When I first saw reviews of this OVA series I passed them by since I’ve never seen any of the other .hack series (been interested in them for years but there are so many installments over multiple forms of media that I’m confused about which series I need to see/are good versus some, if any, I need to avoid). But a livestream I sometimes frequent was showing the first episode one night and I found that it didn’t matter that I hadn’t seen the previous series or wasn’t really a gamer, it was fun and I made sure to snap up the other two episodes when they came out.
Summary: The latest story in the .hack universe, Asumi loves to play The World with her two friends, Iori and Eri, where they spend a lot of time just playing for fun. But after one night when Asumi accidentally triggers some traps on other players who are fighting a boss she finds herself on the run from other players who want to capture her and the bounty on her head. During the chase she runs into another player, Hermit (the cat) and the two of them end up in a strange part of The World where PK'd players don't revive but instead fall into mysterious comas that the authorities seem to be trying to cover up.
The Good: This series is very accessible to people who aren’t unfamiliar with the franchise or even big gamers. The World is presented as a simple MMORPG so the anime doesn’t have to spend much time explaining the situation (it does a lot of show don’t tell, like it shows that the characters are using headsets instead of having the characters awkwardly work in exposition) and simply lets the characters take it away. The story fits neatly within three episodes and can either serve as a nice prologue to a full length tv series (which, judging from the sequel hook this seems to be the hope) or stand on it’s own.
The Bad: In the end the villain is an unsatisfying one (never mind hints that there might be an even greater big bad lurking out there) and the fact that Asumi didn't know who it was when everyone else seemed to was very frustrating. The story also has a sequel hook which, if it goes unrealized will also make the ending frustrating, this felt like a chapter in a story being completed, not the entire story.
The Art: The art looks great throughout so no problems here. If The World looks a bit more colorful than the real world and if there are a few conspicuous CGI shots as well it's easy to reason that, since The World is a video game, this actually makes perfect sense.
The Music: The OVAs don't have an opening song (each episode goes straight from the title screen to the action) but it does have a j-pop ballad for the closer, "shizuku." Not the most memorable ballad but it does it's job and certainly doesn't sound like a mismatch for the show.
After watching this I really want to watch more .hack shows so I have to ask, does anyone know of a good series of reviews that could give me some background information? It seems like the first series is just old enough that a lot of anime review blogs don't cover it, plus Netflix doesn't have the DVDs (since this got a US release by Bandia it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that it's not legally streaming anywhere, gah) so any help someone could give me would be much appreciated!