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.hack//G.U. Trilogy Movie Anime DVD Review

9 min read

hack gu coverA further exploration of The World.

What They Say:
Haseo embarks on a quest to avenge a fallen friend. Accompanied by Atoli, Haseo must unlock the mystery behind a computer glitch capable of leaving players comatose. Can the two allies work together to prevent The World from falling into an eternal slumber – or will vengeance blind them to the danger lurking everywhere?

The Review:
Audio:
Due to the original release of this done several years ago, now English language dub was created and FUNimation opted not to do one up for it, so we get the original Japanese language track only. Every previous series has been bilingual, but this is the first to not be dubbed. On the plus side, Japanese language fans make out well as we get both a 5.1 mix at 448kbps and a 2.0 mix at 224kbps. The Japanese 5.1 mix has some very solid moments to it with the action as sounds flit about the surround channels at key times and the music sometimes has a very full sound to it. The music, in general, is unsurprisingly what works out the best here as it has a very rich and warm sound to it that helps build up so many of the scenes. We listened only to the Japanese 5.1 mix though and had no problems at all with it.

Video:
Originally released in early 2008, the transfer for this feature is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:! and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. CG anime can be tricky, but this presentation overall is really very good and certainly one that warrants a high definition version to be produced for the visuals alone. There’s a lot of detail and good movement throughout this and it’s surprisingly low on the amount of visible bad looking banding that you often see with CG productions still. Colors are rich and warm and it is the kind of show that fits in right with the CG style considering its gaming/multimedia origins. There are a few soft scenes here and there, but they seem intentional for the most part and are meant to add atmosphere to the scene. While it might not have aged well in comparison to some of the new CG shows coming out, it represents the time period well and what it was capable of.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized clear keepcase with an o-card over it that replicates the artwork in the case. The front cover gives us a very good illustration of Haseo in his more determined mode with it being whisper thing and with a sense of being tightly wound, while the Altoi character is just behind him to the right. With it being an illustration piece, it certainly stands out well and looks good, especially in comparison to some of the weaker anime covers we’ve had. The back cover goes for a mostly black background where we get a good, clean look at the premise of the show in an easy to read form as well as a timeline that puts this release in perspective with the others. A decent selection of shots are along the left though you’ll be hard pressed at a quick glance to see that it’s a CG show. The bottom brings out the usual with the extras clearly listed and a small technical grid to break it all down. There are no show related inserts included with the release but we do get a good piece of artwork on the reverse side with a CG image of Haseo in the church/lost ground that has some good color and atmosphere about it.

Menu:
The menu design for this release works pretty well, especially in setting the tone, as we get the shot of Haseo from the reverse cover where he’s sitting atop the pedestal with the symbol scrawled across it. With it being inside the church building in the lost ground, there’s a sense of emptiness about it but also some good sunset colors that really adds to the overall feeling it wants to bring out. The artwork looks good and the navigation is straightforward and easy to use with it straight down in standard form. Submenus load quickly and easily and language selection is a breeze while making it clear what’s selected.

Extras:
This release has some good extras to it that will surely please fans of the franchise. The opening one is a six-minute “parody mode” video that has a lot of fun with the show while making sure the viewer knows it’s not “sanctioned” material. The sexuality to it is almost amusing. There’s a small series of promotional videos for the show and an image gallery as well. The big extra is a twenty-four-minute making of feature that goes into what went into the production from all aspects. These kinds of features are certainly familiar, but seeing the people behind it is always interesting even if just for the spaces that they work within.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The .hack universe has been really hit or miss for me overall with only the second season really resonating at all, something that it had as an advantage since it was a shorter season. This movie follows up the events of the .hack//Roots series and leads right into the world of the game itself, which I still have not touched at all in all these years. Whether that makes these shows better or worse for me is really hard to say, but in the end I simply don’t have it in me to play RPG’s like I did years ago. Going into this film after watching the.hack//Roots series some time after it finished, I was surprised at how much of it came back to me considering how unmemorable it was overall.

