The beginning of the end of .hack
So this is how it ends huh? The long-lasting and ultra-popular “.hack//” finally comes to an end with the release of the final series, “.hack//link” (Japanese title “.hack//LINK Tasogare no Kishidan” or “hack//LINK Twilight Knights.”) Whether or not there will be any further releases only time will tell, but the official word is that the .hack universe comes to a close here.
Is the series closing with a whimper or a bang? Honestly, it is too soon to tell with the release of this first volume. There is potential for a cool story here, but also a potential for lameness. They are already steering towards disaster by lumping in every character that has appeared in the past series. It is nice to see old friends again, but it takes a talented writer to pull that off. Especially seeing as how all of those legendary names of yore are merely window dressing to the main story.
The adventure begins in the year 2020, and The World has been offline for two years following the events of .hack// G.U.. Gamer Tokio Kuryuu has been contenting himself with lesser games, saving his money in anticipation of the release of The World R:X, the re-booting of the most popular MMORG of all time. For all his skills at games, however, Tokio isn’t too smart as he didn’t anticipate R:X getting sold out on opening day. The day is saved by the arrival of Saika Amagi, a transfer student to Tokio’s school who not only coincidently looks just like the princess Tokio dreams of every night, but also has a special copy of The World R:X. She gives the game to Tokio, who is bodily sucked into The World and thrust instantly in the middle of a fight between the monocled Fluegel and the legendary leader of the Twilight Knights, Kite.
Tokio finds that he is no normal Player in The World. First off, he is physically in the computer simulation, able to feel and interact in a way no one else can. Secondly, Saika Amagi manifests in The World as well, and Tokio finds that far from being the hero in his own story, he is just a pawn to Saika’s whims.
Tokio is pitted against a group known as Schicksal, an 8-member team of powerful players each with their own specialty. They are seeking the Chrono Cores held by the main heroes from previous .hack series, and it is up to Tokio to get in their way. When Kite is taken out of the way, the Schicksal next attack Tsukasa (Hack//Sign) and then in turn Haseo the Terror of Death .hack//Roots). Both Tsukasa and Haseo have been returned to their original, sullen and violent selves, as it is revealed that possession of the Chrono Core slowly eats away at your memories.
I am not really sold on Tokio as a protagonist. If this was just a little side adventure he might be alright, but if this series is truly the final entry in the .hack universe then I want someone a bit cooler. Tokio is pretty much a standard-issue “scrappy kid.” His character design is ridiculous, with giant spiky red hair that looks fine in The World but not so much when he is at school. We are told is incredible at video games but we don’t every really get to see his skill as he pretty much gets smacked around in The World R:X.
Not much is known about Saika at the end of volume one, other than that she has some power over The World and appears to possess a magic skirt whose main attribute is to fly up and show her fan service in every single appearance. A pin-up of Saika at the end of the book by animator Kazuhiro Takamura carries the tag-line “No shame in panties!” and that pretty much sums up Saika’s role in the story.
The Schicksal are an interesting bunch with great character designs who I am looking forward to hearing more about. Anyone who can take out Kite in only a few pages is not someone to be messed with. The character Geist has probably the coolest design in the book, and I hope his character lives up to the design.
Having Tokio bodily enter The World is an interesting concept that I wonder how it will work out. One of the things I enjoyed about .hack was how they were playing a game, and the few glimpses we got of the “real lives” of the characters added depth to an otherwise stereotypical fantasy story. In “.hack//link”, there is just The Wold, unless Tokio finds his way out