Mark Watches ‘Serial Experiments Lain’: Episode 5 – Distortion

In the fifth episode of Serial Experiments Lain, THIS SHOW HURTS ME. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Serial Experiments Lain

WHAT IS THIS SHOW. WHAT IS IT.

Lain

I think it’ll be best for me to examine this based on the two characters “Distortion” follows, though I admit that I feel like I’m just shouting into the void at this point. I’ve now accepted that Serial Experiments Lain will never make this easy for me, so here goes: I believe that the Wired (or someone in the Wired) told Lain the truth. The other option is that what Lain was told was a lie, one probably intended to manipulate her, but I don’t see a reason why that would be the case. As far as I can tell, the Wired really does exist, and some power within in it is able to bleed over into Lain’s world. And I was gonna type, “the real world,” BUT THAT MIGHT NOT EVEN BE THE CASE. Lain may have stumbled on to a “solution” to the limited nature of human existence.

And that’s a heavy thing to be dealt this early into the show. Lain’s reality might just be a physical manifestation of a higher reality, an illusion, a mass hallucination that covers the “real” world. (Did this influence The Matrix? This sounds a lot like The Matrix.) It would explain a great deal of what we’d seen, from Chisa’s death to the bizarre ways in which the Wired invades Lain’s reality. And now I’m wondering if the “prophecy” that the “God” of the Wired spoke of was actually made by Lain’s father. Didn’t he speak of the importance of the Wired, at least in a very cryptic way? The man told her this was the future; what if he didn’t know what he’d done? I DON’T KNOW, YALL. I’m quite aware that I am grasping at straws, but that’s all the show has given to me.

Mika

Which is why I want to rely more on Mika’s experience in this episode than Lain’s. In her world, Lain is cut off from practically everyone else. Loneliness and isolation has always been a part of characterization since the start of the show. Accepting that, then I think it’s easy to see how her narration might be flawed and limited, too. So I found it fascinating that the writers chose to give us a great deal of the story in “Distortion” through Mika, who is only marginally online and can observe Lain through a different lens.

I was going to say a more “objective” lens, but I don’t think that’s terribly fair. As we see in this episode, even her experience is fractured and confusing. I’m still struggling with the act of piecing together her visions, her observations, and reality. What actually happened here? What did she imagine? Does her proximity to Lain mean that she’s going to experience more and more bizarre events like she did here? I don’t know how to answer that. (Or practically any other question I brought up here.) (I don’t know who I am.) (Or what my life is.) (This show is nothing but existential angst.)

All that I can wrap my head around is that Lain begins to observe the changes that happen in her sister’s life. By chance (OR BY DESIGN??? I DON’T KNOW), she happens upon her sister as she’s talking to the “God” of the Wired. From Lain’s perspective, she’s having a powerful conversation about reality, but when Mika sees her, she’s standing in the middle of the crosswalk as traffic rages past her. This comes after the horrific accidents caused by the disruption of the computer system that guides all the auto-driving cars. So when she sees a glitch on a giant electronic advertisement, one where Lain’s face appears, Mika starts to connect the dots.

Can you blame her? Her sister’s behavior has changed in a number of ways, from the way she acts in public to her deliberate isolation in her room, which has also been transformed into a terrifying HR Giger-esque amalgamation of wires and cables. She has become utterly obsessed with the Wired. Thus, it’s also understandable that she’s so frightened by the ways in which someone – perhaps the Knights? – invade her life to tell her to “Fulfill the Prophecy.” Why her? Why must she do it and not Lain? What role could Mika play that Lain could not? I DON’T KNOW. What I do know is that there were many moments in “Distortion” that I found downright horrifying, especially that scene in the bathroom. I know I’m just five episodes into this show, but Serial Experiments Lain does psychological horror really well.

So what of Mika’s visions? Did they really happen? Or did she start having them as she looked into her drink at the dinner table? I could perhaps propose a loop theory to explain how she saw herself walk in the door, but I’m not even sure that’s worth it. At the end of this episode, Mika still knows that Lain has changed. But does she remember that she’s supposed to fulfill the prophecy? Was that entire loop meant to remind her of that?

Wow, this show is confusing.

The video for “Distortion” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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