on March 1, 2004
In the near future, virtual reality technology is perfected, resulting in the ultimate roleplaying games. The most popular of these is "The World".
One day, a frightened young boy appears, accompanied by a mysterious creature that attacks anything trying to harm or restrain him. His name is Tsukasa, and he says that he cannot log out of the game and can physically feel everything happening to him in The World.
A handful of seasoned players tries to reach out and help him - Mimiru, an outgoing young girl with enough self-confidence for both of them; her friend Bear, a warmhearted man with a strong paternal streak; Bear's associate B.T., a beautiful, ice-cool woman playing so many cards even she must have trouble keeping track of them and Lady Subaru, a compassionate young woman who founded the Crimson Knights - an informal order of rule enforcers working in unison with system administration to keep the game pleasant and fair and who's highly respected in spite of her realatively low experience level due to her distaste for fighting. Also joining them on occasion are Crim, a nice friend of Subaru's who perhaps has the healthiest attitude towards the game and Sora, a witty but rather nasty manchild who tails them when he's not being tolerated for his connections to a legendary hacker and whose purpose in life seems to be to push the otherwise mellow Crim's buttons (remember that kid you couldn't stand in grade school? That's Sora...).
At first, Tsukasa's dilemma is an interesting mystery, but things become more serious as they discover that The World might not be as disconnected from reality as most of them believe...
The series has many strong points. The World itself is beautiful, with breathtaking and imaginative color and landscaping. The soundtrack is incredible and adds alot to the series. The character designs are funky and fun. Most of all, this isn't just another adventure. It's the people behind these roleplaying characters that's the real story as we learn who they really are, most of them trying to either avoid the real world or find something that they're not getting in their real lives. Part of the fun (and drama) is putting together the clues, such as Bear roughly dating himself with strong hints that he belonged to the early Dungeons & Dragons crowd or the first hints, besides his speech and mannerisms, of Sora's real age as he has to occasionally leave abruptly due to his online time being monitored and curtailed. By the end, the various truths we slowly learn about them range from moving to sometimes disturbing. This is a story for grownups, with some interesting moral discussions.
It's not perfect, however. The first half in particular is slow moving even by the standards of the very tolerant. There's a recap episode - which is inexcusable considering this isn't a long series. Finally, to really appreciate it you have to understand online roleplaying or at least how roleplaying and computers work in general - so this isn't for everyone.
If this sounds like it's for you, though, jump right in. At an extremely reasonable six volumes, you can't go that wrong if you have leanings towards fantasy.
on July 21, 2003
I say that because, despite having its own release on Playstation 2, .hack//Sign is really based on those other addictive games, Everquest and Ultima Online. The plot involves a "What if?" question about someone's consciousness, brought totally into the virtual world. While this concept has been explored before, in movies as far back as Disney's TRON. It takes on a much different form here. Consequently, we can almost emphasize with the predicament, and problems of the central character.
People love a mystery, and that's a big part of these types of video games. It's easy to believe the people represented, would want to find out more about this person. Even to the point where some of them, start to explore this in the outside (real) world. In this case, the real world is the real world of the anime setting, and not actually the real world. Confusing? Yes, but that's what a good thought piece is all about.
The anime explores video game obsession in detail, and the various characters that populate a game world like this. One of the great things is how the series can reveal so much about a real character, when all we see is their game persona. Less than one percent of its total running time is devoted to little glimpses of the real world. Yet, knowing about each character from the game, that small glimpse reveals their innermost motivations. The moment we see who the character is in real life, we know the answers. Those answers we've been seeking, to questions we have been asking ourselves, questions about that character we met in the virtual world.
I think this is very close to the way things go on in these games. The representative characters are all there, the player killer (PK), the rule enforcers, the warrior heroes, the magic users, the strategists, and others just tying to find their own way. We are not shown much about the characters behind the computer. We see the game character. That character emotes with verbal, and non-verbal expressions, which illustrate the emotions of the actual player. That's good, because it would be pretty boring, if they acted exactly like characters in these games.
