.Hack//Quantum is a brand new OVA addition to the long-running .Hack franchise, but more importantly, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable and superbly produced anime that doesn’t seem to be getting the attention it deserves across the English-speaking anime fandom! To be honest, I kind of understand that. While the .Hack series has its fans, many people are disenchanted with the franchise or who thought .Hack//Sign was enough. I don’t blame them. I felt the same way after struggling through the mediocre .Hack//Roots, and I haven’t been a passionate fan of any of the various incarnations. So let me make this really clear: this is easily the best thing to come out of .Hack, full stop. Perhaps this will ring truer when I say that the studio Bee Train and director Koichi Mashimo are not at all involved. This is the first .Hack series that has been passed on to new hands, and these new hands are extremely capable, capturing this fresh start and turning it into something really great. It’s obviously not what I’d call a masterpiece, but from both a technical perspective and in terms of entertainment value, it’s virtually impossible to fault. It has character, action, suspense, awesome fantasy elements, cute girls, and plenty of humour.
To thank for this achievement, we have director Masaki Tachibana, who was behind Tokyo Magnitude 8.0. The script is handled adeptly by Tatsuya Hamazaki, who is actually a long-time player in the franchise, having done the story for Roots, and Legend of the Twilight. This is certainly his best work, because the characterisation and dialogue actually feels like it has an edge of believability to it, and feels very natural. Atsushi Hasabe is a good animator who’s stepped up for his first character design/chief animation director role and done a marvelous job. All the designs are attractive and the animation work is very clean. There are some moments of very fast and fluid animation. Those moments probably have more animation than all of Sign combined haha. This anime also has a clear edge in its integration of 3DCG and traditional animation, which serves the battle sequences really well, and fleshes out the background ‘extras’ in certain scenes (like at the marketplace). Possibly the only element of this anime’s production that really doesn’t stand out is the music, which is handled by Kou Ootani. Kou Ootani is fairly well-known, and I’ve enjoyed some of her work, but it doesn’t really compare to the evocative BGM music of Sign or even Roots.
I think the real reason I enjoyed it is that it’s much more personal and affectionate than other .Hack series, which usually feature distant and lethargic protagonists. This is not just because it switches between the real school-life of the three main girls, but also because their characters and inherently more likeable and fun to watch. Sakuya (Kana Hanazawa) is the main character and brings together Tobias (Miyuki Sawashiro) and Mary (Fujimura Ayumi) with her endearingly ditz personality. Kana Hanazawa, as usual, really nails her role here. She portrays Sakuya with just the right energy and silliness. It’s funny hearing Kana and Miyuki Sawashiro together as friends yet again, after Durarara and then Black Rock Shooter! The three girls have a good dynamic, and their troubles in-game are interwoven with real-life issues such as exams and the future. When the shit launches itself towards the fan by the end of the episode, there’s a real sense of drama because you feel for the characters.
For spectacle, charm, and character, Quantum is brimming with life. It’s a fun anime which I don’t see many people not enjoying, and it’s certainly the best thing to happen to the .Hack series. Do yourself a favour and check it out!