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ANIME REVIEW: “.Hack//Sign: The Complete Series”

ANIME REVIEW: ".Hack//Sign: The Complete Series"

Handsomely designed, skillfully
directed and refreshingly free of unnecessary dialogue, .Hack//Sign  stands out as an
example of how to turn a game into a animated series that can stand on its own
merits. Although .Hack//Sign is based
on a popular PlayStation II game, viewers with no knowledge of the game will
enjoy the series as much as experienced players.

The fantasy-adventure takes place in
the World of an online game. Tsukasa, a powerful Wave Master/advanced player,
finds himself lost in the cyberworld, with no memory of how he got there. More
significantly, he’s unable to log out of the game and is apparently immune to
many of its limitations. He may be the focus of an impending crisis linked to
the legendary Key of the Twilight, an object that enables the bearer to
transcend many rules and restirctions. As he wanders through different realms
within the World, Tsukasa forms reluctant friendships with spunky girl warrior
Mimiru; earnest soldier Bear; the Crimson Knights, who maintain order in the
game-world; and genially heroic Crim, a Heavy Spear wielder. Tsukasa also meets
a curious character who resembles Puss-in-Boots, whom the Crimson Knights are
pursuing, and a potent but unseen entity who promises to protect him–and does,
with deadly force. At one point, the seach for the mysterious Key of the
Twilight leads the characters to an upside-down dungeon that recalls Befuddle
Hall in Winsor McCay’s “Little Nemo in Slumberland.”

Director Koichi Mashimo tantalizes
the viewer with brief glimpses of a dreary, gray reality that is strikingly
different from the pastel colors and imaginative designs of the cyber-world.
Obviously, more is at risk than an elaborate online game. Mashimo also uses
intriguing but ambiguous clues to build suspense as .Hack//Sign moves toward its climax.

Aided by Subaru and his friends,
Tsukasa challenges the vengeful and omnipresent Morganna for mastery of the
cyber-realm. As Tsukasa rediscovers his true identity and the role he was
destined to play, he reopens the links between the game world and reality in an
emotionally satisfying finale. The alienated 
Wave Master has learned to love, but Mashimo avoids bathos by
underplaying his transformation. Although the story ends with Episode #25, “Return,”
the filmmakers include two bonus episodes. “Intermezzo” offers a long
flashback of Mimiru and Bear when they were novices at the game; scenes from
earlier episodes have been re-edited to recap the main story in


.Hack//Sign proved
so popular, it spawned four OAVS, a theatrical feature, light novels, a manga,
and two more TV series, .hack//Legend of
and .hack//Roots—which
Funimation is also reissuing.

.Hack//Sign: The Complete Series Funimation: $39.98, 4 discs, DVD

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