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Serial Experiments Lain: The Complete Collection Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (23.976Hz)
  • Audio Codec: Japanese & English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 stereo (48kHz/24-bit)
  • Subtitles Color: White
  • Region: A (Region-Locked)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 4 (2 x Blu-ray + 2 x DVD)
  • Digital Copies: N/A
  • Run Time: 325 Mins.
  • Studio: FUNimation Entertainment
  • Blu-ray Release Date: November 27, 2012
  • List Price: $89.98

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Series
[Rating:4.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Series

[Rating:4.5/5]

I first came across Serial Experiments Lain several years ago on the late night anime block of either Sci-Fi Channel (now SyFy) or Cartoon Network; it’s been so long now I can’t recall exactly. My first impression of it was that it was one of the oddest, most unsettling series I’d ever seen. An experimental, somewhat avant-garde and surreal exploration of the fluidity of boundaries between technology, spirituality, life, reality, and communication, the series is a quiet and somewhat prophetic look at the evolution of today’s social networking culture. In 1998, however, many of Lain’s themes of online communication, constant access to the network and crossover between the “real” world and cyberspace were quite cutting edge. The World Wide Web was just really beginning to boom, My Space and Facebook weren’t in the vernacular, and iPhone or “i” anythings hardly existed outside of Palms and the dying Newton.

The story follows a shy middle school girl named Lain Iwakura whose life takes a turn when her classmate, Chisa Yomoda, commits suicide. The girls in her class begin receiving strange emails over the Wired, a vast, internet-like  communication network, from Chisa after she has died. Lain receives a message from Chisa stating she is not dead, she has simply abandoned her flesh. From there Lain, previously a technology novice, becomes deeper involved in the world of the Wired, having her father buy her a high end “Navi,” an advanced computer that can access the Wired through voice commands. She then begins to attempt to upload her existence into the cyber world, and slowly her reality in the physical world and the electronic world blur. She even meets “God” in the Wired, and begins to doubt which version or versions of her are real.

The series is filled with references that tie it to its time, for instance, the Copland OS Enterprise that Lain’s Navi runs is a clear allusion to the failed next-gen OS from Apple that was to supplant their, then, decade-old System 7 based operating system. Lain’s original “children’s Navi” has a design based on the 20th Anniversary Edition Macintosh, and the portable Navi is pure Newton. These all stem from the creators’ being Mac users and enthusiasts. Despite all of this, the basic story in Lain not only foretold much of the developments we would be living with today in a 24-hour/7-day-a-week world connected to “the cloud,” but its philosophical pondering on the subject of what it means to be alive, though nothing new, is certainly one that holds much weight still today. And who can argue that we have become just as attached to our gadgets as Lain does, in a physical sense through actual attachment by wires and otherwise, that this series portrays? Many of us seem surgically attached to our phones, tablets, and bluetooths.

Visually, Serial Experiments Lain looks just as cold and subdued as the story itself (all of the domestic characters who surround Lain – mother, father, sister – seem quiet, cold, and distant). The colors are blues, greys, blacks with only odd splashes of primaries, and characters are sketched in the broadest sense, almost flattened in appearance. Normally, this sort of thing wouldn’t work too well over the course of a series, but with Lain, it has the effect of placing you in that cold, off-kilter world the creators were obviously going for.

Video Quality

[Rating:4/5]

Serial Experiments Lain has been restored from the original film source to the point that it almost looks like an original digital production at times. I’m not sure if that is completely a good thing, since there are moments where the texture of the image looks a little smooth and soft, still the source is clean and the line art seems crisp in this AVC/MPEG-4 1080p encodement. It has dark, inky fills with hardly any visible banding issues and no motion artifacts.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

Japanese and English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 stereo (48kHz/24-bit) soundtracks are provided. I couldn’t really discern any audible difference in quality between either track and they are both quite good, offering clean dialogue, a strong sense of stereo directionality and dynamic range.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:4/5]

In addition to the video extras listed below, this box comes with a rather extensive artbook and a separate episode-by-episode guide on the restoration with comments from Saito and Ueda.

The supplements:

  • DVDs – Two standard DVDs are also included
  • Promo Video (1.33:1; SD; 00:00:37)
  • Original Commercial (1.33:1; SD; 00:01:43)
  • Textless Opening Song
  • Textless Closing Song
  • U.S. Trailer (1.33:1; SD; 00:01:45)
  • FUNimation trailers

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

One of the most cerebral, thought provoking, and prescient anime series to come out of the ’90s, Serial Experiments Lain is odd, weird, enigmatic, and truly memorable. It’s still relevant to us today, it looks amazing in this new restoration, and it is a must for sci-fi fans.

Additional Screen Captures

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Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Series
[Rating:4.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]



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