.hack//Roots Vol. #1 (also w/limited edition) - Mania.com

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: A-
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: Beez
  • MSRP: £19.99
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: .hack//ROOTS

.hack//Roots Vol. #1 (also w/limited edition)

By Dani Moure     August 03, 2007
Release Date: July 23, 2007

.hack//Roots Vol. #1 (also w/limited edition)
© Beez

What They Say
Having barely finished logging in for his first time into the game known as The World R: 2 then Haseo is attacked by a PK (Player Killer), a type of player who kills other in-game players for fun or profit. After coming to his aid - the mysterious leader of the Twilight Brigade, Ovan reveals Haseo has a particular gift. Intrigued, Haseo decides to join Ovan's Guild and accompany Shino, Tabby and Sakisaka in their quest for a legendary object: The Key of the Twilight. This object is also coveted by another Guild, the powerful and respected TaN, lead by Naobi - who is monitoring the every move of Ovan. But does this legendary item really exist? More importantly - what is it?

The Review!
The latest TV series in the .hack franchise kicks off in a familiar fashion.

I listened to this series in its English stereo track for my main viewing session. It's your bog-standard stereo track, with little directionality to the dialogue or the music. Given that it is quite music heavy, it's a shame that the series wasn't done in a 5.1 mix. Technically, I noticed no problems with either this track, or on spot-checking the Japanese track.

The English dub is well-done at this point, with Ocean having done a good job with their casting. Michael Kopsa does a really good job with Ovan's mysteriousness, and Andrew Francis and Kelly Sheridan also do well in their roles, given their prominence.

Presented in anamorphic widescreen, with the series having been broadcast last year, the video looks very good. It's crisp and sharp, showing off a really good transfer on the part of Beez. The colours of The World are very bright and vibrant and they come across very well when watching this disc. I didn't notice any other major problems, and with little troublesome action outside a few scenes, I would expect this to continue.

The English subtitles are white, in a clearly readable font, and I didn't notice any glaring errors. The opening and ending are presented in their original Kanji version, and unfortunately no translated credits are provided on-disc or in the booklet.

The front cover features an image of Haseo in the foreground, with images of Ovan and Shino in hexagons, and a nice yellow background image. The show's logo is at the top, with the volume number and a synopsis of the show also adorning the cover. It manages to be striking and in-theme with the show at the same time. The back cover features the usual array of screenshots, a description of the show, episode list and credits. There's also a technical grid that contains all the relevant specs.

Also inside is a great little booklet that includes information about the series and the background of the "GU" project, as well as some mini character profiles and a dictionary of terms.

This volume is also available in a limited edition format that includes several extras. The first is an artbox to hold the first three volumes of the series, and is a sturdy box that's done out in black with a really nice group shot of the Twilight Brigade members on one side, and Haseo in a hexagon on the other, with some text on it as well. It's a nice box, although I would've preferred something not quite so black. Inside is also the first soundtrack by Ali Project, which includes TV versions of the opening and ending, as well as some of the other background tracks. Finally there's an oval shaped keyring, which is half yellow and half clear, and lights up if you press in the back. Overall this makes for a nice limited edition, and it's really nice that Beez put the extra effort in required.

The main menu is fully in theme with the show, with hexagons all around. It's animated with a piece of the background music playing over it, and there's a central hexagon that keeps spinning round, playing clips of the different characters in the show. To the right are images of Haseo and Shino, while the show's logo and sub-menu selection is in the bottom left. There's a transmission to the sub-menus, each of which are static but contain different background music and character art, as well as being in style with the hexagon theme. Overall the menu system works really well and looks very nice, with my only complaint being that the "Play All" option is hidden in the Episodes sub-menu.

The main extra here is a set of subtitled promos for the show that aired on Japanese TV, as well as the textless opening and ending.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The .hack franchise started several years ago now, being a major series that crossed several different platforms including games, manga, novels and of course two anime series. While all went quiet for a time after the first major wave, last year saw a resurgence in Bandai's franchise, with the release of a new three volume game series - .hack//GU, yet to be released in the UK " and a new anime series to tie-in with it.

