Encompasses: Entire OVA Series
Published by: Madman Entertainment (Australia/New Zealand), Funimation Entertainment (North America)
Based on: The long running anime/game series by CyberConnect2
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-fi
Audio: English and Japanese Dubs
Aspect Ratio: 1080p High Definition (16:9)
Runtime: 75 Minutes
Classification: PG for Science Fiction Themes and Violence
Cost: $29.95 (DVD) / $34.95 (Blu-ray)
Special Thanks: Madman Entertainment for kindly providing me with a copy of this title for review
Tobias, Mary, and Sakuya are way into the The World. Together, they form an inseparable group, grinding toward the break of day and running dungeons in search of the artifacts of adventure. But when the trio becomes lost in this virtual labyrinth, a chance encounter with the mysterious entity known only as Hermit will change their lives forever. Welcome back to the world players!
As far as both anime and gaming goes, the .hack series is pretty special to me. Madman Entertainment’s release of .hack//Sign Volume 1 was the first ever anime release I ever purchased having only been introduced to the whole concept of “anime” a week or two earlier and was a game series that after playing the first one – I ran around every EB Games and Gametraders store near where I live to purchase and/or order copies of the remaining three games in that first set of four. However while some like me were enthusiastic about this series, depending on where you live will depend on how familiar you are with “The World” presented in this game.
While all anime series of .hack up to this point in the timeline have been dubbed into English and released, the game series which the anime is based on havent seen as enthusiastic releases – in Australia for example we only got the first four games (Infection, Mutation, Outbreak and Quarantine), North America were fortunate enough to also get the second set of three games featuring The World R:2 (Rebirth, Reminisce and Redemption) despite the prequel anime being released in PAL regions and nowhere outside of Japan has seen a release of .hack//Link which this series is more closely related to.
Therefore, upon starting this series you may find yourself uncertain on concepts, but generally you should go in knowing that “The World” is now in its R:X version where instead of being behind a computer one can now also access the game through their headset and that the world itself has become much more reliant such technology. It does help if you are familiar with the series itself as it is filled with references to prior events in the games timeline, but you should otherwise be able to pick most concepts as you go along.
This three episode OVA series follows three friends, Tobias, Mary and Sakuya who are classmates in real life and in between studying for their exams take to The World for both social and adventuring purposes. One day while witnessing a major guild attempting to defeat the undefeatable One Sin boss and managing to screw it up, Sakuya ends up with a bounty on her head. While trying to avoid attention she meets a small cat character named Hermit and subsequently gets him dragged into her problems – although they along with her friends and other characters alike find themselves trapped in a labyrinth where if anyone is killed in this region… they not only feel the pain but they can fall into a coma. With their friend Mary down, Tobias and Sakuya work together to solve the mystery of just why everything has happened.
While it is a short series perhaps too short to get across all the concepts they could have, I appreciated how they took a different approach to things and didn’t drag on about it. The one thing you can expect from any game in the .hack conglomerate is that gamers end up having their consciousness’ trapped within the game or otherwise comatose in the real world – a fact that does not differ in this installment from any other. However, what was good is that they tried to shake it up by not having some sentient AI trying to destroy players existences but instead provided a more emotional story with heavier involvement of the players (Albeit ones with beyond Administrator capabilities) and essentially took something they have done several times before and added a prominent twist to it given chronologically it is the latest in the timeline.
While the episodes take place primarily in The World R:X, there are ample occasions where they take the characters out of the game and into the real world – something which has only been done prior in the four episode OVA series .hack//Liminality which was synchronous with the games. While it may not win newcomers to the series who might be entirely lost with several concepts, it proved to be a small, enjoyable series that left me afterwards thinking “Wow!” and wanting more…. something most of the major .hack series seem to do for me.
I had the pleasure of watching the Blu-ray release of this series and must say that releasing it on this format did the series justice. While they have essentially just reused most character designs from their previous installments (However given them twists, so Sakuya who is similar in design to Kite from the main series has girlish features added to the designs for example), they were effective in pulling off the nostalgia for previous fans and were well detailed, while the environments represented the themes previous installments in the series have contributed in the development of the world – industrial/developmental root towns with numerous open fantasy-style areas to facilitate actual “gameplay”. As this takes place in an MMORPG, action is frequently portrayed in the series with the animation being above-average in quality.
Taking the series out of the The World and into the real world also proved to be interesting and when I started watching I didn’t really have my hopes set on high given past attempts to intermingle real life with game world being sub-par. My indifference was lost after the first few minutes and I thought they gave equal attention to the characters out of game and in-game and used visuals well to get across the intended development of the state of the world more than if they just relied on real-world flashbacks.
While not used necessarily in the same way, the music of this series gave clear nods to the music produced by Yuki Kajiura for .hack//Sign and Chikayo Fukuda for the original .hack games. While they were not usually obtrusive and didn’t play as much of a role in setting the mood as most series I have watched – they were enjoyable to listen to. The series does come with an ending theme “Shizuku” by Yuuka Nanri, but unfortunately didn’t come with any form of animation which is a shame as it could have worked well with a .hack//Sign-esque ending.
What I did enjoy listening to was the English dub provided by Funimation Entertainment. Easily my top pick would be for Stephanie Young as Shamrock who managed to get just the right tones for both wartime and in downtime, suiting the intended character personality and tones….. and a certain moment on the phone where the Eden of the East fan in me was left slightly disappointed when she didn’t end a phone call with “Noblesse Oblige“. I also thought the character tones for the other major characters Anastasia Munoz (Tobias), Trina Nishimura (Sakuya), Lara Woodhull (Mary) and Lindsay Seidel (Hermit) were also appropriate and of at least comparable quality to their Japanese dub counterparts.
Like most anime film / short series releases, .hack//Quantum comes with a nice selection of bonus content which includes:
- Go, Our Chim Chims!! – A short series of three episodes featuring Chim versions of the main characters as they discuss concepts from the episodes. Pretty enjoyable short series actually.
- Yui Ogura’s ‘Yui-yui’ – A short three episode series hosted by Hermit’s Japanese VA Yui Ogura as she does Cooking, makes flipbooks and provides answers to what seems to be a quiz provided with the Japanese release which obviously… we do not have so was not really of interest. The other two videos will be dependent on the viewer but I chose to only skim through them.
- Promotional Videos
- Original Commercial
- Pre-Release Promotional Video
- US Trailer
- Trailers for Other Funimation / Madman Series - Fairy Tail, Chrome Shelled Regios, Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040, Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom, Dragon Ball Z, My Bride is a Mermaid, Sengoku Basara, Funimation.com
While there is nothing that directly relates to the content which is shown on screen such as commentary or concept art, it proved to be a suitable number of bonus goodies for a release of this length and price.
This is not a release someone who is new to the .hack series would really benefit from watching, and if you are in that position and are interested in finding out more about the series as a whole, you might benefit from watching .hack//Sign or .hack//Roots (or if you have a store that stocks rare Playstation 2 games nearby, even the old games themselves). As a fan of the series myself, it proved to be an enjoyable release that didn’t just stick to the whole evil AI element most game and anime releases in the .hack conglomerate seemed to use.
Storyline / Character Development: B
Music/Voice Acting: B
Personal Preference: B+
Extra Content: B+
Overall Score: B+