My rating loses one star, because the series is a little too slow for some fans. It would have benefited from a little more screen time on the reality side. Once those characters are revealed, we just want to know more about the real person. Like a lot of anime series, this one leaves a lot of holes in the ending, loose ends not neatly tied up. They did make a 27th episode after the first ending to try and clarify some of that.
on July 6, 2003
Luckily, ".hack" starts off beautifully and intrigues the viewer right away. Unfortunately, by the time the entire series finishes, you'll be left with a plot with more holes than Afghan, in addition to having had the rug pulled out from under you. A four star Vol. 1 indeed, but a three star series because of the ending.
Like the first 3/4 of this series, Vol. 1 opens in mid-action: young Tsukasa wakes up sprawled face down on the ground in a cave next to a staff. A young girl named Mimiru happens upon the cave and Tsukasa, who abruptly transports out in a column of golden rings. Mimiru and her friends--an older man named Bear and a shady blonde woman named B.T.--soon find out that Tsukasa isn't quite like anyone else in their world.
Their world is "The World," an online gaming community accessed by goggles on the user end, allowing for a much fuller experience of a dimension with millions upon millions of users. Users gain points in wisdom, fighting and defense by going through "events" or missions that the game offers, such as solving puzzles or defeating monsters. People can "die" in The World; they must simply re-log on if they are killed in the game, but lose the entire day's worth of experience points. None of this is explicitly stated in the anime; you're well off reading the back of the DVD or reviews that tell you what is going on. Also, a reasonable amount of knowledge concerning computer terms are needed (talk of servers, illegal and backed up data, and message boards, etc.). Just imagine The World as a gigantic online community with numerous chat rooms; no one is who they seem--women can sign on as men, adults as children, etc. This is also true with Tsukasa--it's good to watch the series keeping in mind that he could very well be a she or the other way around.
Tsukasa differs from all the other players in that he cannot log out of the world. He can also do many things that others cannot--move throughout The World without using the usual gateways, and access areas that others cannot or do not even know exist. One particular place he returns to holds a sleeping child floating above a bed, with a floating Teddy bear, and a voice that tells him to stay and that it will protect him. Many people soon begin looking for Tsukasa, who is armed with a powerful guardian/monster, for both good and bad reasons. The Crimson Knights search for him to stop his non-conformity; their leader, Lady Subaru, searches for him out of curiosity. A powerful villain and player killer named Sora, also wants to ally with Tsukasa, who, unfortunately, is extremely shy.
The series goes on following the quest to find out who Tsukasa is, why he/she is trapped in The World, and what is the Key of the Twighlight, if it does exist.
The art is beautiful, in the new style manifesting itself in series like Gasaraki and Full Metal Panic: smooth, non-liney art, cleanly integrated with CG effects. The music is...different. It's a mix between techno-pop and Celtic choir music, with a touch of Olde England minstrels thrown in. It's not bad, actually, but the timing and use is pretty bad. Sometimes, the music plays and plays and plays, too loudly at times, even during conversations or moments where no music, or sadder music would be appropriate. The English version doesn't differ too much from the Japanese version, except that the Japanese translations are a lot "deeper" than the English versions.
As many have said, it moves at an extremely slow pace, with plenty of talking and philosophizing, and the occassional fight and flashes of the characters functioning in the real world. The slow pace does allow the characters to develop much more than in most series. Nearly all of the characters presented have deep, strong personalities.
Negatives? Also has to do with character development. By the time you crack to the last half to 1/4 of the series, so many questions are posed that aren't answered. Similarly, characters are introduced but not fleshed out: Maho, a silent cat that follows and helps Tsukasa; the two legendary master heavy swordsmen, one of whom makes a singular appearance in the series; and even the main villain isn't fully fleshed out. Maybe this goes along with the fact that the video game it's based on continues on into more series. The ending? Your thought process will go: ah, okay, sweet, good, nice...what the? Keep watching during the credits and you will be pleased and disappointed all in the span of one minute. Depending on when and how a continuation to this series takes place (if it does), it could be great. If it stops here, then it's pretty nasty.
Still, I highly recommend watching it, better with the expectation that the ending provides as much closure as it creates questions. Know that, know some computer terminology, and have an open mind, and ".hack" can be a pleasurable experience. If they finish it right.
on May 9, 2003
.hack//SIGN is an very pointed anime. It is obviously aimed for the video game/fantasy crowd since it was/is a famous video game for the PS2. The skilled character designs off Yoshiyuki Sadamoto are combined with other top talent in the anime biz to create this spin off of their work in video games. And it will ensare some viewers (myself) and bore others to death because of its slow plot and lacking direction.
