The .hack franchise is something of an anomaly. The anime was created as part of a much larger project and it's something that has drawn in quite the crowd. With games, comics, and various series all tying together to create a unique and engaging experience it's not surprising that a third .hack show has been produced.
.hack//Roots takes place in The World like the other series Signs and Legend of Twilight. It also follows the events of the game franchises such as G.U. and the original .hack trilogy. Well, actually, Roots is a prequel to G.U. and features a storyline that sets up the events of the new game series. To the uninitiated none of that may make sense but trust me when I tell you that the relationship between each project works wonders for appreciating this show.
The premise behind the .hack universe is quite simple really. With the rise in popularity of the MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) genre players across the globe have logged into a digital universe called The World. On the surface it seems to be standard RPG fare with missions to accept, monsters to kill, items to find, and friends to play with. However, there's something sinister working behind the scenes of The World and players around the world are suffering because of it. Players log in and out and though this is only a game it quickly becomes a world that seems real to the people who play in it.
The enigmatic Ovan forms a guild known as the Twilight Brigade and recruits various members to fill in the ranks. Shino, Haseo, Shakisaka, and Tabby are the rest of the crew and arguably the main players in the events of this series. In particular, even though Haseo is a newbie he's one of the most prominent personalities that Roots displays. He is the protagonist in most circumstances and most events seem to revolve around him. If you're a fan of the series then you'll find his character best compared to Kite from Signs.
The Twilight Brigade, under the direction of Ovan, has taken it upon themselves to search for a rumored item known as the Key of Twilight. This is another area where Roots feels a tad similar to Signs because the protagonists in that series were also searching for the Key. At any rate the Twilight Brigade has discovered items known as Virus Cores that aren't exactly supposed to exist within the game's programming. Their connection to the Key is something of a mystery but Haseo slowly begins to figure some things out in this volume.
Standing in the Twilight Brigade's way is their rival guild known as TAN. The show takes on a "let's find the items before they do" mentality and this volume includes much of the Core quest. With the latest incarnation of The World it is also possibly for some player versus player combat. This gives way to Player Killing (PK) and let's just say that the members of TAN think nothing of utilizing murderous intent. One such instance takes place in a bizarre dungeon where bits of the game appear to be dissolving away. Many random encounters also bring up this scrupulous act.
Like most shows in the early stages of development .hack//Roots offers more intrigue and questions than anything else. Bizarre markings appear in an area known as the Lost Grounds and as some of the programming starts to fade away not much is known about what's going on. Fans of the franchise will also get to see a familiar face during an episode here though I won't divulge what exactly happened.
.hack//Roots' second volume offered a decent amount of mystery with some interesting characters and a rich world. I have been in love with this franchise from the moment it came out and I can say with certainty that Roots is more of the same. This is both a good and bad thing because depending on your level of saturation with the series you may find it rather redundant at this point. Still, this is a fun little show so far and though the pacing is slower it's characters and story make up the lost ground.
.hack//Roots is presented on DVD with a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio. The show looks very slick with its strong fantasy design and the art style is definitely that of a .hack series. As far as the transfer quality is concerned what's presented here is relatively free of flaws. There is no aliasing and only a few instances where grain and compression artifacts pop up. That's fairly impressive considering that five episodes are featured on this disc. Overall this is a nice looking series that is presented well on DVD.
With two 2.0 stereo tracks (English and Japanese) .hack//Roots doesn't sound quite as immersive as other series on the market. The lack of a 5.1 surround presentation leaves Roots rooted on the front channel with no diversity on the soundstage. Technically speaking this isn't very surprising and it's not the worst but this is a series that would have been well-served by some rear channel support. The dubbing quality is good on both accounts and whether you prefer English or Japanese you'll be pleased.
All you'll find on this disc for bonus material is a collection of trailers for other Bandai releases, some clean animation, and a promotional trailer.
If you're a fan of the .hack universe then checking out Roots is most likely something you have already done. The series promises more of the same with plenty of ties to previous incarnations and other sections of the franchise. This particular volume furthers the mystery and keeps the plot rolling forward with a fair amount of intrigue and some interesting developments. The pacing is slow for this show (like the rest of the franchise) but the few snippets of action and character interactions more than make up for it. This is one to keep an eye on!
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