.Hack Season 1: .Hack// Sign
The .Hack series focuses on a video game world and the players who reside in it- called The World. The first season (Sign) begins with a half decent (and at the time fairly original) premise of a young man( technically a girl, but the game character is a boy so…) being stuck in a video game world with no means of escape. The first season focuses on Tsukasa and his struggle to escape from the game world, the characters he encounters in the game and the corrupted world in which the game is played.
The story follows Tsukasa on his journey to escape The World as, for some unknown reason, he has been trapped inside. I won’t spoil this for you and even if I did, you would probably need to watch the show to make sense of the spoiler anyway. The story is simple enough but the premise is not followed through particularly well. Instead of constantly bringing the plot forward, it stagnates again and again and it takes too many episodes to give the audience even a snippet of an answer. The show relies on its character to do much of the work and well.. they’re not really up for the job.
The show itself gets very psychological at times and this does help you empathise with the characters; it makes them feel human. SOME of the characters. The thing is I never really cared for Tsukasa as he is constantly whiny, irritating and the development of his character is so glacial until one episode, suddenly they skip about six steps and he is almost a passable human being. This moves us on to the supporting cast which most of the time isn’t too bad. Subaru is not overly likeable but plays a key role in Tsukasa’s eventual development due to the characters quiet, kind nature. Mimiru on the other hand is damn annoying. She spends almost all of her time, for little reason, waiting for Tsukasa- even when he is being a complete arse and disappear for days on end. The idea that any real-life human being would wait on an MMO for literally days at a time just to see someone who didn’t really like them, I find it almost absurd and at the very least, dumb. The rest of the cast (Bear, Crim, BT and even Sora) are far more likeable and it is a shame that they have fairly minor roles as their personalities are far more human than the main trio.
For its time, the art is passable and the action scenes are almost watchable at times. However, the BGM constantly makes me yawn- it is just so, so dull. It has been implemented to give the show a mysterious sort of feel but it more often than not adds little to any scene. The voice acting is one of the few highlights with each performance fitting the character perfectly- even Tsukasa’s actor fit the character perfectly. The opening song is irritating as hell so I suppose it fits the show to a tee… Anyone who would choose to listen to this song (Obsession by See-Saw) must have some deep psychological problems or be on some sort of exotic cocktail of drugs…
Story-wise, the show drags big time and it sort of stays at that not good enough to be good but not bad enough to drop – just a consistently average, mediocre level. This constant boring, averageness actually makes me grow to dislike the show a lot more than I probably should There are few highlights- with the BT episode being by far the best the series had to offer; mainly as it took the focus off of the poor main storyline and onto the issue of separating internet life and real life. This show remember is from an age where the internet was still fairly new so it is quite forward thinking in this regard. However, main issue is the main story could have easily been wrapped up with so much less fuss than it was. The amount of time the show spends trying to get you to feel sorry for Tsukasa actually works against it and it is not until the final 2 or 3 episodes that the show finally picks the pace up and injects a bit of life into the story. The ending is fairly sound but the problem is the build up lasts so long that you struggle to care about how the story ends. Seriously, the amount of times the same flashbacks are repeated is beyond any sort of acceptable level and is an obvious grab for time. Long story short, the story goes on for way too long, a bit like this explanation. The ending itself has potential but the final battle is seemingly almost cut-out in favour of an emotional real-life meeting between Tsukasa (female form of course) and Subaru. Had the show done a better job of forming the relationship between these two characters I may have cared but the lack of development between the two; just some sort of innate connection- was the final nail in the shows coffin for me.
I have not played the game this anime was based off but have heard from many sources that it is far superior to the anime and that the anime cuts or rushes through important parts of the story. This is a shame as the story itself, has potential as long as it is paced well and the episodes where the main path is branched are fitted in better; as they do seem a little random at times.
The series, no matter how much I tried to invest into it, always left me wanting. The show is based on a video games series and it is a shame that almost every other viewer has been left out of the loop through the poor storytelling; missing large chunks out of the story and a genuinely unlikable lead character. The show does have its highs but to be brutally honest, I never want to come near this show or the series ever again.
Total Score: 55/100 A show that scores a lot more than it probably should- not something I would recommend to anyone unless they need a nap.