.hack//Quantum Review

.hack//Quantum is the newest OVA in the longstanding .hack multimedia project that already spawned three anime series and two OVAs. Some of these were great, others not so great. So how does this new OVA fares in itself, and in comparison to those which came before it?

The year is 2022. Asumi, Eri and Iori are three high school girls who
enjoy playing the online game The World together in their free .hack//Quantum Blu-ray Covertime. They play as Sakuya, Mary and Tobias – three characters who were designed to resemble the original .hackers Kite, BlackRose and Balmung. Every day is full of fun and games until Sakuya befriends a character named Hermit. Following their meeting strange events begin to occur in The World. Strange monsters appear, black balls and mist engulf fields, and people begin to fall into comas while playing. When Eri falls into a coma, Asumi and Iori start investigating the odd circumstances that caused this new network crisis. What they discover are harsh rumors – rumors about a game that isn’t really a game anymore, rumors about a company which hides dark secrets from the public, and rumors about coma victims whose souls become one with The World forever. In their desperate fight against the forces that took their friend from them Asumi and Iori turn to one of the original .hackers for help. But can they stop the culprit and save their friend before The World itself turn against them?

.Hack//Quantum is a fast-paced OVA which is told over the course of three episodes. The OVA in its entirety is only 75 minutes long, shorter than your average movie. Luckily, the fast pace suits Quantum well. Although inevitably short it doesn’t feel rushed and manages to cram a mountain of action into its runtime. In fact, Quantum is more action oriented than any .hack series or OVA that came before it, so those of you who dread long interims filled with talks and still images will not be disappointed. Savvy .hack fans will not be disappointed either, as Quantum is filled to the bream with .hack mythology. During their quest to save Eri, Asumi and friends venture to such places as the Eternal City Mac Anu, the Inverted City Megin Fi and even the fabled Crest Gun. Although Asumi’s character Sakuya and her fellow adventurers look similar to famous .hackers of past lore they are essentially new characters and have distinct personalities. There are, however, at least three characters from early .hack history that appear during the OVA, as well as tons of cameos. You don’t need to know anything about those returning characters though, as the story focus on Asumi and her friends.
The OVA is not restricted to the online game itself and shows some of the players in real life. These real-world ventures usually revolve around Asumi, and are nice breathers that complement her actions in the online game.

Visually .hack//Quantum doesn’t disappoint. This OVA is not .hack’s first venture into HD quality and Quantum uses its 1080p assets to present beautifully drawn backgrounds and detailed environments. The Crest Gun, for example, doesn’t look like just any other cannon. The attention to details that went into it, intertwined with its mammoth scale, will leaves you at a loss for words. In typical MMORPG fashion all the players in The World feature colorful and interesting costumes. Although all the characters receive an equal amount of details in their designs there is a discrepancy when it comes to character animation: the main characters’ animation is fluid and natural while background characters move in a noticeably clunky way. It’s easy to see when the production studio resorted to the use of computer CG, but the CG models usually blend just fine into their respective scenes. The animation and CG scenes could have used a little more polish, but won’t bother you most of the time.

