R2 DVD Reviews
Wednesday, 28 July 2010 00:00
This volume of .hack//SIGN brings to story right to the edge of completion (there's only one episode on the next volume that isn't filler or recap), before leaving you hanging for a while. At least it bothers to explain what's really going on first...
22 - Phantom
Bear, Mimiru & Subaru search for another instance of the upside-down man - a computerised reproduction of Harald Hoerwick, creator of The World. The theory is that he may have left something personal in the game that has to do with the Key of the Twilight, and, making use of some help given by mysterious hacker Helba, they manage to track him down & get some sense out of him. Tsukasa, meanwhile, sits alone in his hiding place, still unable to do anything, while Sora & the Silver Knight investigate another angle...
23 - The Eve
A series of mysterious messages, and the gang are summoned together - after certain invitees take time out to discuss whether they're going to answer the summons or not, of course. Tsukasa also makes an appearance in the game world, but he's been traumatised by his recent experience and is terrified of being hurt again - enough so that he wants to keep his distance from just about everyone, a condition that Crim tries to ease by sharing some of his knowledge of 'real-world' Subaru - the one person who Tsukasa still feels a connection to. Eventually they all come together, to be confronted by another of Helba's gates leading to an unknown location - and their final showdown. Meanwhile, Sora's closer to the Key than anyone else thanks to a fortunate run-in with Macha...
24 - Net Slum
The gang enter Net Slum, Helba's 'safehouse' and a repository for fragments of lost data - including a few copies of Tsukasa, it seems, something else to give Tsukasa reason to doubt his real identity... Helba's also waiting for them, along with some explanations about what's been going on - in particular why Tsukasa can't log out and the nature of his connection with Aura. Bear & Crim figure out that Subaru's the key to Tsukasa's recovery - but it seems they're not the only ones to have done so, as she's attacked by one of Morganna's creatures. Meanwhile, Sora's getting involved with things he doesn't understand when he enters Morganna's realm...
25 - Catastrophe
Morganna's not taking her loss well, and Net Slum's no longer the place of safety that it once was, so the gang return to The World proper. BT splits from the group, allegedly to stock up on healing supplies, but has a run in with Sora on the way. Following on from his investigations into Tsukasa's real-world background & a hunch on why he can't log out, Bear has a surprising proposal for Tsukasa, while Sora continues to make life as difficult for the group as he can, and Macha finally chooses to stand on Tsukasa's side of the battle - but it seems it's all for nothing as Tsukasa, Subaru & Mimiru disappear during another attack...
Two important parts to this volume: the return conversation with Harald, who's still talking in riddles but somehow makes more sense to the characters while doing so (but not to the viewer - you're relying on Bear and Mimiru's remarkable gobbledegook-deciphering capabilities here); and the visit to Net Slum, where Helba provides her part of the explanations and where Morganna - the mysterious disembodied voice that we've been hearing all season - makes her influence known in the most direct way yet. Both of these encounters help fill in all the missing background to what has been happening in The World, and what the gang need to do to work around it. It also means there's a lot of standing around while all those explanations are delivered, but then this is .hack - standing around and talking is almost compulsory.
So now our mysterious girl has a name - Aura. A creation of Harald's, it seems that some of the subroutines he created have taken on a life of their own (forming Morganna in the process) & are working towards gaining control of the in-game world. If Morganna were to succeed, it would probably not be a good thing for The World's players, as Tsukasa would be just the first of many left unable to leave. There's a rare action sequence where Bear and the others have to face Morganna and later her Guardians - a fight that doesn't go well for the good guys - while Sora's independent actions also have a decent amount of hack'n'slash to them, but for the most part the series sticks to its guns, keeping the story limited to more peacful interactions between the characters. Exciting, no, but interesting in its own way - and if you've stuck with the series this long, you'll know what to expect anyway.
Worth keeping an eye on is Tsukasa's growing relationship with Subaru, which is seeing him finally come out of his shell as Subaru becomes the first character in the series that he's feeling a need to fight for and protect; and the results of Bear's investigation into Tsukasa's real-world circumstances which see him make an important decision. He's always been the father-figure character, and here he makes Tsukasa an offer that would see him take on that role outside the game as well. It's a loose end that simply needed tidying up, sure, but it's good to see it handled that way. I'm not hugely hopeful that all the show's loose ends will get such conscientious treatment.
A good volume, then, with the story left nicely poised for the final confrontation, and with most of the mysteries out in the open. I'm aware that .hack//SIGN is something of an acquired taste (and even then, it's rewatch value is variable - I sold my box set of the series after hating it the second time through, only to get the urge to watch it again and end up renting it), but I have been enjoying it this time around. I guess there's an element of having to be "in the mood" for the show's dialogue-heavy style, but overall, still worth watching.