It is the year 2017, and the stakes have gotten even higher in the massively multiplayer online game The World--now The World R:2, a dangerous place overrun by player killers, where lawlessness abounds. The PKK Haseo, known as "The Terror of Death," is a fearsome foe who punishes those who want to slay other players. But things have gotten personal as Haseo tries to track down the killer Tri-Edge, who has threatened the real life of his friend Shino...
Upon writing this review, I have read the first four volumes of the .hack//G.U.+ manga, with any future updates currently being released in Japan. However, there's plenty of material here to talk about. .hack//G.U.+ is yet another manga created in a way that only fans that have played the original games could fully enjoy it. To be fair, it has its moments, but it definitely has some negatives.
First off, some quick back story on the manga’s origins: .hack//G.U.+ was originally serialized in a magazine in Japan before the first game had even come out. Clearly, its purpose was to create hype for the games, while
also perhaps giving fans a look at the beta version of the plotline. Notice the keyword in the last sentence there, “fans”.
What they've done with the story here then is to simply summarize the games into a few short manga. A rather audacious task, yes? Taking three 40+ hour games and squeezing them into some four odd manga. I will give .hack//G.U.+ some credit though. What it does right with the story is in presenting only the key points, the core information needed. Haseo has a person he wants to save, there's a threat he must defeat in order to achieve this goal, and he goes about this while dodging some monkey wrenches also known as plot twists. It doesn't prevent a person from feeling that something is missing, but at least the casual reader shouldn't be completely lost. Also, while it has a lot of ground to cover, it never feels terribly rushed. Still, the story is mediocre; not bad, but not great either.
With only so much time to develop a story, it's also pretty hard to create good characters as well. Here again .hack//G.U.+ gets an average score. The biggest problem is with Haseo; his personality is really taken to the extreme. It's hard to sympathize with the guy when he's so angsty. But again, there's some saving grace. Atoli is one example, being one of the few characters who feels genuine and well developed. You get to see her striving to be a happy and good person who also has her own issues and demons. Overall, the characters are interesting, but without enough pages to develop 'em they fall a bit short.
At least the characters are fun to look at. The art is the biggest positive for this manga. Sometimes it's enough to just flip through the pages and admire the pretty. Endrance is one of the prime examples; he's always illustrated nicely. Generally speaking the male characters are fine and dandy, but when it comes to the females... my gosh, the boobs and hips, it's amazing sometimes. For the most part this didn't bug me, but when it came to Pi... good Lord, those melons on her chest! I mean, for goodness' sakes, I know they were big in the games and it's obvious fanservice, but jeezum crowe! Let some air out of those balloons, please!
Ahem... yes... anyway, other than that, the character designs are pretty cool and the backgrounds, when they appear, are very nice too. There's one big gripe I have about the art though, even moreso than Pi's breasticles: The white slashes that are meant to be attacks. What the heck, people? I like your art, Yuzuka Morita, but this was ridiculous. It's not appealing, at all, to go through an action scene and see a bunch of white strips that are apparently summoned out through the combatants' weapons. Not to mention it can get confusing. Honestly, just draw the damn weapons and leave the white bars of death at home.
In conclusion, those who wish to pick up .hack//G.U.+ should keep in mind that it's one of those "fans only" manga. Other series, such as Kingdom Hearts, have employed the same strategy, and let's just be honest by admitting it's all for the cash. People want to make money off a popular franchise, so they do stuff like this. For this particular manga, the result is an average product. Actually, .hack//G.U.+ should be proud of itself for managing to not totally suck. With some good art and decent characters, this manga is somehow capable of carrying a mediocre plot through four volumes and doing a good enough job of it that genuine enjoyment is possible. Just don't expect too much out of .hack//G.U.+ and it'll reward you for it.