.hack//SIGN

Genre(s): Mystery, Fantasy, MMO/Isekai

Age-Appropriateness: 12+ (light violence, mild language, scary scenes?)

Platforms: Hulu, Funimation

Episodes: 26 (+3 OVA episodes on DVD)

TheAwersome Rating: 2.5 / 10 (Skip this one)

Premise: Tsukasa awakens one day playing a VRMMORPG with no memory of how he got there, and little memory of who he is himself. Unlike other players, he feels pain in-game, and is also unable to log out. A few other players take an interest in helping him find out why this is happening, and if it’s connected in any way to a legendary item said to have the power to overturn the balance of the game.

TheAwersome’s Thoughts: I have beef with .hack//SIGN the way I have beef with Disney’s Frozen. So much lost potential. The general plot, world, and story of this how are very interesting, and the music is stellar. It just really needed to have been a single-cour show (13 episodes) instead of two (26). My goodness, the pacing in this show is HORRIFFICALLY SLOW. Despite taking place inside of a fantasy MMORPG there is less action in .hack//SIGN than there is in Wagnaria. I don’t know if it was a deal struck with the studio that made the game that there could only be so much story or what, but it DRAGS. The animation is very lackluster, cinematography is poor, and while the soundtrack is exquisite, it’s used terribly, frequently drowning out dialogue or not being appropriate to the scene at hand. Literally 60% of this show is as follows:
Character A is waiting at a place. Character B shows up and says “Sorry I’m late” A:”It’s okay I like thinking about things” B:”Is Character C coming?” A:”I think so, they didn’t confirm but I believe they’ll be here” B:”Character C is so unreliable, why do you wait?” etc., ad nauseum. That and Tsukasa’s stupid sad forlorn face and whiny attitude are insufferable.   

Don’t get me wrong, I dig a slow burn, but .hack//SIGN does. not. burn. It just kind of gets warm, and then goes back out. Check out the soundtrack because it’s great, but this anime did NOT age well. I’ll give it props for somewhat pioneering the whole MMORPG / Isekai genre, and I had really fond memories of this show as a kid and all up until I actually watched all of it. At which point I realized it’s a mess. It’s not that there was too much dialogue and not enough action, it’s that the dialogue was three times slower and twice as repetitive as Phantom Menace, with terrible timing in cuts, reactions, etc.

Animation felt like a total afterthought rather than a form of art. I really feel that they just didn’t have enough content to merit 26 episodes. Heck, even 20 would be fine if you want to keep the slow burn, but I do feel it would have been fantastic as a single-cour. I realize this is a 2018 opinion on a 2003 piece, but man, Cowboy Bebop was 1998 and it holds up. So does NOIR, which was made by almost ALL the same people, and came out in 2001. 

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