.hack// Another Birth starts a new storyline in the .Hack universe. This time, it’s the same story told in the .Hack games for the PS2, only told from the point of view of (game) secondary character BlackRose. In PS2 land, the story spanned 4 games, and this is Vol 1 of 4, so I’m assuming each book will cover the events of a different game. I did play through the first game but never finished #2. From what I recall of the story, the book is pretty true to the source material although a lot of side characters have been dropped or are only mentioned in passing.
These books take place a good deal after AI Buster. Orca and Balamung, two minor characters from that story, have become celebs inside The World for being the team that completed the event “The Final Sin.” Now Orca has been attacked and killed in-game by a strange ‘data bug.’ Weirdly, when his avatar fell, the player himself passed out and lapsed into a coma. The same thing has happened to BlackRose’s brother, and she enters The World to find out what is going on and how to help her brother. Kite, the main character from the game and the secondary in this book, is a real-life friend of Orca’s and was with him when the data bug attacked. So he and BlackRose have a common goal.
On the plus side, Another Birth bypasses all the ‘how to play’ stuff that was in AI Buster, so we can get right into the story. However it’s very much a 4-part story and not much is wrapped up at the end of this volume. Also, Akira Hayami (BlackRose’s real name) is a high school student struggling with the jealousy of older girls on her tennis team and other teen-age girl problems that are about as interesting to me as watching paint dry. The tone skews even younger than the earlier books, too. I’m not sure if this is due to the source material or the translation (the book was originally written by a Japanese author) but I suspect its the translation, in the same way so many English anime dubs ‘dumb down’ the content since they figure cartoons are for kids.
And yet…and yet…. I will keep reading the series, and for the life of me I couldn’t tell you why. I think it still goes back to my love of MMOs in theory, and my inability to ever find an MMO that I’m truly comfortable in. Reading these books is like playing an MMO without all the annoying parts, in a way. I’m living vicariously through these characters, I guess. In general terms, though, I don’t think I could recommend this book.