I used to watch the first “dot hack” series that used to air in the early days of Toonami’s Midnight Run on Cartoon Network. Back then, it was the first series, “.hack//”, and since then, the world has grown and expanded into quite a huge playing field. Funimation recently released the newest OVA from the series, “.hack//Quantum”, which I caught on the Funimation channel (back when I still had it… I’m looking at you, Verizon Fios!). Not knowing much about it, I saw some bizarre armored tuxedo cat that was incredibly adorable, and I had to see what this madness was about. Long story short, I came for the cat, but I stayed for the story.
“.hack//Quantum” is the story of three players in the MMORPG called “The World R:X”. Sakuya, Tobias, and Mary are adventuring, when a twist of fate gets Sakuya stuck in a bad situation of a mistaken identity. She runs into Hermit the Cat, and the world suddenly starts to get a lot more interesting, especially when this kitty has the power to make things disappear with his magical stick. Back in the real world, however, when players run into the living undead in the game and are defeated by them, they are feeling real consequences, including comas and death. What is the cause of this, and who is this mysterious kitty? You will have to watch this three episode OVA for the answers to those questions?
This is the first OVA project (other than the computer animated movie) to not be animated by Bee Train Productions, nor directed by Koichi Mashimo. Instead, Masaki Tachibana helmed the project, with Kinema Citrus animating the film along with Bandai Visual. For me, not being a seriously devoted fan to the series to begin with, I can not attest for a dip or upgrade in quality of any kind with the old guard not involved in it. I can say that i was captivated by the characters and the intriguing story, and especially the lush environments and animation.
I was very impressed with the artwork and style, as well as how they were able to capture the feel of a fantasy-based MMORPG that is represented in this series. Fluid movements and some subtle expression changes, especially with Hermit the Cat, companied with gorgeous landscapes and cityscapes that feel vast and have a real physical weight to them. Things feel grounded and part of their environment, which is very important in being sucked into this world.
The CG is incorporated smoothly into the show and does not stick out like a sore thumb. Rather, it is well integrated into the aesthetics of the show and very well-done. There are great group shots across the entire OVA that were rendered with CG that do not look like faceless mobs of generic people, but rather are all independent and unique. Many of the larger monsters or enemies are also CG, and look far better this way than they would have if they were hand-drawn, especially with their sheer size and movement. The third episode features the most prominent use of CG in the OVA, and it fits the feel of the show while adding some intense movement that would have been otherwise impossible, or absurdly expensive, to produce.
This DVD set is loaded with extras, including some animated shorts called “Go, our Chim Chims!!” The chim chim’s, which are practically eggplant versions of the characters in the OVA, give educational lessons on the world of Quantum to catch new viewers up, and to refresh established fans. There is also three segments hosted by the effervescent and far-too-cute for American TV’s, Yui Ogura (who was the voice of Hermit in the Japanese version). Her features include a cooking segment where she makes a charaben in the shape of Hermit the cat, another where she learns how to animate, and a bizarre quiz show segment which does not really have any relevance to this set as it was made exclusively for the Japanese DVD.
Beyond those segments, you also get the original commercial, trailers, and Japanese promotional videos for the series.
During my research for this DVD, I came upon some negative reviews of the show itself, with some critics calling it a rehash of other stories from the series. As a casual dot hack fan, this was not an issue, and since I am not familiar with the rest of the series, I can not speak on if this feels repetitive to the other episodes. I can say, as a stand-alone movie, it’s a fine piece of work and I enjoyed the experience. There were some twists, some turns, and my minimum knowledge of the series did not affect me from having trouble understanding what the show (or their environment) was about. I believe that is one of the strongest parts of this OVA, is that a newcomer to the series can dive in, and thanks to some carefully placed dialogue here and there, grasp the concept of the show and the universe the characters live in.
You can order .hack//Quantum: Complete OVA Series (Blu-ray/DVD Combo) from Amazon.com for around $16, which is totally worth it. While I do not have a blu-ray player just yet, it looks brilliant on DVD, so I can only imagine how great it looks at a higher resolution. If you have never tried anything from the dot hack series before, this OVA is a good gateway to get you interested and potentially hooked.
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