Friday, September 10, 2010

.hack//Cell, vol. 1

Art by Akira Mutsuki with Story by Ryo Suzukaze
Published in the US by TokyoPop

Slugline:  Is it surprising that virtual reality screws up your identity?

Midori is a high school girl who becomes ill and is confined to the hospital as she grows weaker.  There is another Midori who is a professional victim in The World, a massively muliplayer computer RPG.  As a victim she allows other Player Character to try to hit her earning money if they fail .  However being a victim can attract Player Killers (PKs) who hunt down and kill other players in the game.  Midori's latest session of being a victim spirals out of a control as a crowd of PKs surround her which attracts the attention of a PK Killer.  The PK Killer is so powerful that the PKs later kidnap Midori's sidekick Adamas who is killed and resurrected repeatedly to attract either Midori or the PK Killer's attention.  Adamas is toughened up by his experience so he asks to meet Midori in real life.  This forces Midori to confront her suppressed memories as the Midori in the hospital struggles to live.

It has been hard to review the .hack titles since they all seem to be too abstract for their own good.  Using computer games as a metaphor to explore reality and identity is all well and good, but .hack tries too hard with characters wondering if anything exists rather than starting smaller such as if they have done what they think they have.  When Midori's view of the world collapses and she is left with nothing, it is hard to care because everything so far in the story has seemed random and meaningless.  The volume also ends abruptly with no satisfying partial resolution or even interesting cliffhanger to draw readers back, just Midori getting more lost and apparently fading away.

.hack//Cell, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Ferdinand

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