When I was in elementary school, I was thirsty for anime. This was a time where anime was still incredibly niche, way more niche than it is now. Whenever an anime series aired on television, I would watch it. Even if I didn’t enjoy it, I would sit my 7 year old bottom down to watch an action series with half naked women and physical violence. I don’t think that I was aware at the time that those things were inappropriate for someone at that age but I digress. One of those weird series that came onto YTV was .hack//sign. I had no idea what was going on in that series. I don’t think anybody knew what that series was about. I remember asking a friend about it and they said: “I don’t know, it’s like an action series, there’s like a weird monster, and a weird person who owns the monster.” Fair enough.
To be fair, what I and many didn’t know – .hack//sign is a series built into a larger franchise of media. Video games, TCG, novels, manga, anime, films – so much lore. The story behind this franchise, is that it’s about an immersive role playing video game called The World and the abnormalities that happen in the game. From players who die in the game, falling into a coma in real life, to a virus that may have shutdown the whole internet stemming from the game, to how the game impacts people in their daily lives and careers – this story is truly something special and is such a ride.
But essentially what you really need to know is that the game has two flagship series. .hack//IMOQ which is a 4 part series (Infection, Mutation, Outbreak, and Quarantine) and .hack//GU – a 3 part series based 4 years after IMOQ. Outside and in between the progression of this story there are novels, anime, manga, and TCG that cover the rest of the lore but the games on PS2 are the real only forms of media you need. BUT you can also find .hack//GU Recode which is the entire GU game in one on PSN and Steam. It’s pretty much a 1:1 port and I played through all of it like I did with the original games on PS2.
But I know that all the different channels of the story can be very polarizing. How is anyone supposed to get into this franchise when they’re only being fed morsels and the morsels don’t make sense unless you get the other morsels. But as a youth, I decided to be curious, not judgmental. I dove into this series head first and discovered that this multimedia universe was filled with interesting characters, expansive artwork, immersive world building – often decorated with the most haunting and epic soundtrack, laced with a certain feeling that can only be explained as mysterious and ethereal. From ages 9-14, I was in love with this franchise and couldn’t find any other medium that could give me the same excitement that this series did.
I would bring the books to school, play the games when I got home, watch the anime when there was a new one, and listen to the soundtrack on the school bus. There was no part of me that didn’t want to belong in that universe. And I understand that nostalgia is the greatest seasoning. I understand that I am heavily biased by good memories of immersing myself in the medium, as well as joining chatrooms that were built around a community of .Hack lovers but that’s just how obsessed I was. One of the communities that I was a part of between ages 10 to 13, has moved from being a chatroom to a Discord server that I am a member of.
And I know it’s daunting to recommend this series, considering that most of the games are from the PS2 generation. But if you were keen to just listen to the soundtrack or watch the story from fan made videos on YouTube that would be a great gateway to get into the series. .hack is long and complex, but I promise you everything in that series is intentional. Everything in that series is meant to play out the way it does, for the purpose of a story that is about people looking for purpose in a world where they get a second chance. If you are interested in .hack, I would love to discuss the series with you, whether you are a new fan or a vet. The series has been discontinued thus far but if we can grow a fanbase – there’s no reason for it to not come back.