The STORY has all the makings of a really great Hollywood style film, however it is stretched across 26 half hours when it could easily have filled about 100 minutes on screen. But, to me, the time spent pondering the character's motives and situations is comforting and pleasantly ponderous. Similar to 'The Dark City', the main character Tsukasa wakes up from a blackened, amnesiac history to find himself inside a cave and covered with a sticky goo (birth symbolism). He is a character within a virtual reality game called 'The World' which is a dungeons & dragons themed environment drawing in millions of virtual participants from across the globe. Strangely, Tsukasa finds he can't log out, and doesn't seem to exist on the other side of this computer-human interactive event. The first players he meets become intrigued with his odd behavior and set about trying to unlock the mystery surrounding Tsukasa and his uncharacteristicly adept control of 'The World'. What remains of the series becomes an odd 'whodunnit' dealing with people coming into 'The World' trying to break down and define Tsukasa and his enigmatic abilities and odd existence. Perhaps the most enticing part of the writing is how subtext is created by the character's words and behavior, and trying to figure out WHO these people are behind their virtual guises.
The ART is nice, but not incredible. Sadamoto's wonderful designs are adequately translated, but not enhanced or even matched by the animation crew. The film work is rather placid, but not insipid. Decent composition elevates .hack//SIGN above average anime but not so far to declare it amazing. The animation and layout wanders in quality, yet is never horrific. Perhaps the worst side of the art is the color, which seems garish at points. Similar to LAIN, characters don't match the background light source most times and the brilliant Sadamoto colorings from promo and videogame art are tossed aside for abject, neon amateurism and mismatched light properties.
The MUSIC is something people can get rather wildly enthusiastic over in these reviews, but in reality it is nothing incredible. It is usually odd and sorely placed; perhaps like a video game. But, because it is adequate in a limited form of entertainment doesn't mean it applies in a realm where greater skill can elevate the art. In general, the music is better then the average anime, but it isn't placed well and it isn't amazing.
.hack//SIGN is a great anime to let play in the background of your life, and indulge in when you have time. If you have the cash to dole out, take a chance. For the average viewer it is an expensive outlay for a possibly slothlike experience lacking hook via action, humor or plot. Hopefully this review will help make your decision a wise one.
on May 1, 2003
I dont really have much to say besides .Hack, in my opinyon is a great series. There has been lots of complaints about .Hack's slow moving pace and how there is not as much "action" as in most other anime. But personlly i think this is all part of .Hacks unique charm.
The DVD exras arnt much to be impressed by, there about whats on almost every Anime DVD i own. (and im teling you thats alot) with the exception of some. But this is all i have to complane about.. and im not complaning!
Also, the Music of .Hack//Sign is awsome! and the soundtrack(s)are definatly worth adding to your collection! (but of coarse this is my opinyon)
And as far as charaters go, i was extreamly pleased, each charater is developed in such a way that you could relate to them... And I was glad to see a strong willed Female charater (mimiru) instead of the whiney girl who cant take care of herself. Ok.. now we come to Tsukasa..... Tsukasa .... there are mixed feelings about Tsukasa, some people like him... others cant stand him. I do have to admit he is not a very "motivated charater" he is always depressed and he just wants people to leave him alone, so hes not exactally pushing the story along. Tsukasa can also be kind of selfish and perhaps a little spoiled. Sure hes a little whiney and would rather sit in a dark corner and mope in his own misery all day then acctally get out and do something.... I found that Tsukasa was growing on me... to tell you the truth hes grown to be my favorite charater in the whole serise. And after all, he's got pleanty of things to be sad about.
