Serial Experiments Lain DVD/Blu-ray Limited Edition Review

Telling an ambitious story with philosophical notions that demand the viewers’ full attention is hard. Going against the stream and redefining a genre is even harder. Serial Experiments Lain did both of these things in the year 2000 and became an inspiration to some notable movies and series (The Matrix arguably being the most prominent of the bunch). Now Funimation Entertainment is waking the series from its long-lasting slumber and putting out a limited edition of Serial Experiments Lain on Blu-ray. Have the years been good to this science fiction anime or has the futuristic internet society it portrayed long since vanished into the ether?

serial_experiments_lain_boxartSerial Experiments Lain tells the story of Iwakura Lain – a shy middle school girl with little interest in technology. One day Lain receives an email from her fellow classmate Chisa. The problem? Chisa has committed suicide a week earlier and claims to be contacting Lain from the other side. While Lain’s friends perceive this email as little more than a disturbing prank she is intrigued enough to check thing further. In her email Chisa invited Lain to be more active in The Wired (the internet). Soon it becomes apparent that Lain has a knack for computers and technology. She quickly becomes a prominent and powerful user inside The Wired, making a name for herself and attracting both followers and bashers. As her appetite for computers and networks continues to grow she encounters the various phenomenon currently considered hot on the net: drug dealers, a group of hackers called The Knights, a virtual online game that seems to be killing real people, a revolutionary computer chip that supposedly enables you to connect to the net on a whole new level and more. But the deeper Lain goes down the rabbit hole the imminent the dangers of The Wired become. The knights soon start to toy with Lain, she is being stalked by two strange men and another person on The Wired is pretending to be her and tainting her good name.

Being a slow and thought-inducing series Serial Experiments Lain is geared towards the older crowds who prefer their anime dish with huge intellectual and philosophical toppings. The pacing is slow and the plot focuses exclusively on Lain. Most of the episodes are a mix of Lain’s daily internet endeavors and information about the world she lives in (which was a bit more advanced than ours back when the series aired). Music and animation play very little parts in this series. The music is mostly made up by the humming of power lines, computer fans and driving cars. Lengthy stretches of silence are also used on purpose to solidify emotions such as solitude and forlornness. The animation is limited, mostly due to the nature of the series. Too much animation would have only served as a distraction anyway. Visually Serial Experiments Lain is a mixed bag. Some frames are super detailed, while others are a bit abstract and simple. FUNimation Enterainment did us a great service when they decided to license the remastered Blu-ray version of Serial Experiments Lain (the same version that was named Lain|Restore in Japan). The quality of the remastered Blu-ray is absolutely mind-boggling. When the series had originally released on DVD, DVD technology was still in diapers and HD TVs were nonexistent. So the original DVDs looked blurry and weren’t a significant improvement over the VHS tape. The remastered series looks like a modern HD anime. It is super sharp, has great audio quality and completely outshined all the expectations I had from it. The only visual problem I encountered were white flakes that sometimes appeared in dark scenes. These usually appear once every few episodes, the only exception being episode 8 that suffers from them extensively. But really, if you own the original DVDs you will be blown away by how good this remastered version looks.

Of course the real beauty of Serial Experiments Lain is not in how it looks but in how it feels. This is a dark show with many disturbing images and seemingly unexplainable occurrences. If you adjust to it the atmosphere will pull you in for a unique experience not quite found in any other anime. Since we are always by Lain’s side we have the opportunity to see things through and try to piece together the ambiguous world she lives in. At a certain point into the story Lain herself faces the camera and confesses she is confused and doesn’t fully understand what is happening to her or around her. The series doesn’t shy away from tackling major concepts of our society, including the existence of god, the real nature of the human kind and the double edged technology that is the internet. The series prophesied the immense impact the internet will have on our society long before our current age of social networking and broadband connections. It even goes as far as warning us of the dangers such an immersion will bring forth. Some of the accusation Serial Experiments Lain raise have aged and aren’t as impressive as they once were, but there is still enough intellectual depth to them to make you appreciate their purpose in the overall scheme. This series is simply too smart and too impressive to disappoint in that regard.

 

Serial Experiments Lain - Limited Edition unboxed

 

Let’s move on to the audio and extras. Thankfully FUNimation opted to leave the original subtitles and excellent English dub. Both the subtitles and the English dub are great, but I tend to prefer watching Lain in English. Even though the Japanese Lain sounds more lively than here English counterpart the rest of the English voice actors are outright better than the Japanese ones. And with the internet playing a big part in the story English is used nonstop anyway, even in the Japanese track. The digital extras for this release are unimpressive: a few trailers, a clean opening and clean ending themes. What is impressive are the physical extra, of which there are three. The first is the wooden box this release comes packed in – something that shouldn’t be taken for granted in the age of flimsy slim plastic boxes. But there are two real gems inside this box – a thin booklet and a thick book. The booklet contains a lengthy discussion between the director and producer regarding the remastering process. They go over all the episodes and provide detailed explanations about image conversions, lights, masks and so on. There are also two pages that depict the email exchange between the two during the remastering process. A few famous images of Lain are presented in color near the end. The other piece of this puzzle – the thick book – is something really special. It contains the production sketches and concept art for the entire series on high quality paper. There are 320 pages (!!) in this lovely book. It’s the ultimate Lain memorabilia.

It is clear Serial Experiments Lain has been remastered in loving hands and remains a masterpiece of an anime. It takes place in a gloomy, yet eerily familiar internet-driven world, and has a main character you will want to root for. It brings me great joy to know that after all those years Serial Experiments Lain looks and sounds better than ever and can still be as impressive as I remembered it. As was mentioned before this series is meant for an older audiences. It was created for those who can appreciate a slow, yet fascinating, story that requires a lot from you to understand but is worth every second of your time. It is science fiction anime at its best.

 


Pros:

- Rich in ideas and highly intellectual

- Has a unique atmosphere and an engaging plot.

- Limited edition was remastered beautifully and has great extras.

 

Final Score: 9.5/10 (Amazing)

 

 

Product Information: Serial Experiments Lain DVD/Blu-ray Complete Collection Limited Edition. Published by FUNimation Entertainment. Release Date: November 27, 2012.

Review Equipment: A Samsung 32-Inch LCD HDTV (LA32B530) connected to a PS3 using a ver. 1.4 HDMI cable.


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  • Kunamuro

    Make sure you check fauux site after watching this. It really looks like something taken straight from the show

    http://fauux.neocities.org/

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