Thursday, August 3, 2006


No spoilers in this post. But do NOT read the Wikipedia article - it is FULL of spoilers. I will tell you what you need to know.

Basic Info
.hack//SIGN is a fantasy/sci-fi/drama/mystery/adventure made by Bee Train (Noir, Madlax, Tsubasa Chronicles) that ran 26 eps in 2002, followed by three episode-sized OVA's that act as tag-along episodes, from what I can tell. The music is by the ever famous Yuki Kajiura (Noir, Mai-HiME, Mai-Otome), considered by many to be some of her greatest soundtrack work to date.

Basic Story
The entire series takes place in a massive online multiplayer role playing game, sometime in the very near future. The World, as it is called, is extremely immersive that people use virtual reality headsets to play in. Tsukasa, around whom the story pivots, is mysteriously stuck in The World, unable to log out. We mostly follow the actions and conversations of a group of random players who come together over their concern/interest in Tsukasa's predicament. As the story unfolds, we slowly find out more about each character, including a little of their Real Live selves. To what extent is it "just a game" and to what extent do they take responsibility for their actions and for eachother as real humans? And how serious is Tsukasa's plight in The World - for him it's not much of a game as it is a Reality.

Other Commentary, Notes & Comparisons
.hack//SIGN could be the polar twin to Noir. While Noir has very little talking and TONS of action, .hack//SIGN has tons of talking and very little action. For being inside a video game, it is amazing at how little action takes place. Despite that, the element of the story taking place INSIDE a game is pretty novel. The game-slang is there, complete with acronyms (BBS - bulletin boards, PC - player character, etc) and the way people refer to the world around them verses the Real World.

That's probably the most interesting thing to me -- the divide between the game and the Real World. It's not so different from the Net world of LJ and email versus the "Real World". The circumstances between people meeting is different in both a game and the Net in general than from Real Life, but it all boils down to words and people, and that's the same no matter what the environment or mode of communication. This is something I think about all the time and it is a common theme in this series.

The story was a little hard to follow. I think this was largely due to the variety of subs I have in my episodes, though I downloaded all of them in one giant torrent. It may also just be due to the way characters say things in highly philosophical terms - characters in Noir were a little like this, kind of hard to follow in some of the brief things that were said or in how the plot was unfolding. Could just be a Bee Train thing. ;) The gist of it was enough to follow, though, so if you watch it, don't get too stressed out over missing a sentence or not knowing exactly what a character meant by such-and-such.

--Ohh, some fun trivia: one of the main-main characters, Mimiru, is voiced by seiyu Megumi Toyoguchi, our very favorite "Satou Sei" (MariMite) -- also "Meg" of Bakuretsu Tenshi, "Alti" of Simoun, and a ton of things most of us haven't seen. ;) I should of noticed as she uses her "normal" range, the same range she uses for Sei (she was unrecognizeable as Meg).

There is VERY much an underlying yuri theme but it isn't a main focus or a fanservice element at all (there is NO fanservice whatsoever). It just happens to be there. I can't say more as it's toward the middle-to-end and I don't want to spoil. Just know it'll get there eventually. You don't see anything, nothing physically happens - nothing like that. But it is very human and that makes it that much more special. Brought tears to my eyes twice. :')

In case I didn't mention, the soundtrack RAWKS. Miss Kajiura was allowed free rein on .hack//SIGN (and probably for Noir, as well). The director of Bee Train trusts her completely and just lets her compose whatever she wants - even with vocals, which is a rarity among in-episode soundtracks and she's one of the first to really do it, too. The result is that many of the tracks stand alone very well as just beautiful music.

Definetly a memorable anime. A second watch will probably reveal a lot more layers, particularly with the characters themselves moreso than the story. Has a ton of heart; isn't superficial at all or silly and though it can be dramatic it is never heavy handed. Kind of inspiring and uplifting. It's super heavy on the dialogue and light on the action and ALL about the mystery, which kept me hanging til the last second -- finding a place to pause between episodes was killin' me! Most certainly goes into my pile of favorite anime. :D

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