A young wavemaster, only known by the alias of Tsukasa, wakes up in an MMORPG called The World, with slight amnesia. He does not know what he has previously done before he woke up. In The World, the Crimson Knights suspects him of being a hacker, as he was seen accompanying a tweaked character in the form of a cat. Unable to log out from the game, he wanders around looking for answers, avoiding the knights and other players he meets along the way.
As Tsukasa explores The World, he stumbles upon a magical item that takes the form of a "guardian," which promises him protection from all harm. Subaru, the leader of the Crimson Knights, along with several other players who became acquainted with Tsukasa, set out to investigate why Tsukasa is unable to log out, and attempt to get to the bottom of the problem before it gets out of hand.
.Hack//Sign is a single part in the Project .Hack franchise, one that combines novels, manga, TV anime and OVA's to form one grand narrative with characters and events happening not only chronologically, but simultaneously as well. The review below is written from the franchise point of view, and as an standalone anime.
The general consensus of Hack//Sign is that the story's boring, there is almost no action and it doesn't make fast progress. While some of these points are quite true, the story is one of character development and interaction. The viewer learn more about every side character through their interaction with the rest of the
cast, their surroundings and gradually helps move the plot. The plot is one of clashing and matching personalities, driven by mysteries.
.Hack//Sign, The story:
+ It's detailed
- It does feel slow at times
Then, we have the art, fun scenery's and great character designs do give you the feel of an online game world that was actually thought out (see the games .hack//IMOQ and .hack//Frägment). The animation however, is quite sloppy and the characters themselves aren't drawn very detailed.
+ The art does create the illusion of an actual MMORPG
+ Great and original character designs
Then we have the Sound, if there was an option to give it more then a ten out of ten, then I would choose it. The compositions by Yuki Kajiura, are in my opinion, what lifts the anime up from a meagre 7 to a 10. With an enormous array of songs and tunes, Yuki adds depth to the art and the story, giving it time when the characters need time and hypes the viewer when it's going down.
+ Yuki Kajiura's music is truly a work of art
The characters of .Hack//Sign are gamers, and thus some try to act online like someone they aren't. Some take their offline situations into the game and some try to forget them instead.
Complex emotions and double personalities are just some of the things you can find here.
+ Character actually have character progress without it being important to the main storyline
To the many people who play them, video games, can be a form of escapism from the real world. What could be more stress relieving than diving into a fantasy world where you assume the role of the character in the game? It sounds very tempting but if one should stay too long in the virtual world you could lose yourself in it with no way to return to the real world. In the worst case scenario you may forget which world is real and which is fake.
That is the premise of .Hack//Sign. .Hack//Sign is a part of the .Hack series which surrounds the
MMORPG called “The World” and the different characters who find the mysteries surrounding this virtual land.
.Hack//Sign follows the story of Tsukasa, a Wavemaster (Spell caster) in “The World”, who suddenly wakes up in a dark dungeon with no recollection of how he got there and what he was doing prior to his collapse. While trying to gather his bearings a female Heavy Blade (sword wielder) by the name of Mimiru passes by and strikes a conversation with him. To her surprise Tsukasa instantly warps back to the town leaving her behind. It’s while he is in town that Tsukasa realizes that he can’t log out of “The World”. He is trapped in the virtual world with no way to get back to reality.
If your thinking this will be an action packed show with monster fighting and adventuring you would be mostly wrong. While there is small tidbits of fighting and adventuring this show is very slow paced and mostly revolves around Tsukasa and the people he interacts with. .Hack//Sign also has noticeable dark elements to it especially when the real world is involved. The idea of escapism is really brought out when you see the character’s real life counterparts and the struggles they go through. But that is just a small part as Sign is mostly set in “The World”.
Due to the slow pacing every character in this show has a chance to develop and feel more realistic. “The World” allows characters to express themselves in a way that the real world doesn’t allow. The result of this is that characters are intriguing to watch and thus provide a deep story. However this slow pace does cause most people to drop the show, as the pacing may be a little too slow and sometimes it feels that some scenes drag on. Another problem is the ending which is very abrupt and quick. I won’t spoil anything but let’s just say there is a reason why this is a part of a series of Anime shows and games. Overall the story is solid and enticing.
The animation in .Hack//Sign is a very well done and fits the fantasy setting of “The World”. Every location has its own emotional feel that lends itself well to the slow pace of the show. The uniqueness of each area helps set the tone for the current situation in the Anime, as each area has its own theme and setting that really makes “The World” feel as big as the real world. Tropical forests, barren deserts and frozen wastelands litter the land with vibrancy. While this is true for the virtual world, the real world on the other hand resembles old black and white silent films.
The real world is depicted as bleak and hopeless as text show up to replace verbal sound. This contrast between the vibrant virtual world and bleak real world becomes very important in portraying how “The World” seems to be a perfect escape from real life issues. The character designs are also very well done, since each character has their own design which fit the grander design that “The World” sets up. There are some parts that were a little bit grainy as I would call yet overall the design of this virtual world is truly something to appreciate.
The music and overall sound in .Hack//Sign is where it really sets itself apart from other anime. The opening song Obsession gives off a feeling of trance and emptiness that really fits the mood of .Hack//Sign while the background music has a sense of tranquility and sadness that backs up the visual aspect of the show. The music also has a folklore aspect in a sense that it makes you feel like it’s telling a story or possibly narrating the situation your currently watching. One big plus is the background music with vocals in them. Key of the Twilight is one of the best songs in the soundtrack and really exemplifies how music is able to set the tone of a scene and possibly the show. However there are some points where the music overpowers a certain scene in the show which can ruin the mood but it rarely happens. So my advice is to pay attention the music as it can really pull you into the story and set the mood.
