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Title:
  Serial Experiments Lain 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:  Rich (Webmaster)

 

Back in 2004 ADV Films ruled the anime roost in the UK.  Manga Entertainment were recycling their old catalogue and Beez had only released a handful of glitch-ridden titles, leaving MVM as the only vague competitor to ADV's dominance.  However, some shrewd licensing deals saw the quality and volume of MVM's output increase substantially, and the first of this new wave was the challenging Serial Experiments Lain.

At the time I was shocked and excited by Lain's UK release.  Here was a series completely unlike anything the UK had seen previously, a dark, thought-provoking and deeply experimental tale of the loss of identity and the effect of technology on belief and experience.  The story follows the young Lain Iwakura, a sullen and quiet schoolgirl who's life is turned upside down when she receives a text message from a dead classmate.  The girl says that she has not died, simply abandoned her body for the limitless world of the 'Wired', an advanced, futuristic version of the internet.  Lain's curiosity draws her to the Wired but as she begins to delve deeper her life and world begin to crumble.  Her online persona takes on a life of its own, and her computer grows to conquer her room and life.  Everything she knows begins to change as the lines between reality and the Wired blur, and she begins to discover terrifying power in both the Wired and herself.  Bemused and struggling to keep her sanity intact, Lain has to unravel the reasons behind the events she is experiencing.  But with the answers lying

 deep within the Wired, the cost of the truth could be her ever tenuous link to the real world or even her life.

The release of such an unusual and mind-bending series was a very bold move for MVM, but with the market a lot weaker then than it is now Serial Experiments Lain was pretty quietly received.  Now, with the likes of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and the .hack franchise delving into the impact of technology on society, is the perfect time to bring this intriguing series to a larger audience.


Trust me, you'll be doing this too...


There are a lot of series and films in Japan and the West that delve into similar themes to Serial Experiments Lain, but none have approached the subject in quite the same way.  There is something decidedly leftfield about it, with minimalist, experimental animation backed by warped electronica and trip-hop soundscapes.  The pace is slow, with action kept to a bare minimum and mind-bending philosophical dialogues peppering a complex, multi-layered story.  The design, the anime debut of the excellent artist Yoshitoshi ABe, helps give the series its unique look, and it just fits the story like a glove.


Lain really has a style all of its own


The story is what makes it special though.  It's got oceans of depth, and oozes with intriguing ideas and thought-provoking social commentary with a particular focus on technology's effect on life and reality.  The story is incredibly dense and packed with intrigue, there are huge numbers of plot threads weaving their way around the characters and narrative dead ends keep things interesting.  You are never quite sure where it is going, it has enough plot for several series and you really have to concentrate on it. Serial Experiments Lain is not a series you

 can watch casually, and for some this will be a very big downside.  It's very slow moving, dialogue heavy and can be very confusing viewing, it's challenging to watch but it approaches some heavy subjects in an innovative and intriguing way.  It most certainly won't appeal to everyone, and it does sometimes seem to have too many ideas, leaving it feeling slightly disjointed in places.

However, very few series come close to the level of sophistication and intelligence Serial Experiments Lain.  It can be very hard to follow, it can be overly arty, but it is also unique, thought-provoking and visually stunning.  You get more out of it the more you watch it, and the music is excellent too.  It's a bit of a marmite anime - you either love it or hate it - but it's hard not to be impressed by the sheer boldness of its scope and style.  If you want action or comedy look elsewhere, but if you want something that makes you think and challenges convention then this series is absolutely perfect.  Serial Experiments Lain is superb sci-fi and one of the most startling anime series of all time, a breathtaking piece of existential drama that is incredibly rewarding for the patient viewer.

Extras

The extras are identical to the original release, so a number of trailers for pretty old MVM releases, galleries of conceptual art and a bizarre but pretty throwaway 'easter egg' on each disc.

Ratings

Feature:   Extras:
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