Thursday, July 26, 2012

[JT] Anime Van... Re... er... the ORPG anime post....

Welcome back to our anime review series.  I find it kind of ironic that my first post back in this series and I cannot even use the name I came up for it, but it's very a very special reason!  This post is going to cover three different series; one from the past and two from the present.  So we have a little from column Vanguard and a little from column Rewind.  This week we will be covering my favorite genre of anime: online role playing game anime!

My favorite anime series is Yu Yu Hakusho and my favorite video games are Legend of Zelda.  Now wait... I just said we were talking about ORPG anime, so why in Gott's name am I mentioning these two?  They sure as hell are not ORPGs.  It is because, even though they are my favorite series, my favorite IP of all time is .hack//, so much so that for the longest time, the first anime of the project, .hack//SIGN, actually usurped YYH for the top spot.  So here's the Rewind part of the post...


I am going to try and make this as brief as possible.  I can make an entire series about .hack// by itself since it spans so many different mediums and individual series, and has been a huge part of my life ever since it started (the music itself has opened me up to a multitude of different genres, including both classical and techno). It starts with a novel, then a manga, then an anime, 4 PS2 games, 4 books that coincide with the games as well as an anime that tells another side of the games, a manga with an anime adaptation (I am referring to .hack//DUSK (a.k.a. Legend of the Twilight stateside.  I would also like to note: READ THE MANGA.  While the anime is not bad, the manga is immensely better), another anime, 3 more games... and more.... and even more after that.  To save you the pain (actually the pleasure) of going through all of it, I will try and keep things as an overview of everything.

We learn that before the story even begins, the previous Christmas Eve marked the crisis known as Pluto's Kiss, the world's largest cyber terrorism attack in history.  As the world recovers from the attack, the first game of the time is released.  Known as "The World", it is the largest Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) ever made.  Using AV goggles, the player is immersed into a game deeper than any before it, allowing a player to choose different classes, equipment, and spells to use to clear dungeons and level up with players from around the world.

Unfortunately, this would not make a compelling anime unless something goes terribly wrong.  Thankfully (am I an a** for saying that?) it does and all hell breaks loose.  A secret file hidden in the game begins to corrupt The World, and soon the in-game world begins to affect the real world; even having detrimental effects on the players.

It is here we can begin to talk about the first anime of the series, .hack//SIGN.  We meet a young, antisocial,  Wavemaster (the Mage-class of The World) named Tsukasa who suddenly finds himself unable to log out of the world.  He slowly gains a party of friends that are determined to get him out of The World, as well as discover the root of all this turmoil spreading from the game.

.hack//SIGN cast.  Tsukasa is bottom, center, left.
//SIGN focuses more on the exposition than the action (rightfully so because this is where most of the mythos of the entire franchise is cemented and revealed).  This can be a little disappointing if you like to see swords actually get used, which the second half of episode 1 will lead you to believe you will get. That's not to say there is no action, it's just spread a little thin and mixed with more exposition (episode 25: Catastrophe is where you want to be if you want action).  However the story itself is beautifully crafted (No jaded opinions here... Nope.  None at all ... >.> <.< >.>) and is not retarded by the lack of swordplay in the slightest. I love the story and all of the characters so much that //SIGN has sort of become my benchmark for other anime series, including the other anime in the franchise.

.hack//DUSK cast
In terms of anime, //SIGN is followed up by //DUSK (I really wish they would have kept that name here in the U.S.), which is a bit more cutesy and features chibi-ed versions of the main characters from the four Playstation 2 video games preceding it (//INFECTION, //MUTATION, //OUTBREAK, and //QUARENTINE).  It features a bit more action than //SIGN, but with the more colorful art form, the battles can seem a bit childish.  Still definitely worth checking out as a stand alone since the story in //DUSK (as far as I can tell) never reverberates forward into other iterations, which is something that .hack// is great at.  That, however, is another post entirely.

.hack//ROOTS cast.  Haseo is the sexy, white-haired player with the exposed midriff.
Following the light and fluffy //DUSK comes the ever so dark and brooding //ROOTS.  Taking place in "The World X:2", //ROOTS is another story driven series that has a very nice blend of action in it.  While not incredibly big (as in, normal fans may not find this interesting at all), one of the things I find most amazing is the time frame this series is set in.  When you pop the first of the 2nd generation .hack// games into your PS2 (//REBIRTH), you are greeted with the first cut scene of the game: Haseo's first adventure in The World.  We are immediately thrown into the second cut scene, which takes place six months later.  //ROOTS is the story of what happens during those six months  We get to see Haseo's climb to power and how his bonds with a certain Guild are formed.  While //ROOTS is not my favorite of the .hack// anime, I can certainly see why someone else would enjoy this series over //SIGN.

I am going to leave the .hack// discussion at that.  Avid fans might notice I skipped a few things, such as //LIMINALITY, the four part series that is tied in with the first generation video games, as well as //QUANTUM, the three episode series that premiered last year.  Also, the (supposed) finale of the .hack// series (//END OF THE WORLD) just premiered a few months ago for those of you that dive in and want to see it through to the end.  The thing is I wanted to keep this brief, so I tried sticking to the main story points of the .hack// timeline.  Not only that, I still have two more series I want to talk about!  Time for the Vanguard part of the post!

