.hack//Legend of the Twilight Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

.hack//Legend of the Twilight Complete Collection Anime DVD Review The system protects itself.

What They Say:
Twins Rena and Shugo endured a painful separation after their parents’ divorce. When they both win avatars in a contest, they reunite in The World as BlackRose and Kite. After a frightening encounter leaves Rena in a coma, Shugo must unlock the secrets of the Twilight Bracelet and rescue his sister before it’s too late!

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release comes with the original Japanese language track as well as the previously created English language dub, both of which are encoded at 192kbps. The series is one that has its moments of action to be sure, but they’re brief and punctuated events. The majority of the series is dialogue based, though the quiet incidental music moments gives it a run for its money. That’s not exactly a bad thing as the music here certainly is a strong part of the shows appeal and it comes across well through the forward soundstage. It has a good, warm feeling to it overall and it’s matched by the dialogue side of it. There’s not a lot of real emphasis to be had here as it’s a kind of flat series of performances overall, mandated by the story, but it comes across clean and clear with both tracks. The mix is one that does create a certain atmosphere and it hits the right notes, but outside of the music itself there’s not much memorable here.

Video:
Originally airing in 2003, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs with a seven/five format with the extras on the second disc. Animated by Bee Train, the show at the time certainly established a look and color tone that drew fans in and the detail to the backgrounds and settings is still very much there. The transfer here captures the look of the show pretty well, though the flaws are a bit more apparent now. Colors are generally solid, though there are gradients to be had at times with some of the backgrounds. The show works the grainy digital feeling fairly well, but again there’s a visible element to it in many scenes, though not anywhere near to the point of distraction. The smoothness of the animation works well and without any cross coloration to be had here, it’s a solid little package overall, though one that does leave you wishing for a high definition version just to see if it could possibly pop more.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized clear DVD case that holds the two discs with one on a hinge and one against the back wall. We also get an o-card for it that replicates the artwork on the case itself which gives it a little more pop. The front of it keeps the logo to the top of the design in a minimal kind of way that works, while the rest is given over to the character artwork with Shugo and Rena together looking all bright and bubbly in a very drastic difference from the first series. With it all done with shades of pink and orange with some zip tone to add a little more variety to it, it stands out pretty well as its own show. The back cover carries these colors around in a bit better of a way where we get a selection of shots from the show along the left. The right side brings us the logo again and a clean look at the extras as well as a solid and straightforward breakdown of the premise. The rest is given over to the minimal technical grid and the production credits. With the case mirroring the card, we also get artwork on the reverse side where the left has a great look at some of the characters with the disc breakdown of episodes and titles while the right side has another grouping that makes it worth reversing so you have something different to look at when you slide it out of the o-card.

Menu:
The menu design for this release is very simple and straightforward as we get the same static screen across both volumes with just the volume number changing. The main layout has a decent image of Shugo in a semi-action pose about him as he reaches out towards the viewer. There’s a brightness to his design that’s spot on, especially set against the pinkish-orange background and the lightness of the logo itself. The navigation is through the center with the standard selections along with the logo, which is quick to load and easy to access with no problems to be had at all. I would have preferred to have different artwork with each disc, but it’s a decent enough design to use across all of them.

Extras:
The extras for this release are kept simple with just the clean opening and closing sequences as well as a brief two minute video of various character designs.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the success of the first season of the series and the games itself, it was no surprise that more was coming for the .hack franchise. Legend of the Twilight is one that definitely charts its own course to a degree, but plays to familiar aspects of the first (and third) season with what it does. That’s both a positive and a negative overall. The biggest positive that the show has is that it’s only twelve episodes, so it works with a compressed storyline that avoids the overly drawn out aspects of the other seasons. And it’s surprising just how much of a difference it makes, because this series feels like things matter, people do things and the characters interact with each other regularly. It shouldn’t be striking, but watching it after watching the first and third seasons first, it’s definitely noticeable.

The series takes place in the next iteration of The World, following the events of the games, and we’re introduced to the brother and sister pair of Shugo and Rena. Seeing them in the real world first, at least from behind, we learn that the siblings have been separated due to their parents separation and they’re finding a way to communicate within the game. Both of them have “lucked out” By winning a special character competition, so they get to take on the roles of Kite and BlackRose respectively. These are key characters in a recent event within the game, so nobody is is using these largely retired character designs, which means they stand out in general and draw attention. While Shugo’s mostly a newbie at this, he’s played games before and can figure things out. Rena’s a bit ahead of him though, having played before he got on and spending some time leveling up herself without him after the series gets rolling.

