I don’t like repeating myself, so it would be wise to first read my SIGN review before starting with this one. It is part of the same world and should normally be watched after the main series.
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 4/10
Analysis: Art 1/1, Sound 0/2, Story 1/3, Characters 2/4
The plot is still all talking but there is a bit of fighting this time. Nothing major to look at though, I still watched most of it at X8 speed, without missing anything. In all, the dialogues were less interesting but there was some action at times to balance it and maintain my enjoyment in the same levels.
ART SECTION: 7/10
Analysis: General Artwork 2/2, Character Figures 1/2, Backgrounds 2/2, Animation 1/2, Visual Effects 1/2
Same quality as in SIGN. They added more cool tattoos and more variety in clothes but all that were not enough to make me consider the result as superior.
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Analysis: Voice Acting 3/3, Music Themes 2/4, Sound Effects 2/3
The music themes are nothing compared to the awesome ones in SIGN but are overall still good pieces. I only found Going Merry to be memorable; all the rest kinda fade away fast. Voice acting and sound effects are still great as before.
CHARACTER SECTION: 3/10
Analysis: Presence 1/2, Personality 1/2, Backdrop 1/2, Development 0/2, Catharsis 0/2
- Haseo is the protagonist. He is an antisocial in real life and is quickly targeted by Player Killers in the game, which makes him feel uncomfortable even in the virtual reality. But as the story goes on (in a very slow pace as ever), other Players treat him as special and gets overconfident as his virus/Key Of Twilight powers turn him into a cocky power player. He, like everyone else in the series, is looking for the Key, which presumably is in possession of another Player Killer. When that PK throws a friend of his into coma, his mission gets personal and an entertaining game turns into a violent vendetta.
- The main character is not even close as interesting as Tsukasa. He, like the previous one, is a bit interesting because he has trouble trusting others. But beyond that there are no secrets in his past, has no real importance in the world of the setting and doesn’t change at all throughout the series… No wait, actually he does change. He slowly gets insane with power and revenge. But regrets it in the end (just because someone defeated him) and goes back to square 1… as if nothing happened. Great development there you guys; everything resets like nothing happened.
- This guy turns in one of those shallow heavy-dudes in American action movies. He gets cocky, powerful, revenge is his purpose in life, and everything has to be solved through violence. Jesus, the only thing that was missing was him, kissing a gorgeous girl in the last scene, as the police vehicles arrive to find all the bad guys dead. When not acting like an American action hero, he had some depth. But if you ask me, I say “Bring Tsukasa back you bastards! This one is an ass.” No really, Tsukasa was a likable wimp; this one is a jerk.
- Besides Haseo, all others are there for flavor, as they were in SIGN. Only here they are far less interesting, mostly because they were acting like greedy thieves after the Key and cocky murderers towards weaker players. I found them bad mannered and boring, besides already being cardboards and boring. That small beaver on the bridge was annoying, even after the event of his player’s “departure”. And not to forget to mention that cat girl. I want to strangle all that silly and childish acting of hers! So, she is naïve, has inferiority complex and loves Haseo. WHO CARES?! What does such a ridiculous character doing in a serious series like this? Man, going darker on the cast without making them sympathetic to the viewer is such a drag!
STORY SECTION: 4/10
Analysis: Premise 2/2, Pacing 0/2, Complexity 1/2, Plausibility 1/2, Conclusion 0/2
- A few years after the events of SIGN, a fire destroys the mainframe of THE WORLD and the game ends there. The producers simply create THE WORLD 2 and the game continues, like nothing happened. But still, the same events are repeating in here as well, as many are still falling into coma. The Key of the Twilight, the forbidden artifact of SIGN that can alter the very programming of the game and effectively make anything possible, is present here as well and still causes people to permanently lose consciousness. The producers of the game still manage to keep this secret and still order programmers and moderators to secretly “fix” any problems this game has as well. Also, players that use characters possessing bits of the virus codes of SIGN are looking for The Key.
- But the story is more about Haseo’s obsession to get the PK that hurt his friend, rather than finding it for himself. Once again, the series focuses on the main character and leaves aside the whole plot of world threat. Enter Haseo, a character whose player is antisocial, becoming more confident (not social) with every new level he gets and turning against players that hunt / mock / exploit him in order to find a vicious PC. In the end, this bad guy defeats him (thus deviating from those awful American action movies), drops him back to level 1 and his guild master makes him understand his mistake.
- The ending is open again, as you are supposed to play the .hack Playstation 2 game trilogy and watch .hack//G.U. Returner and .hack//G. U. Trilogy to get the full picture. But those are just more marketing tricks to rob you of your money, as they were in SIGN.
- The story suffers, big time. First of all, they killed of all previous settings and characters and left only cameo appearances of them. With the first game destroyed, it’s as if all the characters, AI and struggles done there were for naught! Tsukasa, Mimiru, Aura, Morgana and the rest are as good as dead. I am furious! Then, the scriptwriters add the same fuss of the first series to this one as well. How can The Key and the viruses still exist if the game was made anew? No originality or reasoning here, whatsoever. Perhaps there will be more to it after further games and specials have been made (there goes our wallet!). But until then, I will be considering the story to be as interesting as watching grass grow.
VALUE SECTION: 1/10
Analysis: Historical Value 0/3, Rewatchability 0/3, Memorability 1/4
The story of SIGN was awesome; but in ROOTS there is nothing to look at. It feels as nothing but a cheap rehash of SIGN with far less context and interest.
There is no place like. hack//SIGN, there is no place like .hack//SIGN, there is no place like .hack//SIGN (clap the heels).
What I Liked: Great character designs. Andrew Francis does a good job as the aloof teenager Haseo. Phyllo. Saburou. Tawaraya / Tohta. World design is just as good as the previous .hack installments.
What I Didn't: Soundtrack is a messy jumble of different genres (that occasionally take from famous compositions), and seems to mostly consist of vocal tracks that may end up distracting viewers from the dialogue. Pacing's as slow as snails and the plot feels like it meanders around between two major events. The character animation wasn't strong enough for the dialogue. On a whole, there's enough crappy animation in this series to warrant a "Awkward .hack Photos" blog - most of the time it borders on the barely passable, but the rest of the time it outright sucks. The whole "Haseo betraying the guild when it was really Sakisaka" thing was poorly done. The fact that the series is just one massive prelude to the G.U. game trilogy. Phyllo's real-world death / character retirement was handled awfully - from the execution to it being used as an excuse to write in a bit of ham-fisted philosophical navel-gazing.
Final Verdict: If you were expecting a series with as much interest and depth as .hack//SIGN, then I implore you to look elsewhere. With a plot that stalls for time through most of its 26-episode run and animation that makes the worst of .hack//SIGN look good, .hack//Roots plays out as a painful and uninspired promotion for the G.U. games. The characters are dull and lifeless, The World R:2 isn't as engaging as its predecessor and the soundtrack leaves a lot to be desired.