In the year 2005, a computer virus is known as “Pluto Kiss” infects the world wide web. The result is nothing short of a total implosion of the Internet. But by 2007, much of the network is repaired and updated. It is in this year that an online role-playing game titled “The World” is released worldwide. Players connect to The World via their computer and they utilize a variety of virtual reality technology to create an online persona and play as that character. Within a short period of time, The World ends up selling over 20 million units worldwide. It ultimately becomes the single most successful game released in history.
.hack//SIGN focuses on the experiences of Tsukasa, a player within The World. Tsukasa awakens in The World and discovers that he has the ability to harm other players in real life (players whom he hurts end up with anything from a minor headache to a long-term coma). Tsukasa also discovers that he is able to touch, smell, taste and hear everything within The World. In addition, Tsukasa remembers nothing from before he awoke within The World. And throughout the series, Tsukasa finds himself on a quest to discover the truth behind his imprisonment in the game.
Refreshing series anime
.hack//SIGN is certainly a refreshing series. The innovative (and very relevant) concepts, as well as the unique (and often bizarre) characters, are truly what draw the view into this anime initially.
Throughout the first few episodes, you may find yourself wondering exactly what is so great about .hack//SIGN. After all, the first five to eight episodes are relatively slow and are designed to establish the primary issues that the series confronts (principally, Tsukasa’s imprisonment in The World). But if you are patient and if you sit things out, you’ll definitely find that your patience is rewarded many times over. After about the tenth episode, you will start to learn a great deal more about The World itself. Furthermore, the anime begins to reveal more and more about Tsukasa’s personal history as well as the real-life details of the other players.
.hack//SIGN’s artistry is hard to quantify in words. The visuals are frequently surprising and stunning, both in terms of the sheer originality in much of the artwork (the character costumes alone are amazing), as well as the incredible detail in the various game environments. Mac Anu is a gorgeous water-based city that looks much like Venice. Beautiful gondolas glide past the ornate buildings with such grace, whilst characters with elaborate costumes make their way along the decorative walkways and chat about their most recent quests or battles with one another. And then there’s Calmina Gaderica, which is like some enormous metropolis. At night, Calmina Gaderica is absolutely stunning, as the city’s various player markets are full of bustling crowds who search for the latest deals on weapons and armor. At some points in the anime, you’ll see various flashbacks or “cut scenes”, which are designed to illustrate a real-life event. These flashbacks are somewhat disturbing; they are always black and white and almost look as though they’ve been recorded on an old videocassette. When characters talk during these flashbacks, their mouths move without sound. Instead, after each character speaks, the entire screen blacks out and a line of sharp red or blue Japanese text appears with the dialogue. The effect is subtle but often shocking and visually unique. The flashback sequences are displayed in stark contrast to the colorful, artistic visuals within The World. Whether it’s the fluidity of animation, originality of character design or the immense and fantastical designs of the various environments, .hack//SIGN will continually surprise you with its sheer artistic beauty.
And then there’s music. Much like the visuals, music is an area in which ..hack//SIGN effortlessly succeeds. From the catchy opening sequence to the highly disturbing “flashback” melody, .hack//SIGN features epic music pieces that range from the serene and beautiful to the twisted and bizarre. You might hear a thumping techno track when a chase or battle is occurring, or you might hear soft tribal drumbeats when characters are exploring in a cave. .hack//SIGN’s music is clear, crisp and incredibly varied.
The characters are also memorable. My favorite character is definitely Mimiru; her bubbly personality is hard not to like. She is a strong character but is also very kind and caring. At one point in the series, she scolds Tsukasa for being rude and reminds him that even though they are on the Internet, courtesy and etiquette are still necessary. This moment made me laugh because it reminded me of myself a great deal. And generally, I think people will identify with one or more of the characters in .hack//SIGN. Their variety, as well as their universal appeal, are what make them so genuine and so entertaining to watch and explore as an audience.
Do I recommend .hack//Sign?
So what do I recommend? Well, .hack//SIGN will soon be featured on Cartoon Network. And I really recommend that everyone watch it. Remember; be patient. Even if you totally hate the first few episodes (though I doubt you will), continue watching anyway. You may just find that you fall in love with ..hack//SIGN as many in Japan already have. .hack//SIGN is a fresh, contemporary anime that isn’t afraid to explore new territory. The subject matter couldn’t be more appropriate for today’s youth and the increasingly complex background story will suck you in and won’t let you go. .hack//SIGN is definitely on the very top of my “most recommended” list.
Author Notes on .hack//Sign
.hack//SIGN is only one cog in the machine that constitutes the .hack “universe,” so to speak. .hack//INFECTION will soon release on PS2 and it will focus on a different set of characters within the same world. However, it will also ship with an OAV titled ..hack//LIMINALITY, which focuses entirely on real-life events. Then there’s the manga, titled .hack//DUSK. .hack//DUSK is also being made into an anime as well. As you can see, the .hack universe is quite expansive. .hack//SIGN is probably the main cornerstone in the entire group of games/animes, but the games and other animes/mangas definitely expand the story a great deal. Prepare to be poor for quite some time; ..hack is coming and it will drain your collective wallets very quickly indeed.