What They Say:
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. There’s an eerie darkness spreading across The World, and once you stumble in, you may never make it out.
Please Note: The technical portion of this review covers the Blu-ray disc and not the DVD.
The audio presentation for this release is fairly strong as it has a pair of 5.1 tracks for both the Japanese and English languages using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The show is pretty much a dialogue driven piece but it does have some good areas where it uses the action and sound effects well. A lot of it is kind of stacked towards the end of the third episode when the battle goes big as that’s where it really feels like it has some sense of using the surround channels as the rest of it is very forward soundstage driven. But it’s well done along there with some areas that have a lot of oomph to it and a good sense of self when it has the characters moving about. It’s not a big in your face kind of mix but one that does things well without going over the top.
Originally released in late 2010 and early 2011, the transfer for this three episode OVA release is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. Everything fits easily on one disc since it’s just the three episodes and minimal extras overall so we get a good bit rate and a very clean looking transfer. The show uses some really good, sharp colors at times to make things stand out but also works well with the murkier colors for some of the fantasy settings it gets involved in. The 3DCG material blends pretty well overall but there are aspects to them that intentionally stands out as it’s a part of the shows premise. The show really won me over well with its visual design and the transfer captures it very well with no real or significant issues to be had with it.
The packaging for this release follows the new path set by FUNimation with a Blu-ray case inside a DVD sized O-Card so that it can fit easily with DVDs if you want it but also look good with your Blu-ray’s if you eliminate the card. The card and the cover itself is identical so you don’t lose much of anything by tossing it. The front cover is a good, moody piece that has the main cast with serious expressions to their faces with some muted colors made stronger by the ominous background of the cloud filled sky at sunset. There’s bright spots of light at the top and bottom which is alittle odd but it does tie it together fairly well. The logo is kept simple and effective in playing to the brand name as we’ve seen it as well. The back cover is fairly dark overall with its background and even its overall choice of artwork. The right side has a small character shot and the variosu stills from the show are generally fairly muted. The appeal of the show is in its animation and it doesn’t show it off all that well here. The majority of the cover is given over to text with the decent plot summary and a good listing of the discs episodes and features. Add in the dual format technical grid that’s well laid out and only a bit hard to read due to its font size and it works well. The release also has artwork on the reverse side that features a full length piece of most of the main cast in a good pose against darkening blue skies. It’s not exactly a reversible cover but it’d work well enough if you wanted to alternate it with the O-Card.
The menu design for the release is an interesting bit of contrast as it uses lots of action clips with big action and sequences to it that works well to set the overall tone, but the music is a bit more mellow and whimsical than you’d think would fit for it. There’s a good flow to the actual animation that’s used for the full screen clips with plenty of colors and mixture of action and dramatic pauses. The menu navigation is straightforward with the mildly thematic design towards the bottom with no background behind it but it’s got a certain elegance in its simplicity. Submenus are quick to navigate and everything loads very quickly and without problem. As is usual, the show defaulted to English with sign/song subtitles for the main feature.
The extras for this release are pretty good and has a bit of fun about it. The standards are here in that we get the promotional videos which are always fun to see as well as the original commercial for the release and the Us trailer for it. In addition to that, we get two sets of extras that have three pieces each, one for each original video release in Japan. The first is “Go, Our Chim Chims!!” and the second is “Yui Ogura’s Yui Yui’ segment. They’re short pieces that are in their original Japanese only and just plays a bit of silly fun, such as three minute shorts with the Chim Chims being all silly and educational. The Yui Ogura piece is a fluffly bit of live action that has the voice actress doing her cooking show in essence. These have been popular as of the last couple of years as bonus pieces and they continue to be ones that elude me as to why. The first one runs nearly twenty minutes, but the other two go in a different direction as she meets up with the animators to look at how the show is created, which runs eleven minutes, while the third one clocks in at eight minutes and is a quiz piece. That one at least has a certain cuteness to it that even I can see.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Few franchises last as long as the .hack one does in Japan and I have to admit that it still surprises me that new material makes its way out, whether its novels, manga or anime. After a few years since the previous anime series that had its moments but felt like a step down from the original anime series, .hack//Quantum arrives with its three OVA episodes to tell a short form story. And really, that’s what it needed to do. With the first series feeling far too long and drawn out and even the second half length series coming across as though it meandered too much, this one keeps it short and to the point. It’s the first instance of watch a .hack show that I felt like it needed another episode or two in order to give it that little bit more to expand where it needs to.
But in the end, .hack//Quantum is pretty tight and complete with an open enough ending to go elsewhere in the future. The story revolves around a trio of friends who play the game in The World and get along pretty well. Sakuya and Mary were friends in real life beforehand from school and Sakuya got Mary to start playing. It’s there that Sakuya had made friends with Tobias, a male character played by a girl that the two ended up befriending in real life as well. When we see them in the real world, they don’t come across as social outcasts but they’re the types that are a bit of a small circle in general, especially since they’re so involved in the game, though real life is starting to intrude more as they need to start thinking about college entrance exams.
Naturally, Sakuya is the weaker of the trio in that she’s kind of clumsy and that gets all three of them intro trouble during a quest that they’re on as they stumble onto a guild mission someone is going through where they get to fight a rather significant boss. It all goes wrong quickly when Sakuya gets involved and that puts a bounty on her head and sends her down some other paths, which in turn leads her to meet Hermit, a cute mini-cat type player character who has some mysterious goal himself and some world altering abilities that others don’t seem to be quite aware of. Exploring the mystery of Hermit does become a good part of the show as it progresses and it works well as the catalyst for things since it has a certain clarity to it but enough uncertainty to keep you guessing.
With the show running just under eighty minutes when you combine all three episodes, it moves at a quick pace and covers a lot of ground, from getting us to know the lead trio both in their game form and their real world form, as well as that of a couple of the guild members they deal with and Hermit, it ties together very easily and smoothly. It may be formulaic in a way, but what they’re doing here is taking some of the ideas from the previous series and distilling it down to its core elements without all the expansiveness in its direction and pacing. It’s concise and without real fluff, as the light moments are necessary to humanize the characters a bit but without bogging down into the details. It could certainly use an additional episode to just not seem quite so rushed in certain aspects, but it’s by no means a deal breaker. What was accomplished here definitely makes this easily my favorite of the animated .hack properties out there.
I became easily jaded during the .hack//Sign series because of its pacing even though I really liked the overall idea and what it wanted to do. That carried through to the Twilight series as well and made for some less than enjoyable reading experiences over the years. But in watching .hack//Quantum, it’s like they found what all the right ingredients are and just ran with it. It’s not deep to be sure, but it has a great look to it both in characters and the wonderful settings they come up with and it has a near theatrical feel to its overall design for the cast and pacing. It hits all the right marks. It’s definitely the most accessible of the releases that I’ve seen and easily my favorite of them all in terms of telling an enjoyable and engaging story.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Original Commercial, Promotional Videos, Go Chim Chims, Yuri Ogura’s Extras
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Readers Rating: [ratings]
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: February 14th, 2012
Running Time: 75 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.