Serial Experiments Lain Vol. #1 -

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Mania Grade: A

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  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: MVM Entertainment
  • MSRP: £19.99
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Serial Experiments Lain

Serial Experiments Lain Vol. #1

By Dani Moure     March 14, 2004
Release Date: February 16, 2004

Serial Experiments Lain Vol. #1
© MVM Entertainment

What They Say
We're all connected... There is the world around us, a world of people, tactile sensation, and culture. There is the 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 thirteen year-old girl, discovers how closely the two worlds are linked when she receives an e-mail from the dead girl: "I just abandoned my body. I still live here..." Has the line between the real world and the wired world begun to blur?

Includes episodes 1-4: Weird, Girls, Psyche, Religion.

The Review!
After a considerable wait, Serial Experiments Lain finally hits UK shores, and the wait is well worth it.

With the disc presenting both English and Japanese stereo, I opted for the original Japanese track as I've seen the whole series in English in the past. The audio comes across very well, with a decent amount of directionality that really helps immerse you in the show, and I noticed no dropouts or distortions. The English dub is quite good, and spot-checking the English track showed no problems.

The video quality on this disc is very, very good. Colours come through very well, and there's no aliasing to speak of. There's little in the way of artifacting at all, and everything looks crisp and clean. There's a bit of grain, but it's not all that noticeable.

The cover has a main shot of Lain standing up against some fencing, with the angle looking up toward the sky in the background. It has a bit of a blue overtone, and contains the series logo with the tagline "Close the world, open the next", quite small and just off centre. The volume number and title appear at the top of the cover. This is an excellent looking cover that stands out quite nicely. The back cover has a brief synopsis of the disc on the back, with the titles of each episode accompanied by a screenshot down the left hand side. The right side lists the production credits. A nice information box lists the technical details of the disc. It's interesting to note that the Geneon logo appears alongside the Pioneer one on the back cover, and all credits to Pioneer on the cover have been replaced with Geneon.

The main menu sees a selection of clips from the show play in the background behind a blue tinge, with a clip of music from the soundtrack playing. The episode selection buttons are overlaid on top, and as they're highlighted the episode title appears below. Next to each episode selection is another button to take you to the scene select (which is useful, as each episode has eight chapters). The setup and extras selections are just below these. Each sub-menu is a static image in place of the movie clip, with no music playing. Access times are very fast, and although the menus aren't very exciting, they do seem fitting for the show.

The extras are decent, if too brief, and much the same as on the US release. Four trailers are included, one being the DVD trailer that Madman created (they authored this disc), one being a trailer for the home video release that aired on Japanese TV, another for the opening single CD, and finally one for the PlayStation game. There's also 18 nice stills in the production art gallery, and finally is a strange 5 second image of Lain in a field that was an easter egg on the US disc.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the past several years, or are new to the anime scene, you've probably heard of Lain. A rather popular 13 episode TV series, it's notorious for being a mind-trip, and made the creative team one of the most praised in fandom. The series explores the online world, which it calls "The Wired", and how it affects individuals, and manages to be totally engrossing throughout.

Aptly titled "Weird", the first episode begins with a young schoolgirl committing suicide by throwing herself off a building. The next day, we follow a timid girl, Lain, as she travels to school. Annoyed by the racket on the train, she soon arrives at school, sits down at her desk and starts to unpack. She hears one of her friends crying, and another friend, Arisu, comes over and asks her if she's been receiving e-mails from Chisa Yomoda ? the girl who killed herself. Lain says she's not good with computers, but Arisu tells her she should check her e-mails at least once a day. Several people have apparently received mail from Chisa this week, and it's freaking everyone out.

When she returns home, Lain turns on her child's Navi and checks her mail. She has a message from Chisa, who says that she's given up her body but is still alive ? and is showing this by sending the e-mail. She says that soon, Lain and everyone will understand. Following dinner, Lain goes to see her Dad, and asks him to buy her a new Navi. Her Dad then tells her that people both in the real world and the Wired use societies to connect ? even a girl like Lain can make friends straight off the bat. The next day at school, Lain falls asleep in class and has a strange vision in which a girl is run over by a train. But the weirdness she's experiencing seems to be crossing over into the real world.

The first episode is a great introduction to Lain, with all the ingredients to hook you from the start. It simply oozes style and atmosphere, with every frame seemingly crafted for a reason. The story is fairly straightforward but is full of layers that suggest this story is anything but straightforward.

