Thoughts After Re-watching .hack//Sign and Liminality

The first anime that I really watched and really got into was almost certainly “.hack//Sign” and “.hack//Liminality”. Well, I might have watched “Sailor Moon” and “Yu-Gi-Oh” first, but in general I thought of those as cartoons rather than as anime, and really didn’t realize or understand what anime was at the time. Sign and Liminality, on the the other hand, were clearly anime. And while I still don’t really watch a lot of anime, it was them that made me realize that such things existed and were worth watching.

How did I get into them? Well, the “.hack” games came out on the PS2, which I owned at the time, and as a JRPG fan I found the premise and gameplay interesting enough to give it a try. The games came with Liminality, and since I had them anyway I might as well have started watching them. And I enjoyed them, which is what I think gave me the push to give Sign a try. And I really enjoyed Sign.

The key here is that the plot of Liminality and Sign is not exactly interesting. I mean, it’s a fleshing out of a plot for a JRPG that wouldn’t be nominated as one of the best plots ever made for a JRPG. The premise of something going on in an MMO-world that was impacting people in the real world was different, but there’s not that much that you can do with that plot-wise. And Liminality and Sign, to their credit, didn’t try. Instead, they both focus on characters and character interactions, with the plot being little more than a big picture that has a major impact on the lives of the main characters, Liminality in the outside world, and Sign in the MMO-world.

And that’s what grabbed me about the series, and grabbed me this time, too. While this time Tsukasa annoyed far more than I think he did the previous time I watched it, and BT’s duplicity also grated more, Subaru and Bear and Mimiru were as intriguing as ever, and I found a new appreciation for Crim. In Liminality, while Yuki really annoyed me I really liked Mai and Tokuoka, and so was willing to sit there and watch them do various things in an attempt to make things better.

This time through, the last disk of Sign was a bit of a slog to get through, which also happens to be the point where they move from characterization to having to rapidly advance the plot. I preferred the general character interactions, and loved the callbacks to previous character moments, like BT echoing Bear’s “I’m gentle, but not a pushover” line from, I think, the first episode later in the series. I didn’t feel that way about Liminality … but then that one was only four episodes long, so the last episode still had character moments and enough plot to keeo things going.

I managed to get through three of the four games in the series and had started the fourth, and mused about playing it again recently. But, all in all, I think the animes worked better. But maybe I’ll play it again and change my mind.

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