anime and games

The .hack franchise

dot hack SIGN characters

dot hack is awesome. Of course, I should specify what it is and what I like about it, (there are some things I don’t like).

For those of you who don’t know: dot hack refers to a world created by Cyber Connect 2 (namco bandai, er, I mean bamco namdai is behind this one). There are several Playstation video games, anime, and books concerning the world, or more appropriately, the world within the world. Most of dot hack (and hence the name) is about what happens inside these massive multiplayer online games, also called the World (The World, The World 2, The World R:X, The World R:2). These aren’t normal games, however: they are infected by viruses and plagued by malevolent NPCs (non-player characters, i.e. those not being controlled by a person in the real world). The characters must thus find ways to defeat the viruses, and this involves them going on quests to find answers, occasionally leading them to work with Cyber Connect game administration (who seems to not know what’s going on in their own game world). Spoiler you should know if your a parent whose kids are into this: the worst things that happen to characters are conflict (digital fighting) and falling into comas (yes, falling asleep for indefinite amounts of time until someone saves them), but how objectionable the content is depends on whether we’re talking about the games or the anime. More info right after I declare open spoilers.

My credibility on this subject…

Before you dig any further, I’d like you to know what I know so you can decide for yourself if I’m a credible source or not. My experience with the .hack franchise began when I saw clips of .hack//SIGN that a friend of mine would watch during lunch. Taking things out of context like that made things seem really really weird, but I was fascinated by the show and greatly inspired. I’ve since watched the entirety of .hack//SIGN and discovered it isn’t at all as creepy or weird as I thought it was, but I like the inspiration. Incidentally, that’s primarily what got me into watching anime (I may give a review of SIGN later). Since then, I’ve seen .hack//G.U. Trilogy (again, review on this some other time) and I’m excited about .hack the Movie, which just came out in Japan on January 12th.

My friend is a big gamer, and he has a bunch of .hack games. I’ve watched him for hours as he played the games, though I’ve never played the games myself ( “WHAT??!” ) Yeah yeah, I may get around to it one of these days. Though I can’t say I’ve seen every part of each story, I remember the feel of the games and I can comment on their content. And though I can’t comment on the difficulty of the games, I can comment on game play. Actually, my best area of commentary will be with respect to the media – the visuals, audio, soundtrack, story script, etc. – since I paid the most attention to that.

Oh yeah, and most importantly, I dug through the wikis. What you don’t get from watching the game, you have to look up. I keep going back to the wiki to explore the background information, particularly chronology and connections between characters.

And now for the spoilers…

The Games

There are five games I watched: Infection, Mutation, Outbreak, Quarantine, and finally G.U. (which I watched the most of). All five games are RPG (that’s “action adventure” to you noobs). The first four are part of the same series in which a character named Kite, assisted by his friend Black Rose, attempt to resolve the problems of the World by fighting viruses. Kite receives a bracelet for data drain, which you use to “break” major “bugs” (virus NPCs). The game requires you to work with menus to handle a bajillion items, but each item can have its usefulness (besides, the game pauses when you load the menus, so you can catch a breather in the middle of a boss fight). The gameplay consists of fighting virus NPCs in open fields and then inside dungeons, but after each dungeon, you’re treated to part of the story that tells you where to go next. As far as upgrades to help you on your journey: weapons and XP and, of course, the bracelet.

The last game, G.U., is centered around a character named Haseo on a quest to stop AIDA (after he learns about it). G.U. is a straightforward combat game where the main objective is button smashing and forming combos. (Hint: if you don’t want to break the joystick on your game-pad, practice vibrating your hand back and forth, but don’t be disappointed if you don’t master Haseo’s ultimate moves.) Every once in awhile you’ll get to sit back and enjoy a short anime clip that tells you more about the story from “outside the world”. These anime (called Online Jack) are about a guy named Salvador Aihara who is investigating the reason why children falling into comas. The clips are primarily there for entertainment since their story has nothing to do with the one you are following “in the World”.


The anime belonging to the .hack franchise are: SIGN, Luminality, Gift, Legend of the Twilight, Roots, G.U. Trilogy, G.U. Returner, Quantum, and The Movie. I’m only going to talk about those I’ve seen or have enough info to talk about.

SIGN – This tale concerns the background story of the .hack world. It’s a tale of mystery that surrounds the arrival of a particular character during the struggles of a character named Tsukasa. The key details for solving the mystery are mentioned only a handful of times and culminate in the ending. (HEY LOOK, IT’S A MAJOR SPOILER:) The story is about a girl named Tsukasa who accidentally discovers a fragment of the Epitaph of the Twilight, basically a key that puts her in contact with the young NPC named Aura, the game world’s master controller (called “god” by some characters, but this is explicitly denied by Aura herself who, note, at times is unable to control the outcome of situations in the World).

