Review: Serial Experiments Lain – Complete Edition (Blu-Ray

Serial Experiments Lain

Review: Serial Experiments Lain – Complete Edition (Blu-Ray

The digital transformation has captured us completely – at least with the advent of smartphones, we are fully interconnected at all times.

A potential date is only a swipe away on Tinder, on our tablets and mobile phones whole libraries and music and film collections are available via Spotify and Netflix, via UBER we order a taxi nearby and Lieferando, Foodora and co. deliver the food. All services are linked through our social media accounts. Corporations like Facebook and Google know each other better than we do, and of course, politics is also using these technologies, Big Datais the keyword, use. In short, the digital age permeates all spheres of human interaction. It influences the way we communicate, how we learn, how we love, how we consume, how we believe, how we live. So what will be the final step?

Als die 13-Folgen starke, zwischen Cyberpunk und Science-Fictionoszillierende Mini-Serie Serial Experiments Lain, deren Drehbuch von Chiaki J. Konaka stammt, während für das Charakterdesign und ProduktionYoshitoshi ABe und Yasayuki Ueda verantwortlich sind, im Jahre 1998 auf Tokyo TV erstmals ausgestrahlt worden war, schien das alles noch ferne Zukunftsmusik – die aber im Kern der Internet-Technologie bereits angelegt war. Wir können bereits zum jetzigen Zeitpunkt durchaus davon sprechen, dass die Grenze zwischen Virtualität und Realität nicht mehr klar gezogen werden kann und gerade die Entwicklungen im Bereich Augmented und Virtual Reality werden in naher Zukunft sicherlich noch für unschärfere Trennlinien sorgen. Das Bemerkenswerte an dieser Serie ist also der Umstand, wie visionär und vorausschauend ABe diese Themen angepackt und in eine Anime-gewordene Abhandlung über das Menschsein gegossen hat, die in ihrer philosophischen Tiefe an Machwerke wie „Ghost in the Shell“ und „Akira“ oder auch „The Matrix“ erinnert. Mit der jüngst veröffentlichten Gesamtausgabe bringt Animespezialist Nipponart now for the first time a complete edition on Blu-Ray out, which contains all 13 episodes on 2 discs. We would like to sincerely thank you for the copy that Nipponart has made available to us.

STORY // “I do not need to stay in a place like this …” //

Die Geschichte von SEL wiederzugeben ist gar kein so einfaches Unterfangen, da die Erzählstruktur sehr experimentell und schwer greifbar ist. Hauptprotagonistin ist die dreizehnjährige Lain Iwakura, ein extrem introvertiertes Mädchen, das mit ihrer Familie, dem Technik- und Computeraffinen Vater und der emotional seltsam zurückhaltenden Mutter Miho und der ebenso unnahbaren Schwester Mika in einem Vorort Tokyos lebt. Das Geschehen spielt sich in naher Zukunft ab, in der alle Menschen über die sogenannte „Wired“ miteinander vernetzt sind, ein Netzwerk, das im Wesentlichen unserem Internet entsprechen könnte. Als Aufhänger für die Ereignisse des Animes dient der Suicide of the inconspicuous classmate Chisa Yomoda, who plunges down from the roof of a skyscraper in the entertainment district of Shibuya. However, a short while later some students receive a mysterious e-mail in real time stating that Chisa has just left her fleshly shell behind, but has lived in the depths of the Wired and found ” God ” there. What Lain’s classmates initially hold for a hoax, so a bad joke, drives the so far little computer interested Lain to closer to their Navi (the computer equivalent of this time) and the Wired to deal with.

And the deeper she dives into the Wired, the more her whole world and her self-image , even her complete existence , starts tottering . The wired emerges as an independently functioning world , with its own hierarchy and its own laws, but which exists in coexistence and mutual relation with reality. Over time, the events become more surreal and the boundaries between the realities are increasingly reversed. This manifests in different egos that are present in the Wired – Lain’s alter egoIn the Wired, the position of an omnipresent, almost divine nature takes on – and which can obviously also cross the border between the planes. Lain himself is experiencing an increasing metamorphosis to the entity prevalent in the Wired, her former maid’s room is becoming a nightmare pulsing, modularized engineering organism, and she is increasingly alienating from reality. At the same time, a mysterious organization tries to break down the dividing wall between virtuality and reality completely and based on Schumann’s earth resonance frequency Linking the collective subconscious of people to enable a hardware-independent networking of people – as a possible answer to the question asked in the introduction, where we can bring the final step of digital networking.