The second episode introduces a drug called Accella, which has become popular in the clubs. Lain's friends try and persuade her to go to a club called Cyberia, where they thought they saw her the night before. Juri is especially persistent that she thought it was Lain, even though the girl they saw was like her exact opposite ? dressed like an adult and full of attitude. Lain is reluctant to go, as her Dad has bought her the new Navi. But after she looks up some information on Accella, she decides to go to the club. It's odd as several people there seem to recognise her, yet it's all overshadowed by a killing which happens right in front of her, when the man suggests she is controlling him.

After Lain returns home from the police station, she seems drawn to her Navi, and checks for messages before going to bed. The next day she oversleeps, and on the way to school notices a black car just sitting in wait. As she walks past, she sees a red dot which follows her, and so she quickly runs off scared. From here, things continue to get more and more strange. Lain starts to hear things, like she's directly receiving messages from others. The girls at school don't seem shaken by the death they witnessed the night before, and instead seem to be treating it like a movie; like it wasn't real. Lain receives a "psyche" processor to upgrade her Navi, and she begins to change. The girls notice that she seems different. She spends more time with her Navi and talking about it, and she seems far less timid and more outspoken. But even her family starts to think that her growing obsession with her Navi isn't healthy.

Lain's change throughout the course of the disc is really quite clear without her friends having to point it out, and it is interesting in how it seems related to her continuous need to enter the Wired. The strange images throughout the course of the episodes, especially those in the fourth episode where Lain seems to be chasing a boy who was originally playing a network game, hint that there's something very different about Lain. Indeed, several times the question of "who is Lain?" pops up. The story really is engrossing and it plays out very well. Things aren't force-fed on a platter, but instead revealed through imagery or incidental dialogue. Strange text often pops up throughout, with comments from certain characters or strange questions aimed at Lain. The changes are all subtle yet noticeable as the episodes continue, and it's hard not to get drawn in by what's going on to see where the story is going.

But it's not just the story in Lain that works; it's the whole package that makes it something a little different to the norm, but also something special. One of the most instantly noticeable things about the show is its interesting visuals. The backgrounds often look strange and quite different. The scenes often have unusual lighting, and the framing is often quite inventive, with interesting angles and shots used. The character designs also look quite different, with little facial detail outside the eyes, nose and mouth, and little detail on the body. Often you won't see much detail on the characters' hands or clothes, either. The colours are also quite unusual, often being heavily tinted in one shade; for instance Lain's room has a definite blue overtone, while outside, when Lain walks to school, there's a lot of yellow used. The visuals are often quite striking and really helped immerse me in this world, since it looks quite unusual yet always interesting.

The atmosphere extends even beyond the visuals. There's often a distinct lack of dialogue throughout the show, outside of the odd sound effect. The first episode especially doesn't have a lot of dialogue, particularly in the first half of the show, and it all helps build the tension with a subtle soundtrack that is also used sparingly but effectively. The lack of dialogue forces you to really pay attention to what's going on, and it's often in these low dialogue scenes that you'll see accentuated expressions and really see the changes in how the characters react.

The final factor that really helps make Lain work are the characters themselves. They're an interesting, if very strange bunch, that make for some compulsive viewing. Lain is timid and shy, rarely speaking out, with friends that sometimes are a bit mean to her. Yet she soon starts to come out of her shell as she experiences more of the Wired. Her family is even more bizarre; her sister doesn't have too much to say to her but notices the strange obsession that Lain seems to be having with her new Navi. Her Dad is at first encouraging about all things to do with the Wired, but later becomes concerned about Lain and warns her from getting the real world and the Wired confused. Her mother is just plain odd, barely speaking, even when Lain mentions that she got an e-mail from a dead girl, and on the whole acts quite strange throughout these episodes. Lain's friends are all pretty distinct, with Arisu being the more caring type, while Juri and Reika tend to be a bit harsh to her at times.

All these things combined really help Lain stand out from the crowd as an excellent series that every anime fan should give a chance. It may just get more and more strange, but at the same time it gets better and better.

In Summary:
I've been itching to see Lain again since I first saw it about two and a half years ago, and, so far, second time around it's not disappointing in the slightest. Made at a time when the internet was just beginning its big boom, it's an eerie and strange look at the online world that is totally engrossing and very different to your standard anime series. It makes you think and question what is real and what's not, with an engaging story and unique visuals and characters. An excellent presentation from MVM is the icing on the cake; this is a DVD that deserves to be in anyone's collection.

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

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


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