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.
The feature is presented with two audio tracks with both the English and Japanese tacks presenting with 5.1 mixes. For the purpose of this review the Japanese track was used and it is a mostly solid one with dialogue being primarily center speaker focused and the additional speakers carrying the work of directionality and creating a sense of depth. The audio track free from dropouts or other distortions and it gets its point across as dialogue is delivered clear while also doing a very good job of mixing in the background music so that the various elements complement each other without seeming to fight for attention and trying to take away from each other.
.hack//Quantum is a three part OVA series whose first part was released in Japan in January of 2011 (with the subsequent volumes following a month apart) and the full series is presented here in its original 1.78:1 ratio with an anamorphic encode. Over the years OVAs have typically had a larger budget as well as more time to be worked on than a standard television episode which has generally lead to some above average visuals and this release is no exception. There are some fantastic uses of color and imagery to be found as well as some spectacular action which may have been more difficult to pull off under the typical TV series’ restrains.
Most of the work comes across in a rather satisfactory manner though there is a bit of ghosting, a very fine level of noise, a bit of aliasing, some minor haloing and rainbowing as well as a lack of solidness in certain colors and images. Overall it isn’t a mind blowingly fantastic presentation given some of the issues but the colors come across as sharp and the blacks are rich and solid and this is a rather strong presentation given the current average anime DVD production levels.
This review is of the DVDs only but the packaging was covered in Chris Beveridge’s review of the Blu Ray portion of the releases’ review.
As for the DVD itself FUNimation went with a “less is more” approach and decided to use only the character of Hermit carrying a sword that looks somewhat like a fishbone on the right side of the disc. The title is presented in white on the lower section of the disc with “DVD Edition” printed in much smaller font bellow that while the rest of the disc uses a reflective, metallic like ink with some lines overlaid to draw in the eyes toward Hermit.
For the menus FUNimation chose to go with static images with various instrumental pieces playing behind them. For the Main Menu an image of Sakuya in close up looking at the viewer as lightning effects go from her arms up the side of the screen is used and is accompanied by a rather light and somewhat upbeat musical score are used. The Episode screen uses an image of a smiling Tobias as she is about to draw her sword on the left side of the screen with the episodes listed to her right as a theme that springs to mind a bit of a mysterious quality plays. The Set Up screen uses an image of Mary looking over her left shoulder as she is using both hands to wield her massive blade over her head looking about to strike on the left side of the screen while the selectable options are listed to her right as another musical score that seems to promise mystery plays behind her. The Extras screen uses the image of Hermit from the DVD label with him on the far right and the available options listed somewhat center of the screen in a staggered formation as a more ominous tune plays in the background.
The options themselves are listed pretty much the same way across the various menus as they are presented in a white font that turns a light blue when it is highlighted as the current selection. The menu is fairly responsive to changing which option is highlighted and the options are initiated with minimal delay when chosen.
The world of .hack is one where players can travel around and find various valuable treasures but viewers of this disc won’t have to seek high and low to find a bounty of items as they are collected in one place. Included on the collection are Go, Our Chim Chims!! Parts 1-3 where the three main characters are turned into small, vegetable like items and proceed to do some educational like explanations of some things that relate to the OVA . The next three items, Yui Ogura’s “Yui-Yui Cooking,” “Yui-Yui Club,” and “Yui-Yui Cult Quiz” are short little featurettes where the (cute) voice actress for Hermit takes on the task of hosting little pieces which just mostly feature her and revolve around her and use the excuse of cooking, a trip to a studio and a quiz her that rather cute in their own way, even if they are mostly just fluff. Finally the extras round out with Japanese Promotional Videos and an Original Commercial. Overall there is some good fun to be had her even if it is on the light side of things, though a note to the English dub fans that they may be a bit disappointed as none of the extras were dubbed.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The .hack franchise first wandered onto the scene in 2002 with the appearance of .hack//Infection which was the first in a series of four games that told a story of The World and some of the characters who used it as well as an animated series, .hack//Sign, which also came out around the same time. Since then the franchise has grown to include a couple of animated shows, a number of games, some manga and a number of novels as well. Since its inception The World has practically grown to be a world of its own and the OVA series .hack//Quantum is the latest entry to hit the shores of America.
The series focus around a high school student named Asumi Aide (in game Sakuya) and her friends Iori Ikuta (Tobias) and Eri Etou (Mary) who use the game as a way to hang out when they are unable to in real life. In this aspect they have chosen to use it mostly for fun and the three adventure by themselves without having gone a typical route of joining one of the many guilds that exist across the virtual landscape. All three also share a bit of similar taste as they have based off their in game characters off of some of the legendary players from The World’s history.
Things go awry rather quickly for them on their latest adventure however when they use a back way into an area where one of the games most powerful enemies and legendary boss characters, The One Sin, resides. They arrive and find that this area is fairly popular at the moment though as a young cat looking character who was watching action on the stage floor suddenly hides, leaving behind a list he was working on and which Sakuya grabs in her item snatching mania. On the floor itself a guild has assembled along with some non guild members they joined with for the event of mounting an assault on one of the games most feared bosses. Unfortunately Sakuya can’t sit still and during her rustling around she activates a trap which negates all the hard work the guild put in to planning . To make matters worse she is spotted as she and her friends attempt to escape as they have managed to catch The One Sin’s attention as well as that of a number of the players who survived the trap she accidentally sprung- attention which may turn out harder to shake then just managing to warp out of the level.
