Tue, 13 Dec 2005
The Matrix in a fantasy style
Have you seen The Matrix, or Total Recall? The movies, where it is not clear whether the characters are in reality or in a virtual world? Now get this story and move it from the original sci-fi world to the fantasy settings, and you get the basic notion of what .hack//Sign is about.
.hack//Sign (pronnounced dot-hack-sign) is an anime series, which takes place inside the fantasy-style MMORPG[?], named The World. The main character is a wavemaster Tsukasa (image on the left), a shy boy with unusual abilities. However, he finds out that he is trapped inside the game, and cannot log himself out of The World. Moreover, he is apparently wanted by a self-proclaimed "police" of The World, the Crimson Knights. Altough Tsukasa does not want anyone to be bothered by his problems, few players try to discover what kind of mystery is behind him. Some of them do it out of pure interest - such as an old blade-master Bear and his friend, heavy blade Mimiru (image above) - and others in hope that he will lead them to a legendary item of The World, named Key of the Twilight.
Despite of what the action game settings may suggest, .hack//Sign is not an action anime. Quite the contrary. While there is some action here and there, .hack//Sign is about dialogues. This may feel quite static and boring, except for a very patient viewer. The creators of this series (the studio Bee Train, which also made Noir and Madlax) quite wisely did not burn their money doing complex and expensive animation, but instead they invested into the backgrounds. For me watching the .hack//Sign landscapes was similar to seeing Peter Jackson's idea about the appearances of the Hobbiton or Minas Tirith. Awesome. Also the character design by Sadamoto Yoshiyuki (Neon Genesis Evangelion, Furi Kuri) is outstanding. There is only one drawback with respect to the animation - few times they even did not bother to animate the mouth movement of the character who was speaking.
The music - from the techno-style opening Obsession through the background music and songs (like Key of the Twilight), to the slow ending song Yasashii Yoake - is another exceptional part of this anime. The music was written by Yuki Kajiura (Noir, Mai HiME, etc.). Even if you do not like the series, I recommend getting the OST. However, the sound of .hack//Sign was sometimes flawed - they often played the song with lyrics on a background of some dialogue, which made the dialogue harder to understand.
As for the story - well, it is slow. Very slow. Do not even bother watching it if you expect just action scenes. Another drawback is the ending, which does not solve almost anything. I was disappointed by the ending, but looking back to the series, I think the strength of this series is about how the characters get to this ending, not the ending itself. There are many interesting characters, too. The kind and thoughtful leader of the Crimson Knights - heavy axeman Subaru (image on the right), a sly wavemaster BT, player-killer Sora, etc. The most interesting for me remain Bear and Mimiru, though.
Overall I must say that despite of its shortcomings, this series clearly falls to the "must watch" category, provided you are not an impatient viewer (In which case just get the OST and enjoy it :-).
- .hack//Sign at AniDB
- .hack//Sign at AnimeNFO
- Similar Animes from the Anime-Planet
- Review at Manga.CZ (in Czech)