Roots – A series starting with Haseo’s arrival in the World. I watched an episode and got info from my gaming friend that the story isn’t very good on its own but is great as an introduction to the .hack games.

Luminality – A four part series that tells the story of people related to those put in comas by problems in the World. These anime take place during the .hack//Games (Infection, Mutation, Outbreak, and Quarantine). I saw only the first one, and though it was interesting for being around 10 mins, it is a far cry from a complete story. Unless you’re aware of what is going on in the games, watching these anime isn’t going to be entertaining.

G.U. Trilogy – A movie that simply bookends the G.U. games. The movie begins with Haseo’s loss of his girl friend Shino to their old friend Ovan, the carrier of the virus AIDA. The story then does some lengthy scenes trying to develop character (particularly through Haseo’s interactions with his new associate and soon-to-be-girlfriend Atoli), shows a few scenes that kind of represent the time during normal game-play, and before you know it, the movie reaches its end with 20 more minutes left. What could possibly happen now but a fight in which you don’t feel compelled to cheer for either side. Haseo has a nasty temperament, and who wants to root for the villain, right? – Until you learn of the story’s surprising twist, which felt rather anticlimactic and didn’t make a whole lot of sense when you really thought about it. The movie was really quite sad or as sad as things get in an mmorpg (except when there are real-world implications). Even now, I can hear the beautiful music of Deepest Memories playing as I visualize the final credits…

The Movie – Looks like it’s the story of Kite and friends, except that alot more of the “real world” is shown than you’d normally expect in a .hack anime. The trailer doesn’t look too revealing, but it does show excellent animation. (It’s also kinda weird to see the Japanese use 3D animation since that’s what American’s typically use because we don’t want to hand-draw everything. I mean, hey, we have computers, so let’s use them!)

My dislikes of the franchise… Yes, it’s necessary to show you I’m not a total blind freak.

Sometimes everything feels dark or creepy. The degree of this feeling varies, depending on which anime or game you are playing. Primarily it resides in any G.U. related where even the main character (Haseo) is completely repulsive (in my opinion) due to his dark complexion in both personality and appearance (I’m talking about the anime, here, though obviously his character appearance is the same for both the G.U. Trilogy anime and the G.U. games).

Character commentary: I don’t like Haseo (G.U.), but I’ve made that point already. Atoli (Haseo’s friend after Shino falls into a coma for awhile) is… developed in character in G.U. Trilogy, but she’s… weak. Salvador (G.U.) is funny on first impression and at times, but I wouldn’t want to watch a whole anime series centered on him. Sora (SIGN) is intentionally made out to be a nuisance, which he does. In the end, you sorta support him, but he remains the gnat on everyone’s plate. He’s a good addition to the story, though.

Now for what I like…

My favorite part about dot hack is the fact that it takes place in an mmorpg. It allows the writer(s) to be creative, and that’s the case with the story. There is soooo much mystery; even after digging through the wikis, there is a plethora of details I still don’t know. It’s not one of those things where you read it, watch it, or hear about it and can already get a good idea of what its about and how things play out in each story.

The music sets the tone. It can be awesome, mysterious, weird, whatever. Songs I frequently get stuck in my head are “Obsession” (theme of SIGN), “Key of the Twilight” (SIGN), “Silly Go Round” (theme of Roots), and “Deepest Memories”/”Gentle Hands” (G.U.).

My favorite anime from the franchise is currently .hack//SIGN. It was very inspiring in many ways for me as a creator, a story writer, artist. It was quite entertaining and exceptionally clean. I wouldn’t call the fighting in SIGN as “violent” since its more show (at most, in one event, a character is “killed”, but both characters involved knew that this simply meant their game was reset). The clothing of some of the avatars isn’t modest, but there overall appearance doesn’t draw attention to it, so it doesn’t irritate me.

As for characters I like: The one that I’m most fascinated with is Aura, primarily because she is has excellent artificial intelligence (a field of science that fascinates me). As for human characters, I favor Crim (SIGN) on the male side for his pizazz and Bear (SIGN) for his genuine kindness. On the female side, I like Mimiru (SIGN) for not giving up on Tsukasa, primarily because she was fascinated by the mystery, and Subaru (SIGN) for her maturity (in some respects).

Concluding remarks

That’s my rather detailed overview of the .hack franchise. I will probably have more posts concerning this topic, particularly reviews of the shows and episodes as I recall or watch/rewatch them, so this isn’t the end of this topic. Hopefully, this gives you a useful, basic idea of what this is whole thing is about and what it entails. It’s a very inspiring franchise – take my word for it. It’s even got me considering writing fanfics, despite the many other things I could be doing with my time.

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