I must admit that I did feel a little flashback to TRON while watching .Hack//sign. Well, the “sucked into a computer game and cannot get out till a quest is performed” part anyway.
I am a bit of a Massive Multiplayer Online Game junkie, and have played pretty much all of the current ones that are out here (even some that are not). .Hack encapsulates all the things that people (well, me at least) want out of a MMOG, but are never able to find: Everyone wants to be the hero, or to change the online world. The only thing that is really missing from .Hack is the abundance of L337 D33//Dz who seem to only be online to seek out the K3//L Ph4t L3//7, irritate and annoy.
.Hack is set in the near future. “The World” is an online game, with millions of subscribers. All is going well, until people start to fall unconscious while playing. The plot is sadly a little like the MMOG’s that it is modeled on, and is a little shallow. It is there, it is in your face, but the characters are much more intent on solving the problem rather than playing the game as such. Which let’s face it, is a really good idea, because otherwise we would be watching them hack monsters for 20ish episodes.
The anime is set almost entirely within the game. You only ever see brief glimpses of the outside world in the series, and almost all of those are just slightly moving heads, with headsets on, so you never really get to see what anyone actually looks like. That’s okay, as the real world doesn’t really matter to the show, except to set up the character interaction within the game world (aka “The World”).
The characters are a fairly standard “Fantasy” group. We have a couple of fighter types, a priest type, and a mage type. Though because this is based on a Japanese RPG, the characters can all do many things, Final Fantasy style.
The animation quality is good, the scenery in places is incredibly beautiful. The slight digital morphing when some of the monsters come in (the pixilisation and ripple effect) is a little odd the first time, but fits in really well. This is really once more in keeping with the MMOG theme, as they are mostly quite visually stunning, but really lack any kind of depth of story. That is not to say that ..Hack doesn’t have a story, it does, and not a bad one, it just seems that we have seen this before (TRON, Tad William’s Otherland books etc).
All in all, I enjoyed watching .Hack though it seems that the more I look back on it, the more clouded it gets in my MMOG’ed up view of things.