Tobias, Mary, and Sakuya challenge the impregnable "The One Sin", but they lose their way in the maze and unintentionally trap other guild members. A mysterious cat is watching their blunder. Is it another player character or NPC?
I've been a fan of the .hack franchise for quite a long time. I came to it through .hack//Sign in high school and followed it into the games, exploring the other animes as they came out. So when I heard the announcement for .hack//Quantum I was very excited, but after the initial character design shots I was skeptical. Female characters of both Kite and Balmung, to me, screams unnecessary and pandering to fanboys; and adding a character whose literally Blackrose with a different hairstyle really annoyed me as it seemed extremely pointless and lazy. However I eventually downloaded them and sat down one evening to
pound it out, and I'm pleased to say my skepticism was misplaced. Despite the strange choice in characters .hack//Quantum stands out as a very strong addition to the franchise, on the level of both Sign and Roots.
For more in depth analysis, continue reading below. To see an overview simply skip to the end.
The story begins with our three main characters (Asuma/Sakuya (female Kite), Iori/Tobias (female Balmung), and Eri/Mary (different Blackrose)) who are questing in a rather high level dungeon and, through Sakuya's foolishness, cause the death of several guild members who were partaking in a boss fight. After that they retire for the night and we are treated to a bit of exposition where we learn that our three protagonists, and probably the whole of Japan if not the world, has a microchip implanted inside them (that can only lead to good things, right?). After that Sakuya logs in to meet a strange character named Hermit, who appears to be our token cat character for this installment, and through the bounty on her head the two are thrown into a series of events that leads them, as well as Tobias and Mary, into a strange area known as the Pariah Folder. It's here that they can experience the same pain that their avatars do and when Eri is PKed by a random attacker she is sent into a coma in real life. It's then that Sakuya and Tobias decide that they'll do whatever it takes to get their friend back, and they might just have some help along the way.
With only 3 episodes, and with a decent amount of story to tell, there isn't as much character development as in the two high points of the franchise (Sign and Roots), but there's still several bright spots to be found when watching. Though I initially thought the main character Sakuya was rather annoying, after witnessing her friend getting PKed and put into a coma she truly grows up a bit more and becomes a more likeable character. Hermit is another bright spot in the show, introduced as the mysterious cat person he carries the most secrets of the show, rivaled only by one other character. Hermit's mysterious yet playful and childish personality make him one of the most enjoyable characters in the show. It's unfortunate that Tobias doesn't get as much screentime as her foolish friend Sakuya, but as the more mature and reliable of the two we don't get to see her as much, still she does make a decent appearance and is a nice presence in the finale episode. Mary, unfortunately, gets little screentime outside the first episode what with her being PKed at the end of it. There is one other character who I did not hear named, a mysterious character with a young girl for an avatar (the best character design in the show, by far), who is referred to as 'Shamrock' according to MAL (the leader of the guild Sakuya got killed). She possesses a skill longtime fans of the series will know right away and, it's highly possible she is Pi's avatar in this version of The World (especially since she's done by the same voice actress)
Art & Sound:
It's tempting to simply write 'amazing' and knock off early when talking about the art, but that is the best way to describe the art. As it is an OVA, and much shorter than most other .hack anime, there's a lot of quality in the art; to the point where it is probably the best animated and best flowing of all the others. For only having 3 episodes there's a surprising amount of action, kicking pretty much right from the get go, and it's here that you can really tell that they've brought the A game. The sound is perhaps the weakest area of the anime (though that isn't saying much), since there's not much time to create memorable scores or background music. However it still manages to piece together a very suitable soundtrack, as well as including several sounds from other parts of the franchise for long time fans.
While initially skeptical going into the series, the 3 episode OVA has proven to be another strong addition to the .hack franchise. With all the Easter Eggs thrown in for longtime fans of the series, paired with the great artwork, it was hard not to like .hack//Quantum.
So overall was .hack//Quantum a worthy addition of such a good franchise? With only 3 episodes to tell it's story it feels as if there are a few bits left out (especially if this is your first foray into the .hack series), but overall it stands on it's own. Being set a few decades into the future gives it far more of a pass regarding the coma aspect than other installments to the series, and the technology used is actually something that might happen one day in our lifetimes. So to those wondering if this is the best place to jump into .hack, I would quickly tell you to check out both Sign and Roots before venturing here but it isn't a horrible jumping on point, you will be confused regarding several things though (such as what Data Drain actually is). But to fans of the series who have not yet watched .hack//Quantum, or to those skeptical about it's moe-esque appearance, don't let that fool you. Underneath lies a well told story, some interesting characters and the best animation you've ever seen in a .hack anime. Fans of the series, do yourself a favour and watch this as soon as you can.