As one might guess, we’re introduced to a decent range of supporting characters that personalizes The World for them, such as the wavemaster Mireille that wants to collect rare items, another wavemaster named Hotaru who spends her time caring for a Grunty, and a werewolf character known as Ohka. While this firms up the group that comes together, they get help from time to time from Balmung, a player-administrator within the game that does his best to make sure players are obeying the rules but having fun. He has his own little supporting cast that comes into play as well, including another administrator that wants to take over as part of the Cerulean Knights in order to establish true order, which includes bannings and player deletions for even the most minor of offenses. It’s over the top and hard to imagine surviving long under the CC Corp, those faceless owners that never seem to really get involved.

The first half of the series works well in establishing the cast and having fun with a few quests and setting up various potential relationship entanglements, including the always awkward and uncomfortable brother/sister thing as Rena wants to get closer to Shugo. Initially you might think that it’s about her just reconnecting with her brother after the separation, but it goes into bad territory not long afterwards, eliminating any hopes for something mildly realistic in that area. There’s a solid supporting cast that comes into play and the show has a lot of fun with the various events that they play, the games of it all and the lived in feeling that The World offers this time in comparison to the other iterations of it. There’s also some seeding of the larger issues that will come into focus in the second half, revolving around the darker elements of the game from the fringe side.

And that’s one that impacts Rena, as she gets caught up in the Wandering AI that resides in the system that’s trying to understand what real death is compared to the game deaths and their lack of permanence. That has Rena being kidnapped and saved into another space by Aura, providing another connection to the first season/games, and allows Shugo to take on the hero role by leveling up and trying to figure out what to do. He’s gifted with a deus ex machina weapon along the way with a bracelet from Aura that allows him to do a Data Drain spell, thereby reducing enemies to nothing with no way to defend against it, but it’s thankfully used sparingly. What we get is that Shugo has to work with everyone else to figure out what to do, gain more information and realize that they’re fighting a larger fight. One that has The World at stake since the Wandering AI could destroy it all, but also because those that she’s capturing and doling out her death to are putting people into comas. Add in a group of elementary school students that are playing and being manipulated by the Wandering AI into causing more chaos, and it’s a good mix of material that keeps the show moving.

And that’s one of the big pluses of the show. With its reduced episode count, everything feels like it counts here. Even when we get a silly hot spring sequence for a bit, because it helps to bring the cast together since they’re all getting to know each other. There’s a significant lack of panning sequences throughout or dramatic pauses, which has it feeling like we’re always moving forward and something is happening, particularly since there’s a couple of groups involved with their own agendas, so it’s not all about the Shugo show. The story itself is certainly familiar enough, but with it actively using some things from the outside as well, weighting it down properly with Rena and Shugo being related and starting with him on the outside, it has enough differences to make you feel more connected to the characters. And I really do like the characters here, even if the supporting cast is largely superficial.

One of the other things that I like that they do here is to soften things up more in terms of the designs of the characters. While we do still get a number of the appealing backgrounds for it and the overall set design, it takes place in busier areas in the city more often and in some events and that gives it a livelier feeling that we’ve gotten before. There’s also a greater sense of enjoyment coming from it as you see the characters actually playing the game through these events and having fun with it, which is a huge change compared to the first and third seasons. There are more sillier situations because of this, but it’s also something that’s part and parcel with these kinds of games, because fun is an important part of it. Besides, having more Grunty scenes is a huge plus.

In Summary:
.hack//Legend of the Twilight is a series that is different from the other seasons and in a way it feels like the most accessible to me. I liked the first series for what it did and what introduced, but I had a lot of problems with the execution of it and the poor representation of actually playing these kinds of games and the lack of understanding the characters from the outside in. Here, we get a bit more of that with at least the two leads, and the other characters feel more realized in the game and in what they’re doing in their roles, such as players and administrators. The overall plot is familiar enough as it works with the AI aspect of the game that’s lurking about, but it changes it up enough to keep it interesting, especially since it’s being dealt with within a twelve episode run. Definitely a good bit of fun and a series that breaks some of the chains that have weighed down the other series in the franchise. Of course, you do get a lot more out of it if you play the games, which I haven’t, but this one still feels the most accessible.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles,Textless Opening and Closing, Promo Videos, TV Spots, DVD Release Announcements

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: April 7th, 2015
MSRP: $39.99
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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