All spoilers on this page are UNMARKED.
Titular character and protagonist of the series. Lain is initially portrayed as a emotionless fourteen year old girl being raised by her ineffectual mother and computer obsessed father in a cyberpunk Japan. After receiving a mysterious email from a recently deceased classmate she is thrown into a conspiracy that causes her to question the foundations of her existence.
- Ambiguous Disorder: It's clear at the beginning of the series that Lain suffers from some kind of mental health issue: likely schizophrenia and/or dissociative identity disorder, with Lain regularly hallucinating and witnessing the "other Lain" act without her control. It is revealed in a later episode this behavior is the result of Lain being an artificially created "Program".
- Given that the game involves Lain going to see a therapist, it's unsurprising that her mental health is questionable. Terms like schizophrenia, savant syndrome, depersonalization, and others get thrown around, though a hard diagnosis is never really made. Touko even turns around and argues that Lain is totally fine at times, despite other events suggesting she's definitely not.
- Ambiguously Bi: Lain declares her love for Alice during the climax of the series, though it isn't specified whether it is romantic or platonic. Lain also expresses a subtle attraction towards Taro, who she had gone on a "date" with in Layer 09, and later manifests herself on his portable computer as a kind of goodbye after resetting the world.
- Animal Motifs: A bear, as seen in her kigurumi (onesie), slippers, beanie hat, and stationery. As well as just being cute, it makes sense for a bear to be Lain's motif, as they symbolise evolution and strength.
- Anti-Anti-Christ: According to Eiri, Lain's purpose for existing is to merge the real world with the world of The Wired creating a single consciousness on Earth that would ultimately eliminate individuality. Lain rejects this in favor of resetting the present timeline where all her friends and family live normal lives without her.
- Apocalypse Maiden: She's the center of an Assimilation Plot.
- Artificial Human: Lain is an artificially produced God created by Masami Eiri to push humanity into the next stage of human evolution by linking all humanity into a god-like collective consciousness.
- Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: What she does at the end of the series after resetting the world.
- Become A Real Girl: Played with. The idea of Lain coming out of her Emotionless Girl shell and making friends is a plot point, but what really goes on is far more bizarre.
- Boyish Short Hair: Lain's hair is cropped short except for a thick sidelock held together by an X-shaped hairclip. According to Yoshitoshi Abe, the unconventional style is supposed to represent Lain's unstable nature, and the videogame explains that the sidelock is supposed to stop evil spirits and bad luck entering through the left ear.
- Brain Uploading: What some of the groups in the story want her to do. Of course, in this world, doing so would likely consist of committing suicide. In the game, she goes through with it.
- Covert Pervert: Her alternate/evil personality is voyeuristic towards her friend Alice.
- Creepy Child: Her blank stare, quiet demeanor and cryptic words make her this to a certain extent. A good example is her interaction with the junkie in the night club in LAYER 02.
- Creepy Monotone: She speaks in a constant low tone. Except when she's in the Wired. Or angry.
- Despair Event Horizon: She has a few, but the most prominent one is driving Alice almost insane by showing her the truth.
- Does Not Like Shoes: One of the traits adopted at the kickstart of her character development, along with the ditching of most clothing while in her Hacker Cave. It is justified by the fact she is indoors most of the time, although it extends to her avatars in The Wired as well, symbolizing how it becomes an extension of her house or safe place. Crosses into Barefoot Loon in her quirkiest moments.
- Dull Eyes of Unhappiness: Gains this over the couse of the series as she gets more and more connected to The Wired.
- Emotionless Girl: Her primary aspect is this. The others, not so much.
- Fake Memories: Lain's memories about her life and family are all fabrications of The Wired.
- First Kiss: With Taro on their "date".
- Hacker Cave: Lain creates a massively complicated one in her room over the series, to point where it actually spills out her window.
- Heroic BSoD: Caused by her realization that she is not human, but a "program".
- I Am Who?: A critical part of her nature. "Who is Lain?", she asks. A computer program? An artificial human? A delusional schizophrenic? The Wired? God?
- Identity Breakdown: She's interrogated by The Men in Black in episode 8,during which they ask her "Who are you? Are your parents really your parents?" These questions, along with the silent confirmation from her parents when Lain brings this up with them, causes Lain to spiral for the next couple of episodes, peaking with The Reveal that her digital self is her true self, causing a Heroic BSoD.
- I Just Want to Have Friends: Her friends, especially Alice, are what makes her most happy.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Lain personally "resets" the world for Alice at the expense of her own existence.
- Informed Loner: She has friends, but they have to make a conscious effort to get her to do much with them outside of school.
