Building on .hack//Roots, the G.U. trilogy movie is a rather solid bit of CG anime action.
What They Say
HASEO is obsessed to take revenge for the loss of his beloved, SHINO, who has succumbed to the ferocious attack of Tri-Edge, a mysterious player killer. The World R:2, a virtual universe where everybody assumes the role of a game character, is being threatened by a dangerous virus called A.I.D.A, causing human players to fall comatose in the real world.
HASEO meets ATOLI, a gentle girl who looks exactly like his beloved, but she is still unable to pacify his vengefulness while both of them are still dubbed as an Epitaph User. HASEO keeps fi ghting, and an even greater secret is in store for him when he fi nally reunites with his long-missing mentor OVAN.
Showcasing either the loss of power of the .hack brand or the state of the industry with Bandai, .hack//G.U. is presented with only one language for this release. Every previous series has been bilingual but this is the first to not be dubbed. On the plus side, Japanese language fans make out well as w get both a 5.1 mix at 448kbps and a 2.0 mix at 224kbps. The Japanese 5.1 mix has some very solid moments to it with the action as sounds flit about the surround channels at key times and the music sometimes has a very full sound to it. The music in general is unsurprisingly what works out the best here as it has a very rich and warm sound to it that helps build up so many of the scenes. We listened only to the Japanese 5.1 mix though and had no problems at all with it.
Originally released in early 2008, the transfer for this feature is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:! and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. CG anime can be tricky but this presentation overall is really very good and certainly one that warrants a high definition version to be produced for the visuals alone. There’s a lot of detail and good movement throughout this and it’s surprisingly low on the amount of visible bad looking banding that you often see with CG productions still. Colors are rich and warm and it is the kind of show that fits in right with the CG style considering its gaming/multimedia origins. There are a few soft scenes here and there, but they seem intentional for the most part and are meant to add atmosphere to the scene.
Amusingly, with it being a CG show, they went with an illustration style for the cover artwork. It’s a very good piece with Haseo at the center looking very serious and mature while the background has Atoli and Ovan providing the light and dark sides of things. The back cover is traditional .hack material with the hex layout that contains various shots from the feature and the coloring feels very reminiscent of past releases as well. The summary takes us through the overall thin plot and there’s a very good listing of the discs features and the technical breakdown in the grid along the bottom. No show related inserts are included nor any kind of adverts for the games either which is a surprise.
The menus for this release step things up a bit in comparison to some other Bandai releases as it has a series of clips playing in the background set to some good moody instrumental music. The central section is done as a rotating hex and inside of there is the navigation strip which is pretty straightforward. Submenus load quickly and it’s a breeze to move around. Due to this being a monolingual release, the defaults aren’t an issue but it does default to the 5.1 track which I thought was good as it puts its best foot forward first.
This release has some good extras to it that will surely please fans of the franchise. The opening one is a six minute “parody mode” video that has a lot of fun with the show while making sure the viewer knows it’s not “sanctioned” material. The sexuality to it is almost amusing. There’s a small series of promotional videos for the show and an image gallery as well. The big extra is a twenty-four minute making of feature that goes into what went into the production from all aspects. These kinds of features are certainly familiar, but seeing the people behind it is always interesting even if just for the spaces that they work within.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The .hack universe has been really hit or miss for me overall with only the first season really resonating at all. This movie follows up the events of the .hack//Roots series and leads right into the world of the game itself, which I still have not touched at all in all these years. Whether that makes these shows better or worse for me is really hard to say, but in the end I simply don’t have it in me to play RPG’s like I did years ago. Going into this film after watching the.hack//Roots series some time after it finished, I was surprised at how much of it came back to me considering how unmemorable it was overall.
.hack//G.U. picks up some time after the death of Shino at the hands of the mysterious Tri-edge that had been slaughtering players here and there throughout The World. Haseo is a cold and brutal player killer killer now as he hunts those who cause problems in his search for the Tri-edge. In the months since Shino’s death and her apparent coma in the real world, he’s lost a touch of his humanity as he executes his mission by becoming more and more powerful. Everything is moving along in this direction until two very different people come into his life. The first is the return of Ovan from the Brigade that he used to be part of. Ovan has had quite the dark nature about him and nothing is different here as he continually seems to be manipulating events and people to his own desires and plans.
The second is a new player character named Atoli, and it’s through her eyes that we see The World this time around. For Haseo, she’s a real problem because her PC is using the same model as Shino and she has some of the same kind of mannerisms and personality. An earnest pacifist of sorts, Atoli finds herself drawn to Haseo and does her best to work with him in the missions as she levels up. But her kind ways and honest generous nature is too much for Haseo to handle coming from that design and he eventually pushes her away, something that’s very problematic when he ends up in a situation that literally puts him back at level one.
This thrusts him into the world of a special group of administrators who are trying to track down an anomaly within the game that they’ve called AIDA. Shadows of the .hack//Sign game return here as we see elements of a young girl that’s taking on the persona of AIDA and it’s something that Ovan is after. With the anomalies causing all sorts of problems in different areas of the game, Haseo isn’t all that interested in participating in this hunt because he wants to go after the Tri-edge only. It’s only when Atoli ends up becoming involved with the anomalies and her life is threatened, much in the same way that Shino was through a different angle, that he finds the motivation to get involved, level up and go badass on everything that seems to conflict with him in his online world and life.
The .hack//G.U. storyline is one that is one that feels somewhat laid back and almost lazy at times as it slowly builds towards the culmination point of the storyline. It introduces the characters fairly well and provides the backstory briefly that’s needed to illustrate what happened in the .hack//Roots story so you know where things are picking up from here. Coming from the existing anime series and not playing the games, there’s a kind of enjoyment of this when it comes to the story, but the .hack universe feels like it lost me after the Twilight series and never recovered well from there. The story here comes across as quite pedestrian and predictable, though it is at least a very short and to the point kind of film as it doesn’t take twelve or twenty-six episodes to tell the story. In this way, .hack//G.U. is the most concise and to the point pieces of the franchise that I’ve seen.
I’ve had mixed feelings on CG anime shows in the past, some work and some don’t, but .hack//G.U. really does work very well. The series concept in general lends itself to the idea of a CG version and in some ways there is a more realistic feeling to the portrayal of the characters in this form in comparison to the anime. Their facial structures and the expressions aren’t as open to interpretation in the same way that anime designs are in the “traditional” method so they have a very different and smoother feeling it. The look of the characters connects far better with the game origins and the fact that these are all essentially avatars within a game. And as much as I like the backgrounds in the previous series, particularly .hack//Sign, the CG world is much more detailed and fleshed out in a way that also really connects it with the game world that it all takes place in. The production side of this is really quite good and is in fact the best part of the show itself.
The most recent animated version of the .hack universe hits with this feature that takes the story from the .hack/Roots series and plows forward with events into the actual games themselves. The storyline serves as a decent bit of closure if you’ve followed the Roots storyline, but I don’t know how the gamers would feel about it and how it ties into that. What we get here is a decent movie, some rather good animation and set design and a fairly bland and mediocre story. It has the hallmarks of the .hack world with some very slow moments and plenty of visual gazing going on, but nothing here really excites or captivates. As interested as I was in the .hack universe years ago, it’s waned considerably over time, first with Twilight and then with Roots, and that’s all without even touching the games. Maybe my opinion would be very different otherwise, but as it stands the animated world of .hack has been pretty mediocre for some time. The story is just that here and it’s the animation itself that saves the day as it is really great to watch.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Promotional Videos, Special Program: Commemoration of Theatrical Release, Image Board Gallery
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.