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The Calm After The Storm
on July 17, 2003
Things were bound to cool down after the action-packed third volume of this popular series revolving around Tsukasa, a player trapped and unable to log out of "The World," the most popular online community/RPG of the near future.
This volume starts of with a recap of the previous one: several players have formed teams to search for the "Key of the Twilight," a legendary item that, rumor has it, could reset The World or free Tsukasa. Several players were transported to an alternate dimension and found a character called "The Broken Man" spouting nearly-incoherent clues about the Key. At the disc's end, Tsukasa sacrifices himself to free buddies Mimiru and Bear, and lies lifeless on the ground.
The players sit and speculate after the recap: what has happened to Tsukasa? Who is The Broken Man? And what, if anything, significance did his babbling have? Meanwhile, we find a shell-shocked Tsukasa sitting back in his hidden world, dazed out and whimpering while picking on a teddy bear, the strange female voice continuing to speak to him.
This may be the slowest disc of the series, which is saying a lot considering the dripping-molasses pace this series offers. There is indeed very little in terms of physical action, and surprisingly, very little in terms of advancing the series. The disc does contribute to the overall feel by examining BT, one of the sub-main characters who hedges the line between good and bad. She finds herself at the mercy of two players, but is "saved" by Tsukasa; pangs of guilt over her views and treatment of Tsukasa make her open up to him. Similarly, her growing affections for the likeable Crim are deflected when she offers to meet in the real world. She sits sobbing as he leaves, her online character emotionally distressed by the lack of real-life interaction. This makes a great statement about the feel of the series: some can still make out the line between the virtual World and the real World; others are beginning to lose that distinction.
A semi-major plot event occurs at the end of the disc, with no major ramifications to the rest of the series other than a set-up for a character to change allegiances later in the story.
A slow, slow disc, even for ".hack" fans. It'll be like watching a snail crawl through tar for non- ".hack" viewers.