In the sixth episode of Serial Experiments Lain, Lain is drawn into the Wired after a bizarre experience in downtown Tokyo. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Serial Experiments Lain.
Trigger Warning: For nonconsensual medical experimentation, violence towards children.
I’ll repeat something I said during the video for this episode and expand upon it: I think I’ve been approaching this show wrong. There is some serialization at the heart of this, but it’s got a lot more in common with an anthology. Each of these episodes are like short stories, glimpses into the Wired that comprise an unsettling whole. Indeed, “Kids” sidetracks us away from Lain’s transformation by looping her into a mega-disturbing mystery involving children holding their arms open to the sky in praise of… what? Initially, we see the motif on Lain’s street, but you know what? So much weird shit has happened on this show that I’m ready to accept LITERALLY ANYTHING put on the screen. So I didn’t know if that would be part of anything larger.
But then “Kids” does one of my VERY FAVORITE THINGS: it gives us a wacky, unnerving sequence in which multiple kids raise their arms to the sky in apparent reverence of an image of Lain (WHEW, THE EX-CATHOLIC IN ME WAS OVERWHELMED, THAT IMAGERY WAS INTENSE) and other people can see it. I fully expected that Lain would be the sole person aside from the kids to see this, but THIS IS SUCH A BOLD STORY CHOICE. First of all, it helps us to understand just how far the Knights are willing to go to disrupt our world. (At this point, that seems to be the prevailing motivation for them: they just want to cause chaos and to force people to adjust their thinking about reality.) Secondly, Lain’s friends, who had just compelled her to socialize with them, can no longer deny that she’s wrapped up in something weird as hell. Y’all, they start off this episode worrying that she’s isolating herself and festering in loneliness, and now? Her nude image is all up in the sky like the Virgin Mary, and random kids are worshipping her. EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED.
This episode also gives us a deeper look into the wired, too, and I was thrilled to see what it looked like, at least from Lain’s perspective. She really is a different person in this world, and I got a sense for why this was so addictive! She gets to exist in a world full of positivity and interest, where people want to talk to her, where people seek her out just to get her advice, where she is loved and cherished. It’s not surprising to me that her friends devalue such an experience, and I’ll admit that watching this in 2016 affects how I interpreted this. We currently live in a cultural climate where entire friendships and relationship exist online. Who here hasn’t developed an intense relationship of some sort through the Internet?
So I don’t see Lain’s interest in the Wired as wholly bad; there’s value and meaning in it. Yet “Kids” shows us another side of things, too. In her quest to find out why an image of herself appeared in the sky and why kids were compelled to venerate it, she tracks down a man named Professor Hodgeson. Now, it’s important to note that this sequence doesn’t just serve to give us exposition, but also puts Lain’s behavioral transformation front and center. She is absolutely a different person here, one who is assertive, purposeful, and snappy. She doesn’t stumble through words or hesitate when she wants to say something. It’s mesmerizing to watch.
I admit that the actual interrogation of Hodgeson fell a bit flat for me. It was too on-the-nose, and I’m certain that’s because I’m used to the sparse nature of Serial Experiments Lain. I’m certain that this was the longest bout of dialogue that we’d ever gotten, so it came across as exposition-heavy. The information is important, of course, since it leads Lain closer to the Knights. I’m not sure I understand what’s actually happening here, though. Hodgeson’s experiment was about pulling psi energy from children for… something. It backfired, and he killed a lot of kids. In the present time, the Knights got ahold of his research and used it to control kids. But what for? To tease Lain? Is this like the most extreme trolling any of us have ever seen? I can only speculate about this, but that seems like a strong possibility.
This episode also helped me to separate the men in black suits from the Knights, since they appear to have saved Lain from a parasite bomb. (In a weird way, I might add. They just creep outside her window and get her to come down and confront them, which prevents her from being harmed or killed by the bomb. There was probably a more efficient way to do that.) So, are these men trying to protect her? Are they allies? Or part of something else?
I STILL KNOW SO LITTLE.
The video for “Kids” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
Mark Links Stuff
– I am now on Patreon! There are various levels of support, from $1 up to whatever you want! You’ll get to read a private blog, extra reviews, and other such rewards.
– I will be at numerous conventions in 2016! Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches have been announced here.
– Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!