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".hack//SIGN" Ends in an Explosive Finale

Those who followed the intricate and dramatic .hack//SIGN on Cartoon Network last year were treated to a rich plot based on a massive multi-player online RPG (MMORPG). It’s a franchise that that went on to become a series of games for the Playstation 2, a manga, and a separate series: .hack//Legend of the Twilight Bracelet, also known as .hack//DUSK. This DVD is the first key link between the various media.

.hack//SIGNThings are getting more serious in The World. Tsukasa is still unsure of his/herself, Subaru still has doubts about her own self-worth, Maha struggles to stay loyal to Morgana instead of joining with Tsukasa, and Aura’s condition is growing worse. Bear, Mimiru, Crim, and Silver Knight join with Tsukasa and Subaru to take on the creator of all the bad things that have been happening these past few months: Morgana. But how can you fight something that is, by its very nature, godlike? What will happen when Aura awakens? And just exactly what is Sora planning?

For those who liked previous episodes of .hack//SIGN, this is the disc you’ve been waiting for. Not only does the story move along at a rapid pace, it introduces several story twists that show the characters have been acting on bad assumptions. And for those who thought previous episodes were boring (all talk and no action), you’ll be happy to know these final three episodes contain plenty of action: the gang ward off not only two Guardians, they also fight a mysterious new baddie that seems to infect whatever system it happens to come across. It also features plenty of sly trickery as Morgana tries to make Tsukasa, Mimiru, and Subaru hate each other. Unfortunately, if you have no access to the PS2 games (like me), the ending will make you steamed, as it offers only one real conclusion but about ten loose ends.

Audio and video quality are pristine. Since //SIGN was made using digital animation, transferring it to DVD was easy. Thankfully, there aren’t any interlacing errors or jumping colors, and the audio is crystal clear. Best of all, it’s in beautiful widescreen, just like it was on Cartoon Network. Both the English and Japanese language tracks are very nice, giving the various characters specific nuances that either lend characters authority or bring out their inner being. That the English dub is good should come as no surprise: these are the same English VAs who dubbed such series as Witch Hunter Robin, Rurouni Kenshin, and The Big O.

Besides the three standard episodes, this disc comes with two bonus episodes, and if you buy the Limited Edition (for $35) you get a third bonus episode. The first bonus, “Intermezzo,” features a story from Mimiru’s early days, before she met Bear and Tsukasa, when she met her mentor, a very unique player of extremely high power. “Evidence” is the now-infamous “clip show” that, by holding up a powerful cliffhanger while basically recapitulating the previous episode with some extra clips spliced in, infuriated the fan base when it ran on Cartoon Network. “Unison” is the bonus available only on the Limited Edition, and it is basically a wrap-up of both .hack//SIGN and the .hack PS2 games as it features the main cast from both series coming together to celebrate. It also wraps up a minor subplot, sets up a possible sequel, and features something very scary: Silver Knight, Tsukasa, and Sora doing a Monkey dance. If you’ve been through all of the series and games, you’ll no doubt be pleased by this episode. If, however, you haven’t even touched the games, this episode will mean slightly less to you. Still, any .hack fan can enjoy the bonus episodes. Supposedly there’s also an “Isolated Score Audio Track” available, but I can’t really find it. Maybe you need a DVD Audio Player to get it?

Overall, if you really like .hack//SIGN, this is the DVD to get. Even without playing the games, this disc is still highly enjoyable, and it even has a pretty good amount of action in it, making this particular release well worth the money.

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