"I've gotta log off now."
.hack//SIGN, anime's answer to desktop wallpaper, is back with a fifth volume of episodes, Uncovered, and the story is bigger and blander than ever! The mysteries that have unfolded with agonizing slowness over the previous 20 or so episodes continue to unfold with agonizing slowness, as the search for the Key of Twilight continues amidst the various groups' machinations in preparation of a coming conflict.
If you need a recap of the series to date, please consult one of the previous reviews of this series. If you're new to the story, let me make it easy for you: not much has happened to date, and not much happens here, either. Yes, there's a major revelation in this set of episodes that explains much about one enigmatic character and carries the story to another stage, but it's a long, dull slog getting to that point.
I've got a great idea for a .hack drinking game. It would go something like this: every time two characters stand around for five minutes talking about why they arrived there, why they're going to leave, or why they left some other place to go there, take a drink. Every time two characters stand around for five minutes talking about some conversation they had with someone who's not there, or wonder why that character isn't there, take two drinks. Every time the show cuts to an action scene at the end of the battle so you never actually see any action, chug the rest of your drink, take the DVD out of your player, toss it out the window, and go to bed.
I was initially intrigued by .hack's complex storyline and the mysteries set up in the first few episodes, but subsequent volumes have failed utterly to deliver on those promises. In my review of Ver. 01: Login, I wrote that your ability to enjoy this series hinged mostly on your willingness to buy into the entire .hack multimedia family. Four volumes later, I stand by that statement. I can believe that if you've played the video games and read the novels and manga, you'll have a fuller picture of what's going on, and subsequently, the interminable gossipy chat sessions won't seem so irrelevant.
Taken by itself however, this series just doesn't add up to much of substance. In order for the story to have any impact, you have to be able to take these characters and their situation seriously. Unfortunately, the whole "characters in a video game" premise makes that difficult. Since this is essentially just a live-action version of a MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game), there's no intrinsic motivation to care what happens to these characters. Therefore, we need some reason to give a damn in order to invest anything into this story, and .hack simply hasn't given me that reason.
Even on the most basic level of storytelling, .hack fails to deliver; the "action" scenes generally either begin at the end, or cut away as soon as they begin. In fact, the entire series is stultifyingly static, with characters rarely doing much more than standing completely still, talking. This isn't anime, it's inanime. For more colorful descriptions of .hack tedium, I refer you to Judge Lineberger's reviews of volumes 2-4. My review would have been twice as long to accommodate all the metaphors for boredom this series inspires, had not Judge Lineberger bravely laid the groundwork, so I salute his courage and tenacity.
In short, if you're a fan of the series to date, this volume delivers more of the same, advances the overall plot (somewhat), and ratchets up the tempo a notch. Grab your copy now and enjoy. But for anyone else, there's little reason to bother with this disc. New viewers will find it incomprehensible, and if you've been hanging on waiting for something to happen…it's just not worth it.
The case against .hack//SIGN Ver. 05 is dismissed, since the members of the jury have all fallen asleep.
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