The cover of the OVA proclaims in big white letters that “The World has changed since your last login”. Sadly there are some important aspects that haven’t changed at all, and practically demolish most of the merits .hack//Quantum has. Up until now I haven’t addressed the plot of Quantum, but not much has really changed since the last time we visited The World. Another mysterious phenomenon that cause people to fall into comas? More strange monsters and figures that aren’t supposed to be in the game? Another player who has the power to override the system?
Give me a break. I know this is a .hack product and some tropes are destined to resurface every time, but the overuse of this formula is coming dangerously close to making you hate the OVA, especially if you have been following the franchise up to this point. Of course, even if a trope is repeated several times, if the plot is solid and holds up well enough than the trope can contribute or at least be overlooked. Unfortunately the plot of Quantum is far from being solid, at least as a standalone title. Quantum is a new chapter in the .hack franchise and as such you cannot possibly understand its plot if you haven’t watched, read or played at least some .hack media beforehand. And herein lies the biggest problem of all – Quantum assumes you’ve played the PSP game .hack//Link prior to watching it. Yes, I’m referring to THE .hack//Link – the only .hack game to never be release in English. Failing to have played this game will leave you with an information gap that Quantum won’t bother to fill. Depending on your overall knowledge of .hack terminology you might have a better understanding of what you are seeing despite not playing the game. But if you are new to the franchise Quantum will ultimately leave you confused and unsatisfied. Moreover, Quantum has a lot of elements that are unexplained because Bandai Entertainment chose to leave them unexplained until the next .hack installment. So even if you have played .hack//Link certain aspects of the movie will remain a mystery to you. This is not the first time such a plot gap rears its ugly head in a .hack series, and just like its predecessors Quantum feels like an incomplete story.

The .hack franchise has been known for its superb use of music, and sure enough Quantum has some outstanding background music. However, the music in Quantum isn’t dominant and most of the time is faded out in favor of conversations or sound effects. So while the soundtrack itself is quite nice it can only be faintly heard. For example, I was blown away by one music track I heard while scrolling through the DVD menu, but it was probably used very briefly or maybe gave way to some noisy action scene because I don’t remember every hearing it in the actual OVA.
This release comes with Japanese and English dub tracks, both of which are in 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound. Both the Japanese and English dubs are well executed. The white English subtitles do a good job of translating the Japanese, but uses just a bit too much slang.

The FUNimation release of .hack//Quantum is a combo pack that combines a Blu-ray copy and a DVD copy of the entire OVA. Both are contained within one DVD case covered in an art sleeve. The DVD case has a reversible cover featuring the image previously used for the Japanese limited edition. Although the DVD and the Blu-ray obviously differ in their overall quality they both have the same extras. Quantum’s extras consist of Our Chim Chims!!, Yui Ogura’s specials, promotional videos and varies trailers of the OVA. Our Chim Chims!! is a series of three short comical (but not very funny) videos where Sakuya, Mari and Tobias are depicted as Chim Chims. Yui Ogura’s specials are three long videos which show Ogura Yui (the one who voices Hermit in the Japanese dub) doing stuff which for the most part have nothing to do with the OVA. Although I can’t claim that Quantum doesn’t have any extras they definitely don’t contribute anything to the OVA itself. A short introduction to the history of The World, or at least a recap of the events from .hack//Link, would have complemented the OVA so much more. They definitely would have made it easier for newcomers to appreciate the OVA.

At first glance .hack//Quantum is an entertaining OVA with attractive visuals, nice music and ample action that will keep you fixed to the screen. However, on closer inspection it suffers from a complex plot that will only infuriate viewers who are less than experts on .hack terminology. There certainly are enough depth and potential to The World and its mysteries, but instead of harnessing these traits to create a new fresh experience the OVA relies on old and overused tropes to advance the plot. Sometime in the future .hack//Quantum might prove to be a valuable piece in the overall .hack puzzle. But as a standalone OVA it is just one confusing, yet entertaining, mess.

 


Pros:

- Awe-inspiring backgrounds.

- The most action packed .hack series to date.

 

Cons:

- Complex plot with little explanations given.

- Recycles yet again all the common .hack tropes.

- Targeted at hardcore .hack fans only.

 

Final Score: 6/10 (Bad)

 

 

Product Information: .hack//Quantum: Complete OVA Series (Blu-ray/DVD Combo). Published by FUNimation Entertainment. Release date: February 14, 2012.

Review Equipment: Sharp 40-Inch LCD LED HDTV (LC-40LE810E) connected to a PlayStation 3 using an official Sony HDMI cable for the Blu-ray. Samsung 32-Inch LCD HDTV (LA32B530) connected to a Premier DVX131 DVD player using an HDMI cable for the DVD.


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