.hack//Roots takes place in the game known as The World, much like it's predecessors, but since the previous series the game has undergone some revisions and so while the essence remains, some things have changed. Likewise, the cast is completely different and Roots begins by introducing Haseo, a young man (or at least, the character he's playing as is a young man) who logs in to The World, but is soon killed by another player as he is trying to figure out the way to play the game. When he returns to The World, he is met by a mysterious looking man calling himself Ovan. Ovan tells Haseo that The World is an amazing place, and that Haseo has a unique gift. What said gift is, isn't something he reveals, and he leaves soon after with the impression they will meet again.

Of course, the meeting with Haseo was pre-determined; Ovan is the leader of a guild called the Twilight Brigade, and they are searching for the legendary Key of the Twilight (which you may remember from .hack//SIGN). Members include Shino, a woman who seems to want to befriend Haseo at times, Sakisaka, a stranger character and the newest member Tabby, a catwoman who craves attention. The presence of the Brigade doesn't bode too well for Haseo, as after his interaction with Ovan he gets attacked by someone from another group called TaN. Shino is on hand to save him and give him a proper "welcome" to The World, but the true nature of Haseo and what he means continues to be the series' biggest question.

With the members of TaN seemingly wanting to block Ovan at all costs, the remainder of the disc lends itself to both the Twilight Brigade and TaN trying to court Haseo into joining them for their own reasons. For TaN, the initial objective is clear and straightforward; they just want Haseo because Ovan is interested in him. Obviously it's not that simple though, and we have no idea exactly why they want to do this and what they would do with Haseo themselves.

For the Twilight Brigade and Ovan, their intentions aren't quite so clear. We know at this stage that they are pursing the Key of Twilight, which apparently holds great power (and there's a nice nod here to one of the key characters in the previous series as well), but exactly how Haseo is involved and what power he holds, really isn't clear. In fact Ovan's intentions are always shrouded somewhat in mystery, but he must see Haseo as the key to his plans since he goes to great lengths to get him to join his guild. Not only does he send his members to help and set him up somewhat, he even posts on the message boards spreading information about Haseo.

Haseo does make his choice before the disc is over, somewhat surprisingly since the style of the series has always been to drag things out somewhat, and the scene contains the dramatic flair that will be familiar to any viewers of the earlier series, with his journey to the chosen headquarters taking place with dramatic cuts to each of the members of the various guilds and is accompanied by a full-length version of one of the songs from the soundtrack. But still, the fact that he's made the choice helps move things forward and we begin to see him settling in to the Twilight Brigade, levelling up and learning the ways of The World by the end of the disc.

The characters are quite an interesting bunch at this stage, and hopefully the core characters that we don't get to see much but seem quite important, like Ender and the TaN members and Philly will get fleshed out in more detail as the series goes on. From a production standpoint, this is typically Bee Train. The animation is pretty good during more action-oriented scenes, but for exposition there's not much movement and it becomes talking heads to a degree. And of course there's a flair for dramatic musical interludes, where moments take a full-length song to take place while the track plays at high volume in the background, with little dialogue. It's an acquired taste, but one I quite like.

In Summary:
.hack//Roots gets off to a good start, presenting a good story wrapped in the typical production values of a Bee Train series. If you are at all interested in the games, or enjoyed .hack//SIGN, chances are high that you'll like this series. If you absolutely hate anything that Bee Train has done before, you probably won't like this, because the style is intrinsically similar. But if you're interested in making a leap into this franchise, or just looking for something new, you could do far worse.

Japanese Language (2.0),English Language (2.0),French Language (2.0),English & French Subtitles,Collector's Booklet,Promo Clips,Textless Opening and Ending

Review Equipment
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Philips DVP 5100 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, Pioneer HTP-GS1 5.1 Surround Sound System.


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