.hack//SIGN Vol. #5: Uncovered Special Edition - Mania.com

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A+
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Bandai Entertainment
  • MSRP: 39.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: .hack//SIGN

.hack//SIGN Vol. #5: Uncovered Special Edition

By Chris Beveridge     December 03, 2003
Release Date: November 18, 2003

.hack//SIGN Vol. #5: Uncovered Special Edition
© Bandai Entertainment

What They Say
Special Limited Edition along with CD Collector's Box to hold ALL the .hack//SIGN CD soundtracks.

The group seems to have disbanded! BT doesn't log on much and neither does Subaru. But soon, the quest for the Key of the Twilight begins anew when Tsukasa taking Subaru to see the "sleeping girl" and discovers her missing! Elsewhere, Bear realizes that the man in the upside-down castle was none other than Harald Hoerwick, creator of The World and that he may hold the key to this mystery! The final battle is near and each of the party members must decide whether they will fight or not...

The Review!
As the series slides closer towards the final episodes, the storyline begins to come together more tightly and people and players begin to take sides…

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this very dialogue heavy shown in its original language of Japanese. The track is provided in a solid pro-logic mix, which would have been even more impressive in 5.1, the audio on this release really shines. Throughout the show we had no issues with distortions or dropouts, but rather simply enjoyed the spacious feel provided by the music and the sound effects mix that utilized the rear speakers nicely.

Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and encoded in anamorphic widescreen, I can’t imagine watching a broadcast version of this and feeling like it was the same show. The richness of the transfer that shows up here completely shames the broadcast version. Colors are lush and vivid and the transfer is problem free. No cross coloration, no aliasing, no macroblocking or pixellation anywhere. This is the kind of transfer that you end up losing yourself in with how fantastic it looks.

The front cover is actually a bit more intriguing this time with most of the background obscured with the images of two characters who help out the leads in these episodes. With the blue shaded background and the heavy amount of white in the character designs, there’s a really cool feeling to the artwork that works well. The back cover provides a number of small character headshots around the edges while the rest of the cover goes into details about the show with a few paragraphs of story summary and a good listing of the discs features and extras. The insert provides another shot of the front cover while it opens to some text about the various servers and what’s on them. The back cover provides more detailed credits including main bilingual cast credits given to each character/actor, something we’re glad to see continuing.

For this limited edition release, the keepcase comes with a cardboard sleeve around it that essentially replicates the front and back cover and contains a piece of foam stuffed into it to keep the CD box in place. The CD box is really nice, good and solid, with character artwork ringed around it and using the same hexagonal backgrounds. The CD’s fit in nice and smooth and it’s a really nice piece to round out the great CD collection that’s been built with this series.

If there are menus you don’t mind sitting in, these are going to be them. The opening menu is a nice animated piece that has the portal floating in a circle set against a bleak backdrop as the music from the show plays along. There are very brief transitional animations to the submenus where you get even more of the great music playing, but to more static screens. Access times are nice and fast and the layout works nicely.

The extras are pretty minimal for this volume with just over a dozen or so pieces of artwork of various characters and locations as well as a “3.0” trailer of sorts for the first DVD release in Japan. Much like the second one, it does a nice job of using the music and images to really sell the show.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the pace picking up and numerous changes having started to show, as well as cracks in the system that makes up The World, it wasn’t much of a surprise to see the characters finally realize that things are amiss and that they’ve got to start dealing with it. The breakdown is pretty natural with no surprises at all.

After the previous meeting with the curious man who caused most of them to die while talking about his daughter, Bear has come back with word that he’s some sort of thought-program of one of the original creators of a game similar to this one and likely involved in the creation of the original World game. With a goal of trying to contact the version of him that is likely to exist in this world, Bear forms a party with Subaru and Mimiru to seek out the wisdom of a seer named Helba who will help them determine the location of Harald the mystery man.

Knowing that there’s bound to be some gain in all of this, Sora utilizes his ties to BT to get her to play intermediary of sorts and the cast of “villains” ends up forming into a party with the two of them plus the Silver Knight. Unlike real villains though, well, outside of Sora maybe, all of these people don’t see themselves as evil but just with their own goals. With their own motivations for doing what they’re doing, as well as some of the partial belief of just having fun because it’s a game or the belief that their virtual selves are a more true and pure version of who they want to be, this side works to use the efforts of Bears group to their own advantage in seeking out the Key of Twilight.

While all of this searching and research goes on, Tsukasa finds himself at the whims of something, something that’s not quite visible to us yet. After he had brought Subaru to see the girl, he finds himself at her mercies as she tears at him for betraying the trust she gave him. As she has promised that all would be good if it was just the three of them, his break of that trust and bond has her not needing Tsukasa anymore. The realm where he was with the girl before, a girl we now know is named Aura, is in ruins. What was once a lush green forest is now a dark dank ruin of a forest, the bed crumbling and the general atmosphere is disturbing.

Tsukasa begins his own mental journey into despair after he suffers under the mysterious voices power, but it’s a journey that we’re not privy to behind his blank staring eyes.

There’s a fair amount of movement among the cast members, and it’s interesting to see that it’s turning to be Crim who is being able to motivate people on both sides of the parties into doing what needs to be done. With his lengthy experience in the game, he brings a certain amount of calmness to the situation in taking things in and it helps in setting the right tone for what they’re doing. Crim wasn’t a character I was too keen on early on, but he’s developed nicely.

While the pacing is still somewhat similar to earlier episodes, there is definitely an increasing urgency in things. The last two episodes here also look to have increased in visual quality with much more fluid animation and some great visuals. The continuing change in the backgrounds is also intriguing since it’s been one of the visual cues to how the World is changing behind the scenes and away from the players eyes. There’s a lot of neat little bits throughout these episodes and some really good revelations.

In Summary:
The series continues to fascinate me in how it plays out, though I’m still amused that a game with twenty million players is so continually empty, even in the big cities. Barring that, the mood and atmosphere of the show combined with the visuals and the music are just as enticing as they were before as we weave slowly through the mystery. I’m very much looking forward to the conclusion to see what they intend to do to wrap all the little threads up.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Character Gallery,3.0 Trailer

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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