Away from this field of action are again and again plot strandsintroduced and dropped arbitrarily. Who are the men in black or the ominous hacker collective of the Knights? What’s up with the gunman at Club Cyberia? Who is God? Is Lain himself the Deity of the Wired and why does she exist independently of her earthly self since the beginning of the Wired? Why is Lain’s family behaving so strangely? What about Chisa? The fact that the anime is relatively poor in dialogue, he does not bother too much to provide the spectator with the necessary tools to understand the plot, makes SEL an extremely demanding, almost overwhelming experience. At the same time, “Lain” is staged extremely slowly and with little tension, and uninhibitedly blends philosophical approaches to metaphysicsa René Descartes with conspiracy theoretical and esoteric materials such as the UFO crash in Roswell and the Majestic-12 secret society (which supposedly concluded a contract with extraterrestrial beings), ideas such as the memory expander Memex called, and the hypertext model Project Xanadu. Every spoken line in this work is symbolically charged and characterized by a deep technical skepticism.

The anime is subdivided into thirteen episodes called layers , which bear such titles as ” psyche ,” ” society ,” ” religion, ” and ” ego, ” presumably referring to the layers of humanity Coexistence that permeates the Wired.

By the way that plot elements and individual scenes are arranged, the anime is extremely ambiguous and requires that you deal directly with the seen. It encompasses some extremely exciting and complex tropes that can be interpreted in a constructivist interpretation . A central issue is the question of identity and what constitutes it. In Serial Experiments Lain is often referred to constructions – The Wired is a constructed world with its own creation myth, seemingly fixed identities must be renegotiated in Wired and with each alter ego is a new positioning attempt in this fabric, an active act of constructing and deconstructing meanings (and worlds) to self-abandonment. In any case, the finale implies the same.

And in times when stars are no longer made by industry, but self-constructing themselves on platforms such as YouTube, Vine and Soundcloud, “influencing” and mutually dependent on the like-dictatorship of their followers, the identities -Shifting, which is thematized in SEL, more relevant. Consequently, it seems like a logical step that the protagonists in this anime are young adolescents around the thirteen, fourteen. Serial Experiments Lain recreates at least a part of the life of Japanese adolescence, along with the accompanying dependencies of fashions and trends, the change of family structures and the process of demolition – also because this is an age where one undoubtedly associates with one’s identity and one’s own Question about belonging. In oneInterviewscriptwriter Konoka said:

“Maybe, a junior high school student generation (whose olds are about 13, 14) are the most uncompleted through the life.”

Adolescence in SEL is thus a metaphorical representation of universal human debranching processes and reinvention.

Serial Experiments Lain is undoubtedly a visionary anime, which seems retrospectively all the more impressive, given its far-sightedness in 1998. Spiked with quotes on cyberpunk classics like Tetsuo the Ironman or the typographic experiments with their reference to Jean-Luc Godard, SEL is of course pretty sophisticated anime cinema.

Now the big BUT : Even with a lot of goodwill I feel the tough and almost any narrative in parts as sloppy and almost flat. Serial Experiments Lain is not consistently enough work of art to allow such gaps in the narration . Certainly, a David Lynch does not provide viewers with keys to understanding his works, it’s more about suggestion. But in its taciturn SEL exaggerates it in parts, especially since the characterization of the other characters also very superficial remains. The conversations between Lain and her friends can hardly be described as such. It may of course be that this too is a conscious decision – that the communication in the Wired has simplified the communication on the real level, but that could have been shown in less stilted dialogues. Some scenes such as the gunman in Cyberia seem somehow too edgy “edgy” to really fulfill a dramaturgically relevant function. The storyline of SEL contains enough intriguing substances that I find extremely interesting to be able to formulate them more concretely . Straight episode 9 stands for me exemplary for the (in the negative sense) raw to unfinished characterThe Series – In about 25 minutes, one after the other takes off with different scientific and pseudoscientific-esoteric motives, garnished with conspiracy theories like Roswell, to shoot himself – that’s simply too much input in too short a time to somehow reconcile the dramaturgically. Of course, I could again put the series here, that’s a meta-level gimmick is – Finally, we are overwhelmed while surfing the Internet with a large amount of information, it is not without reason that conspiracy theories between Flat Earth, Reptiloids, Federal Republic of Germany GmbH and Reich citizenship nowadays economy. But I can judge the whole artisanal too bad, as it is meant. On the credit side is thus: I have long thought a lot about the series and its intention, but at the same time tortured me by a partially outrageous staging . And that is not the material from which masterpieces are made, after all.

