.hack//SIGN Episode 1


"Role Play"

I know it's not episode four yet, but I think any review of .hack//SIGN has to start with its music, composed by Yuki Kajiura. Bandai certainly knows that they've got a strong score, and it is showcased throughout the episode. In fact, scenes without musical accompaniment feel empty and hollow without it, which indicates the fact the show relies too heavily on its score.

The visuals range from being very good, boasting high production values, to being almost ludicrously bad. There are some terrible visual effects sprinkled throughout, while the overall world look and character designs are very unique and appealing.

This show moves slowly. It seems like it's almost worn as a badge of pride that so little information and dialogue can be doled out. Each line is delivered as though it were some sort of devine proclamation. It doesn't really seem like we're supposed to care about it that much, though, as the music frequently plays louder than the spoken lines. In fact, the music does much more to set the tone, and describe the plot than the characters' speech.

.hack//SIGN's creators obviously are confident enough in their product that they didn't feel the need to impress right away.

Rating: C+

Posted by Kei at 12:08 AM | Comments (1)

.hack//SIGN Episode 2



I love Yuki Kajiura, but I swear the opening theme to .hack//SIGN has the stupidest lyrics I have ever seen. (It doesn't help that the lyrics are almost completely unintelligible, either.)

How come I must know where obsession needs to go?
How come I must know the direction of relieving?
How come I must know where the passion hides its feelings?

Deep in the night (far off the light)
Missing my headache
Visions of light (Sweeter delight)
Kissin' my loveache

Okay, for starters, "the direction of relieving"? Are you kidding me? Let's not even get into what the heck her "loveache" is. (What's the rating on this show, anyways?) Okay, maybe I shouldn't make a habit of criticizing the lyrics of anime intro songs, but you have to admit that these are pretty bad.

.hack//SIGN takes place almost completely in the World, an online game in the future. It seems like the people who came up with the plot and dialogue for .hack//SIGN have heard the concept of what one of these games is like, but don't really get it. Normally this wouldn't be a problem (how accurate is anime, anyways?), but the fact that the dialogue gets bogged down in these boring characters pontificating over the aspects of this game really kills the show. The fact that these characters that look like cool mages, swordsmen, or whatever, are actually normal people, is not really the most exciting idea. Do I really care that Mimiru just came back from taking a bath? Not really.

The show really hits a low point when they begin to discuss the ramifications of resetting a single-player RPG. Um... yeah. Oh, by the way, he played this game a long time ago, before we had games we could play together. By my watch, that means the early eighties.

Also deserving mention is the wonderful voice acting in this show. Usually, anime voice actors overact their parts (just a tad). Luckily, .hack//SIGN employs voice talent from the Matrix school, so it's all as deadpan as can be. Maybe the same excuse can be given, since they're all avatars in a computer game. This is actually a larger problem, because facial expressions are very toned down, and sometimes the sleepily-delivered lines can have more emotion than their characters show.

Other than that, the art is still pretty good, with the exception of Tsukasa, who seems to look weird from every angle he's drawn from. Maybe his first episode look was just the wrong one or something.

Here's a pronunciation question. The wonderfully Engrish pronunciation of "the" as "za". Now, as a native English speaker, when I form the "th" sound, my tongue is against the back of my teeth, while when I make the "za" sound, it's a bit farther back. How the heck can you get this wrong?

Maybe if the show wasn't so terrible, I could comment about more relevant things.

Rating: D

Posted by Kei at 01:06 AM | Comments (10)

.hack//SIGN Episode 3



This is one of those episodes where nothing much happens. Here's a plot summary: Mimiru and Bear are trying to meet Tsukasa offline. (They also come to the realization, that there might be some difficulty to this, much to the surprise of the audience. Hah.)

The design for Tsukasa's Guardian has to be one of the most uninspired things ever. Perhaps this is just an early judgement, and someting will change my perception in the future (like, for example, if it were to completely change). Speaking of Tsukasa, he falls into one of the most boring character archetypes, one who is being pulled along in momentous events, and more or less whines about it.

This episode is all about the characters finding out stuff that viewers knew, or suspected, since about five minutes into the first episode, when Tsukasa explains that he is unable to log out. Three episodes later, we're still pretty much there.

On the plus side, the music is still excellent, as are the visuals (what's the deal with Subaru always carrying the axe around?), but at this point, there still isn't much happening.

Rating: C

Posted by Kei at 07:13 AM | Comments (0)

.hack//SIGN Episode 4



Another episode of .hack, still not much story movement. The animation and sparse dialogue/story serve as a nice background to the music of .hack//SIGN. This episode is pretty much a rehash of one or two episodes ago, where Bear and Mimiru are supposed to meet up with Tsukasa, but then bother him, making him run away.

Trying to suspend my disbelief for this show is proving harder and harder. The idea that the system administrator somehow will go and read the logs of the game is somewhat absurd, when you consider the purported complexity of the World. Then you throw in silly game references, and it's very hard to accept the show's foundation.

Are we watching a fantasy anime, or are we really just watching a bunch of people playing a video game (a dramatically less interesting proposition, as what's the big deal, unless the World itself is some sort of sinister force). The problem is that we're supposed to care about Tsukasa's player (or Bear's or Mimiru's). We never really see them, though, and it is hard to differentiate their in-game character from their personality. How do we empathize with them, then? For me, personally, not very well.

It might go better if the plot started moving, and I wouldn't have to focus on these very boring characters.

Rating: D+

Posted by Kei at 12:38 PM | Comments (1)

.hack//SIGN Episode 5



Ugh, right after the horrible Engrish of the opening theme, we go right into another terribly Engrishy song.

The visual design of the show is really beginning to drain on me. Sometimes it looks cool, but then sometimes it just looks stupid. For example, I hate Subaru's wings. Whenever Tsukasa summons his guardian, I want to laugh at how absurd it looks. Seriously, how could they not come up with a better visual design than a huge balloon? Another example are swords in the show. They generally look weird, ranging from menacing and sleek to looking like a plastic toy.

While the music is very good, the show's reliance on it makes its utilization very unsubtle. The soundtrack cuts from track to track without much connection, which makes it sometimes feel like you're just listening to a CD, and it's going from track to track. There aren't many mellow background tunes, so it's all in your face.

Things actually happen in this episode plotwise, though, which is a refreshing change. The Crimson Knights have a plan for catching Tsukasa and his Guardian, and we get some action, even if a huge bubble shooting at armored knights isn't exactly visually compelling. We've finally gone from a very flat story to some buildup in this segment, so hopefully we'll get further development in the next episode.

Rating: B-

Posted by Kei at 08:50 PM | Comments (5)