Once more we find ourselves with the characters from the .hack World, who are struggling against a game that even in its second iteration still manages to put people in comas, something you think they would have fixed by now. Wrapping up its last series with a feature-length film is a gutsy move, and having seen the final product, one they didn’t think through all the way.
A review copy was provided by FUNimation Entertainment.
The film covers the ending of the .hack//Roots wherein Haseo discovers his Epithet, Skeith, and finally confronts the true Tri-Edge who put Shino in a coma: none other than Ovan. In an attempt to save his sister and all those he loves from the AIDA, Ovan found Haseo, who for some reason in his code that he can use a super-form, to essentially destroy him, which will purify the system…for reasons. Has also meets a player who looks incredibly like Shino, a bullied newbie named Atoli, because we lost a ton of characters to the allure of a less complicated reality than this one at the end.
First off, the entire thing is CGI. Not even the nice, heavily detailed, super clean looking Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children CGI, but the cheap crap that people we used to in poorly made video game cutscenes from 2004. I’m not sure why they suddenly decided to change the style and make it more like the video game series, but I’ll go ahead and say it: it looks terrible and they spent a lot of money on what amounted to nothing of value. The action blurry as hell, the mouth movements are mismatched to the emotion of the words, actions are jittery, there’s no texture to anything including the skin, hair and clothing moves weirdly, facial expressions are all over the place, and for some reason, focuses a lot of close-ups of mouths and feet. It even reanimated the most heartbreaking scene of the show and made it incredibly ugly and uninteresting.
The movie itself has several issues outside of the animation. For one, all the dialogue and voice acting is way over the top, in part because 60% of the dialogue is just screaming and grunting, to the point where it legitimately gets in the way of enjoying the movie. The pacing of the narrative is all over the place since it’s a movie. Events are not explained or well connected, meaning all the scenes feel like separate pieces strong together by the weakest of transitions. The characterization of Haseo is all off — why would he care about this Atoli character when he’s known her for maybe a few days, even if she does look like Shino. All the interesting philosophy has been crammed into uninspired and repetitive platitudes. But the biggest sin of all is that in a movie with such a lack of character development, two of the main characters have a conversation and instead of hearing them speak, we get a sappy ballad.
This movie is a miniature train wreck. It’s more interested in big battles and flashy attacks than it is about the characters, their struggles, and the larger lore that is The World. We still don’t know where Azure Kite came from because who needs to know that when you can see Epithet Users duking it out. There’s a motif of glass cracking and splintering, but that’s never explained either. How do Atoli and Haseo bond so quickly? Unimportant! Let’s instead look at the black bubbles in all their ominous glory, aren’t the scary? It doesn’t even have an excuse that heavy-action shows have bad pacing or are typically poorly balanced because that’s all Dragon Ball Z was and it had none of these problems. Blame it on bad director and a rushed schedule, most likely, which is a real shame when the franchise is known for at least having that aspect down. A lot of the references are made back to the original games, which not having played all of them, meant there were a few parts lost on me, so keep that in mind if you’re a new or anime-only viewer.
In the extras, there’s an excellent feature called Parody Mode, which is a delight. It takes a few scenes from the film and cast alternate dialogue and a few different images here and there, which is a riot. It might have been the only saving grace of the DVD. It doesn’t particularly look any better on a big, higher definition screen. It, in fact, may actually look worse because of how un-detailed it is, so don’t worry about getting a high-def setup for this one. Also as an important bit of information, there’s no English dub for this, only Japanese with or without subtitles.
The designs are still strong, and some of the attacks are even creatively put together. The backgrounds, that are’t floating around in white space, are quite lovely and actually seem to have thought put into them. The sad part is, however, we don’t get to see a lot of them since most of the action happens in generic, mono-colored backgrounds that aren’t particularly interesting to look at. The music was mood-appropriate and generally pretty pleasant to listen to.
I wish I could say that this movie is at least better than .hack//Legend of the Twilight but it’s really not because at least that had a plot. It might wrap up the end of the Roots storyline but in a way that’s all flash and no substance. It felt like someone decided the slower pacing and more philosophical approach was not bringing in enough viewers and thought something more action-packed would be the key. However, there are just not enough answers to big questions to make that the case and it isn’t aesthetically-pleasing enough to exist for purely artistic purposes. A valuable lesson in film making: don’t try to cram in too much in your 90 minute run time.
– Good character design.
– Nice backgrounds.
– Parody Mode is a nice touch.
– Good background music.
– Terrible animation.
– Terrible dialogue with screaming voice actors.
– Questions left about the show.
– Pacing issues abound.
– Poor character development.