The .hack OST contains some of the most soulful music in any anime, coinciding with the very heartfelt realities that exist for the characters, and the intensity of their emotions as they seek to discover the truth behind why Tsukasa cannot log out. Many of the songs in the OST are repeated, occurring at pivotal moments in the plot. The song “A Stray Child” for example, recurs throughout the series, found often in moments when Tsukasa is alone and hurting. The lyrics, which are sung in English, pair with the story’s primary conflict: “If you are lost in your way / deep in an awesome story / don’t be in doubt and a stray / cling to your lonesome folly”. Once you discover (rather quickly during the first episode), that Tsukasa is stuck in The World, the lyrics to the song not only make sense, but seem to make the song a reflection of the heart for Bear, Subaru and Mimiru. They project this heartfelt concern toward their friend Tsukasa, as they seek to uncover the mystery of Tsukasa’s predicament.
Arguably, the soul of any anime can be discovered through its music. Just as the way any person speaks and dresses provides us with countless details about their personality, an anime’s OST delivers a wealth of information on the story, at a deeper level than what we can gain from the storyline itself. This is because an anime’s soundtrack is crafted to suit the show. If you’ve ever wondered why an anime’s music seems to fit well with it, both thematically and stylistically, it is because most anime music is created and crafted specifically for the anime. In this manner, the music embodies the anime as individual pieces that help give it its character.
One of the most recognizable and oft-repeated songs in the anime’s OST is also a key element to the plot: “Key of the Twilight”. Much like “A Stray Child”, this song is sung in English. With a moderately fast pace and an ever-increasing emotional atmosphere through the repeated violin refrain, the lyrics contain verses that are about as hand-crafted for an anime’s plot as you’ll find: “I believe in fantasies invisible to me / in the land of misery I’m searchin’ for the sign / to the door of mystery and dignity / I’m wandering down the secret sun.” In few other cases will anime viewers find the title of the anime in one of the show’s recurring songs. Yet in .hack, the original anime series (.hack//Sign) has a core element of the title within a song that, in many respects, is the heart of the entire show.
What most anime viewers will find is that there are several key pieces of music within an anime series that get repeated. There is of course the opening theme and the closing theme, which are different in most anime and may get changed over the course of the series’ run. For anime with a lot of action, there is usually a song that gets played during most intense scenes. For almost every anime, there is what you might call the “peaceful moments” song, the track that happens whenever, nothing is actually occurring, neither bad nor good. Indeed, for most key moments in an anime’s storyline, there is some piece of music that is crafted to help the viewer feel the emotion of the moment.
.hack is an anime that is, in many respects, easy to miss and difficult to get into. It has a plot that can be somewhat difficult to understand, and for most fans, this is an unacceptable entry point for continuing into a series beyond the first episode. Despite having several games made that continued the story of The World, the show itself never received significantly wider appeal. Yet the soundtrack is one that is wholly unforgettable. A mixture of fast-paced action, extremely heartfelt songs and tragically emotional oratory is a testament to the the feelings of pain, confusion, loss and strength that are weaved throughout the story. If you’ve never watched it, or never finished it, it may well be worth your time. And while it’s certainly possible to listen to the soundtrack alone, doing so while watching the anime will ensure you receive the full effect, and full meaning, behind each song.