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.hack//SIGN - Uncovered (Vol. 5)

Bandai // Unrated // November 18, 2003
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Don Houston | posted December 7, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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 5: Uncovered, 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.

As the series begins to come to a close, a lot of threads begin setting themselves up to tie together. Bear, Subaru, and Mimiru all see the value in continuing the game in order to get to the root of the troubles taking place all over the established gaming world. They also want answers about Tsukasa; both his origins and how they can help him. In order to accomplish this, they turn to the inventors of the game itself and risk their characters on the outcome.

19) Tempest:
The various major players notice all the changes taking place inside the world of the game and decide to continue their quest for the Key of the Twilight, hoping it will provide them the answers they seek. In the interim, the secondary players are not doing as well as they had in terms of their day to day playing and Bear is the only one willing to take a stand.

20) Despair:
Tsukasa, not exactly on the best of terms with everyone playing the game, partially due to his unique abilities and partly due to his lack of understanding of his outside life, angers one of the most powerful beings of the game and pays the price, becoming captured once again. The other players notice the appearance of undefeatable monsters that are showing up more and more in the game, wondering if perhaps this has special significance.

21) Phantom:
Baer leads the others on a side quest to find the creator of the original game, Harald Hoerwick, with the help of Helba (one of the more powerful beings in the game). With the stakes of the game growing more deadly, Subaru finds an old friend, thought long lost, who protects her. The Silver Knight, in an attempt to reestablish the order his group formerly had over the world, challenges one of the monsters, until it becomes evident he has no chance of winning (a bit late too).

22) The Eve:
All the major characters are summoned to a rally point in order to fight the final battle. Each character has their own motivations for showing up and each will need to decide if the whole game means enough for them to risk it all. Crim has a heart to heart discussion with Tsukasa before the final push against Helba.

As with Hack//Sign 4, the show has picked up a fair amount of momentum and the character development increases too. I think it's still worth a rating of Recommended although a boxed set of the entire series, properly priced, would elevate that to the next level. If you like fantasy based anime, the series is well worth your time and money.

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. The problem I had with the DVD locking up is not present this time (it was a factor in Hack//Sign 4) so perhaps Bandai has taken care of it or it was a fluke.

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. The usual isolated score was very pleasant to listen to as well.

Extras: There was another isolated music score, the usual trailers, a character photogallery, credits and a paper insert with a short discussion concerning the cities in relation to the game servers was present.

Final Thoughts: The stand alone value of this one is fairly weak but I still think the series is worth checking out, based on the technical merits, the story, and all it has to offer. Get the entire series or at least start with volume one before checking this one out and you'll thank me later. Overall, it has a lot of depth if you pay attention but the building blocks to this understanding start off early in the show.

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