Being my first experience with the '.hack' "consortium," 'Quantum' has made me want to get to know more of the franchise. This three-episode OVA is its own stand-alone movie, telling one fluid story as opposed to three disconnected episodes. It's fun, tense, and full of great action.
'.hack' is an anime series about three high school girls in Japan who are addicted to the world of online gaming. Set in the near future, gaming has come a long way and you now enter the world of the games you play – kind of like 'The Matrix.' Our trio's game of choice is somewhat like 'World of Warcraft' – it's a mystical world filled with magic, guilds and all sorts of evil lurking around every corner. To play the game, they must put on small glasses that resemble virtual reality gear, and once they log in, their minds are connected to "The World."
'Quantum' opens with our three heroins logging in after school one day. In The World, they start a mission to find an undiscovered treasure. Wanting to avoid one of the deadliest Bosses (bad guys), they take secret passages around a massive dragon's lair. Halfway through their secret passage, they see a guild engage the dragon and stop to spectate. When one of the trio steps off the path to retrieve a treasure, she accidentally triggers a booby trap that kills off the majority of the unknown guild's characters. Having been seen by the other guild and an onlooking cat character, a bounty is placed on her head for having interfered with a guild's mission and causing the deaths of so many characters.
When she logs in the next day, danger lurks around every corner. She's not only tracked by bounty hunters, but the angry guild looking to avenge their loss. When she gets cornered by both set of villains, that same spectating cat character comes to her aid. In the scuffle, the cat biffs it and a huge portal of darkness opens up and wisps everyone in the room away to a foreign part of the world where players' souls are being harvested. There, an odd character awaits them and begins stealing their souls. Again, it's similar 'The Matrix' - like when Mr. Smith starts putting his hand in people. Instead of creating replications of herself like Agent Smith, the touching causes the minds and bodies of the players to become disconnected. Their physical bodies a left comatose in the real world and their minds are stuck in a trapped sector of The World. This happens to one girl of our threesome, so the other two begin a dangerous mission in both the real world and the gaming world to crack the case and save their best friend. What they unravel is a plot involving cover-ups, children, death, hospitals and even a little bit of 'Vanilla Sky.'
Out of the four FUNimation anime series I've recently reviewed, '.hack' is easily the least provocative. 'Sekirei' featured full-on nudity and 'Heaven's Lost Property' featured near-nudity and a lot of sex-driven storylines. 'Fairy Tail' has a lot of cleavage, but no sexual content whatsoever. Based on the '.hack' OVA alone, it seems to be the cleanest series yet. Not only is the sexuality removed, but the cleavage is too. There's one scene with the girls hot tubbing in the buff, but we never see cleavage or anything below the water line. Both inside The World and outside, they are modest.
If you follow the '.hack' series, 'Quantum' ought to keep you entertained as it plays out like one 78-minute movie. You don't need to know the series in order to follow and enjoy 'Quantum;' it was foreign to me and I had no trouble following it at all. I imagine that you'll appreciate it more if you're familiar with the series, but considering its length and content, it's not a bad starting point.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
FUNimation has placed '.hack//Quantum' in a combo pack that includes a Region A-locked BD-50 and a DVD with the same content. Since the reviewing screener didn't come in its normal case, I cannot tell you anything about the packaging. The disc starts off with the standard forced FUNimation features – disclaimers, vanity reels and a trailer for an upcoming Blu-ray release, in this case 'Chaos; Head.'
The '.hack//Quantum' OVA has been given a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ration and, like other FUNimation releases, the quality is quite sharp.
Although some dream-like sequences and scenes set in The World tend to have a hazy look, this is obviously intentional. Also intentional are the pixelated scenes where the data of The World is corrupt or being taken over. Aside from those flaws-by-design, the video quality is crisp and clear. The blend of digital animation and traditional animation is fantastic. The perfectly-delineated digital shadows cast of individually falling snowflakes over traditionally-animated blankets exemplify this awesome quality.
Aside from those hazy sequences, blacks are deep and rich. Colors aren't overly saturated, but vibrant and attention-getting - especially the blue World-chomping bugs that begin a take-over. The only obvious problem that arises a few times each episode is banding. Any time that a scene fades in or fades out, the transition results in bands.
Don't be fooled by the audio options as presented in main menu. The only two listed options say "English 5.1 Surround" and "Japanese 5.1 Surround," leading you to believe that there's not a lossless track on this disc. In reality, both are Dolby TrueHD tracks.
After the loud and well-spread musical intro to 'Quantum,' I'd noticed that the vocal track was a little too quiet and that, overall, it didn't make much use of the surround and rear speakers. When I decided to crank the master volume up louder than normal just to more easily hear the vocals, I heard the surround and rear channels come to life. Because the whole track is on the quiet side, you really need to boost the volume to get the full effect of this great audio mix. Just like the opening music, the effects are evenly spread out to all channels, immersing you in The World through its dynamics.
Bass is rich and well-used, as are a few grand uses of LFE. Imaging isn't used but a few times, but each instance is a seamless audio enhancement.
Where I wasn't really a fan of anime before, because of cool FUNimation series like '.hack,' 'Fairy Tail' and 'Sekirei,' I'm becoming one. The '.hack//Quantum' OVA has got me interested in the series, which you don't really need to know in order to enjoy. Instead of being three stand-alone episodes, this OVA is a three-episode-long story arc, basically turning it into one 78-minute movie about three girls put in danger because of an evil plot taking place inside and outside the realm of a 'World of Warcraft'-esque video game. It's fun, unpredictable and full of action and twists. The video quality is as sharp as other FUNimation Blu-rays. The lossless audio tracks fall a little on the quiet side, but when the volume is turned up, it will immerse you in the gaming world. I've always said that it would be nice to get some unique special features from FUNimation releases, but I might take those words back if they keep adding odd Japanese videos like those found on 'Quantum.'