- Little Miss Almighty: Lain is a god-like being that can alter reality.
- Meaningful Name: Lain is an reference to the religious act of "Laining", which means to read from The Torah. Depending on how it is spelled, it is also a homophone to the English word "line", as in online.
- Messianic Archetype: Lain is essentially a omniscient being in mortal form who must struggle between her humanity and her divinity.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: After being harassed by the group for several weeks Lain exposes the identities of the Knights of the Eastern Calculus on The Wired. She immediately regrets her decision after witnessing the dozens of suicides and assassinations that it causes.
- No Social Skills: Or technical skills, or academic skills, or much of anything, at first.
- Not So Stoic: Lain's Wired alter-ego is expressive, passionate and emotional.
- Oblivious Adoption: Her "family" are actually a part of an experiment conducted to control the Wired.
- Older Than They Look: Despite being fourteen Lain can pass off as a grade school child.
- Parental Abandonment: Lain's family abandons her in Layer 11 revealing that they were never her actual family, but were simply acting to observe her behavior.
- Parental Neglect: Her mother constantly ignores and neglects her. It makes sense when we find out she's not really her mother. Maybe.
- Physical God: She is the true Goddess of the Wired, but she doesn't realize it till near the end of the series.
- The Peeping Tom: Her alternate/evil personality enjoys spying on Alice masturbating.
- Psychotic Smirk: This is pretty much her "evil" personality's default expression.
- Reality Warper: Lain is essentially a God and is capable of rewriting all of history at will.
- Recurring Dreams: In the game, Lain's dreams include some mysterious "it" related to her hallucinations. While the dreams come and go, them returning never precipitates anything good.
- Rei Ayanami Expy: And in a Mind Screw-laden series, too. An unintentional example, since the creators hadn't watched Evangelion till after the fourth episode of Lain.
- Split Personalities: A major plot point in the series focuses on Lain's split personalities. There are three "Lains": The Lain that exists in the "Real World" who is introverted and child-like, Lain when she is on The Wired who is assertive and inquisitive and the Evil!Lain who presents Lain's archetypal Shadow being malicious, violent and extremely sadistic (and it's implied to be working for the Knights).
- Split-Personality Merge: In Layer 13, Lain is able to overcome and absorb the personality of Evil!Lain.
- The Stoic: Doesn't speak or emote much, and only interacts with a few people. In the real world, that is.
- Technopath: Lain is essentially the Goddess of The Wired.
- Techno Wizard: And how! She outstrips her father within episodes of getting a computer.
- Teen Genius: Despite being fourteen Lain is able to construct a custom made NAVI supercomputer.
- Terrible Artist: You get to see her doodling in class: it's nothing but an extremely wobbly spiral.
- Thousand-Yard Stare: Lain's default blank expression comes complete with huge staring eyes.
- Tomato in the Mirror: Lain struggles about whether she's real or just a "program".
- Transhuman: One interpretation of her, if she was actually human at the start.
- Virtual Ghost: Lain of the Wired.
- Weirdness Magnet: Lain is brought into a massive conspiracy involving the collective unconsciousness, The Men in Black, and an online cult.
- Yandere: Evil!Lain displays this towards Alice and casually stalks her by manifesting in her room to watch her masturbate.
Alice is a fourteen year old who attends the same school as Lain Iwakura. During the series Alice attempts to befriend Lain in hopes of helping her come out of her shell. She soon becomes Lain's close friend.
- A Date with Rosie Palms: Thinking about her teacher. Evil!Lain spies her doing it.
- Alice Allusion: Confirmed by the writer to be named after that Alice; this is a recurring trope in his works.
- Go Mad from the Revelation: Alice is unable to comprehend the events that involve Lain's divinity, culminating in her losing it when she sees Eiri's attempt at physical manifestation (also due to how horrific it is).
- Heroic BSoD: She has a couple, the first being when Evil!Lain tells her that she exposed her on the Wired, and upon finding out the truth about Lain and the Wired.
- Hope Spot: She gets through to Lain, thinking she can finally help her, and then Lain starts talking to God.
- Locked Out of the Loop: She has literally no idea about what's going on in Lain's life till the penultimate episode.
- Living Emotional Crutch: Serves as one to Lain.
- Muggle Best Friend: She's Lain's closest friend, and is completely oblivious to what Lain is.
- Nice Girl: A kind girl who just wants to help an introverted classmate.
- Ordinary High-School Student: Nothing out of the ordinary.
- Precocious Crush: With her teacher.
