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125 minutes
English Subtitles

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I've been playing too many videogames recently. I personally blame the recently released Hack : Infection for PS2. That one fateful day I picked up the demo disc while trying to avoid the lustful gazes of Electronics Boutique eager to get me into a discussion over which comic book character was stronger. "Sorry, I don't read comics." I informed them before high tailing it for the door. But it was too late by that point, I was already done. No, not by the suicide inducing tones of Tweedledee and Tweedledumbass, but by the paper sheathed DVD I carried back to my dorm room that night. Since then, I've started some sort of disgusting video game Renaissance that I find myself powerless to escape. In regards to that, if you play video games at ALL pick up Dark Cloud 2. It's the best game ever made.

And I do still remember the first inkling I was given of this show, and the game that later followed. Otakon '02. Like a willful siren she clings to my thoughts one more occasions than I'd care to admit and steadily draws me back. The Bandai panel, I remember. Jerry Chu's nonchalant dismissal of his "fan club" and their T-shirt with a casual "I'm not going to wear this," still warms the very cockles of my heart to this day. And further buried in the lock box of my psyche is his short comments on Hack//Sign and nothing from then to now except a glimpse at the videogame in a store. Then, my interest in the show was kind of shattered. The game did not look very fun and so the anime must've been some sort of cheezy fantasy crap when I was expecting more of a cyberpunk fare.

But I was wrong.

As I'm sure everyone on the planet but me knew, Hack is the story of a game within a game. Or more appropriately, a game within an anime. The story is told through the character's characters relationships with other characters in an online Role Playing Games something along the lines of today's Everquest but much bigger and not nearly as socially stigmatized. And real girls actually play it, not just weird guys pretending to be girls trying to have cybersex with other weird guys pretending to be girls, which I imagine is what Everquest is all about. My experiences with online Role Playing Games is somewhat scant because of my hatred of playing games with anyone I don't know in person. However, as I understand it from my brief year or two stint with a text based one, these people should spend less time talking to each other and more time saying "U STOLED MY KILL?!! Yu FAGoT!" and asking for "Rezzies" or something of the like. I don't know, maybe the FCC was all over Bandai on this piece.

The story centers around Tsukasa and his giant testicle shaped guardian, but only in so much as he's a plot device that drives the characters forward to figure out just what the hell is wrong with him. Seems the strange little wizard fellow can't log out of the game because he's not at a terminal. The supporting cast is at a loss, equally inclined to believe that he's just some jerkoff fourteen year old looking to cause trouble as they are to think his cockamamie story is actually the Real McCoy.

Whatever. Either way Tsukasa is gradually starting to cause more and more trouble in "The World", as the game is called. He's been running away and killing the moderators whenever they try and question him about his association with a strange "hAx0r" who was able to change their character model into that of a cat-person. It's gone so far as one of the moderators was found unconscious in the real world after their character was slain in the game. If you don't think that's Real Ultimate video game Power then you better get a life right now or Tsukasa will ninja kick you right through your computer screen! If nothing else, Tsukasa is doing a bit of 1337 hAx0ring of his own.

The show had a low budget, or their animators were incredibly lazy, this much I can tell you. There's tons of repeated animation, the broad shots are about as undetailed as one can managed nowadays and there's more close ups than in your bootleg copy of "Buttfuckers IX : Big Blackie's Revenge". All the same, the show is not without its aesthetic qualities. Flashbacks are show in a sepiatone while the scant time spent in the real world is almost completely monochrome. If I was a betting man this is used to give us an idea that the people use "The World" as an escape from reality and as such, see the real world in a much blander sense. Judging by our time's own Everquest fanatics, I might not be entirely far from the truth. It's very beneficial to the show that it spends as little time in the real world as possible, as I don't think any audience would be very captivated by a bunch of greasy teenagers eating cheetos and guzzling Jolt cola while staying up until the sun rises so their character can collect the "Seventh seal" or whatever else the moderators have decided is going to be worth eleven billion bonus points this quarter.

(Must every anime surrender to the lure of tentacle rape at some point?)

Conversely, Bandai spared no expense on bringing the show and its accompanying series of games to English speaking shores. The production values given to the DVD release are more evident than tract marks on a heroin junkie. The video and audio are absolutely perfect, save for the fact that the BGM is often equally as loud as the character's voices. The limited edition boxed set that comes with the disc is a literal plunge into extravagance. A little stuffed pig, a reasonably well put together soundtrack, T-shirt, stickers (to appease the Skabla in your life) for only ten or fifteen bucks more than you'd pay for the disc itself. For whatever Filipino reason, Jerry sold me his for $25. From what he tells me these things are going like hot cakes on eBay and he won't be without one (or five) for very long. Though I doubt he intends to hold onto the majority of them. In their stead he'll be supplying himself with the "Shabu" from his native shores he's missed for so long. You might be more familiar with it as Crystal Meth.

I'll be straight with you. I think I like the presentation of the show more than the show itself. Hackabsolutely refuses to pander to anyone in any way, to the extent where even the chick with the giant sword in the tiny bikini doesn't seem like a sexual object. There's more plot than these kind of shows are inclined to give and you'll see no argument on that point from me. It's a series that gives you more than enough meat to think about, but also one that doesn't question your pathetic excuse for genitalia just because you can't figure it out.