The “Mad Magazine” for the .hack// Universe
You know those little comedy strips that artists sometimes include in their comics? Those little four-panel gags that appear in-between chapters or as filler at the end of a book? “.hack//4koma,” is basically an entire comic filled with those little bits of filler.
“4koma” is Japanese short-hand for “four-panel comics,” following a standard top-to-bottom structure that fits two comic strips on a page. These 4koma originally appeared as back-up material in “.hack//G.U. The World” magazine and have been collected together for this volume.
Because this is all gags and jokes here, there is no story or plot or anything like that other than a mixing of the characters of the first (.hack Collection (Part 1: Infection, Part 2: Mutation, Part 3: Outbreak, Part 4: Quarantine))) and second (.hack//Roots, .hack: G.U.)series of the “.hack//” video game series. Many of the comic strips focus on a rivalry between the characters of those games, like Kite and Haseo fighting over who is the hero of the series and Black Rose and Atoli just fighting in general. Aside from the 4koma, there are two longer series done in somewhat standard format. One, “Peaco’s Story,” has Atoli signing on as a new character in order to win over Haseo, and the other “Gaspard’s Go Go the World,” is a series of strips featuring Gaspard’s introduction to The World and his meeting with Silabus (.hack//Alcor). There are also some “.hack//G.U. Play Reports” in the back giving several characters opinions on the game.
“.hack//4koma” is only going to appeal to real hard-core “.hack//” fans. If you haven’t read every series, played every game and memorized every character profile, much of the humor is just going to fall flat. Pretty much everything here is an inside joke of some sort and won’t make much sense to the less than dedicated fan.
On top of that, humor is something particularly difficult to translate. Much of Japanese humor relies on play-on-words and puns that just aren’t funny when put into English, or utilize some cultural clue or timing that doesn’t work very well outside of that culture. Although translator Ryan Peterson does his best here, but to be perfectly honest there wasn’t a lot in “.hack//4koma” that made me laugh.