on March 12, 2003
I heard of .hack from Cartoon Network, pre-debut and got very excited. An anime that takes place in an MMORPG (mass multiplayer online role playing game)? This sounds like a really great idea! I was further pleased to find it had a real twist to it, and not just staged within the game. Tsukasa, our 'hero', can't log out of the game for some reason, and has lost his body to the game. The World, the game everyone's playing in this anime, is a beautiful world displayed with fantastic artwork. It's however not enough to have the visual effect however. The music, done by someone Yuki Kajiura, someone ive never heard of before but rivals Yoko Kanno herself, is fantastic and makes the soundtrack alone worth holding back on getting that last DVD of Cowboy Bebop. The only reason i can't give it 5 stars is because the character build so far doesn't seem to be going very far. That doesn't mean it's not an amazing series, cause it is! I think it just needs a bit more time. Perhaps by the 3rd dvd things will heat up. The package comes with a box for all your .hack dvds, a soundtrack with 19 tracks, 2 postcards, one sheet of stickers, a Grunty doll (coolest stuffed animal ive ever seen), a .hack t-shirt (XL) and the DVD with the first 5 episodes dubbed OR subbed. Not bad at all if you ask me. The dvd, soundtrack, and t-shirt should be worth over $(...) as it is, so there's no questioning the value, and believe me I've checked: Amazon(.com) has it the cheapest. Places like discountanimedvd have it marked for at least 53. Take away shipping as well cause you can get it free here, and you're saving around $(...) by buying it through amazon.(com) Not bad if you ask me. I cant wait to see more.
on February 9, 2003
*chuckles* Sorry, I'm a little bias there. Tsukasa is the main character (or one of the main charaterS) of .hack//sign. He's my favorite, my sweety . . . *hushes self* Okay . . . I loved this anime, fell for it the instant I saw Tsukasa and Subaru on the front of NewtypeUSA (Tsukasa is SOOO cute in that picture!). But be warned, when I nabbed the anime, I found it started kinda slow, heck, not kinda, really slow. When my friends ask me why I won't show it to them, I reply that the first half of the anime involves Tsukasa sitting around wondering what the heck he should be doing, and the rest of them . . . talking about it. *sighs* Unfortunately, my friends aren't around long enough at any given point in time to finish the series in one bout. But if it gives you that feeling, don't give up hope, it speeds up at the end, really it does. Almost made me cry, it was so wonderful (Or maybe I'm just into character torture . . . *shrugs*)! Keep an eye out for Maho (he's cute too) and listen to the music, the music is great. *sighs* I guess that's enough of my hopeless rambling called a review. Ja ne! (PS - I read the other newer reveiws and felt like adding some extra cents. *chuckles* I said it started slow, sheesh! ^_^)
on March 2, 2003
I really want to like this series. I have been watching Anime for about 15 years now and I have been playing EverQuest for 3 years. The production of .hack//Sign is top notch, and I like the story. However I tend to look too deeply into things, and my biggest beef whis this is the characters in this do not move and react like MMORPG characters. Granted, if they did it would be a REALLY boring show. I have kind of resolved it in my mind that is kind of like the Apollo 13 movie.. the events that actually happened, while exciting, would be [bad] to watch because there was no real "production", where the movie of Apollo 13 told the story of the events with dramatic license. That makes me look at this anime as "dramatic retelling" of the events, that way you can have characters sitting on a wall talking, or showing facial expression. But overall, I like the story :)
on February 23, 2003
I personally have seen the whole series and I have to say I personally liked it a lot. But that being said, I am a little eccentric. The fights in this series is to a minimum and they aren't that flashy or spectacular. But that isn't what this series is about. Note, it isn't called DBZ. The plot does move but it's very slow and when things happen someone does not exactly point it out. Everyone has their own goals. I personally liked it more than Neon Genesis Evangelion. The music is also great. The reason I don't give it 5 stars is because I don't think some people will enjoy it at all because it isn't at all typical/it's more of a drama then an action series which you figure it would be (A lot of the characters have big weapons). I recommend you first rent the DVD then figure out if you like it or not.
on February 26, 2004
.hack//SIGN is a SPECTACULAR anime. It's great; definitely a must-see. However, I do have a few problems with this item (not the anime itself, you'll note. The anime itself is worth every penny). I mistakenly ordered this thinking that I was getting the "limited edition" of volume one, which comes with a T-shirt, soundtrack, Grunty plush doll, and some postcards. I can't say how frustrated that made me when it came, and I only had a DVD. Not only that, but the corner of the case was smashed, so that it doesn't close all the way.
If that doesn't concern you, then by all means, by this! It's fantastic. Definitely worth it.