Judge Dave Ryan thoroughly endorses the concept of getting naked and flirty in a hot spring—but only for consenting and (most importantly) unrelated adults.
The World is a vampire—and despite all his rage, Shugo is still just a cyber-rat in a virtual reality cage. Or something like that.
The third anime iteration of Bandai's .hack// franchise reaches its middle stanza—and like all good Empire Strikes Back-like middle stanzas, things get mighty rough for our heroes, and all seems grim and hopeless. But hey—maybe a little brother-sister lovin' will cheer folks up!
Facts of the Case
As discussed in a prior review, .hack//Legend of the Twilight is part of Bandai's great big .hack// project; an attempt to create a synergistic franchise of anime, video games, and manga that hopefully will achieve the level of success enjoyed by Nintendo's Pokémon franchise. This time, though, the anime series isn't a tie-in to a video game; it's a stand-alone anime series using the previously-created .hack// universe as its foundation.
When last we left the world of The World, a virtual reality massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG), our twin 14-year-old heroes, Shugo and Rena, had just begun their journey. The two had won special in-game avatars in a contest—avatars that were recreations of the characters Kite and Black Rose, the heroes of the .hack// video game series. They begin adventuring with a group of virtual friends whom they meet online: Mirielle, a young magic-using rare item hunter; Ohka, the wolf-woman with the big chest; and Hotaru, a quiet girl with a pet grunty (a pig-like creature that's the only pet available in-game). Things are amiss in The World, though—strange non-standard events and creatures are appearing in the world, and users are falling into real-life comas, just as happened back in the time of "The Twilight" (the events that were explored in the video games). These oddities seem to be connected to Shugo and Rena in some way. Investigating these problems—and keeping an eye on the twins to keep them safe—are long-time veteran players Sanjuro and Lord Balmung. Balmung also works as (basically) an in-game customer service rep for the company that owns and operates The World.
Please note that there are some spoilers contained in the rest of this review.
Enter the Nightmare! picks up where A New World left off, with the middle four 25-minute episodes (out of 12) of the Legend of the Twilight series:
• "Mansion of Terror"
• "Trap of the Hot Steaming Water"
• "Twilight Moon"
• "The Solitary Knight"
This set of episodes is more interconnected, and better linked to the overarching storyline, than the set contained in A New World. The "big picture" starts to take shape here, and that makes these stories more compelling and interesting to watch. There's a darker tone here in the middle stanza—I mentioned The Empire Strikes Back on purpose, as it's a valid parallel.
Beyond that, it's more of the same. There's still a great anamorphic widescreen transfer; still a well-balanced Dolby Digital 2.0 surround audio track. The colors are bright and sharp (but not as bright and sharp as, say, Mobile Suit Gundam—the .hack// world is a bit more impressionistic in tone). Animation is simple, but not cheap-looking.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
This disc is thinner in the extra department than the first disc. There's no "liner notes" section this time—although there aren't any Japanese folk tales that need explaining, so there's really no need for one. The textless opening and closing are absent as well. The "art gallery" returns, with different characters. Two new trailers for other Bandai anime series appear on the disc; but the video game trailer is just the same trailer for ".hack//Quarantine" that was included with the first disc.
Now, 200 minutes in, the voice acting is really starting to grate on me. Shugo yells an awful lot, and it's not good (nor realistic) yelling. Half the time it sounds like he's trying to poop out a watermelon. A large watermelon. Some of the female characters are so shrill that they could be used to drive away bats and small insects. Make sure your tweeter has a circuit breaker installed…just in case. Again, I ask—is this all really necessary? Why can't Shugo sound like Fred Savage, or Haley Joel Osment? Why does he have to sound like Howie Mandel getting an enema? Sometimes I just don't get Japan…
Oh…and then there's the incest.
Yep, it's back! Couldn't get enough of Shugo ogling his pre-jailbait-looking sister's avatar with a virtual tingly feeling in his virtual naughty bits? Well, fear not! Getting everyone naked in the hot spring, even though it's a show aimed at early teens (co-ed naked early-teenagers is a recipe for disaster—trust me on this), is at least borderline acceptable if you're not concerned with things like "propriety" and "wisdom." But then Rena comes along. Naked. And hugs Shugo. Who's naked. And we see Shugo's hand…hovering over Rena's naked buttock. Will he grasp the glistening, naked buttock, and pull Rena firmly towards him in his first real expression of illicit and taboo sexuality?
Thankfully, we never get the answer, because he quickly realizes it's not Rena, and she turns into an evil wizard. But why do we even get to the point of asking the question?
Thank goodness the writers separated these two for most of the running time of this set, or else they'd surely by going at it like rhesus monkeys in heat by the end of episode 7 at the latest. Ick. To reiterate: Ick.
Enter the Nightmare! gets a slightly higher grade than A New World thanks to its superior storytelling. This is still a pretty decent anime series, and I'm still curious as to how it all turns out.
Sentence suspended again, pending Volume 3. But keep your damnhands off your sister, you little perv!
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