.hack//G.U. picks up some time after the death of Shino at the hands of the mysterious Tri-edge that had been slaughtering players here and there throughout The World. Haseo is a cold and brutal player killer now as he hunts those who cause problems in his search for the Tri-edge. In the months since Shino’s death and her apparent coma in the real world, he’s lost a touch of his humanity as he executes his mission by becoming more and more powerful. Everything is moving along in this direction until two very different people come into his life. The first is the return of Ovan from the Brigade that he used to be part of. Ovan has had quite the dark nature about him and nothing is different here as he continually seems to be manipulating events and people to his own desires and plans.

The second is a new player character named Atoli, and it’s through her eyes that we see The World this time around. For Haseo, she’s a real problem because her PC is using the same model as Shino and she has some of the same kind of mannerisms and personality. An earnest pacifist of sorts, Atoli finds herself drawn to Haseo and does her best to work with him in the missions as she levels up. But her kind ways and honest generous nature is too much for Haseo to handle coming from that design and he eventually pushes her away, something that’s very problematic when he ends up in a situation that literally puts him back at level one.

This thrusts him into the world of a special group of administrators who are trying to track down an anomaly within the game that they’ve called AIDA. Shadows of the .hack//Sign game return here as we see elements of a young girl that’s taking on the persona of AIDA and it’s something that Ovan is after. With the anomalies causing all sorts of problems in different areas of the game, Haseo isn’t all that interested in participating in this hunt because he wants to go after the Tri-edge only. It’s only when Atoli ends up becoming involved with the anomalies and her life is threatened, much in the same way that Shino was through a different angle, that he finds the motivation to get involved, level up and go badass on everything that seems to conflict with him in his online world and life.

The .hack//G.U. storyline is one that is one that feels somewhat laid back and almost lazy at times as it slowly builds towards the culmination point of the storyline. It introduces the characters fairly well and provides the backstory briefly that’s needed to illustrate what happened in the .hack//Roots story so you know where things are picking up from here. Coming from the existing anime series and not playing the games, there’s a kind of enjoyment of this when it comes to the story, but the .hack universe feels like it lost me after the Twilight series and never recovered well from there. The story here comes across as quite pedestrian and predictable, though it is at least a very short and to the point kind of film as it doesn’t take twelve or twenty-six episodes to tell the story. In this way, .hack//G.U. is the most concise and to the point pieces of the franchise that I’ve seen.

I’ve had mixed feelings on CG anime shows in the past, some work and some don’t, but .hack//G.U. really does work very well. The series concept in general lends itself to the idea of a CG version and in some ways there is a more realistic feeling to the portrayal of the characters in this form in comparison to the anime. Their facial structures and the expressions aren’t as open to interpretation in the same way that anime designs are in the “traditional” method so they have a very different and smoother feeling it. The look of the characters connects far better with the game origins and the fact that these are all essentially avatars within a game. And as much as I like the backgrounds in the previous series, particularly .hack//Sign, the CG world is much more detailed and fleshed out in a way that also really connects it with the game world that it all takes place in. The production side of this is really quite good and is in fact the best part of the show itself.

In Summary:
The last animated version of the .hack universe hits with this feature that takes the story from the .hack/Roots series and plows forward with events into the actual games themselves. The storyline serves as a decent bit of closure if you’ve followed the Roots storyline, but I don’t know how the gamers would feel about it and how it ties into that. What we get here is a decent movie, some rather good animation and set design and a fairly bland and mediocre story. It has the hallmarks of the .hack world with some very slow moments and plenty of visual gazing going on, but nothing here really excites or captivates. As interested as I was in the .hack universe years ago, it’s waned considerably over time, first with Twilight and then with Roots, and that’s all without even touching the games. Maybe my opinion would be very different otherwise, but as it stands the animated world of .hack has been pretty mediocre for some time. The story is just that here and it’s the animation itself that saves the day. though even that has lessened over the years as it doesn’t hold up as well as it could.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, Japanese 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Special TV Program: Making of the Theatrical Feature, Parody Mode, Image Board Gallery, Promotional Videos, Trailers

Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: July 21st, 2015
MSRP: $29.98
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.

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