Overall .Hack//Sign is something that shouldn’t be overlooked. The story of escapism gone wrong will leave you wondering if this could happen to you. The animation is compelling and imaginative while the music really sets the emotional tone of the show. I must warn you again that if you hate slow paced shows or want some action then steer clear of this show but for those who want a good mystery with a fantasy setting then.Hack// Sign is for you.
Before SAO, before Log Horizon, there was .hack//Sign. This was the anime that started the "trapped in an MMORPG" craze in anime. Although it is far superior in quality to SAO and Log Horizon, it somehow has an average rating almost 2 full points lower. Allow me to explain why this is a great injustice!
Story and characters: 7/10
The story will no doubt seem familiar at this point, because so many series have ripped off .hack. After a computer virus devastates the internet, a new web system is created and shortly after a massive MMORPG using virtual reality is born as the brain child of a
German computer genius with mysterious motives. A player called Tsukasa finds himself trapped in this fantasy MMORPG and is unable to logout, but is not aware why or even who he is in the real world. This is only a problem for Tsukasa and no other players are effected by this. What makes .Hack unique is that Tsukasa dying in the game world doesn't mean he will die in the real world. Instead, he just respawns and is still trapped, like an eternal purgatory. Tsukasa must discover the mystery of why he is trapped and find out more about this MMORPG and why it was created. The pacing in this series is slow, so it will take a while to get good. However, I appreciate that this series unlike SAO or Log Horizon focuses mostly on character development and psychological drama rather than pointless action and fanservice. Afterall, duel wielding eventually gets a little stale. "Jesus Christ SAO! Duel Wielding isn't THAT cool, tone it down guys!" - John Woo
The character designs are good, but the animation is sometimes lacking. Most of the time, people are standing around talking and this isn't exactly going to blow you away with its visuals. Hack was made by a small animation studio called Beeline best known for "hits" like Noir and Spider Riders for Kids WB. Yes, there is an anime called Spider Riders, and it is just as bad as it sounds!
Hack is probably most well known for its outstanding sound track that features a new song in every episode. At one point the OST fetched outlandishly high prices on E-bay, but I am not sure what it is worth today. It is still an excellent sound track and comes highly recommended.
Yes, I will admit that it can be a bit slow at times. That doesn't mean it is a bad series. The drama and character development make this one worth watching.
This anime does have some issues with animation, pacing, and a few minor flaws. However, it is a LOT better than SAO or Log Horizon! Don't be a n00b! If you watch 1 trapped in an MMORPG anime, make bloody well sure it is this one!
Chronologically, this isn't even the first in the .hack// timeline, because Bandai keeps tacking shit onto this franchise. Anyway, it's basically about what would happen if Shinji Ikari played video games. Tsukasa, the main character, wakes up in The World, the first Virtual Reality MMORPG since some supervirus stomped all over the internet. He can't remember how he got there or who he is, and soon discovers that he can't even log out of the damn game. After running into some douchebags who want to jump his ass for supposedly hacking, he acquires some
wacky ass jello bullshit that flies around and kicks peoples asses for him. From there, Tsukasa and his friends attempt to figure out the reason as to why he can't log out, and end up unraveling the dark secrets about what The World really is.
Sound cool? I thought so too. As it turns out, Bee Train pulled a fast one and replaced all the cool aspects of playing an MMORPG (like bitchin' ass spells, gunblades, implying other player's parents are really the same gender, etc.) with half-assed attempts at exploring the concepts of escapism, and how interpersonal relationships affect us as humans. Now, I consider myself a sophisticated member of society. I have no problem with slow paced, character driven shows, but if I'm going to be watching a show that's 85 percent dialogue, I'm expecting a lot more in terms of plot and character development than what I was given. They even managed to fuck up the lesbian undertones by making one of them a cripple. Come on, Bee Train, cripple porn? I never thought you'd sink that low.
The art is fantastic. Beautifully painted backgrounds, imaginative character designs (although that's to be expected, considering they were done by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto) and for the most part top notch animation come together to make the anime really stand out. Plot aside, if you really dig artsy shit, you'll be able to appreciate the detail that went into the show.
The sound is great too. The soundtrack has a way of both perfectly fitting and amplifying the tone of the scene, and the voice acting is pretty awesome as well.
As for the characters, they start off as your typical bunch of anime cliches but then the metric fuckton of dialogue hits and character development starts to make its way through. Tsukasa starts off as a stoic jerkass who develops into Shinji Ikari: Part Deux, Mimiru is the happy-go-lucky only-sane-one (especially considering the dysfunction junction that is the rest of the cast) who plays the game for fun, Bear is the cool old guy/big damn hero/Shepard, BT is the condescending information broker (who hates lettuce, remember that), the Silver Knight is the cliche shounen hero that FIGHTS FOR JUSTICE who, through character development, stops being so bombastic and douchey and starts being a more approachable big damn hero, Subaru is the shrinking violet/woman in charge with a twist, Crim is the ridiculously over-the-top large ham with unrealistic hair and an unnervingly large sense of honor, Helba is the hacker, Sora is the lovable jerkass who assaults women in-game, etc. Most of them seem to take more pleasure in standing around talking to each other about their real lives than in actually playing the game, though. I guess that's the point, seeing as the anime is all about interpersonal relationships, but it certainly does bog down the dialogue with a lot of useless information. And implications about lesbian cripples. Ugh.
Overall, if you like boring shit, you'll love .hack//SIGN.
Have you ever been fascinated by how computers and various technological doohickeys works? Then, there's a pretty good chance that you've got a geeky mind...and that's no bad thing! And guess what else? You're in good company, as we're about to unveil the best anime hackers.