Image Source: Funimation on YouTube

.hack// is a franchise with a story split up into multi-part games, novels, manga, and of course, anime. While most of the anime produced for the series featured different characters from the games, one television anime stood out and even served as a prologue: .hack//Roots. …And it explains a lot.

The .hack//G.U. trilogy begins with Haseo looking for revenge for Shino, his former guild-mate in the Twilight Brigade within “The World,” a virtual reality MMORPG. After she is attacked by a mysterious player named “Tri-Edge,” Shino falls into a coma in the real world, leading him to search for the killer to find clues that might save her. A mysterious man named Ovan, the former leader of the Twilight Brigade, is also introduced off the bat, and while Haseo and Ovan seem to share a history together, nothing is really explained.

This is where .hack//Roots comes in. This 26-episode anime goes into Haseo’s adventures in the Twilight Brigade as well as his deep connection to not only Shino, his love interest, but also Ovan, who was something like a brother to him.

This anime also fills in the gap between Haseo’s first log-in to The World and his tyrannic rule as the legendary player, the Terror of Death. After all, Haseo was nothing special when he began to seek revenge for his beloved—he started from an average player, and then worked himself up to the extremely powerful character he had become. The anime depicts his many struggles throughout a large number of the episodes, including the times when he was defeated along the way.

The anime also has some other small connections to the game that would make no sense if you had just played the games. For example, in the games, when Haseo encounters seasoned warrior Taihaku for the first time, he immediately recognizes him, though he doesn’t remember him very well. This is a direct connection to Roots, since in the anime, Haseo spent a significant amount of time with the warrior traveling through the nearly-endless dungeon, the Forest of Pain. In the end, the two were given incredible power, which explains Haseo’s dominance over other players, as well as why he recognized Taihaku despite the character never previously being introduced in the game.

Possibly most important to this anime, however, is the depiction of Haseo’s character, and his change from innocent loner to angry avenger. It’s hard to sympathize with Haseo in the game at the beginning because, well, he’s an ass. He goes around yelling at people all the time, and for seemingly no reason but because he’s pissy. By taking a longer look at Haseo and all the time he spent with Shino, the person he loved most in the world, we start to understand how important his bond with her was in his life. It wasn’t like the other members of the guild didn’t matter either, but it’s obvious that she was an integral piece of him. Having lost that piece, he may as well have lost everything.

The tragedy is much more effective when you get to spend time with the characters involved and get attached to them. Losing them, as well as seeing Haseo suffer over their losses, is made much more important and heart-wrenching due to the time we spent with them. We see a much happier side of Haseo’s life before his inevitable downfall, which makes that moment even more melancholy.

While it’s not absolutely necessary to watch .hack//Roots before getting into the HD remaster of the .hack//G.U. trilogy when it hits shelves on November 1 in Japan and November 3 worldwide, it does provide a deeper look at the characters and the mystery involved in the story of one online game player’s salvation in a game with everything at stake.

.hack//Roots is available streaming on Crunchyroll. .hack//G.U. Last Recode–the revamped HD remake of all three .hack//G.U. games–will be released on the PlayStation 4 and PC via Steam on November 3 worldwide.

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