In the year 2005, a computer virus called ‘Pluto Kiss’ completely shut down and restricted the global internet network of the world. In 2007, after extensive rescinding of the network, the CC Company created and released an online fantasy network game called ‘The World’. With about 2 million players world wide, the game took the world by storm. This is the story of ‘.Hack//Sign’.
Inside a cold, dark cavern, a mysterious boy regains consciousness. Dressed like a wizard, carrying a strange looking staff, the boy slowly surveys his surroundings. The boy can’t remember much, but he knows his name – ‘Tsukasa’.
As he teleports through various places in ‘The World’, he comes to realise that something has happened to him. Something has made it impossible for him to log out of the game. Even stranger, it’s as if he has become part of the game. His senses have become attuned to ‘The World’. He now feels pain inside ‘The World’.
Returning to the cave, he comes across a ghost image of a strange cat character. He remembers a name. ‘Maho’. But the image fades, leaving a magical tablet behind. Touching the tablet, a voice declares: ‘I’ve been waiting for you for a long time. I need you, just like you need me. Let’s walk together. So long as we walk together, I will protect you.’ With that cryptic message the tablet disappears.
And so the mystery surrounding the boy who is unable to log out of the system begins.
.Hack//Sign is an interesting anime to watch. When it starts, it disguises itself as a standard sword and sorcery show in the unique setting of a game environment. However you quickly realise that this is not the case. It is more of a mystery and drama than an action title. It also deals heaviily with human relations and motivations.
The story revolves around a girl who has lead a very rough life. Her mother died when she was young, and her father is abusive towards her. Her mind gets trapped in her only escape from reality, the online game known as ‘The World’. The story deals with how she opens finally learns to open up to other people as more and more people get involved with her character, the boy named Tsukasa. Central to the mystery is the plot by which she is unable to log her consciousness out of the system, leaving her body and mind in a vegetable state out in the real world. The power behind this tragedy appears to be some malicious code left behind from the original game fragment.
However, the story never deals with real life events. Rather, every facet of the story is told through the game. Everything is manifested as players and characters taking part in this marvellous RPG world.
The animation of .Hack//Sign is simply superb. The backgrounds are more like fantasy artwork than landscapes. The colours are sumptious to look at, and the environments are all breathtaking spectacles. The characters are all beautifully designed and rendered, and their animation is very fluidly done. The action sequences are well handled, and the camera shots are well thought out.
The musical score is hauntingly beautiful, with a number of melodic tracks laid down. See-Saw perform all the vocal tracks. All lyrics are in English which is relatively strange for an anime title. The show has a particulary powerful opening theme.
Overall, this anime is well worth the watch. It is very well written and enacted. The ideas presented come across as original and all the characters are well rounded and presented. If any complaint, the only thing would be that the pace of the anime feels at time very slow. The episodes don’t grab you to watch the next one as soon as possible. Another weak point that could be pointed out is the ending to the series. It is a very open ended end to the show, leaving one with many questions unanswered. However, this doesn’t necessarily have to be faulted, as it was written with a sequel in mind. If you are looking for a thought-provoking anime, the you will enjoy .Hack//Sign.
(Historical Note: This was written back in June 2003. Thankfully my writing has improved greatly since then.)
Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.hack//Sign