberpunk in the Nineties." [O]. Available: [7] Accessed: 16 October 2007

The Holy Bible: New International Version. 1993. New York: HarperTorch.

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