Serial Experiments Lain Blu-Ray BOX | RESTORE Initial Impressions

Ok, this is something that I have been VERY interested in seeing. For those not in the know, Serial Experiments Lain is a series that is beloved by both myself and RaT. However, the DVD release reflected that it was released in 1999, which was still considered the infancy of the DVD format. As a result while the release was better than most anime releases on DVD at the time, it still had image artifacts that were sadly common in DVD's early years. After Geneon closed it's US division in 2007, I believed that getting a better home release of the series would not be possible. In the meantime, the series has now received a Blu-Ray release in Japan under the title RESTORE. The biggest concern was that this would suffer the same fate of other Blu-Ray releases of older anime, which was merely standard definition masters that were merely upscaled.

The first thing checked out immediately was the Intro to the series as it would determine almost immediately what was going on. The one thing that stuck out was that the video distortion in the intro was redone from scratch for the Blu-Ray version which is a bit jarring, but nothing too major. After watching both the DVD and Blu-Ray versions of the intro though I saw several major differences that stuck out immediately.

First, this is a legitimate 1080p re-mastering of the series and not just a cheap upscale. The intro looks amazing and the image looks nothing short of amazing when compared to the DVD version. Second, the Blu-Ray version was mastered in progressive scan at 24 fps. Now, this alone makes for one of the biggest technical differences as Lain was actually a mix of 24 fps animation, 30 fps computer animation, and some television sources which operated at 60 fields per second. As a result, it appears that the 60 fields per second televised sources and 30 fps CG were converted to 24 fps sources painstakingly so that they would have no major visual artifacts.

Another thing I checked for in particular was the brightness and colors. When viewing the DVD version in recent years the source seemed to be brighter than it should have been throughout the series. This issue was corrected in the Blu-Ray version with the best example being the Accela explanation in the second episode as the background text can be read with ease now. Finally, a major concern was if the series would stay in its original 4:3 aspect ratio or be cropped to be widescreen. Well, it seems Geneon decided to keep it at 4:3 as for this series cropping it to widescreen would quite simply not work which makes this more appealing.

One thing that surprises me with this release is that apparently it has both the English dub and the Japanese version on it. In addition, it looks like Geneon has redone the subtitles from scratch from what I have watched thus far. Finally, this does not have the jarring hard subtitles that the DVD version had which I personally am pleased with. There is one thing stopping me from buying this though.

The biggest downfall about this box is the price. I could understand paying $120-$150 for this box since it is the series on three Blu-Ray discs, a 4th bonus disc, a DVD, and two of the soundtracks for the series. However, the list price for this is 27,300 yen which is $280 US and importers are marking this up. Quite simply, this price of this release is the only thing that is keeping me from importing this release as it will play on US Blu-Ray players due to how Blu-Ray regions are setup. It is my sincere hope that Funimation, who has the rights to this series now, will release this without any major changes to the quality.

For those able to withstand such an expense, this can be purchased at