Accel World

Haruyuki and Kuroyukihime
Accel World has been going for a few months now, with episode 16 premiering this tomorrow.  If the "lack" of action in .hack// was not your style, Accel World will be more up your alley.  Haruyuki is tormented and bullied at school until he is recruited by Kuroyukihime to Brain Burst, a game that speeds up the players brain, allowing the player to slow down time in the real world.  The game itself is a fighting RPG where the combatants belong to factions who are trying to expand their territory.  Haruyuki finds himself the center of attention when he unlocks his special ability, an ability that has never been seen before in the Burst World.

Accel World main cast
A-World hits a chord with any chubby little video game nerd, such as yours truly, mainly because he gets the girl of his dreams.  Maybe that's why I love this series so much.  Or it might be the fact that this is like .hack// on overdrive.  If .hack// is 65% exposition to 35% action, A-World is 35% exposition to 65% action.  The action, as well as the politics behind them, is compelling, and do more to move the story along than most other series.  The unique aspect of this series, and the driving factor of all the characters, is the point system, which distributes or takes away points as a character wins or loses a battle, respectively.  Using these points, a player can level up their avatar to new levels, or increase their stats.  Once a player loses all of their points, they are removed from the game, and the system is automatically uninstalled.

A-World has been, is, and will be a series I pay close attention to.  In addition to the incredible art style and animation, the politics of the game they are playing, as well as the the ramifications of using the burst in the real life, drive the story forward from one battle to the next, kind of like a shonen beat 'em up series, while still being centered in an ORPG.  Right now we are at (what I suspect is) the halfway point of the series, meaning we should see something along the lines of a mid-season upgrade soon.  I cannot wait to see what is next for Haruyuki and Kuroyukihime

Sword Art Online

Sword Art Online cast.  Kirito featured in the black cloak.
This is the newest of the ORPG-genre series.  Only three episodes young, Sword Art Online has been giving me mixed emotions.  SAO starts off similarly to .hack//, in that we see the release of the newest innovation in gaming, an ORPG of the anime's namesake, and our main character, Kirito, log in for the first time.  Without giving away too much about the story (which is kind of hard to do since there are only three episodes so far), the players of SAO find themselves in a desperate struggle to beat the 100 floors of the game like their very lives depend on it (<spoiler (highlight to read)>they do</spoiler>).

The unique thing about this game is that there is no magic.  This is a very novel concept because every MMO, both in the real world and in the anime universe, there is some kind of energy (SP, mana, etc.).  This means there.  Are. No. Clerics!  No revive spells!  No Phoenix Down.  Once you're HP drops to zero, that's it.  This is a very compelling aspect since all the other ORPG series to date have had no terminal effects on the players.  When they died they either respawned (.hack//SIGN) or lose their access to the game (Accel World).  Here, it's game over.  It's a nice touch.  However the no magic can become a little bit of a stretch at times.  There are still special techniques, and while this can be explained normally (Rurouni Kenshin has no magic), the glowing of their blades is a little random, and seem a little out of place.

Kirito performing a dash technique.  The glowing blade is odd for a game with no magic...
So far, this is definitely one I will be keeping an eye on.  While there is still plenty of time for it to turn into a let down, I am really excited by SAO for now.  Episode 1 left both me and Jas with a feeling that the show would just be a poor rip off of .hack//SIGN that wouldn't be able to carry itself through to the end. However, after episode 2, I was literally giddy to see the next episode.  I had a definite feeling that the show would be something to stick around for.  Episode 3 did a lot of time jumpa, which are understandable since there are 100 floors that need completing within the series, but some of these can seem a bit ridiculous.  (Episode 1 and 2 take place on the 1st floor.  Episode 3 jumps to the 11th floor, to the 20th, and eventually to 49th floor.  When you watch though, have an open mind and remember what Kirito's true strength is at this point.  Things make a lot more sense when you do, and the jumps are not as jarring.

Phew.  Ok.  that was a lot longer than I was expecting.  I really appreciate you sticking it out to the end and I hope this sparked your interest in ORPG Anime.  Definitely give them a try, at the very least.

Fun little note to leave on.  I made the mistake of selling of my .hack// PS2 games because I never had a chance to play on a PS2 any more.  Now that I have one again, I have been trying to recollect them.  I was able to get .hack//INFECTION (game one) for a Yu-Gi-Oh! card (Yes.  One card.).  So I have been trying to get the other 3 from the first series and the 3 from generation two.  However, as I sat down to finish this post up, I popped in .hack//SIGN vol. 1: Log In, and what did I find sitting next to it?  .hack//QUARENTINE, the fourth game!  Week = Made!

Ok.  I'm logging out for the day.  Catch you at ΔHidden, Forbidden, Holy Ground!

*All images used are from simple Google searches of the series.  Credit goes to original posters of the image.

No comments:

Post a Comment