- Weirdness Magnet: Her friendship with Lain causes her be in the eye of a cyclone of surreal events.
- You Are Not Alone: She tries this with Lain to bring her back to reality. It works, then it gets worse.
Exclusive to the video game, Touko is a 27-year-old counselor/psychiatrist working for Tachibana General Labs. She spent some years as a transfer student in America, where she met her boyfriend, Takashi. Now returned to Japan, she's taken on Lain as her first client.
- Critical Psychoanalysis Failure: The more their counseling sessions go on, the more Touko becomes the subject of Lain's prying questions, eventually driving her into a state of mental instability. Of course, Lain isn't exactly a normal patient.
- Girls Love Stuffed Animals: It wasn't stuffed, but she had a dragon-shaped bank she loved a lot and talked to as a kid.
- Hopeless Suitor: It comes very much as a surprise to Touko when she hears rumors that Takashi is getting married. Turns out all the times he told her he was busy were him trying to blow her off. She tries to justify it as him waiting for the right time to tell her he's not interested anymore.
- I Just Want to Be Loved: Touko realizes eventually that she's like this, namely following the news that Takashi is getting married and considering the attraction she'd felt to her coworker, Yoshida.
- Sanity Slippage: Despite being tasked with counseling Lain, as their sessions go on, it becomes clear that Touko is suffering from mental instability of her own. Even her diagnostic reports come to better describe her own deteriorating mental state.
- Spell My Name with an "S": The fan translation swaps between spelling her name as Touko or Toko, and even extends her surname to Younera. Her boyfriend Takashi/Takeshi gets some of this, too.
Lain's computer obsessed father who first introduces her to the world of The Wired. Compared to his wife, Miho, he is much more affectionate towards Lain and seems to legitimately care for her. It is revealed in Layer 10: Love that neither he or the rest of the Iwakura family are really her family, but regardless Yasuo still loved Lain like a daughter.
- Doting Parent: Yasuo is a subtle example of this trope: though he doesn't go out of his way to praise Lain, he is well aware of her capabilities and passively encourages her.
- I Am Not Your Father: Lain doesn't have a biological father.
- Parental Neglect: Towards Mika.
- Salary Man: He works as this.
- So Proud of You: Yasuo visits Lain for one last time to tell her that despite the fact that even though she was just an experiment, he truly thought of her as his daughter.
- Techno Wizard: He is adept at using the Wired. That's probably why he got the job of being Lain's "father".
Lain and Mika's apathetic stay at home mother. Miho is completely indifferent to the lives and feelings of her daughters.
- Give Him a Normal Life: Towards her elder daughter Mika.
- Gonk: A rare female example. Her character design looks much more unsettlingly realistic than that of Lain's father. This is possibly meant to be a hint that she isn't Lain's biological mother.
- House Wife: Her role, and not much else. Unlike Yasuo, she has no interest in the story, and is just performing a job.
- Parental Neglect: Miho is completely unconcerned about the well being of her youngest daughter Lain.
- Resentful Guardian: She seems to legitimately hate Lain going so far as to refuse to interact with her for more than a few seconds. It is later revealed this is because Lain is an omnipresent "program" that was placed into the Iwakura's care.
Lain's arrogant older sister. Throughout the early portion of the series she is apathetic towards Lain and her peculiar behavior.
- Bratty Teenage Daughter: She's aloof and dismissive, especially towards her sister.
- Butt-Monkey: She ends up getting abused by the Knights of the Eastern Calculus.
- Despair Event Horizon: After her Mind Rape and imprisonment in the Wired.
- Empty Shell: Her mind is trapped in the Wired, leaving her body capable of only repeating a dial-tone.
- Madness Mantra: The above mentioned dial-tone.
- Mind Rape: By the Knights of the Eastern Calculus.
- "Beep... Beep... Beep..."
- Ordinary High-School Student: She doesn't seem to know what is really going on. That's probably why the Knights Mind Rape her, in order to help destroy Lain's family life.
Masami Eiri was the project director at Tachibana Laboratories where he worked with the experimental Protocol 7. Eiri was fired from his position at Tachibana after it was uncovered he'd been secretly inserting foreign code into the the Wired. He was found dead the next day, allegedly by suicide. In reality, Eiri had uploaded his entire consciousnesses onto the Wired, declaring himself "God of the Wired". His goal is to accelerate human evolution into its next stage by merging the collective human unconscious with the Wired, creating a godlike being.
- Apocalypse Cult: The Knights worship him as a deity and help him in merging the real world with the Wired.
- Brain Uploading: Eiri uploads his consciousness onto the Wired, believing it to be a higher plane of existence.
