Serial Experiments Lain Vol. #2 (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Dani Moure
Review Date: Tuesday, March 16, 2004
Release Date: Monday, March 08, 2004



What They Say
KNIGHTS: a super hacker group that has great influence in the wired. No one knows who the members are, but they control information and sometimes develop and distribute illegal information equipment. When Lain metaphorsizes her physical self into the wired to search for an answer to incidents of kids committing suicide, she finds that the KNIGHTS are behind these incidents...

Includes episodes 5-7: Distortion, Kids, Society.


The Review!
Return to the weird world of Lain, as things get even more strange, but more about the Wired is revealed.

Audio:
I stuck with the Japanese audio track for this disc, having seen the entire show dubbed before. The sound is nice and clear, and I noticed no dropouts or distortions. There's not all that much depth to the track, but it's pretty solid with no technical problems. Spot-checking the English track showed up no problems. Incidentally, the opening song, "Duvet" by Boa, is a fantastic and catchy song that's perfect for the show.

Video:
The video on the whole looks very nice, and the minor problems I had with the first volume (a slight bit of pixellation) seem to be gone here. The transfer is a bit grainy, more noticeable during the darker scenes, but that's to be expected. Overall this is a nice transfer.

Packaging:
No packaging was included as this was a check disc.

Menu:
The menus are much the same as volume 1, which means they fit with the show well, but aren't all that exciting. They're all static menus with the relevant buttons in place (though the main menu has a series of stills in the background instead of just one image). Selections are nice and fast, and it's an easy menu to find your way around.

Extras:
The extras are much the same as before in terms of what they are, but just new versions. We get the same Madman produced DVD trailer (as the disc was authored by them), along with an advert for the second home video volume, an advert for the Cyberia mix soundtrack, and another promo for the PlayStation game. A gallery of 18 conceptual drawings is included, but these extras always make me long for even more, no matter how nice the drawings are. The extras are rounded out with a strange short clip of Lain with an umbrella getting hit by the camera, which was an easter egg on the US release. Amusing, and certainly odd enough for the show!

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)

While the first volume of Lain introduced us to the characters and the Wired, hinting at the oddities of certain characters and events, the second volume takes things further, exploring the world of the Wired and how it relates to the real world.

The first episode on the disc, "Distortion", focuses more on Lain's sister, Mika. When Lain is walking through town one day, she hears a voice in her head talking about the Wired. Later, she is sitting at home by her bed, talking to a doll. The doll tells her that for every event there is first a prophecy, and the event first comes into existence when that is made. Lain's first question is who creates the prophecy, but it goes unanswered. The next day, the traffic signals in Tokyo are all giving out false information, and as Mika walks along the street, she meets a boy who spills his drink on her. When she goes to wipe it off, a message is sprawled across her handkerchief proclaiming, "The other side is overcrowded. The dead will have nowhere to go." When she turns around, she sees a girl standing in the middle of the street as cars whiz by ? it's Lain. She shrugs it off and walks away, but when she looks at the massive advertising video wall, Lain's face appears.

Lain's friends soon begin receiving spam mail about the prophecy being fulfilled, and even seem to suspect her of the hacking. The episode continues to show Lain becoming more and more engrossed in the Wired, and her friends seem to be aware things aren't right. As the story continues, more and more information is revealed about the Wired, but once again it's not spoon-fed. The conversations Lain has with her parents, who just talk about the Wired seem to say a lot if you take note of what they're saying. Her dad, in particular, suggests that things happening in the Wired could begin to manifest themselves in the real world, through prophecies. Not only that, but as Mika becomes more aware of things going on around her, especially with Lain, she eventually seems to be replaced with a "new" sister copy, as she vanishes, and Lain sees the residue. It certainly hints at the lines between the Wired and the real world becoming more and more blurred.

The story continues showing the extent of Lain's immersion in the Wired, as she laughs and jokes with what she thinks are the Knights. Her room is full of water, and is a mass of screens and computers. At school, Lain's friends notice she's becoming more like her old, reclusive self again and are concerned. Lain goes shopping with them, but as they walk along Lain notices a young boy opening his arms wide toward the sky, as if he's waiting for something. After seeing him a couple of times, she notices a crowd doing the same thing, and as she looks up, the clouds retract and an image of Lain appears for all to see. Lain returns home and enters the Wired to try and find out more about what happened. As a "Cheshire cat" guides her, Lain meets with an old professor to ask him about KIDS.

The professor talks about the Psi that is present in all children as a latent ability, only enough to bend a coin or something similar. But KIDS was to harness this ability, combining the Psi of all the children in the experiments. The professor destroyed it, but the schematics are out on the Wired now. Lain asks who is using it, but he doesn't answer, only telling her that she is incredibly powerful. Lain leaves the Wired, but still wants to know why the children are being used. But she notices the men in black outside her house, and on confronting them, she learns that they aren't the Knights, as she thought, but in fact the Knights were the ones who planted a bomb in her coolant system. From this episode, it would seem that someone out there is using the idea of the KIDS experiment to form the basis of the Wired, which is perhaps why Lain seems to have so much power, and herself is appearing all over the real world now in her Wired guise.

The final episode on the disc reveals more snippets of Lain's continual transformation, and gives our first direct glimpse at her changing personality in the real world, as her Wired persona takes over. At school, Arisu continues to express how worried she is about Lain. When she returns home, the men in black ask her to accompany them to a computer lab to meet their boss. She agrees, and he says that while he's not sure how much Lain does on purpose, her presence in the Wired is highly unnatural. At some point she was in contact with the Knights, who want to use her for something. As he questions Lain, he asks if her family's real. She is sure they are, but knows little about them. As the man questions her and she gets more distressed, her personality transforms into the Lain of the Wired - the border between the real world and the Wired is starting to crumble.

As we pass the halfway point, Lain continues to be a series that's impossible to pigeonhole. As a look at the effects a massive network of computers for communication could have on society and the individuals within, it's fascinating, all the more since the series is set in the present day (or the "present" at the time the show aired - 1998), rather than in some fantastical future where computers have taken over.

The characters continue to develop, with Lain becoming more introvert having come out of her shell a little over the episodes during the first volume. Interestingly, piecing together some of the dialogue throughout the volume seems to suggest that Lain herself may be Deus, the god of sorts within the Wired, which would certainly explain her larger than life appearance online, as well as her strange abilities. Her family continues to be strange, though. Her sister clearly retracts into herself after what happened in "Distortion", seeming almost like a shadow of her former self. The suggestion that her family isn't necessarily her real family also seems to hold some truth judging by their strange behaviour (which once again brings up the question of "who is Lain?"), especially when they appear here just to talk about the Wired, almost as if they're a figment of her imagination.

As the plot continues to develop and more about the characters, who they are and what they represent is revealed, I'm reminded again of why I fell in love with the series the first time I saw it. While I can't remember most of the plot points because it was so long ago, it's just as intriguing now as it was back then, as the pieces of the puzzle continue to drop into place.

In Summary:
While the series may not appeal to everyone since it's more thought-provoking than action-packed, there's no doubt in my mind that if you start watching Lain without any preconceptions, you'll come away impressed at how the writers manage to unfold the intricate story through more incidental means than just blatant exposition. As I continue through the series, I'm becoming more and more engrossed in Lain's world, and can't wait for the next volume to watch more of the story fall into place. Lain really is a series that everyone needs to try.

Equipment:
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Pioneer DV-464 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.


Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Trailers,Conceptual Art

Review Equipment




Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: MVM Entertainment
MSRP: £19.99
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Serial Experiments Lain