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.hack//Roots: The Complete Series
.hack//Roots is the third installment in the long-running .hack franchise which has been made up of manga, video-games, and anime. The series is produced by Fukashi Azuma (Shaman King), Ken Iyadomi (Ghost in the Shell), Koji Morimoto (.hack//Sign), Takayasu Shimizu (Reservoir Chronicle: Tsubasa, .hack//Sign), Diane Cage, and Nobuo Masuda. The series was created to serve as a precursor to the .hack//G.U. video games.
While .hack//Legend of the Twilight was more of a short-run spin-off set in the same universe, .hack//Roots seems to work more like a direct-sequel to the original .hack//Sign production. It brings new characters to The World and the story and events take place several years after the end of the first series. In this incarnation, the characters go into The World but find that things are not the same as before with the original world universe destroyed. As the data of the world universe was lost, these players instead use a backup version which is known as The World R:2.
The main character is Haseo, who becomes a rogue member of the Twilight Brigade, which is a group who seeks to find the legendary key of the twilight within the game. He is gifted with a variety of weaponry in The World R:2. He must use his game-skills to help overcome player killers, who are trying to take Twilight Brigade players out of the world game. Can they find the legendary key?
Tatsuya Hamazaki (who wrote the .hack//Legend of the Twilight manga) and Miu Kawasaki (staff writer on Air Master and writer of Digital Monster X-Evolution) are head writers on .hack//Roots. The series music is composed by Ali Project (who have done songs for Noir, Another, and other anime productions). This band usually does theme music and replaces primary .hack composer Yuki Kajiura as lead musicians. Kajiura instead did themes for .hack//Roots.
The animation is produced by acclaimed studio Bee Train. The art direction is by the frequent collaborator for the .hack productions Yoshimi Umino, who was the art director for the other series as well. Animation directors are comprised of Yoshiaki Kameda and Satoshi Ohsawa. Character designs are the work of Yoshiyuki Sadamoto (Neon Genesis Evangelion, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time), who also contributed to other .hack series, but who now serves production in a bigger capacity as the full-time character design artist.
The animation and character design artwork is more sophisticated than previous entries and it seems to feel like it has less CG imagery. Though the whole of the .hack franchise has a nice animation design, the advancements in CG animation since the first series was made have a impact on .hack//Roots not feeling as dated as the original series on occasion. The art is the highlight of the production.
Koichi Mashimo continues to serve as the head director of the franchise with .hack//Roots. As the only director who regularly directs episodes for the animation studio Bee Train, Mashimo continually offers his stylistic sensibilities to these creations. His vision is a large part of this series. Though other directors and co-directors also contribute to the project it is largely the directorial work of Mashimo bringing a sense of cohesion between the .hack incarnations. .hack//Roots continues to be a demonstration of Mashimo's artistic style.
.hack//Roots arrives on DVD from Funimation with a generally pleasant and impressive presentation which preserves the 1.78:1 widescreen original aspect ratio of the television exhibition. Though the series looks a little less polished on DVD compared to the release available for .hack//Legend of the Twilight, it's still a step above the video quality on the Funimation release of .hack//Sign. It's a colorful and bright image which is generally very pleasant and efficient. The quality of the encoding is quite strong as well.
The audio presentation for .hack//Roots is about the same level of quality as other .hack series, which is to say it sounds very good on DVD. The audio is reasonably crisp, clean, and series dialogue is easy to understand. The music reproduction sounds decent enough as well. It's a acceptably engaging stereo audio design and fans will appreciate being able to select from Ocean's English language dub or the original Japanese language audio.
English subtitles are provided.
The supplements on this release include a Promo Video, TV Spots, a collection of DVD release announcements, textless opening/ending credits (songs), and trailers promoting Funimation releases also available on DVD and Blu-ray.
.hack//Roots is the third series in the long-running anime franchise. The series continues to demonstrate good production merits with quality animation, music, and stylistic flourishes. Although the story is less interesting compared to the original series, dedicated fans should consider checking it out.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.