In the first episode of Serial Experiments Lain, WHAT. What. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Serial Experiments Lain.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of suicide, dissociation.
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Let’s get down to it because I need to. Frankly: I have no idea what I just watched. I’m trying to think of anything I’ve seen prior to this that was as deliberately confusing and mysterious as this, and I’m not sure I can come up with something. I’ve seen some strange shit in my day, but the impenetrable nature of “Weird” (what an apt title!) is a challenge.
WHICH I AM ABSOLUTELY UP FOR. There’s an avant garde element to this show that I can’t deny, especially since the animation and storytelling jumps from one image to the next. And I’d also argue that this show is extremely visual. The visual narrative is a huge part to unraveling the “mystery” of the Wired, and I appreciate that. Essentially, the show does not spell out anything for me. The “text” cards that break up scenes might give me insight to someone’s mental process or a clue to the context of the scene, but it’s my job as the viewer to piece things together.
So what can I piece together from “Weird”? This feels like a story about another world and another life. “Weird” opens with the haunting suicide of Chisa Yomoda, but one that’s only sad to those who survive her. The scene where she dies is animated with a visual flair, one that suggests joy instead of sorrow. Yet at school, students are distraught over Chisa’s death, but that emotion is coupled with anger. Someone has access to Chisa’s email and has sent out messages after her death to all her friends and peers.
The show came out in 1998, so in that sense, I feel like this must have been visionary at the time. Now, I can recall at least a few films or stories dealing with the very idea of emails being sent from the account of a dead person. In 1998, who was even sending email? I sure wasn’t; I had just barely started high school, and my interaction on the Internet never went further than lurking and reading. I was not a participant, and I didn’t get my first email account until the year 2001. So when another student urges Lain to check her account at least once a day, I flashed back to a time when that was my behavior. Some days, I might have gone days without a single email that wasn’t an ad. (OH, TO RETURN TO THE DAYS WHERE I DON’T GET 100 EMAILS IN 24 HOURS.) This is a glimpse of a culture that’s been passed by, yes, but it’s also a fascinating time period.
I’m guessing that this snapshot of technology is intentional, since the Wired is introduced in the first episode. Which is… a thing. Or a place? That’s also deliberately hidden from us as well, but I’m inclined to believe that Chisa is telling the truth. Somehow, she was able to live on in the Wired. Perhaps a digital consciousness? If that’s the case, how is Chisa able to subliminally communicate through the blackboard??? I don’t know the parameters of this kind of existence, so I’m still at a loss. WHICH IS OKAY, THIS IS A LOT OF FUN.
I’m also fascinated by the portrayal of Lain’s family. There’s a detachment to these people, one that we see in Lain herself. Her mother is uninterested in practically anything her daughters have to say. Her father, on the other hand, is over-interested in something else: computers. The Internet. It’s only when Lain expresses an interest in updating her own computer that her father reaches out to connect with her. And yet, that interaction is still incredibly brief. It’s not long before he turns his attention back to something online.
So, what does this all mean? Is this entire show about people who are desperate for a connection? I don’t think it’s ridiculous to suggest that Lain will seek out the Wired. She’s often just as disinterested as many of the other characters, but this appears to have grabbed her. What’s next?
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The video for “Weird” can be downloaded here for $0.99.