Serial Experiments Lain DVD Box Set

Distributor:  MVM

BBFC Certificate:  12

Suggested Retail Price (SRP):  £39.99

Episodes:  1-13 (of 13)

Audio Options: English 2.0; Japanese 2.0

Subtitles:  English

Reviewer:  Manga Monkey


Call me old-fashioned if you like, but watching a series, any series, shouldn't leave you with an over-whelming sense of relief that it's finally over, or a sense of triumph that you've managed to sit through it all without deliberately choking to death on your own tongue just to end the torture.

The very best I can say about Lain is that it deals with and asks some interesting questions; about the transient, subjective nature of personal identity, how this changes with the different contexts and environments that people can interact in and the social, ethical and spiritual impact of high technology's encroachment on civilisation.  Where it goes wrong (and I'd be the first to admit I'm not an authority on these subjects) is to confuse a thought-provoking dissection of hypothetical ideas with characters asking pseudo-metaphysical riddles which never get anywhere near being answered because, after the riddle’s asked, the scene cuts to the main character hugging her knees and stating vacantly at a wall or out the window.

After the fourth or fifth episode this "leave the viewer to make their own mind up" cop-out stopped being irritating and merely became depressing, although by then even depression was a welcome change of emotion from the mind-numbing boredom that had set in.  By then I wasn't expecting anything interesting, I wasn't disappointed as the never ending stream of characters that you either didn’t understand the motivations of or simply didn't care about paraded across the screen.

The gist of the story (or rather, the story as far as I understood it) is this; there’s this little girl called Lain, who at the beginning doesn’t really care about computers – practically everybody else in the world does and they’re all connected up to a version of the Internet with added bells and whistles called the Wired.  Once she starts seriously exploring the Wired a cocky, more aggressive double of Lain starts turning up and pissing people off.  While people start dying in mysterious circumstances Lain grows even weirder and her computer (thanks to Lain’s up-grades) just grows.  Meanwhile some guys with suits and laser pens strapped to their heads turn up and start hassling Lain, her parents eventually admit that they’re not actually her parents and her sister is replaced by a cabbage.

Just to add a bit of surrealism to the story, Lain meets (and has dire philosophical conversations with) some old-git scientist who experimented with condensing Psychic power, her own “I’m so nasty” alter-ego and some tit who apparently not only created the Wired but also transferred his essence onto it before killing himself and has now set himself up as the 'God of the Wired'.

Then just to wrap things up neatly, Lain not only appears as a giant projection on the sky, realises that she doesn’t actually exist and re-orders reality to suit herself, but she kills God, makes everyone forget about her then buggers off - HOORAY it’s over!!

Perhaps I am missing something, the story might seem boring because major points have gone right over my head – but I suspect not.  In fact I’m pretty sure the people making this didn’t know what it was about but, quite rightly, assumed that the viewers who didn’t enjoy being bemused, left wondering and pondering unanswerable questions would just keep their mouths shut and pretend they understood it for fear of being thought of as stupid – WELL BALLS TO THAT!  When I watch a series, whether it be anime or anything else, I’m expecting to be told a story and if that story happens to be long, involved and complex then fair enough.  But Lain couldn’t even bring enough engaging characters or keep the plot moving along enough to make the phenomenal effort of working out what the hell was going on worthwhile.

At best, Lain is a thought provoking story made inaccessible by an overly arty, pretentious style, at worst, it’s the germ of a good idea spun out over too many episodes by long, drawn-out still shots and with the gaping plot-holes papered over by deliberately meaningless bollocks and about 400 forty-five second shots of a telephone pole with an infuriating electronic hum.

Take my advice, instead of buying Lain invest in a new kettle – not only can you get far more entertainment from watching it boil, but you can also make yourself a cup of tea afterwards.  And if you really need to satisfy your cravings for incomprehensible gibberish then you can drink the tea while watching Welsh-Language Television, go on – it can’t be worse than Lain.

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