- Big Bad: Of the series, trying to merge everyone's consciousness with the Wired and rule over them as a god.
- Body Horror: Though it's not seen, his death was implied to have been grisly with his torso bisected and limbs severed under train wheels. The audience, however, does see his attempt to manifest into the real world in episode 12. It's a disgustingly nightmarish blob of flesh, organs, and technology that lashes out at Lain and Alice.
- Dark Messiah: He wants to accelerate human evolution by dubious means.
- Digitized Hacker: He uploaded his consciousness onto the Wired to further his plans.
- Does Not Like Shoes: Very much like Lain, in a sort of evil reflection of her virtual avatar trait. Actually vice versa, as given that he created Lain, it's her who reflects him. In Eiri's case, it also represents he's dead.
- Early-Bird Cameo: One that isn't even on-screen. When Eiri is formally introduced during the exposition sequence, it's mentioned that, after being fired from Tachibana, he committed suicide on the train line. Now go back to the beginning of the series and notice that the train Lain was riding on in episode 1 is stopped due to an unspecified but abrupt accident.
- Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: A male example, as shown in the picture.
- Evil Sounds Deep: Mainly in the Japanese. It's especially jarring to hear him use feminine speech while talking in such a deep voice.
- Gaslighting: Does this to Lain to the point she doubts her own sanity. This makes it all the more satisfying when she gives him a metaphorical kick in the nuts towards the end of the series.
- A God Am I: Eiri refers to himself as The God of The Wired.
- Half the Man He Used to Be: Never stated outright, but implied by the fact that Eiri has what looks like duct tape wrapped around his elbows and torso. Knowing that he threw himself under a train and seeing that multiple markers were placed around the scene, we can gather that Eiri was rather gruesomely bisected by the train wheels.
- I Am Your Father: Eiri reveals to have created Lain as a "program" to merge the real world with The Wired.
- Manipulative Bastard: He is good at manipulating Lain. Although he ultimately fails.
- No Shirt, Long Jacket: If it weren't for the fact that he dresses this way (combined with the deep voice), you'd be forgiven for thinking he was a woman.
- Physical God: When the real world and The Wired merge. Not that it stops him from dying after absorbing too much matter.
- Sissy Villain: During his first few conversations with Lain, he talks in a feminine manner. A rare case of it actually making him more intimidating.
- Soul-Crushing Desk Job: In the rebooted reality, Eiri seems to regard his programmer job as this. Without his delusions of godhood he's just a salaryman working a job he hates.
- Walking Spoiler: There's numerous talk early on about a god being in the Wired. It isn't until late in the series that Lain manages to force him to reveal himself to her.
The Knights of the Eastern Calculus
The Knights are a rogue hacker group with a dubious agenda. Gradually it's revealed that they view Masami Eiri as a God and work to bring about his goal of merging the Wired with reality.
- Driven to Suicide: Lain doxxes the organization and with their identities going public all of the Knights either commit suicide or are killed by the Men in Black and made to look like they committed suicide.
- Knight Templar: The Knights perform all manner of privacy violations, mental attacks, and even murder in an effort to make their goals a reality. They're even stated to have descended from the historic Knights Templar.Taro: "The Knights are users that are fighting to make the only truth there is into a reality. - The truth has power because it's the truth. And because it's the truth that makes it just."
The Men in Black
A duo of suited men with hi-tech eyepieces. They are stalking Lain for unknown reasons and seek to bring about the end of the Knights. Their employer works for Tachibana Laboratories and their allegiance to the company (be it as workers or mercenaries hired out) is ambiguous.
- Ambiguously Evil: Their morality is up in the air. They oppose the Knights and go to lethal extremes to take them down but unlike the Knights they're never shown to attack innocent people. They believe in a world not controlled by "gods" digital or otherwise but their boss does and he betrays them.
- The Men in Black: It's even their name. The dark suits and air of mystery make them a strange force in the story. Though in a twist they're not affiliated with the government.
- No Name Given: Their boss says they have no names though he calls the taller one Karl. They are credited as Karl Haushofer (the tall one) and Lin Sui-Xi (the short one).
- Sinister Shades: They wear a pair of hi-tech eye-obscuring dark glasses with a red laser that often clues people in to something sinister being afoot. With the Wired being seen as a kind of "upper layer" to the real world, their eye-wear seems to grant them vision that can pierce through said layers. Notably, when they finally take them off to speak to Lain they seem much less threatening.
- The Stoic: Karl is much quieter and much less emotive than Lin. Lin can sometimes be seen cackling to himself while Karl remains pensive.