.hack//Roots Vol. #5 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Sunday, December 16, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, December 04, 2007
What They Say
Enraged and drunk on the terrible strength gained from the Forest of Pain event, Haseo embarks on a ruthless search for information
concerning the whereabouts of Tri-Edge. His brutal inquisition leaves a trail of killed Player Characters in its wake. Saddened by this, Tabby is inspired to create a guild dedicated to healing Haseo and his victims. With the help of Tabby’s newfound friends and Tohta, the new PC body of TaN’s Tawaraya, the “Paw Pad Squadron” is born. Meanwhile, the mysterious Pi and Master
Yata watch events unfold with intense interest, hoping to witness the awakening of Haseo’s special power. When Haseo’s search leads him to fight Midori, a player character who’s expert fighting abilities allow her to run a profitable “hit me if you can” business and who has survived a battle with Tri-Edge himself, they are sure that it will be enough.
As Haseo continues to fall off the edge with his new obsession, the rest of the remaining cast starts to slowly move forward once again.
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.
Yata and Pi get a cover to themselves, though I still think of them more in their previous forms which gets touched on a bit more during these episodes. The two have been in the show for a bit now but they still feel disconnected from it due to their storyline. More character artwork is mixed into the background with a pair of headshots within some hex designs that typifies the series. 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 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" for the second .hack//GU release.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The .hack//Roots series is getting much closer to the end now and it still feels like it's playing around with what it really wants to be. Much of this volume is dealing with the slow build-up of the world and characters in terms of the larger storyline but it's still fairly unclear what's going to happen. The threads are fairly obvious at times, but how it can be pulled together into something interesting remains to be seen.
At its core, .hack//Roots has seemingly been about Haseo and his time in the World. Haseo makes regular appearances through these four episodes but he's fairly removed from the character that was first introduced. The virtual death of Shino traumatized him in conjunction with the Tri-Edge that's been moving about in the world. His intense efforts to get better, stronger, has turned him into a rather nasty player killer in the game. His demeanor and overall representation via his avatar is taking on that appearance as well as he's now slightly hunched over, leaner and decidedly dark looking. This causes concern for those that know him, but for the most part it's keeping people away as he wanders around the World in search of the Tri-Edge. That simply doesn't make for exciting times or interesting dialogue.
Once you move beyond Haseo though, the show is fairly interesting in a sort of background way. The rest of the cast can't carry the show in the slightest on their own, but the small moments that make it up are certainly interesting. It's the kind of material that would flow well within a show that had a much stronger core storyline working alongside it, where you'd see these elements come together much smoother. The franchise has always had a laid back feeling to it but this one just seems to be comatose due to the way that the characters that handle things in Haseo's absence just don't have any presence. They work well as supporting characters in trying to tie things together, but when forced to take the lead for awhile it simply doesn’t work.
As much as I like the na´ve and innocent Tabby, her efforts in the World continue to prove strange and seemingly ineffective. Though she hasn't been in there that long, she's the kind of player character that never quite grasps the methods that you need to use in order to actually survive and progress in the world. Not that leveling is all there is, as many games are wonderfully done in there are great roles for those who want to play support roles. We see a lot of that in here as there are merchants that are dealing with the loss of TaN and how that affected things. Tabby however just doesn't to know what it is she wants to do. She's very malleable when it comes to this, hence her ending up in the Twilight Brigade and then forming her own guild, the Paw Pad, which is designed to help those who are killed by Haseo.
Some of the more interesting material for this volume comes from the characters that are in their second lives so to speak. The arrival of a new character named Tohta isn't given much time before it's revealed that it's really Tawaraya come back under a new guise. His goals aren't exactly clear yet, nor is there a lot of time for them to be really fleshed out at this point, but he seems to bring in more of a nostalgic desire to see the game as it used to be. His arrival in the game is a catalyst for change as some former TaN members start to change how they play because of it. Even more interesting is that Yata, who has ties to Tohta, seemingly gives him approval to go forward with his plans. Yata and Pi's efforts continue to be straightforward as they watch Haseo and what he's doing while trying to jolt him to understanding the bigger picture, but like most of the storyline here it's vague and done in very small teasing moments.
.hack//Roots is about to reach its conclusion and I can only imagine that the last four episodes will play out just as slowly as these did. There are some good moments where events do happen, such as Haseo trying to get information out of Midori, but the laid back nature of the show doesn’t seem like it's really building up to anything interesting. The original series had a slow build but you could tell where things were going and you could feel a growing sense of urgency as it moved towards its conclusion. This franchise still feels like it's spinning its wheels just like the first or second volume. I continue to like this world and what it can become, but mostly I feel like there's a huge amount of wasted potential with it. .hack//Roots is even more emblematic of this.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Japanese DVD Release Announcement
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: C
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