.hack//Roots Vol. #3 (also w/limited edition) (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Sunday, September 23, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, August 07, 2007
What They Say
TaN is no more, Ovan is missing, and the Twilight Brigade is in disarray. As a result of their illegal activities, TaN has been forced to disband, the leaders of the guild prohibited from accessing the game. However, the mysterious disappearance of Ovan has left little time for the Twilight Brigade to rejoice. And as rumor concerning his possible location and motives spread dissent through the ranks, the Brigade finds itself facing its final days together.
Yet as turmoil brews amongst the members of the Twilight Brigade, Ovan lies trapped in suspended animation; his fate in the hands of Yata and Pi, the reincarnation of the former TaN leaders. Meanwhile, the bizarre appearance of the player Tri-Edge will shatter the lives of Haseo and everyone else in The World.
With Ovan now missing, the Brigade begins to fall apart as Shino is unable to hold them all together as a leader.
While filled with great music, the actual mixes for this release are pretty simple and surprisingly flat. Providing for both the Japanese and English language sides, each of them are a done at a rather low 192 kbps for such a recent show. This isn't usually much of an issue for a dialogue show and .hack//Roots is essentially that, but the show has such little sense of space to it that it's almost all full sounding. Hardly anything is noticeable with directionality and the music sounds like it's missing a bit of its impact. Everything on both tracks and is clean and clear and free of problems though so listening to it won't be an issue. It's simply a mix that should have been better done.
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Not unlike previous incarnations, this series is filled with lots of lush looking backgrounds and vibrant looking character action. Though there isn't a lot of action, it all looks very pretty on the screen. These episodes come across in much the same way as there is a very good sense of color and depth to it and it's generally free of blocking or noise. There's very little to have issue with across these five episodes outside of some minor noise during various panning sequences where the backgrounds shift slightly. Foreground animation looks very smooth and clean and everything avoids cross coloration or aliasing.
Released in a black keepcase, the cover art is a decent piece that has Ovan taking the primary character. It's a bit of an amusing choice since he's barely in these episodes at all. In the hexes behind here are headshots of Bset, Haseo and Shino that look good but don't do too much to really sell the show. The color design is solid and the layout works for what the show is and is easy to identify for those who just play the games. The designs and colors are slightly different than in the show itself but they look good here as they're appealing and streamlined yet familiar. The back cover plays with the hexes some more with various shots from the show provided inside them as well as a larger one for the summary. A couple of smaller ones are done for the episode numbers and titles as well as the discs features. The production information and basic technical information is provided along the bottom. Bandai continues to avoid using the technical grids though which makes finding certain bits of information not terribly conducive for a quick read. No insert is included nor is the cover reversible.
The menu design is simple but effective as it uses the hex imagery with shades of yellow to have layers of them either static or moving. The top level has the shows logo and menu navigation as well as some character artwork for the show, all of which is set to a nice mellow piece of music. It's a bit flashy but not glaringly so while still being an effective piece of navigation that uses familiar imagery. Access times are nice and fast and the navigation is simple and effective. The disc did not read our players' language presets and defaulted to English with sign/song subtitles.
Not unlike releases in previous series, the extras are very minimal here. This installment contains a brief "DVD Release Announcement" from when it came out in Japan.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Moving up through the halfway mark of the series, .hack//Roots hits an interesting area in terms of storytelling here. The opening arc in a sense has really closed out now and the characters are in the midst of a sea of change. Though there are elements coming into play about how the second half is likely to progress, this is even more introspective than usual as everyone is faced with their plans for the future. With Ovan having been such a lynchpin in the guild, his disappearance has set everything tumbling down.
What's particularly amusing about this breakdown in the guild is that they're all lamenting that Ovan hasn't come back to see them even though he's apparently still logged into the game. The thought that something nefarious has happened to him simply doesn't enter their minds, which is unfortunate for poor Ovan as he's being worked over by some interesting people with capabilities outside of the norm. The secret within the enclosure around his arm is their main focus but what goes on there is presented minimally and without much explanation. A few hints do crop up but most of what we get is teases and little in the way of hard information.
While Ovan is being explored in different ways, the rest of the guild is coming apart at the seams. Shino is trying to do her best to keep everything going but her skills are poor to say the least. The first thing she does is to tell everyone that the Key doesn't exist and that they shouldn't bother looking for it. With that being the main idea behind the guild, Sakisaka is ready to walk out the door. He's getting tempting offers from friends who have moved on to another game and there is little that's really tying him here. Even Tabby isn't much of a draw for him after all the time that they've spent together. Sakisaka is left trying to figure out which way to go but Shino has basically abandoned everything with how she's presenting the future of the guild and even Haseo has little to say.
This all occurs over the four episodes in the kind of slow pacing that is expected from a .hack series. The angst isn't strong but the way it's so slowly drawn out and with so many thoughtful pauses and poses, the need to throttle some of them gets to be pretty strong. Even worse is that some of them start to spend more time in offline activities while in the game and we get to see them just standing there idly. What had attracted me in the first series was that there was some real hints and brief clips of some of the characters in their real lives which gave them more of a connection to the viewer. That's essentially absent here which I'm starting to think is hurting the show a fair bit more than I expected.
There is some progress however in how things play out with the larger storyline. The Signs that are creeping into all of the Lost areas gets named by one of the former TaN members before his account gets closed out. The closure of the TaN portion of the arc is interesting as the community at large has something to say about it in hushed voices but that's about the extent of it. There aren't any sudden sort of revenge type groups out to hit the Brigade nor is there any reaction in general to it. The Brigade folks have gained some notoriety for taking down one of the largest and most prosperous guilds but there appears to be little impact, positive or negative.
While the people that have Ovan in their possession certainly qualify as a threat, the more obvious one to the Brigade members comes in the form of the Tri-Blade, an almost crazed and powerful player character who is going around killing numerous other characters. Showing up more in Lost areas and having several encounters with those related to the Brigade, the Tri-Blade character brings some actual action and tension to the show. Even though the scenes are weak in comparison to most other action shows, it feels like things are moving a mile a minute in this realm. Where this will all lead is still unknown but it's another piece in the puzzle that's tied to those that have Ovan.
Now at the halfway mark of the series, I'm still really unsure about whether any of this is really interesting or not. There are aspects that I continue to adore, such as the backgrounds and music, but the presentation of this online world just feels incredibly off. It's better than how it was presented in the SIGN series but still doesn't jive with my view of online games. The storyline itself plods along at a glacial pace and there is some appeal in that but the approach used here with real world incidents mixed in and far too much introspection has led this to becoming fairly dull in large chunks. The core material continues to have plenty of appeal but the execution of this storyline is one that feels better served in thirteen episodes than the twenty-six allotted to it.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 LAnguage,English Subtitles,Japanese DVD Release Announcement,LE: .hack//Roots MPS Case
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: C+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2