I can’t even count the number of times the “.hack” series was recommended to me, but I just never picked it up. I’m not a huge fan of video-game adaptations or video-game themed manga, and so I wasn’t really sold on the premise. I don’t play MMORPGs so I really didn’t want to read about them. My loss, as it turns out.
The “Complete Collection” edition of the series “.hack//Legends of the Twilight” seemed like a good way to try out the series that I had had heard so much about. It was fantastic! I was sucked into the .hack world right away, and never really made my escape until the last page was turned.
This series, “Legends of the Twilight,” takes place following the .hacks//Games series of Playstation 2 games. Two twins, Shugo and Rena, have won “chibi” limited edition characters models of the legendary “.hacker” characters Kite and Blackrose. Rena, as Blackrose, is keen to use the prize characters although Shugo is a bit more reluctant to assume the role of Kite, feeling he has grown too old for video games. Once inside The World (the name for the 3D computer environment where the game takes place), however, Shugo finds himself enjoying the role of hero. What’s more, Shugo has made contact with a beautiful girl named Aura who gives Shugo the rare Twilight Bracelet along with his first kiss.
Once inside the game, Shugo and Rena find themselves attracting an adventuring party with Mireille, a young girl interested in hunting rare items, Ouka, a shape-shifting and busty gal who wants to become a strong fighter, and Hotaru, a gentle foreign girl playing the Japanese server of The World in order to study Japanese and befriend the digital animals. Shugo’s position of the illegal Twilight Bracelet and his contact with the AI Aura has also attracted the attention of the The World’s Site Administrators, and the group finds themselves being hunted by Balmung and Kamui, the leader of the Cobalt Knights. Both Balmung and Kamui were once players like Shugo and Rena, but have since been hired by The World’s owners C.C. Corporation.
Even without its connection to MMORPG, “.hack//Legends of the Twilight” is just a sprawling, old fashioned fantasy series of the highest quality. The storyline is deeper than one would imagine, as connections to the legendary “.hackers” are revealed amongst the players, and love and betrayal lurk around every corner. I liked coming into the series in this collection, because it had that Star Wars quality of being connected to a bigger world than what you saw on the page. I wanted to go deeper and know more about the characters, largely because of the tantalizing hints and glimpses I was shown.
The art in “.hack//Legend of the Twilight” is really stunning, with some of the best character designs I have seen. Artist Idumi Rei (Hibiki’s Magic) has that perfect balance of sexy/cute and draws both Shugo and Rena’s “chibi” characters just as well as the more grown-up character models like Ouka, Balmung and Kamui. Aside from the characters, there are a few big splash pages of The World that are just beautiful.
This “Complete Collection” really is complete. Aside from the three volumes of “Legends of the Twilight” that were originally published separately, there are color pages of the characters that look like promotional artwork, and a few back-up stories including Shuga and Rena doing a series of advertisements for a new comic, “Shank the Rate Story.” One of my favorite extras was a pencil drawing in the back of all the “.hack//Legends of the Twilight” characters as they appear in “real life” as opposed to their character models in The World. I kind of wish there had been a character key with the picture, as it is sometimes difficult to tell who is who, but it makes for a fun little bonus.
This collection is bigger than your standard manga, not just in length of story but also in physical size. It isn’t too huge, but is about an inch bigger lengthwise and in width. I assume they did this because of the binding requirements to hold together the three volumes, but it is nice to get the larger artwork as well.