DVD Review: Serial Experiments Lain – The Complete Series

MVM Entertainment continues to bring out a variety of anime ranging from new-to-old and this time we take a look at MVM Entertainment’s DVD release of Serial Experiments Lain to see what this new (but older) release has to offer.

Synopsis:

There is a world around us, a world of people, tactile sensation, and culture. There is also a wired world, inside the computer, of images, personalities, virtual experiences, and a culture all of its own. The day after a classmate commits suicide, Lain, a 13 year old girl, discovers how closely the 2 worlds are linked when she receives an e-mail from the dead girl: I still live here. I just abandoned my body. Has the line between the real world and the wired world begun to blur?

Our View:

Serial Experiments Lain is one of those ‘golden-age’ of anime shows that questions the fabric of reality and how we (as humans) live our daily lives. To some Serial Experiments Lain is a series that, like Evangelion, Ghost in the Shell or AKIRA, defined it’s genre; but in my eyes it’s a visually stunning series, with its blend of real-life and animation techniques, but a confusing and completely uninteresting story that doesn’t make any sense. Even thirteen years on from its initial UK DVD release I am still clueless as to what actually happens within the series; but alas this is also part of the charm Serial Experiments Lain has to offer – a series which can be re-watched and re-analyzed time and time again for those that never fully understood it.

The story of Serial Experiments Lain follows Lain, a social inept middle-school-girl who, after receiving an e-mail from a girl who had previously died, begins to develop an interest in NAVI (which is a form of computer) and the online world known as the WIRED which blends reality with virtual reality. At first the story explores Lain’s personal view-points of the device and the WIRED but when rumours appear that a girl looking like Lain appears within the online infrastructure of the WIRED –  as well as at an night-club-styled-cafe – Lain begins to dive deeper and explore more of this strange digital world and finds out that not everything is as it seems.

As far as a progressive linear storyline Serial Experiments Lain delivers everything you’d expect; it starts off slow and progressive but then jumps down the rabbit hole to deliver something unexpected and slightly disturbing. As mentioned previously the episodic content within Serial Experiments Lain still bewilder and puzzle me but that aside it explores a lot of content to deliver, what I assume to be, important information – that is if you can look beyond some of the technical jargon and pointless. but informative, dribble between characters.

It’s obvious to anyone that Serial Experiments Lain isn’t a series I enjoyed to watch; but what it lacked for me someone else will most likely enjoy it – it is considered a cult classic after all. For instance the puzzling nature of the show, the ideals behind it and the way the show presents itself is all a part of its charm and that’s before we dive into the animation quality. By our standards Serial Experiments Lain is an ‘old show’ and yet the animation style and it’s quality still remain consistent and refreshing to this date; even if the English Dub is ‘questionable’ at best – but it was at that time when English Dub’s were mediocre but it’s still an ok experience.

Extras:

Although Serial Experiments Lain is more than a decade old this DVD release features some worthwhile bonus materials with the inclusion of promotional videos, including its original Japanese commercial, as well as the standardised inclusion of textless opening and closing songs.

It’s refreshing to see these bonus materials being included with this complete series DVD re-release of the series and – more importantly – it means that those who haven’t seen the series still manage to receive majority of the supplementary content. The inclusion of these original promotional videos is (for me at least) a highlight as releases nowadays – especially those authored by Sentai Filmworks – lack any worthwhile content; but alas this does.

Specs:

Media:  DVD 9 x2
Region: 2
Running Time: 2:47:18 (Disc 1), 2:23:05 (Disc 2)
Video: MPEG-2
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 224kbps (English) & Dolby Digital 2.0 192kbps (Japanese)
Subtitles: English (White)
Resolution: 720 x 480 (480p)
Aspect Ratio: 4:3
Frame Rate: 30 fps

Overall:

I’ll be brutally honest; Serial Experiments Lain is a series that neither interests me nor entertains me and despite watching the episodic content found within these two DVD discs the events of series still confuse me to a point that I wasn’t sure exactly what went off. But alas to some Serial Experiments Lain is considered a cult-classic and (being honest) it’s easy to see why. The storyline, it’s progression and it’s presentation are all ‘outside of the norm’ and deliver an experience that’s not easily found within any other anime franchise and even after watching the events unfold you are left questioning yourself on the events that transpired which leads to a potential re-watch of the series to find out elements of the series you missed before.

As mentioned the events of Serial Experiments Lain follows the daily life of middle-school-student Lain who, after reciving an e-mail from a girl who committed suicide, begins to explore the online world of the WIRED. While exploring this online world strange things begin to happen; for starters a virtual version of Lain starts appearing online and her friends (class-mates) at school say that they saw her at a club designed for teenagers; to which Lain goes to investigate and finds herself in the middle of trouble. That’s not all; as several organisations soon set their sights on Lain with each having their own ideas about the events which are happening to her, her family and her class-mates. It’s an intuitive storyline and it’s sure to interest some and bore others; but it’s one that has to be watched to completion for the full effect.

Storyline aside this DVD release of Serial Experiments Lain is everything you’d come to expect; a HD remastered source (as a Blu-ray version is also available or bundled with this DVD as part of the Collector’s Edition) in NTSC video delivers a superior visual product to past releases and the inclusion of both the original English Dub (and original Japanese audio with English Subtitles) means that everyone can enjoy the series in it’s natural presentation style. It’s currently unclear if MVM Entertainment are using FUNimation’s US disc masters or Universal Pictures Australian disc masters (as apparently subtitles were off-timed in the Australian release) but I saw nothing that raised alarms as subtitles were clear and present throughout.

Serial Experiments Lain is a series of acquired taste and although this series isn’t for me it does have a story to tell that’s sure to gain the interest of both new and old fans alike. If you liked the original Ghost in the Shell film and a few older generation anime (such as FLCL, Ergo Proxy and such) then you’ll most likely enjoy the tale that resides within Serial Experiments Lain. On the flipside however this DVD release is everything you could ask for and so much more; the quality, it’s presentation and the selection of bonus materials is everything you could ask for and despite being over a decade old the series still looks (and sounds) fantastic. It’s an old product that retains it’s charm and still look as visually good as it did all those years ago and it’s definitely one to add to the collection (especially on a Blu-ray).

Score: review-stars-3

Serial Experiments Lain – The Complete Series is available as a Limited Edition Blu-ray and DVD Combo Pack and will soon be available as a stand-a-lone DVD and Blu-ray release within the UK.

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About Scott Emsen
Scott is the Founder and Executive Editor of AnimeBlurayUK but in the past he has worked on ZOMGPlay and was once a Community Moderator for the Nokia N-Gage forums. Based in the UK, he loves anything related to Games & Anime and in In his spare time you'll mostly find him playing on one of his many gaming consoles; namely the PS Vita or Xbox One.

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