.hack//Roots Vol. #2 - 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. #2

By Dani Moure     September 24, 2007
Release Date: August 27, 2007

.hack//Roots Vol. #2
© Beez

What They Say
Mistrust is rife in the Twilight Brigade: everything seems to point to Haseo, the unlucky victim of circumstances. But a mysterious object has appeared: the Virus Core, Haseo and Shino discover a strange place in the Lost Ground which holds the key to the meaning behind the Virus Cores' all 6 of them, could they be a clue to the Key of the Twilight? With that suspicion the hunt for the Virus cores begins, but the Twilight Brigade isn't the only guild hunting for the objects' This could prove to be a perfect time for a trap to be sprung by Naobi, from the TaN guild.

The Review!
The second volume of .hack//Roots picks up from the first and starts to move the story along at the same slow pace as you'd expect from a show in the franchise.

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 dropouts or distortions 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 Shino in the foreground, with images of Ovan and Haseo in hexagons, and a nice green 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.

This volume is also available in a limited edition format that includes several extras. The first is the second artbox to hold the last 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 Shino in a hexagon on the other, with some text on it as well. It's a nice box and fits well with the style and tone of the first box, although I would've preferred something not quite so black. Inside is also the second soundtrack by Ali Project, which includes some of the great background vocal tracks from the series. Finally there's a mobile phone strap, which is a hexagon shape and has a picture of Shino on. 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 Sakisaka and Phyllo, while the show's logo and sub-menu selection is in the bottom left. There's a transition 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 subtitled promo for the show from Japan, as well as the textless opening and ending.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the Twilight Brigade having come across some crystals from the Lost Grounds called virus cores, they've started to attract much more attention from rival guild TaN. With several of the members having been player killed, the group investigates what is going on and TaN get Tawaraya to spend some time trying to recruit Sakisaka and Haseo to their cause. Although neither agrees, rumour is rife among the group that Haseo is about to quit the Brigade and join TaN, and it's not helped when Tabby and Sakisaka are forced to run from Ender and Haseo won't tell them what he knows about her.

As Haseo becomes more distanced from the Brigade, he starts talking with Phyllo and decides to try and win back the trust of his former guild mates. Eventually it works, when he saves Sakisaka and Tabby from another attempt and player killing by Ender. But things within TaN aren't exactly what they appear, with Naobi and Ender apparently trying to freeze Tawaraya out when they have used him as they need to. Meanwhile the Brigade still aren't convinced that Haseo is trustworthy, but Ovan keeps his plans moving along with Shino's help, and some disturbances in the Lost Grounds lead to more mysteries and may even help with finding the Key of the Twilight.

Viewers of .hack//SIGN will be very familiar with the slow pacing of this volume of //Roots, and love it or hate it, it looks as though this series really is the spiritual successor to the former series because the pacing so far is pretty much on par. While I don't like to continuously compare a series even to its effective prequel, it's hard not to in this case because if you have seen //SIGN, it's the best way to determine whether you'll like this one or not.

A couple of the episodes are almost excruciatingly slow-moving, so if you don't like the style and pacing, and aren't particularly interested in the characters and what they're doing, I'd strongly recommend you not bother reading the rest of this review and forget the series even exists. While I actually enjoy the style of the series to a degree, I do recognise its failings and episodes 6 and 7 are great examples. Episode 6 in particular has one goal in mind, for Haseo to decide to prove his innocence and try and win back the trust of the Brigade, and it all leads right up to the final attack by Ender. But it takes the whole episode to get to that point, and there's a lot of meandering, longing gazes and troubled looks amongst the series' talking heads.

Having said that, this bunch of characters are quite enjoyable and the different groups break down nicely, with some interesting issues between them all. There's a lot of good friction between the Brigade members in this disc, with Tabby in particular giving Haseo a hard time. He doesn't have the best reaction to everything that goes on and, admittedly, is a bit childish in some of his reactions, but at least he actually decides not to walk away from things in the end and sticks with it.

Ovan is still as mysterious as ever, and is definitely manipulating Shino to do pretty much anything he wants. Although he's the group's leader, he generally let's Shino do everything and be the face of the Brigade to the other members, while he is off doing his own thing. There's a sense of feeling on her side as well that isn't reciprocated, but we'll have to see how that develops. And of course amongst TaN, it's obvious that Ender is the trusted one with Naobi pulling the strings, and it'll be interesting to see Tawaraya's reaction when he's eventually dumped out on, if indeed that happens.

In Summary:
.hack//Roots has its problems, and if you hated the slow pacing of .hack//SIGN you'll probably want to bang your head against the wall when watching this, so don't bother. On the other hand if you don't mind taking in the scenery (and the talking heads) accompanied by some good music and decent animation when they make an effort, you could do far worse. Fans of the games will probably like it as well, and the story definitely has enough interesting hooks to keep me watching and enjoying. Haseo can be a bit of a brat and Tabby is sometimes annoying, but overall the characters all have a good dynamic. I'll be watching and enjoying, but your depending on your tolerance, you might not. This is one show that lends itself to a rental; your feelings on the first volume will likely follow through to the rest.

Japanese Language (2.0),English Language (2.0),French Language (2.0),English & French Subtitles,Promo Clip,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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