The existence of .Hack//Quantum immediately brings up the question: How many damn times will Namco Bandai rehash the same story in the same franchise?
STORY: Once upon a time, there was a video game company that made a really popular online game called The World (Though in the real world, the game that is housed within the game has a very questionable popularity, as in does anyone really care for .hack anymore?), the game was an incredibly flawed game where hacking is the only way to do any cool shit, and strange phenomenons that cause people in real life fall unconscious into a coma like state,
no law suits were filed.
Years later, The World R:X is released, where it continued the broken programming of it's earlier version along with player vs player fights being the most prominent way to play, or just go around and kill other players which inspired others to become player killer killers... Go, just go...Just go with it. More queer phenomenons occur and more people end up in coma like states, still no law suits were filed and the The World continues to be extremely popular (In the franchise's world mind you).
A few more years later, The World is still very popular and everything seems okay, not much hacking and people actually playing it like any other MMO like World of Warcraft, until a little kitty cat decides to fuck shit up, and the rest as they say is history, and you know what else they say? History repeats itself.
.Hack//Quantum is exactly that, the usual .hack story retold again but in a more compact space. If you had already played through one of the games, watched through one the anime series or read through one the manga adaptations, then chances are that the feeling dejavu is going to hit you like a brick, right smack in the face leaving a stinging feeling that is all too familiar.
But it's time to look past the story rehashing and time to look at what they did with the characters this time around, which to be honest I rather like the central group of characters this time around, Asumi (Sakuya), Eri (Mary), and Iori (Tobias) who's video game designs are, except for Eri her's is more of remixed design, gender swapped versions of existing characters from earlier .hack series. Sakuya is a spunky go getter, something like a typical male shonen lead, Tobias is a knightly fancy looking warrior yet dresses like slob in real life and Mary is a proper like student, the kind that would only play a MMO if invited by a friend. They're nothing exciting, especially alone, but they work well together as a believable group of friends.
And the main story they're a part of, other than what I initially criticized it for, is a pretty enjoyable story centering a character named Hermit, who is a walking talking cat like Mia from the earlier .hack entries, who is involved with a dark area of the game that causes players to fall unconscious and the three players I spoke of have to find someway to save them.
There's nothing bad or terrible in particular with this .hack or it's story, and it should be treated as a bite sized offering of what .hack is about, but if you are going into this being familiar with the franchise, then there is truly nothing new offered, and I still can't get over how the in-series game is still around given it's history, I mean if the company regrouped into a different one with a name change, sure, it would have been believable (The perfect real life example for anime fans for this would be ADV's transformation into Sentai Filmworks, it worked for them pretty well), but if they see that story not being broke, then I guess there's no point of fixing it.
ANIMATION: I'm pretty sure that Bandai could have had enough money to pay for new writers, because the budget for the animation really shows. Very detailed and clean, this is the best the series has looked by far as animation is considered. Giant dragons, giant magical attacks, oh my! Even the fan service scenes with the hot springs are forgivable with the best snow rendering I've ever seen.
SOUND: Absolutely nothing stands out, that's both good and bad. And either language, english or japanese, are just as good to listen to. Though I find it strange that Funimation is the one that pick this up for an english dub, usually Bandai picks them up... Oh right, nevermind.
+ Stellar animation.
+/- .Hack in a nutshell. / It's the same story that every .Hack went with for years.
+/- The cast is likable. / They're nothing special to write home about.
I do like the .Hack series as much as the next guy... Well more than the next guy because he's among the people who stopped caring for the franchise but, there really needs to be innovation with the .Hack franchise or it'll simply be forgotten by time. A video game reboot or something is in order, same old same old isn't going to cut it forever.
A complete newbie to .hack in all it's forms I went into this with no expectations aside from a few recommendations from friends after finishing up Log Horizon some time ago. I will also say this is my first ever real OVA experience which makes me a bit jarred by the necessities of storytelling in that medium.
I will say overall I enjoyed Quantum, a fun little, if dramatic and heartfelt journey that may not have left me with any real impression of whether or not I wish to continue with the franchise as a whole but certainly leaving me with a lot of enjoyment for
this tale at least.
Another problem I had is I really had no sense of what things were or how they operated, there are many times that mechanics of the game or technology go unexplained though I am almost positive this would be solved for me if I were to watch some more major entries in the franchise like Sign that would have a bit more time to devote to such things.