IMAGE AND ANIMATION // “No matter where you go, everybody’s connected.” //

Visually, Serial Experiments Lain is also an ambivalent story – On the one hand, the narrative is largely supported by the images. Nothing is left to chance here. Each setting is a meaningful unit . And here, too, shows the continuous joy of experimentation of the makers. The long shadows are held in a dark shimmering violet with blood-like explosives – as if the intersections of the Wired lie in the shadows. Dark interiors are usually illuminated only by the sterile, pale light of the displays, while bright spaces are overexposed beyond recognition to a deep, glaring white – the contrasting image compositionsare artistically consistently high quality and reinforce the consistently melancholy to surreal-threatening mood. The power poles adorn the sky like ominous monuments. ABe seems to have a special weakness for close-ups, be it the deep, cold eyes of the characters or distorted facial areas – the camera keeps coming up close to the protagonists. In general, the art design team has worked a lot with computers and CGI, the style mishmash between analog drawings and digital FX with its expansive surfaces and abstract fractures is somewhat reminiscent of the art design of Goichi Suda’s Killer 7 or El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron and acts very stylish.

Serial Experiments Lain is also visually quite experimental and focuses on expansive surfaces, harsh contrasts and a rather abstract style.

At the same time I do not really like the character design , because it is realistic, but comparatively simple and not very detailed . Especially Lain looks strangely faceless, with some strange proportions and this funny braid. Even in terms of animation SEL can not score. You just notice the anime of his age , everything seems a bit bumpy – the fact that SEL but gets along almost completely without action sequences, that does not matter so much.

The images themselves look crisp on Blu Ray and get along without blurring, noise or other aberrations , as you can sometimes observe in older anime. Here, the digital design pays off. The picture is resolved in 1080p, but the series is exclusively in the outdated 4: 3 format. Similar to other releases from this time Nipponart has decided therefore for a 16: 9 Pillarbox . That is, the 4: 3 image is “framed” on both sides by black bars.


SOUNDDESIGN, SOUND AND SYNCHRONIZATION // “Present days, present times … hahahahahahaha //

In terms of score and soundtrack , Serial Experiments Lain convinces all along the line – starting with the melancholy opener “duvet” of the British band bôa to the smoky Japanese blues of the outros, the murky mood of the anime is perfectly captured. The ambient score written by Akira Takemoto also provides goose bumps. The shimmering whirring of the electricity marshes also creates a threatening soundscape , as does the alienated ambient noise . It’s rustling, it’s hissing, it’s bubbling, it’s cracking – chatter is played back like a strange filter and conjures up the image of an urban apocalypse . Minimalist electronicsis cut in some places by bursting cacophony, then again yawning silence. On the one hand, the score is based on the mentioned alienation effects and on the other side on loud and quiet dynamics . The whole soundscape gives a feeling of permanent restlessness.

The sound is on the Blu-Ray in the DTS-HD MA 5.1 format . You also notice the sound quality from and to their age, but the sound can essentially keep up with current releases. This is primarily due to the harmonious blend . But also the synchronization is well done and all speakers have been carefully selected. Whether there are major discrepancies in the script, I can not judge. The localization seemed to me basically very successful.


The Serial Experiments Lain Complete Edition is delivered as well as other similar type of publications from Nipponart as a hinged digipack in a cardboard box. And luckily, as usual, Nipponart does not just clap the FSK seal on the slipcase. The logo on the digipack, however, is printed. I would have liked the slipcase, however, a bit “firmer” because the digipack slipping relatively loose in the slipcase. The artworks of the digipack are quite respectable . The sticker will also be accompanied by a sticker and a posterto the anime. The thirteen episodes are delivered on two discs in the Blu-Ray version, but on three discs in the DVD version. Overall, the whole make-up feels quite valuable .


Serial Experiments Lain is a fascinating exponent of the cyberpunk genreand has been a classic since its release in 1998 along with works such as Akira, Neon Genesis Evangelion and Ghost in the Shell. The anime is in its conception an avant-garde, hard-to-digest concoction, which raises existential questions about identity concepts and the human being in itself and in the late 90s was able to make an impressively far-sighted prognosis about the digital networking of people. In keeping with the fragmented style of the narrative, the film also experimented optically with high-contrast, areal images and accompanied it with a subdued, industrial score. Serial Experiments Lain isno popcorn animation to look at , but challenges and overstrains its viewers. However, ultimately it is not the masterpiece to which it is often hyped up in fan circles. For the narration then finally acts a rush too rushed , but the characterizations of relatively central figures have a trace too superficial. And last but not least, the character designs sometimes seem a little too clumsy. Nonetheless, Serial Experiments Lain is a work that should be taken to heart if you are looking for a slightly different anime. Therefore, there is a clear recommendation anyway.

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