Not Exactly a QUANTUM Leap: .hack//QUANTUM Review

Mike Ferreira (Editor) — June 21st, 2012
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In 2003, Bandai Entertainment made an ambitious attempt at merging the anime and gaming worlds. There had been game adaptations of popular anime and vice versa in the past, but no company wanted to make the leap to build such a brand from the ground up. Bandai's product, known as .hack, was a groundbreaking experience that used the trappings of The World, a Massively Multiplayer Online game, to tell the story of a rag-tag bunch of players looking to solve the mystery of a phenomenon that that they'd transcended the game and affected the players themselves. Each installment shiped with an OVA, that told the human side of the story: a company with skeletons in its closet, and a cover-up that threatened every single player of The World. .hack continued to grow since its creation as it added three anime series and a second trio of games to further flesh out the universe. .hack//QUANTUM is the latest story in the franchise, and aims to tell the story of yet another group affected by The World. And, as one would expect, this trip into The World isn't very different than the ones that came before it.

In the year 2022, The World R:X is the hottest online game in the world. At any given time, millions of players can be seen milling about the game's towns and blazing through dungeons in search of epic loot. For many, it's the last game they'll ever need. A phenomenon to this size isn't without its downsides, though. Through the servers, people chatter of players who are knocked out in the game, that go into comas in reality. Like most gamer legends though, most of the players dismiss this as an old gamer's tale, and go about their merry way.

Sakuya, Tobias, and Mary are three players in The World that are about to learn that the legends aren't always just idle murmurings. After they inadvertently ruin a raid by a prominent guild, the three players find themselves warped to a realm where injuries to their avatars mimic reality. A strange, pitch-black avatar swoops in to destroy the three as they desperately try to log out. While Sakuya and Tobias make it out alive, Mary isn't so lucky. In the real world, she is thrown into a coma that isn't unlike those that The World players murmur about. At the same time, the two players are embroiled in a mystery around a strange feline player known as Hermit. The two must solve the mystery of this strange player, while they search for a way to wake their friend within The World.

Even from the synopsis, it should be obvious to see that .hack//QUANTUM doesn't tread new ground. The show follows the same framework and reuses the same tropes that sustained the franchise for the past nine years. Plot twists are visible from miles away, and characters seem to clumsily stagger through the motions as the narrative is delivered with the subtlety of a screaming mental patient. None of the characters enter real danger, everything wraps up in a convenient happy ending that ensures that nobody is dead, maimed, or otherwise terrorized while ensuring the viewer contracts some unidentified form of diabetes. Still, the feature manages to be entertaining. Silly jokes and visual gags are scattered through the series, and well-choreographed action scenes provide a degree of excitement as the cast squares off against giant beasts, angry guilds, and other players.

The greatest asset to .hack//QUANTUM is its presentation. The World is a lush, vibrant realm packed with picturesque scenery and fantastic beasts. Landscapes are perennially green, and the water is the deepest of blue. Its inhabitants are similarly colorful, both in their personalities and their appearances. Towns and cities are fantastic gatherings of striking buildings that are homes to thieves with aqua hair and red clothing, silver-haired knights, and feline wanderers among countless other figures. The real world is a stark contrast to these saturated realms, with dull grey landscapes, blanketed by the winter snows. Homes and buildings are simple, and muted, with a generally lifeless aesthetic. The inhabitants of reality are mundane individuals that blend into their surroundings as they struggle through their days. The worlds are brought to life by fluid animation and subtle usage of CGI that doesn't overwhelm the final product.

As a stand-alone product, .hack//QUANTUM is a mediocre offering at best. The tired conspiracy-theory plot and dull dialogue hold back an adventure that could have been a glimpse into a realm of fantasy and action. Fans of the series might find enjoyment from the title, but most others will simply be disappointed by the time the final credits roll.

Thanks to FUNimation for providing a review copy!