Reviewby Aaron Silver
Serial Experiments Lain
DVD Vol. 1-4
Enter the wired and get ready for an acid trip like none other. Serial Experiments Lain is bizarre, creepy, and has enough twists and turns to make you ask, “what the heck just happened?” more than once.
First off, the visual style of Lain is the most impressive I've seen in years. Quirky, haunting, grounded in contemporary Japan with a heavy futurist streak - it's absolutely stunning. Cinematic framing and transition effects are used throughout the series. Pay attention to the scenes of Lain at her family's dinner table and how the point of view shifts/is shifted. The character animation is excellent. Watch, for example, Lain's expression as she sits in front of her bank of computer terminals, lost in communication with The Wired. Despite the minimal facial features used throughout the series, a wide range of emotion is clearly communicated. The characters are well drawn. Each of Lain's family members and friends has a unique physical trait that sets him or her apart. - The artwork is striking. Look at the use of shadows, sometimes deep black, sometimes black incorporating abstract color elements.
The sound is well designed and ominous. A common theme is the hum of the phone lines that crowd the sky, a constant reminder of how The Wired surrounds us all. The score is wonderful, with background music composed in a creepy mix of techno, rock, and industrial styles that quite suitably matches the atmosphere of Lain. The acting is low key in both the sub and dub, which fits appropriately since most of the characters are very subdued throughout the entire show. Kaori Shimizu is excellent as Lain, with a perfect mixture of depression, innocence, and confusion in her voice. Dubbing is decent, although lacks some emotion, most prominent is Lain, who, in episode 4, still sounds tentative and unsure of herself while Kaori Shimizu sounds much more confident, emphasizing the change in her personality.
The story is fascinating. Granted, sometimes Lain gets a bit caught up in it's own art school sensibilities, but the underlying plot is steadily revealed. The story follows a young teenage Japanese schoolgirl of the near future who becomes entangled with an evolved form of the Internet called "The Wired." She has a gift for crossing over into and interacting with The Wired. How this affects her family, social, school, and other relationships is dealt with in a mature and artistic fashion. This is definitely NOT a "poor misunderstood teenager with secret identity" but a rather serious look at some of the implications of new technology on society.
Lain is some of the best cyber punk fiction I've ever seen. Not in the excessively emulated Akira and Bubblegum Crisis tradition - you won't find any chrome, mirror shades or urban decay here - but in it's sense of style and the traditional themes relating to man's interaction with computers. Speaking of computers, the technology in this series is believable. It is obvious a lot of thought has been put into user interface design as well as the design of futuristic handheld wireless devices. Even more interesting is the common acceptance of this technology among the young people in the movie - if you have teenagers at home you know how true this is.
The DVD's feature some smooth looking menus that match the visual style of the show. Each disk has a decent amount of extras, such as conceptual artwork, CD promotional videos, the Lain Playstation game commercial, and non-credit opening and ending. In addition, each volume has unique omake material. These are accessible by clicking on a certain area of the menu. For volume 1 use your remote to click on the second “E” in Experiments. Click on Lain's eyes in volume 2. Click on the school uniform emblem in volume 3. And finally, click on the eyes in volume 4.
As far as objectionable material, Lain isn't too bad. There is no sex or nudity and vulgar language is kept at a minimum. Concerning violence and gore. It certainly isn't anything like Ninja Scroll. Lain is far from an action flick. However, there are a couple of scenes that might be considered a bit violent and/or gory. I will say that I did not feel that they were over the top, but they are there. There is also, in the same scene, a depiction of drug use.
Let me conclude with saying that Lain is definitely not for everyone. It's very eccentric but it certainly has a point and it's accomplished in a rather interesting way if you don't mind watching very cerebral anime. There's little to no action, no comedy, no nothing, except some very serious thought provoking drama. It's bizarre enough to make you watch it at least twice. Check it out.
Overall : A
Story : A
Animation : A
+ Excellent transfer, smooth animation, wonderful soundtrack, great atmosphere, thought provoking
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