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.hack//SIGN #3 PDF Print E-mail
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R2 DVD Reviews
Wednesday, 23 December 2009 00:00
.hack//SIGNThe outside world begins to impinge on the game world with this volume of .hack//SIGN, as Bear's investigations uncover the life that Tsukasa may be hiding from - and it's a life that makes living in a virtual world an attractive option. But is that all that there is to Tsukasa's problems..?

9 - Epitaph
Investigations into the Key of the Twilight continue - Bear, Crim and BT have been talking over the possibilities, and while Bear is reluctant to believe that such a thing can exist in the game, the evidence certainly seems to be there. The question now is what to do next. Tsukasa, meanwhile, has agreed to look after another player's Grunty while she's away for a few days - but no sooner has she left than the grunty comes down with a potentially fatal illness. The key to curing it is in recovering a rare medicinal flower, but time to do that is running out...

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10 - Compensation
It perhaps says something for Bear's real-world life that, when he meets his son, it's in The World and not the real world that the meeting takes place. He's also trying to come to grips with his own attitude towards Tsukasa and whether he can really be of use to him, and so he decides to spend some time getting to know him - something Tsukasa's surprisingly obliging about, until Bear gets a little too judgemental. As much as Bear's trying to figure Tsukasa out, though, Tsukasa's trying to figure out why he's the only person in The World who seems to be trapped inside the game. Meanwhile, the mysterious Helba has gotten in contact with Mimiru, but her message seems rather cryptic...

JudgingStriking

11 - Party
Tsukasa, Mimiru & Bear go on a standard The World quest - you know the idea, find magical statues, answer riddles, win valuable rare prizes, just the sort of thing that normal players would do in an MMORPG. And just the sort of thing that characters in this series usually don't get involved in. With Tsukasa having agreed to take part, Mimiru and Bear are hoping that he's beginning to come out of his shell a little - but is he really just the same selfish brat we've come to know..?

EnjoyingRelaxing

12 - Entanglement
Bear's been doing some research & thinks he's tracked down the real-world Tsukasa - a young girl, currently in hospital in a vegetative state and reliant on a life-support system. He's also quite disturbed by what he's discovered of the girl's home circumstances. Meanwhile, the girl's father is seen pleading with the hospital to turn off her life-support. When they refuse, he takes matters into his own hands...

SuspectingPunishing

It's amazing how often you miss things in a series on first or second viewing, or how seeing things again can sometimes change your view. It's something that seems to be happening a lot to me lately, and this volume of .hack//SIGN is the latest beneficiary of that. - but before we get to that, which is the important part of the story on this volume, let's get the filler out of the way, in the form of the opening Grunty episode. This is a story that seems to get re-used in every .hack incarnation, with different ending twists, but the main problem with it this time is that it's hard to see Tsukasa allowing himself to be guilted into doing anything for anyone - and yet that's what happens here. For all that he's usually portrayed as selfish and self-centred, here he goes out of his way to help a stranger - and gets his efforts 'rewarded' in all the wrong ways.

That theme of unhappy endings continues into the main revelation of the volume, Tsukasa's real-world existence - and it can't really be called anything more than that. Bullied by classmates and abused by her father, the player behind the Tsukasa character is a young girl who is now in an almost vegetative state and is reliant on life-support in a Tokyo hospital. It appears as though the girl has taken refuge in The World, and that her consciousness has come with her - but that means that she can't do anything to prevent 'bad things' happening in the real world, and it certainly seems as though they're continuing. Now, on previous viewings of the series all this just washed over me and didn't affect me - other than one particular even, none of it seemed to have an impact in The World. But with hindsight, it does - the real-world events that our nameless girl is trying to escape from are the events that will have shaped her - and therefore Tsukasa's - personality. She's got no-one she can trust, no-on she can rely on, and faces a life of misery - is it any wonder, then, that Tsukasa doesn't seem to trust Mimiru and the others, doesn't want to rely on them for anything, and would much rather be alone? Suddenly I have a much better understanding of what's making Tsukasa tick, and that can only be a good thing.

As for the rest of the disc... There's the usual interminable talking, in this case mostly about the Key of the Twilight and how best to go about finding it, a discussion that leads to the group trying to contact elusive hacker Helba; and the curious relationship between Tsukasa and Subaru continues to unfold, with the Crimson Knights taking active steps to prevent the two from meeting again. While you know that the Key is going to play a major part in the story eventually, at the moment its just rumbling on a minor plotline, with nothing yet being revealed as to what it might be or what powers it may hold - a curiosity, but nothing more. Tsukasa and Subaru seems a more immediate problem, and how she'll react when she finds out that her wishes aren't being respected should be fun to watch when it happens.

So, another enjoyable hour or so spent on this one, and I'm beginning to regret selling on my own copy of the series (I've been renting the discs for this review), as it's turning out to have more re-watch value than I ever expected it to have. Go figure. As ever, the show's slow pacing means that it requires a certain amount of patience and attention, but put that in and you'll be rewarded.

Rating - ***

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