The issue with living in Australia is that once an anime publisher drops a license for a particular series, there is only a slim chance that it will be picked up by another company which has resulted in many classic titles disappearing from store shelves in recent years. Serial Experiments Lain is an example of one of the lucky few, with the license originally being held by Madman Entertainment now in the hands of Universal Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and was part of the publishers second release slate in 2013.
Licensed alongside other titles by Yoshitoshi ABe, it may not have received all the goodies the North American release did, but it still comes at a very reasonable price and Universal Sony’s usual (Wherever possible) DVD + Blu-ray Combo release. Lain is easily a star acquisition from the newest anime publisher in the country so far, and provided you can wrap your head around the complex storyline, make for a highly interesting and enjoyable watch.
Serial Experiments Lain follows a fourteen year old girl named Lain, who at the beginning of the story remains relatively ignorant about the capabilities of computers (NAVI) and technology in general. At the beginning of the first episode we see one of Lain’s classmates, Chisa Yomoda, jump off a building as part of a successful suicide attempt. Things begin to get weirder when the rest of her class begin receiving emails several days later from Chisa explaining that while she no longer has a corporeal body she remains alive within the virtual reality world of “The Wired” that comprisies all human communication and networks. This leads the shy and introverted Lain to become interested in NAVI’s and The Wired and from there…. I think I will let you enjoy this fantastic storyline for yourself as honestly I think going into any more detail on the plot would confuse and hinder more than benefit anyone reading this post.
I have reviewed several anime series based around virtual worlds in the past such as .hack//Sign, Sword Art Online etc, and they are distinctly different from the route that Serial Experiments Lain takes which comprises of darker and more serious tones than any other title of its genre. The best way to approach this series is to set aside 325 Minutes out of your day to watch the episodes all in one hit. It is a series that requires your constant attention to enjoy, and any lapse in that attention could easily result in missed information. This is NOT a title for everyone, but for those after a complex anime there are few better than this!
The good thing about the Australian release is that Universal Sony Pictures have decided to include its new Blu-ray release despite its age and 4:3 aspect ratio. Serial Experiments Lain also has a darker and distinct visual style that has allowed it to stand out among the crowd and still age fairly well. Character designs while simple do the job well, but it is the environmental designs and animation that makes it stand out from the crowd – giving everything relating to technology from the NAVI devices to anything relating to “The Wired” a surreal and unique design.
The opening theme “Duvet” by British alternative / indie band Boa was a slow and enjoyable song, suiting the theme of Serial Experiments Lain well. The ending theme “Toi Sakebi” by Reichi “Chabo” Nakaido was also an enjoyable song although was let down slightly by lackluster animation which consisted of a single image panning out as the song played. The rest of the musical backing was also composed by Mr. Nakaido and complemented the plot well. This was in addition to the various sound effects they used which were reminiscent of technology of the day such as the hum of a television / computer monitor to the loud tapping of an old keyboard. These and many other sound effects contributes just as much to the experience provided by Serial Experiments Lain.
Despite the age of this anime series North American anime publisher opted to not produce a new dub for this title, instead opting to keep both the original English and Japanese dubs. The English dub handled itself well and complemented the Japanese dub well, however didn’t manage to hit the same darker tone. The titular character is voiced by Bridget Hoffman (Chobits – Chitose Hibiya) and she managed to suit the role well.
In addition to their unique slipcase with the opening front (Love it or hate it), Universal Sony Pictures Australian release also comes with a small set of on-disc content including promotional videos for the series and its respective soundtracks / games, textless opening and closing sequences and the trailer produced by Funimation Entertainment for its US release. Like all Universal Sony Pictures releases, there are no trailers attached to this release. A special note must also be given to the producers of the Blu-ray menu, which simulates the Copland OS Enterprise operating system featured in the series with all the classic sound effects included with it.
Serial Experiments Lain is a unique anime series that will not be for everyone, particularly those who watch anime purely for the entertainment value. This thought-provoking, complex 13-episode has a lot to offer in terms of storyline if you are willing to give it your undivided attention and should provide you with an experience that few other series can provide. While he did manage to successfully release another “psychological” anime, Ghost Hound, before his passing in June 2013, Serial Experiments Lain will always be the title that Ryutaro Nakamura’s renown for.