R2 DVD Reviews
Friday, 07 September 2007 17:00
.hack//Legend of the Twilight (could they not have gone with a shorter title? Like .hack//Dusk, for example?) makes its inevitable box-set debut. Think of it as three for the price of two with a nifty cardboard box thrown in. LoTT wasn't the most impressive of .hack's anime outings - does this cut-price option make it worth a pickup..?
First stop with boxed sets, as ever, is the individual releases - if you want episode summaries and further screenshots, they're the place to check out:
» Volume 1
» Volume 2
» Volume 3
...and with that done, let's move on. Four years on from the events of .hack//SIGN, and The World's a very different place - it's gone all SD for a start... Shugo & his twin sister Rena have won limited-edition Player Characters in a contest - which works out well for them. They get the opportunity to be in The World together, which makes up a bit for being separated in the real world following their parents' divorce. Shugo's first foray into The World proves to be quite difficult - for some reason there are level-48 monsters roaming in the newbie area, and Shugo is very quickly killed off. An encounter with Aura saves him, though, and she leaves Shugo a gift - a bracelet of amazing power...
There are plenty of references here to "the return of Twilight" and things happening in the game that shouldn't be - just like in SIGN. The main difference here is that, where SIGN was deadly serious with very little evidence that the characters there were having fun playing the game, Twilight takes a much more upbeat and comical approach to The World, with the characters so far obviously enjoying themselves and pretty much oblivious to the problems that are starting to develop around them.
As well as Shugo and Rena, there are a few other characters who make up the central cast. First to appear is Mirielle, a Wavemaster with a penchant for collecting rare items - and with no item are rare as Shugo's bracelet, there's no getting rid of her (reminds me a bit of Lina's obsession over Gourry's Sword of Light in Slayers, really). There's also Ohka, the knuckle-fighting werewolf whose womanly appearance works wonder for Shugo's mood, and Komiyama, a classmate of Shugo's who loves no-one more than himself - except possibly Rena. Keeping an eye on things from a distance are Lord Balmung, one-time player and now CC Company employee who spends a lot of his time organising The World's special events, and his assistant Reki. Overall, it's a nicely varied group of characters - some fairly normal, some a little more unusual - and they way they get on and interact definitely adds to the show's appeal.
As it goes on, Twilight becomes a show with two faces - on the one hand the fluffy, fun side with Shugo having fun with his online friends, on the other a more serious side that becomes more and more prominent as the series progresses, with the group that's hacking the game and trying to dispose of Shugo becoming more of a problem as time goes on. I can't quite decide if I like that slightly schizophrenic feel or not. The other problem is that the serious side of the story is in a lot of ways just a rehash of the earlier story, with the same problem of people falling into a real-world coma while being unable to log out of The World beginning to seem just a little overused. Would a more original storyline have been too much to ask?
For all that, I do still like this series, although more for the comic side of it that the serious. The characters make it worthwhile, as they're a varied bunch whose antics are genuinely enjoyable. The final episodes do a good job of building up to the shows climax and in explaining exactly whats been going on. Given how many shows over the years have ended without tying up their loose ends, though, Im not going to complain too much, as Legend of the Twilight at least tells a complete story, and lets the viewer have a decent amount of fun along the way. There are some fun characters here too, and a few nods to previous incarnations of .hack to keep the fans happy. It does have its flaws, but even the poor pacing at the end isnt quite enough to spoil the fun completely.
.hack//Legend of the Twilight starts off bright and comedic and gets darker as it goes along and a final arc dealing with death is probably about as dark as you could get. Its carried along by a cast of likeable, fun-loving characters, but in the end poor pacing and an ending thats a little out-of-tone with the setting spoils the show a bit. That said, the story is properly tied up, and the series has far more rewatch value than its brother .hack//SIGN. Being into the .hack universe through the games and other properties obviously helps the shows appeal as well, but even if you dont, Legend of the Twilight has enough going for it to be worth a look.