While the year isn’t quite over yet, I have found my home video release of the year and little did I think that it would be from an anime TV series that’s 14 years old. Serial Experiments Lain was a multimedia project, that included an art book, a Playstation video game and a 13 episode TV series that was to explore the themes of communication in the digital age. Triangle Staff, which was comprised of Director Ryutaro Nakamura, script writer Chiaki J. Konaka, producer Yasuyuki Ueda and character designer Yoshitoshi ABe embarked on a mission to create an existential work that has not only held up after all this time, but manages to be even poignant still to this day. The series has been out of print for a few years now, due to Pioneer/Geneon Entertainment being shut down, but has become a major acquisition of Funimation’s license rescue of their library. Gaining a new HD transfer from the Japanese boxed set that came out awhile ago, Funimation’s release of the cult anime classic is hands down the best thing to come out from them all year and an absolute must own for any anime fan.
For people that have no idea what this series is, Serial Experiments Lain is a sci-fi show that follows a young 14 year old girl, Lain Iwakura. After one of her classmate’s commits suicide, rumors begin to spread that her spirit resides in the Wired, a form of internet and all forms of electronic communication in the series. This leads Lain to embark on the journey into both the real and digital realms to find out about her existence, the connections between the two worlds and the effects they can have on one another. The series contains references that go from Douglas Rushkoff’s Cyberia to the Roswell crash in New Mexico, in order to create an incredible, intelligent and thought provoking piece of work that sits right along side other important anime series like Neon Genesis Evangelion and Ghost in the Shell.
With things like Facebook and Twitter, millions and millions of people are connected and affected by the digital world. While the creators initially thought that they were going to create a piece of work that was distinctly Japanese, they created a portal to something that communicated universal themes within Lain. Sure, Serial Experiments Lain seems like a response to the “Hikikomori” culture that rose to prominence in the late 90′s but what Triangle Staff failed to realize is that the ideas of existence and identity play a major role in any young adolescents life, no matter what country you’re from. While some of the cyberpunk elements may seem a bit dated, the fact that the series aspires to confront the means of a digital existence and communication still makes this cult classic an important piece of work and is a reminder and a major draw on why I love anime in the first place.
This new boxed set of Serial Experiments Lain from Funimation is nothing short of greatness, from the Navi style menu design, down to the video and audio quality. The video is presented in an AVC encoded, 1080p HD transfer with an aspect ratio of 1.41:1. There have been complaints on the internet about banding issues with the video track, but I thought the video looked amazing. The series was restored from the original film negatives that make this transfer look stunning. While there are the elements of video effects that don’t look as good, those choices were aesthetic ones in the series and not necessarily problems with the overall look of the show. The audio comes in two Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Stereo tracks, one in English and the other in Japanese. One of my favorite aspects of the series is the sound design presented by Akira Takemoto and Koji Kasamatsu. Both tracks present the incredible soundtrack for the series faithfully and both are pleasant to listen to. The boxed set also comes with an enormous production art book, that shows various backgrounds, key frames and character designs for the entire series. There’s also a small pamphlet that has an episode by episode commentary with the producer, that covers the production of the original and covers some of the things that went into the remastering of the series.
If you’re an anime fan and you’ve never had the chance to experience Lain, this would be the absolute perfect way to get into this series. If you’ve seen Lain and love it as much as I do, you really owe it to yourself to just go out and buy this set, even if you still own the original. With this fantastic presentation and flat out incredible attention to detail, this Serial Experiments Lain boxed set is truly worth your time and money and one of the best things that Funimation has ever put out, period. Highly Recommended!