Rating: 2½ Rampages

Episodes seen: 1-9 of 26 Cover for the DVD

.hack//SIGN takes place in a MMORPG (massively multi-player online role playing game) called "The World." The game itself is huge, and players are free to roam around and do basically whatever they want--although there are rules set up by the system moderators. Herein lies the main dilemma of the show--the character Tsukasa has started doing things normal players should not be able to do, like jumping servers without logging off. Tsukasa's association with a cat-like character (non-human player avatars are illegal) has the moderators wondering just what he is up to. What they don't realize is that for some mysterious reason, Tsukasa cannot log out of the game, for "The World" has become his new reality...

Subaru, kawaii SysMod with a BFAxe

Herself the Elf sez: I've given .hack a lot more benefit of the doubt than I usually give new anime, simply because everybody's been raving about it, so I thought I should give it a chance. So I have....but I have to say that I'm not as enthralled by this series as many people seem to be.

But let's start with the good stuff. The art is very good, with nice backgrounds, good colour choices, smooth animation and interesting character designs. The music is truly excellent, reminiscent of both Noir and Yoko Kanno. The basic concept of the show (an MMORPG and the conflicts within it) is fresh and interesting.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of flaws in this show. The music, for example--it's gorgeous, but often used badly, especially in the first few episodes. They play the whole track, regardless of where scenes begin or end, whether or not the music fits that particular scene. It's quite distracting. This problem does, however, get better as the series goes on.

Problem #2: the protagonist. There is such thing as an anti-hero (i.e. a protagonist who's not likeable), but he/she should at least be interesting. Unfortunately, Tsukasa isn't. He's bland, cold, distant, and gives us absolutely nothing about himself or his inner workings. This is obviously supposed to make him mysterious and intriguing, but I just found him boring and annoying, and couldn't understand why the other characters would go to all this trouble for him. The system 'cops' are presumably supposed to be the 'bad guys', so to speak, but they're reasonable and logical people, whereas Tsukasa seems to have attended the Shinji Ikari school of whiny, annoying heroes who can't do anything assertively. I'm getting really tired of wimpy characters who can't finish sentences. If they want us to care about him, maybe they should have given us *something* there, instead of a big blank.

Then there's Sora, who is like Dilandau without the coolness. He's just annoying. Then there are the rest of the characters, who could be interesting if we learned much of anything about them, which we don't. Which leaves me with a great big 'BLAH' feeling.

There are also some very strange and incongruous comedic moments thrown in that don't seem to fit with the rather dramatic body of the show, especially when Tsukasa is involved. There's also a fair bit of bizarre RPG philosphy which doesn't seem to add anything to the show.

The plot is also kind of slow and doesn't grab you immediately. Things do pick up, but even later on Tsukasa's distance and blandness kept me from really getting into it. It's a shame, because the concept is interesting but they haven't done much with it. The few times when they focused on the game itself and the player experience were, in my opinion, the most entertaining, but unfortunately we keep coming back to Tsukasa and his expressionless angst. I don't hate the show, mind you, but I'm not burning to see more of it.

Available from Bandai.

Created 20-03-03