.hack//Quantum (Cert 12)
1 Disc (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 78 minutes approx.
When three school friends, Asumi, Eri, and Iori are not studying for their exams they spend the majority of their free time in an online game “The World,” a virtual reality games universe where they’ve adopted the respective personae of Sakuya, Mary, and Tobias. During one such online session Sakuya manages to accidentally sabotage an attack on a dragon by a powerful guild, led by the diminutive woman Shamrock, and ends up with a bounty on her head. She returns online and meets a tiny samurai cat named Hermit who claims to be on a fund raising mission for sick child in the real world but accidentally leads Sakuya to be caught by the guild. During a rescue mission by Mary and Tobias, the trio are lead to a hitherto unknown dark area in the game which causes users to blackout in the real world – with Eri the only one of the three to fall into a coma. This has been a common practice of late which Asumi and Eri are keen to explore when they receive a summons message from Shamrock to meet her in the real life.
If, like this reviewer, you’ve not seen a single episode, read a single manga or even played the online games of the expansive .hack franchise the above synopsis might sound enticing but its foundations will mean nothing to you. Just as well then that this three episode OVA collection is fairly accessible to us newcomers and can be viewed as a standalone adventure without too much prior knowledge of .hack universe, although it goes without saying that a rudimentary knowledge of it does help. Thankfully it is also free of any bespoke verbiage from the gaming aspect of the tale so again we non-players won’t feel totally left out on that front either.
A brief history of the .hack franchise then. It began in 2002 when a group of companies came together for an all out multimedia attack named “Project .hack”, which saw it debut its first game for the PlayStation 2 system entitled .hack//Infection, followed quickly by an anime series .hack//Sign as well as accompanying manga and novels, eventually expanding to include a whole library of titles. This was soon joined by “.hack Conglomerate” which followed the same business model of releasing title across all multimedia and entertainment platforms including the 2006 anime .hack//Roots, the OVA series under review here and a CGI movie .hack//The Movie which debuted in Japanese cinemas earlier this year. In the storyline history, The World was created by a German programmer named Harald Hoerwick and developed and controlled by the CC Corporation. Users connect to The World via virtual reality headsets (HMD) and a gamepad. Over the years two updated versions of The World have appeared – The World R:2 was developed after a fire at the CC Corporation buildings and the World R:X is the latest portable version, which brings us to this current release.
Even without prior knowledge of .hack yarns this tale is fairly straightforward to follow. Asumi is the catalyst for the adventure since she obsesses about The World, even suggesting they study in The World while Eri and Iori prefer the old fashioned way with books. Being online alone and meeting Hermit leads Sakuya into the hands on Shamrock and her team and some instant volatile hard feelings until the various disappearances of users both in the World and in the increasing number of coma victims in the real world prompts a truce and an uneasy alliance. It should come as little surprise that Hermit is the conceit of this story along with the sick child for whom he is fund raising for. This adds a chilling if different twist to the proceedings and gives the Real World aspect of the tale as much, if not more, importance to the events of the virtual world.
With just three episodes and a seventy eight minute runtime there is little room for frivolous filler material or lapses in pacing, with each chapter tightly packed with story progression and development. It’s worth noting that the characters presented here are not from previous .hack outings and while no backstory is shown for any of them, we get a good enough idea of what each of them are like failry quickly, since their tropes are familiar anime fare anyway. The only major query is the real world version of Shamrock – a seemingly level headed business woman in the thirties adopting the avatar of a silver haired lolicon in The World, while her counterparts are all teens. Perhaps that is the reason why she only has a cat for a companion.
All animation on prior .hack anime has been handled by the renowned studio Bee Train but on this title, the reins were taken over by Kinema Citrus who have done a superb job. The character designs are standard fare but the monsters and set pieces are very detailed and well rendered. The colours are bold but never garish and the backgrounds have great depth and clear attention paid to them. The movements are smooth and sometimes lifelike and never lost in a blur of activity. One particular set piece sees our young trio caught up in giant rotating mechanism while being pursued by the guild, in which they need to avoid being crushed by the moving parts of the contraption as well as their dogged pursuers! A very impressive piece of work here.
Ultimately .hack//Quantum provides a decent slice of action entertainment for both .hack fans and non-fans alike – although for the former I understand this is more of a “business as usual” release than a special attraction. Whether it will win over new fans and encourage them to investigate the rest of the franchise is hard to say; I imagine it would be relative to one’s interest in online games. As a standalone release this is fun for what it is.
English Language 5.1 Surround
Japanese Language 5.1 Surround
Go, Our Chim Chims!! Parts 1-3
Yui Ogura’s “Yui-Yui Cooking”, “Yui-Yui Club” & “Yui-Yui Cult Quiz”
Pre-Release Promotional Video
Ratings – *** /5
Man In Black