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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.78:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • Japanese: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
    English
  Extras
  • 8 Theatrical trailer
  • Cast/crew biographies - Character Bios
  • Photo gallery - Character Modelsheets
  • Jacket picture

.Hack//Sign 01 - Login

Madman Entertainment/AV Channel . R4 . COLOR . 120 mins . PG . PAL

  Feature
Contract

I’ve reviewed a couple of these Japanimés lately and have been mostly impressed by the quality of storylines. This one is no different, and is interspersed with references to Western movies and ideas to good effect.

Set in a virtual world entitled The World, this follows the story of Tsukasa, a Wavemaster, and the mystery surrounding his existence in The World. The World is a massive series of linked Servers throughout our world which players can log on and enter into with the use of virtual goggles and such. A medieval fantasy environment surrounds everything and the law is upheld by the Crimson Knights, who are actually the System Administration Staff. Characters can walk around, interact with each other, fight battles, trade, buy, sell or whatever they like. It’s an interesting idea, and whilst it is employed in our world today with some server linked games and so on, it isn’t quite up to this level yet, thus setting The World a little into the future.

It’s a more tangible story than some of the animé stuff I’ve seen, as in this one everyone is just an average citizen in front of the Internet (whatever that is) living online as a warrior or whatever. Our main story lies in the fact that Tsukasa cannot log out and thereby return to his real life in the real world and we are pursuing the reason why this has occurred. It’s an interesting theory that throws up some interesting questions about the virtue of virtual reality similar to the themes expressed in computer based films we’ve already seen like Tron. There are naturally plenty of references to lesser known films like The Matrix and Strange Days and even novels like William Gibson’s Neuromancer. However, these serious references aside, Hack actually freely glides from genre to genre with little difficulty, much like someone surfing the Internet itself might do.

"It’s not easy to act in the name of Justice..."

There are five episodes included here of a show that runs up to 25 episodes in total length, so we really only just start getting into it when the disc ends (cleverly making us wait for the next installments).

They go like this...

  • Episode 01: Roleplay This is our introduction to The World and its inhabitants. Tsukasa awakes trapped in The World with no ability to log out and discovers a mysterious monster that protects him from others.
  • Episode 02: Guardian Tsukasa begins to understand he is happier here, away from the real world. Unfortunately, his guardian monster has a power to defeat Tsukasa’s enemies in The World that renders them unconscious and amnesiacs in the real world!
  • Episode 03: Folklore Rumours abound about a Key of the Twilight that could destroy The World from within. Players and the Crimson Knights converge to solve the mystery of Tsukasa and his mysterious guardian, which is now under Tsukasa’s control.
  • Episode 04: Wanted System admin finally believe Tsukasa is trapped in The World and try to catch him, though to no avail. Meanwhile, Bear has learned something about Tsukasa in the real world while Tsukasa’s confidence grows in The World. He sets the guardian on some other players, only to find it isn’t under his powers at all, with horrific results.
  • Episode 05: Captured Tsukasa is lured to a field on the premise of meeting another wavemaster with a guardian. It turns into a trap, however, and Tsukasa is captured by the Crimson Knights.

  Video
Contract

Whilst made for television, the ratio aspect is in 1.78:1 with 16:9 enhancement and looks extremely stylish. Backgrounds are brightly coloured and fantastic in nature, with bold hand drawn rendering and vivid detail. Colour is generally very nice and well saturated, being used very effectively to portray the joyful nature of the show. Some digital palettes have been used for both gradient colours and some digital animation and both look great. The digital animation has been employed well too, not just as a gimmick, which certainly adds credibility to the production.

Being animation, naturally flesh tones are fine, shadow detail is evident and blacks are true to life. Some animation is the teensiest bit clunky, but it’s earlier on and I suspect this is deliberate to portray the digital world to us in the beginning. Use of light and tone is also great with some effective layouts and well placed animation and while some close-ups get a little aliased at times, it isn’t anything too major. Finally, flashbacks to previous episodes or the real world are all done under a grain filter that works effectively, with the World flashbacks being sepia toned as well.

  Audio
Contract

Utilising Dolby Digital stereo is very common in television shows as that is what most TVs deliver sound in, and in this instance it works well enough. The dialogue (English translation) is very clear and Western oriented, so we can easily keep up, although the subtitles are obviously more Japanese in orientation as they rarely resemble what the characters just said in English. However, the story is easily followed in both translations. There are also a couple of generous handfuls of cheesy Internet lines and pop psychology thrown in for a laugh.

Sound effects are humourous where the story requires and feature lots of comical boings and the like. There are also a heaping helping of nice (obviously) Matrix inspired 'noises' (I have no idea how to spell that noise of the body disappearing into the phone line). The rest of the soundscape is excellent and well synched to the action with music being quite tolerable, comparatively. You know when some animé music is just too cheesy? Well, this ain’t so bad.

  Extras
Contract

A couple of sturdy inclusions here that will help you to understand The World and its operation. The first are the textless opening sequences, closing off the show with the credits removed from them.

Next up is the trailer at 1.85:1 without enhancement. This doesn’t feature dialogue either, so is obviously international and runs for 1:40. The next feature is the character artwork which are actually full colour model sheets, quite unusual as an inclusion. Usually we get the black and whites.

Character profiles are next and are only single page texts (or nearly) about characters. There are four of these on five pages. There’s a cool jacket picture thrown in as well, plus a glossary on the inside of the DVD case to help with terms used in the show.

Finally, our usual Madman Propaganda trailers for other animé titles. These include Argentosoma, Arjuna, Jubei Chan, Spirited Away, Steel Angel Kurumi, Read Or Die and Geneshaft.

A nice swag of virtual goodies there then.

  Overall  
Contract

This show struck me as by far the most easily understood animé title I’ve ever watched and the most pertinent to my own life (having only rarely fought skyscraper tall aliens in biomechanical hardware). The action and thought involved is interesting, as is the bright colourful feel to the show. The animation is solid with some clever and subtle digital animation and allover makes the show look very sleek and stylish. Of interesting note is the inclusion of virtual characters missing at times (because they aren’t logged into the game) showing that everyone has a real life behind this main façade.

It’s an impressive DVD that the Madman tent was flogging hard at the recent Supernova comic convention in Brisbane and with good cause. Virtually irresistable.


  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=3137
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      And I quote...
    "Finally excellent futuristic animé based in the real world. Well, sort of, anyway..."
    - Jules Faber
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Nintaus DVD-N9901
    • TV:
          Sony 51cm
    • Receiver:
          Diamond
    • Speakers:
          Diamond
    • Surrounds:
          No Name
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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