The advancement of virtual reality and its fusion with MMORPG’s has led the Japanese gaming industry to create a video game of such colossal proportions that it could only be called “The World.” As its name suggest, The World is a home to countless players of all ages and backgrounds. But for one such player, Tsukasa, The World has morphed into something more than dungeons and levels, it has turned into a life-threatening reality because ever since logging in, Tsukasa hasn’t been able to log out, or remember…anything. Such rare instances as Tsukasa have appeared on the news, players falling into commas after playing The World. On top of that, those malignant of heart who spend their time praying on others, killing them in result, the player killers, have been raising a fear permeated chaos within The World. Unknown even to himself, Tsukasa find himself in the middle of strange happenings in The World which lead his friends to investigate this matter on their own. Join Tsukasa, Mimiru, Bear, Subaru, and the Crimson Knights as they dive into The World and unravel the mystery it holds.
Needless to say, .hack//SIGN is something very new and revolutionary in the world of anime. For one, this is a work about a video game which may raise a few eye brows and scare off the unbelievers. However, .hack//SIGN is really the purest form of addiction (but not like heroin or gambling) with, frankly, a very beautiful storyline. This is an anime that delves into character establishment and elaboration like no other. This is probably one of those mind-bending conflicts that the viewer will honestly, if not violently, want to be resolved. The relationships among all characters are always very emotional, somewhat disturbing at times, on a profound cognitive level. Although the story revolves primarily around Tsukasa and the Key of Twilight (both exceedingly messed up), everyone else receives fair treatment, fair inquiry on the screen. Those of us who actually play online rpg’s (FFXI, World of Warcraft, GuildWars) will especially have supreme appreciation for the dynamics of The World and the structure of events presented in .hack//SIGN. This series captures he essence of online gaming and the personalities of its players.
The visuals of .hack//SIGN, although simple at times, reflect its genre astonishingly well. Personally, no one would probably expect strenuous detail with individual character designs in a video game and .hack is the same. No, this isn’t a sloppily put together anime but rather a strategically designed anime. The viewer might often mistake .hack//SIGN for a game, even while watching it. Even with simple art, each character is very different in many specific ways. Once someone obtains a deeper insight into .hack//SIGN, he/she will understand and applaud its design.
Now even though .hack//SIGN is a narration of a game, it contains a lot more philosophy than the maybe anticipated action. A lot of scenes are slow and very talkative, which may or may not alter your perception of this series. A good portion of .hack is simple discussing or observing the situation and its theoretical consequences, all within The World. A lot of fans will be pumped to find out that the characters of .hack aren’t always presented in The World. The so called real world events make an appearance too, supplying a nice contrast in the scheme of things.
In addition to a great plot, this anime has one of the most elegant soundtracks to accompany an original storyline. In times of sorrow or complex tragedy, the music is light and mournful. This is a soundtrack that involves a lot of alto and soprano chorus complements with a heavy reliance on the violin medium in the background. It’s always uncanny how well all the compositions fit in with the .hack mainstream.
.hack//SIGN is shrouded in mystery, melancholy and emotion and is exceptionally original. It may not be high on everyone’s favorite list but as every other anime, this one will have its fans. This is a world filled with countless possibilities that wonderfully emulates human behavior in relation to an online role playing game. .hack//SIGN is everything you ever wished a game could be…and then some.