The next day Asumi gets a horrible shock as she discovers her in-game character suddenly has found herself the object of some very high level attention in the form of a sizeable bounty having been put out on her character. Against the advice of her friends Asumi logs into The World anyway and she makes the acquaintance of the cat like player, Hermit, who was watching them the night before. Unfortunately for both of them Sakuya finds herself in a pinch when it turns out she is really being hounded by some hackers who try to hold her virtual account in hostage because of her previous night’s actions and they take Hermit as well when they find him with her.
Events seem to be on the verge of running out of control when a combination of Sakuya’s stubbornness, Hermit’s special ability and the surprise arrival of Tobias and Mary help the two hostages escape as a mad scramble then ensues. Suddenly Sakuya and her friends find themselves chased by the hackers as well as pursued by the guild who resent the bounty that had been placed on Sakuya had been done in their name.
There is an old saying that it is all fun and games until someone losses an eye and unfortunately events spiral from there when Hermit is knocked off a ledge and everyone present is transported to one of the lost fields that are rumored to occupy The World. The players suddenly discover that the field is different as damage incurred there actually translates to the player in the real world. As Sakuya and her friends are about to escape a figure in black attacks Sakuya and Mary steps in to save her friend only to be attacked by the figure herself.
It turns out that this is where things go out of control though as suddenly Eri is in a coma and won’t wake up and Asumi is having issues with her hand where the dark figure grabbed her. Now suddenly Asumi has a new task- attempting to figure out what happened to her friend and to try to save her. This attempt will cause her to risk her own life for her friend but what is the secret behind this shadow in The World and how exactly is it linked with Hermit, and what is with the item he is looking for? The mysteries don’t stop there either as the characters also have to discover what the connection is to these events and the legends that are spoken in hushed tones about events from the early days of The World and some of its most legendary players. One thing is for certain, The World has ceased being just a game and now real danger lurks in its once virtual world only corridors.
.hack is one of those franchises that has been building upon itself for years and due to that has created a good deal of lore which helps create a lush world for characters to inhabit but which alternately also creates a stumbling block of sorts to those new to the franchise at times. That none of the anime or game series to date are complete in themselves and a number of the conclusions to the tales are found in other media like the novels doesn’t help. That a number of these novels have failed to make the transition to the US helps make it is fairly easy to understand why people may just throw up their arms and not try to enter such an environment that has such a steep curve to it.
In some ways, .hack//Quantum attempts to mitigate this by focusing more on the characters themselves and a present danger rather than trying to make a large and grand story materialize. The small nature works well as it forces the script writers to focus on a complete tale (something some of the other series writers seem to have overlooked at times) and clearly attempts were made at making this newest entry as welcoming as possible to the newest of users without alienating those who already devour the works the franchise has produced in the past.
The series isn’t completely successful in this attempt as at times gets lost more in almost navel gazing explanations of things past and present but it compensates for this by using relative new players as a rational for the exposition parts so the series doesn’t come too close to the edge of breaking the perilously fragile bridge between the current danger and past dangers while bringing together the differing levels of those experiencing it.
To this end keeping the focus on Asumi/Sakuya helps bring the viewer in even if some of the exposition can cause eyes to glaze over at times. The decision to use an earnest girl like Asumi/Sakuya helps the plot from getting dragged down into the angst that some of the previous series tended to experience. Also it seems that the staff of this series decided they would focus on completing the arc so the viewer could feel they experienced Asumi/Sakuya’s journey and not feel ripped off by having to buy some a work in another medium just to finish out what they started here at some later date. The series still has holes as the drama at times threatens to overwhelm the characters contribution and some of the exposition seems to wear thin but over all this may be the most solid .hack installment ever, which isn’t small potatoes considering how the series has been built up through no small number of stories over the years.
.hack//Quantum is more than just the newest entry into the .hack franchise. The OVA series takes a slightly different approach than what has come before as it concentrates on a smaller than usual cast along with a less ambitious in run time (though not shorting the scope of events) series. This change and focus on completing the story is a welcome one and the writers clearly wrote with an eye toward trying to make this entry as accessible as possible for both the fan who has been riding with them for a decade as well as someone who may be jumping on for the first time. While not all of these efforts at accessibility may payoff to the amount everyone may want, what the efforts do manage to do is restore a sense of fun to the series that it seems to have lacked at times while not compromising either characters or the perils they are put through. This OVA may actually be the most complete story in the entirety of the franchise and it is one that can welcome almost everyone- even the fans who have lapsed due to issues with earlier entries- with open arms. This series is just a lot of entertainment in its rather compact form and one can do much, much worse than picking this title up and entering The World again. Recommended.
Japanese 5.1 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Go, Our Chim Chims!! Parts 1-3, Yui Ogura’s “Yui-Yui Cooking,” “Yui-Yui Club,” “Yui-Yui Cult Quiz,” Japanese Promotional Videos, Original Commercial
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: A
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: February 14th, 2012
Running Time: 75 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Samsung 50″ Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080.