Overall I enjoyed this one, not sure if Sign should go up on my list though. Oh well.
Having followed .hack since the days of .hack//SIGN it's pretty safe to say I'm quite the fan of the franchise. I've seen every anime installment out there and I was actually excited for this. While mixed feelings of Kinmea Citrus taking over from longtime.hack// animation house Bee Train I was wondering how a new studio would take a new anime and I can say it's a fun and entertaining watch sure to be accessible to newcomers but may be a bit of a turn off for longtime watchers for my self.
Animation and art wise Quantum was certainly sporting production values lacking from some previous installments
and to Kinema Citrus' advantage they came in on a much later installment to be given a full budget and effort. Animation quality looks high and the character art, while reusing models from the previous installements, do give a new and great twist on some of Yoshiyuki Sadamoto's early designs as now we have a female version of Kite and Balmung and a BlackRose with much longer hair and other changed accessories. I really do enjoy the new style and the new characters are a fun mix. Seeing some returns of GU-styled characters also made for a nice mix of World R1 and World R2 styles and features put into this brand new version of the World known as The World R:X.
The art direction is as good as ever as the scenic art always captures what a fantasy virtual world might look like overall this is an aesthetically pleasing show to look at.
Story wise the story is fun and adventurous but it's also a balance of dramatic and light hearted at the same time. It doesn't feel too out left field as "Legend of the Twilight" did when it first debuted. Unlike SIGN or Liminality which were far more dialog driven and continued to build on it's mystery with mood and atmosphere this show mostly features action. A positive and a negative trait at the same time but it feels like the story was balanced enough to make it feel legit. The show offers diverse cast of characters that we get a full look at both within The World and back in the real World making this the first .hack anime to really do that. And I really enjoyed this new take seeing both the players in and out of their virtual avatars.
The plot is very welcoming to first time viewers and doesn't really require viewing of past .hack to understand it. Most previous events are talked about briefly enough to not slow down the story and to still give a basic understanding of the universe and past events in it. The cast is entirely made up of new characters which makes it really easy to jump right in with no prior knowledge of the franchise.
One major drawback to the story is while this show is very kind to new viewers who have never seen any .hack before, it may come as a bit jarring to long time watchers as my self. The very idea that CC Corp is still allowed to be in business after two major network crises which caused people to become comatose and other very serious problems within the real world, seems a bit of a stretch by now. Between the events of World R:1 and World R:2 a fire broke out at CC Corp which destroyed much of the old world which makes it easy to justify how they escape the blame from The Network Crises then.
The anime does it's best to justify this somewhat by saying comatose victims are in private hospitals controlled by CC Corp but it unfortunately doesn't solve other problems with the continued repeat of the coma plot. I get it that to tell .hack you have to use this plot to raise the stakes and I honestly can't think of any other way to do it but really the only explanation as to how The World is still a massively popular game as well as how CC Corp. must be that CC Corp has paid off the Japanese government or something.
Musically the show fails to capture anything interesting. Ko Otani unfortunately doesn't deliver an interesting score and the soundtrack itself isn't all that great on it's own either. The franchise has sorely lacked without Yuki Kajiura's direct involvement ever since Ali Project took on Roots and failed at it just as much. Yuuka Nanri does return to provide the theme song though this time she is without Kajiura. However the theme song is still a nice one and fits the general mood of .hack. The Sounds Effects and Japanese acting however are as great as ever.
Dubbing wise, this is the first .hack to ever be dubbed and released by FUNimation. it's a very solid dub overall with plenty of great performances. I'll admit for those who played GU it may be jarring to see Aina speak with a deeper voice as opposed to her more young girl voice from the games but it makes sense in context. It's a great dub and release from FUNimation and I'm hoping with Bandai Entertainment's demise they will handle future .hack anime if any even if newer games never get released over here. Although if any past characters ever return I would hope they would try and get the original English cast members back but that's for future projects to worry about.
Quantum is just fun. It may not have the depth of Liminality or SIGN but it certainly was a lot more fun than Legend of the Twilight was. I'd put it above Roots in terms of enjoyment and it's an overall fun project and one of the few that does not tie directly into a followup game which makes this a pretty solid watch if you are wanting to jump into .hack. If you are long time fan it still may be worth a look just remember you might have to likely check your brain at the door to get past some of the problems with the plot and if you are newcomer to this might be a very easy one for you to get into as SIGN and Liminality are known for their very slow methodical pacing and more talking than action.