Movie: With the growth of the internet and it's complexity, an increasingly larger number of people are playing online role playing games. In such games, people log on and assume the role of a character with special abilities. As they accomplish various tasks, they gain points that enhance the strength and powers of the character. The last few years have seen the expansion of such virtual reality worlds and the big draw is that you can interact with a lot of like-minded people. In days of old, people interacted in real life but such worlds open up a whole new set of possibilities. This brings us to my review on hack//sign 4: Omnipotence, an anime series that looks at one such virtual reality world.
In this highly evolved virtual universe, people log in and play various characters. Some use swords, others use magic, and if you die, you can log back in with some restrictions. All this sounds fairly simple except for one character that is a mystery, Tsukasa. He has abilities that others don't and no one is quite sure what to make of him. Is he a real person, trapped inside the machine or is he just a computer generated character like some of the more mundane shop keepers or is he really a system administrator who's lost his memory? No one can answer the questions, which adds to the appeal of finding the answers behind the guy.
In the latest dvd of this interesting story, the cast all seem to be conflicted about Tsukasa. Some view him as a potential ally, others as a foe, and still others as an opportunity. Tsukasa himself doesn't seem to know either and his memory is subject to gaps at times. This adds a new wrinkle to all those dealing with him; friends could easily become enemies and enemies could become friends depending on the circumstance. Tsukasa's ability to over-ride the rules of the game, making him the most powerful character in "The World", carries with it some risks as to how characters treat him. Without a lot of spoilers, here's a look at the 4 episodes on this fourth dvd.
Bear, Mimiru, and Tsukasa make a mistake and are regenerated elsewhere, Tsukasa by his fallen maiden and the others by a save point in the game. BT and Crim also seem to hit a dead end and BT eventually finds Crim's suspicions deadly. BT and Bear discuss the need to pool information in order to find the Key of the Twilight. Subaru forms a hypothesis as to Tsukasa's existence.
BT, after taking a hard-line with both Crim and Subaru, finds herself verbally sparring with Subaru; not a good idea considering Subaru is one of the most powerful characters of the game. Afterwards, BT is threatened by a couple of opportunistic newbies and Tsukasa's sudden appearance could mean her death, or not, depending on his course of action.
The order of Crimson Knights, the players who impose order on a voluntary basis, get out of control and challenge Subaru's authority by trying to go over her head. They believe that Tsukasa needs to be eliminated since they believe he's responsible for the increasing number of problems the game has been experiencing. If banished, where will Tsukasa go? Will he fight, using all his power and possibly destroy the game?
With all the turmoil in the game, Subaru has lost her way, forgetting what the whole premise of the game was. The same holds true for a number of other important characters and they attempt to work it all out here.
Having started off watching this series with volume 2, I didn't think much about it. Having watched a couple more volumes, including Volume 3 and this one, I'm warming up to the show enough to rate it as Recommended once more. The show had some padding and lacked direction at times but the combination of the music, the concept, and a few of the characters was enough to lift the rating from my earlier assessment.
Picture: The picture was presented in 1.85:1 ratio Anamorphic Widescreen and looked great. The colors were vibrant and as clear as I think I've seen on my television. While the anime style itself wasn't the most detailed, it had a lot going for it in terms of a "look" that fans seem to like. I didn't see any artifacts or other dvd transfer problems when I watched it. I did have a problem with it locking up unless I hit the menu button on my dvd player (this hasn't happened with any other dvds).
Sound: The sound was presented with a choice of Dolby Digital stereo English or Japanese with optional English subtitles. The vocals on each track were well done and the music was also exceptionally clear and appropriate. There's even an isolated music score for fans to enjoy. On a related note, some of the subtitles (chapter 16 in particular) were not timed properly in a few cases.
Extras: There was another isolated music score, some trailers, a character photogallery, credits and a paper insert with a short discussion concerning the Key of the Twilight.
Final Thoughts: I strongly advise you watch the series from the beginning since, at this point, it becomes apparent that the groundwork laid down in that volume must've really been important. In this volume in particular, there were references to things that didn't happen in the last two dvds so I'm left to believe that you'll enjoy it more by taking my suggestion. It was pretty good and fans of online games will likely consider it a must have if they like anime.