.hack//SIGN Vol. #6: Terminus Special Edition (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Sunday, March 21, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, March 16, 2004

What They Say
In preparation for the final battle, everyone arrives in Net Slums, a hidden area created by Helba out of data remnants and discarded files. Subaru and Tsukasa are finally reunited and together they resolve to see things through to the end, but not before making a very important promise.

Meanwhile, Sora has sided with the enemy, Morganna! Even though all hope seems lost, they all battle against the forces of Morganna! Friendships will be tested. Alliances will be broken. Lies will be revealed. Lives will be ruined. All because of a sleeping girl who holds the power to change everything in 'The World'.

The Review!
The final installment of the series concludes in the three episodes but also provides a few 'bonus' episodes to give more background to the entire series. The Limited Edition release goes one step further and provides an episode that's truly made just for fans.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this very dialogue heavy shown in its original language of Japanese. The track is provided in a solid pro-logic mix, which would have been even more impressive in 5.1, the audio on this release really shines. Throughout the show we had no issues with distortions or dropouts, but rather simply enjoyed the spacious feel provided by the music and the sound effects mix that utilized the rear speakers nicely.

Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and encoded in anamorphic widescreen, I can't imagine watching a broadcast version of this and feeling like it was the same show. The richness of the transfer that shows up here completely shames the broadcast version. Colors are lush and vivid and the transfer is problem free. No cross coloration, no aliasing, no macroblocking or pixellation anywhere. This is the kind of transfer that you end up losing yourself in with how fantastic it looks.

The cover for the final volume has a really nice detailed shot of both Subaru and Tsukasa reaching towards each other with a few feathers floating around them. With the purple shaded, there's a really cool feeling to the artwork that works well. The back cover provides a number of small character headshots around the edges while the rest of the cover goes into details about the show with a few paragraphs of story summary and a good listing of the discs features and extras. The insert provides another shot of the front cover while it opens to descriptions and images of the new locations we see in the final episodes. The back cover provides more detailed credits including main bilingual cast credits given to each character/actor, something we're glad to see continuing.

If there are menus you don't mind sitting in, these are going to be them. The opening menu is a nice animated piece that has the portal floating in a circle set against a bleak backdrop of the Net Slum as the music from the show plays along. There are very brief transitional animations to the submenus where you get even more of the great music playing, but to more static screens. Access times are nice and fast and the layout works nicely.

The extras are pretty minimal for this volume with just over a dozen or so pieces of artwork of various characters and locations.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The series comes to an intriguing end with these final episodes. The final layout of the episodes has the last three broadcast episodes playing together while the 26th and 27th episodes are left in the extras section.

With everyone now working together to try and figure out what's going on, they've gone down the virtual rabbit hole provided by Helba to someplace completely new, someplace where the Voice that is becoming known as the pervasive evil within the system, cannot reach. Amusingly, it's called the Net Slum and looks just like one, a wasteland of virtual pieces of buildings, creatures and more. What's very creepy is that there are virtual breakdown versions of Tsukasa there in various forms. When Helba arrives and describes the place, we learn that there are programs that skim the entire World for illegal and corrupted code and it's all placed here outside the system. So the Net Slum is one of the few places where the Voice cannot get.

Of course, after plenty of exposition and general wariness, including some great moments between Tsukasa and Subaru, the Voice does manage send the dual globe creature down to there to try and bring Tsukasa back under its power. It's goal of suppressing Aura requires that Tsukasa be dealt with, even if it means going through Subaru to do it. Through the course of the chase across different locations, Tsukasa comes to truly realize for once that he's got friends that are giving up their virtual lives to defend him and to help him. There's that critical moment of realization that finally brings real life to the character and it's very well played out.

All of this builds up to the climactic final battle and resolution. The finale through episode twenty-five plays out well and I enjoyed it, but there's definitely a sense of incompleteness and something missing. This of course is not a surprise since the entire series is a prequel to the first video game, as what happens at the end segues into the game from what I've read. So while there's a resolution for some parts of the show, mostly the characters involved here, the larger elements with Aura and the Voice become part of the plot in the game. I didn't know this going into the series and only managed to piece together elements of it afterwards from reading some fan sites about the mixture of the show and the game.

It didn't detract from my enjoyment of the show though since the characters I cared about throughout the series get their resolution here, and that's the journey I became more interested in as it went along anyway, though the elements of Aura did provide the air of mystery and excitement along the way. I'm not playing the games, so while I was interested in the evolution that occurred at the end, it's not something that I'll ever see the follow-up on I supposed. So there's some regret in that fashion, but at least with .hack, there is the chance to actually follow through with the multimedia "experience" unlike some of the past ones like Blood the Last Vampire.

The bonus episodes on the disc were actually somewhat weak from what I got from them. Episode 27 felt mostly like a recap version of parts of the series done in a scattershot mode with some new angles and animation to mix it up a bit. Episode 26 plays the flashback material a bit as well, dealing with the first dungeon that Mimiru met Tsukasa in, checking it out once more now that it's up for a limited time. All told, both episodes have some interesting elements to them, but they're not essential to the show and really didn't add all that much to them. If I had stopped with episode 25, I probably would have enjoyed the disc a lot more since that ended with some sense of closure while these two just sort of dragged things out.

For the Limited Edition release, there's a second disc that's included that has one episode on it, the last one that came out and took the extra time to negotiate since it wasn't originally planned for when the series was first coming out and the contracts written up. Though you're basically paying a few bucks more for just one more episode, I found this one to be quite worthwhile since it does one of the things that I tend to like that most series avoid. The epilogue. This isn't just any old epilogue though as it brings the casts from the anime series, the video games and the manga from what I can tell together for something of a little party. It's the first time several of them meet, and there's the awkwardness of the limited character designs and some amusing bits of humor. A little follow-up is done as well to how things from various storylines went on, but mostly it's just a nice casual little gathering before everyone heads off to the Net Slum where Helba is about to throw a kick-ass party. And for those few minutes alone, the price of admission is so worth it. For the most part, there are very few extremely limited instances of where anime characters dancing comes across as anything other than fascinatingly horribly funny. This section falls right into that category and while the series has generally be hugely somber or slow, the sudden shift to watching Tsukasa and Subaru getting jiggy is hilarious. The little piece that the Silver Knight, Sora and someone else pull off is hilarious as well. Honestly, I can't not think back on this episode and just laugh at this part of it. It's simply a must see area.

In Summary:
Overall, I really enjoyed this series, from its pacing and music to the overall design and feel of it. Though there are some problems with closure for the show, the elements that I wanted to see closure for are provided throughout these last three episodes of the broadcast version of the series, so I come away from it very satisfied. The concept of The World and the characters in it played out nicely in this show, though with supposedly millions of people playing, it would have been nice to see a lot more characters running around. But that's what the manga, games and follow-up series are for and I'm looking forward to most of those.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Image Gallery,Isolated Score Audio Track,Character Gallery,2 BONUS full-length never before seen episodes,LE Edition contains Unision special OVA

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
MSRP: 34.98
Running time: 150
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: .hack//SIGN