.hack// (aka: .hack//AI-Buster novel) Vol. #01 - Mania.com

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  • Art Rating: N/A
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Released By: TOKYOPOP
  • MSRP: 9.99
  • Pages: 240
  • ISBN: 1-59532-869-6
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Left to Right
  • Series: .hack// (aka: .hack//AI-Buster novel)

.hack// (aka: .hack//AI-Buster novel) Vol. #01

By Jarred Pine     September 18, 2005
Release Date: August 28, 2005

.hack// (aka: .hack//AI-Buster novel) Vol.#01

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Writer: Tatsuya Hamazaki / Illustrations: Rei Izumi
Translated by:Naomi Kokubo
Adapted by:

What They Say
AI buster follows the adventures of Albireo, as he plays a beta version of what will soon be known as "The World." In his journeys, Albireo encounters Lycoris, a failed version of Aura and makes a connection that may turn out to be inseparable.

The Review
Not quite as epic as described, .Hack // AI Buster is a simple sci-fi, fantasy themed mystery that makes for a quick enjoyable afternoon of reading for everyone, regardless if you are familiar with the franchise or not.

Being a novel, the cover artwork is not the best layout that I have seen. There is a simple illustration, but most of the cover features a lot of text, including a blurb from Teen People. The book does include the few insert pages of illustrations. The only extra is a postscript from the author at the back of the book.

The translation reads very smoothly, keeping a nice flow throughout the entire book that gives is a brisk pace. The different personalities of Albireo and Hakuto are brought to life quite nicely, as well as the humorous exchanges between the two. There are a few jokes relating to names that the adaptation did a nice job of getting across appropriately, so that the English reader could closely experience the original text. The different fonts used for the command line text was also a nice touch. This is my first translated novelization I have read, and so far I am definitely impressed with the work.

Contents (Watch out spoilers ahead):
Albireo is a highly skilled Pole Arms character in a MMORPG called The World, a large online game featuring 15 million users in 10 different languages built on an OS that is believed to be infallible. Albireo is a loner, preferring to go out and take care of quests by himself, rather than have to be burdened by others in a party. One day while treasure hunting in a dungeon, he comes across Lycoris, an NPC (Non-Player Character) that has gone rogue. NPC characters are those that are controlled by the code of the game, unable to interact dynamically with other live characters in a game. However, once in a while an NPC one will grow a bit of a consciousness and begin to go outside of the parameters of the character.

Lycoris ends up joining Alireo, against his will, to which he decides must just be another game event that he must see to the end. Things start to become weird when the treasure chests he finds are filled with '.cyl' files that Lycoris asks for in order to restore a missing piece of her character. Soon it becomes clear that Lycoris is not your normal NPC, and might be one of those vagabond AI's that is being hunted by the Cobalt Knights, a group of workers from CC Corp. who are in charge of deleting all vagabond AI's.

On his journey, while resting at his humble abode, Albireo is visited by a novice witch Hakuto, a loudmouthed, newbie dressed up in a cute revealing outfit. She is in danger from being attacked by a goblin and is calling out for help, which Albireo is desperately trying to ignore. Lycoris forces him to help, leading to Hakuto to joining his one-man party, apart from Lycoris, and the two are off on their quest to end this game event surrounding Lycoris. They will come across goblins, dragons, and large Satanic beasts, as well as treasure chests that are filled with these mysterious '.cyl' files.

While all these events are unfolding, we are also introduced to Watari, leader of the Cobalt Knights. This group is in charge of deleting all vagabond AI characters, keeping the system balanced and fair. Watari is what one could consider a crip, someone who is constantly logged onto The World. A bit of a taskmaster, Watari keeps trying to find Lycoris as well as solving other mysteries about a web poet named W.B. Yates and one of the original missing developers of The World, Harald Hoerwick.

Bouncing back and forth between Watari and Albireo's narratives, the story progressively builds up a nice bit of mystery and pulls off its fair share of twists and turns for some fun, and possibly unexpected, surprises. The ending definitely has that anime appeal, pulling off a bit of a convoluted, existential conclusion that doesn't end with a bang, but provides a decent resolution to the mysteries at hand.

The books relies heavily on the two characters Albireo and Hokuto. Albireo's anti-social, elite, loner personality definitely conflicts with the na�ve and ditzy, yet sharp tounged newbie, Hokuto. The two are constantly bickering with each other, firing quip after quip, making for some entertaining conversations at times. There is also a decent amount of MMORPG humor that the game players might get a kick out of ("Any player who would ask such a stupid question shouldn't have the right to sit on an I98,000 GP sofa.").

Hamazaki also does a nice job of mixing up cyberpunk and fantasy elements in a way that isn't overbearing with one or the other, keeping the ideas very light and easy to follow. Of course, this also could be considered a weakness of the book, as there really is not a lot of depth and one is able to breeze through the pages in record time. A lot of the ideas are also kept pretty much on surface, never really exploring their full potential. The whole living program within a program aspect is there, along with the mad developer who created this evolving AI, but it's never really explored and is more of a simple plot point in solving a mystery. The fantasy world of The World is also not described in much detail, most likely leaving most of the descriptions to the related games and anime that are already out, which only harms people like myself who have no experience with the .hack franchise.

But credit must be given to Hamazaki and the translation/adaptation crew for keeping the story interesting at each and every page turn, creating a nice flow that never really feels like it's dragging its feet. It also doesn't require knowing a lot of previous information from the related media versions of .hack to understand what is going on. The description on the back of the book describes this prequel as 'epic', but it is far from it. It is, however, a good couple hours of reading that is nice and compact, as well as a nice introduction to the .hack universe for those uninitiated.


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