Serial Experiments Lain Vol. #1 (Mania.com)

By:Dan Kuhn
Review Date: Monday, February 18, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, July 13, 1999



The Review!
It says something that Pioneer put a rare "16 and up" age recommendation on a series with no sex, no nudity, and no violence (pretty much). It is listed for adults because it's written on an adult level- written to be a challenge to the mind.

Audio:

Well, it's not 5.1, but very nice Pro Logic Surround. Many people have say that it is stereo but I find it decodes quite well.

I find the Japanese track has the advantage in terms of effects. I think the Pioneer US engineers were left in the dark as to how the Japanese altered some of the voices at many points during the show, and just did what they could to emulate what they heard in the original.

The Japanese performances have a much higher performance level compared to the English dub. It is of note that Lain, a thirteen year-old girl, was in fact voiced by a thirteen year-old girl in the Japanese version, but obviously by a much older woman in the English dub. That sort of age difference is common in most animated films (U.S. and Japanese alike), but I feel having Lain be played by an actual thirteen year-old was a great touch. (This a bit if an assumption. Kaori Shimizu, who plays Lain, certainly looks thirteen when you see her in the Extras on the disc)

If you watch the Japanese track first, and then the English you may be shocked by how "old" all the voices seem- and not just Lain's. Compared to a lot of dubs the English actors don't do that bad. But with no guidance from the show's creators I think they were a little baffled by some of the dialog, and didn't know quite what to do with it. But really it's not too terrible, just a lot of times you feel it falls a little short. And you can always switch to the Japanese.

Video:

Well, no problems here. The transfer is superb. It really takes time to find any problem areas on the discs. One thing I see a lot is this: at the opening for every episode, the first shot of Lain, where the camera zooms in on her, and she turns around. This scene often has jumps in the animation when I play it. The jumps seem to vary from episode to episode.

One note on Lain: This disc is mastered in 30 frames per second, interlaced. This is important when playing the disc on a HDTV set. If your HDTV tries to convert this to progressive scan the results will be a little disconcerting, as there really is no way to convert true interlaced video to progressive. You may look through your set's documentation and see if you can coax it into displaying some interlaced standard.

Packaging:

I will confess. The packaging is what finally made me rent this disc. I had absolutely no idea what Lain was about, but I saw this DVD staring back at me every time I went to the rental shop, and it finally forced me to rent it. The cover art is really just the first thing to let you know that Serial Experiments: Lain won't be playing by the usual rulebook. Dark and moody, with a female lead who is as un-sexual as you could get.

Menus:

The menus are nice. Nothing extraordinary about them, but they work quite well.

Content:

If I was asked to summarize Lain without giving any of the plot away, my synopsis would be, "It's a 13 episode animated art film." While Lain wears the skin of a plot, the underlying plot points are often left to the viewer to ponder and draw their own conclusions about what it all means. On the top of everything, the show concerns the adventures of Lain, a young girl, who gets very, very, interested in the Internet, called the Wired in the show.

90% of all anime can be described in some part by the following synopsis: "Young person or persons discover the have the power to save or destroy the world." Lain does indeed fall into that description. But while most anime, and in particular television anime, can be described by a "genre": Mecha, for example, Lain falls far outside the usual bounds of what is done with the TV anime medium. Most anime characters are so stereotypical you could mix and match them in between shows, the characters in Lain are really unique, with few spared having a great deal of depth, and all portrayed honestly, instead of merely being captives of a mandatory plot line.

Nothing that happens in Lain is predictable. Full attention must be paid while watching, and multiple viewing will be necessary for developing your own personal theory about the goings on.

I consider Serial Experiments: Lain the finest TV anime ever made. I hope you experience it soon.

Episode synopses: (vague spoilers follow)

Episode 1: Weird. This episode is quite quiet, mainly introducing is to Lain's world. All the main school age characters are met, interacting in their normal environment. However all is not well in Lain's world. School age children have been killing themselves at an alarming rate. Lain herself seems to be very introverted, and acts almost as if she's never been around people. And Lain gets a special email that triggers her interest in computers. The episode also makes it very clear something's definitely "up" with Lain. She spends a lot of the episode having very strange visions.

Episode 2: Girls. This episode dives straight in to things. Lain starts changing into a computer-obsessed girl, despite not knowing a thing about computers in episode 1. And we get hints something is really up with Lain, as it appears that another Lain has been seen in a night club more than once.

Episode 3: Psyche. Lain starts putting her computer together, with help of an unseen friend. And her strange life starts spilling over into her home life, making her worry about whether her family is somehow involved in the strange goings on.

Episode 4: Religion. More strange things are happening to kids, perhaps related to the strange things that were happening in episode 1. Lain's computer starts growing quite large, and she begins exploring the Wired, trying to find out what is going on- kids are killing themselves again. And someone is keeping an eye on Lain.



Review Equipment
Toshiba SD-2109 DVD player, Pioneer VSX-D509S Receiver, Sharp 32K-S400 32" TV, Klipsch Synergy 8.5 home theater layout, S-video connection



Mania Grade: NA
Audio Rating: N/A
Video Rating: N/A
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: N/A
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 29.99
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Serial Experiments Lain