Presentation PA #75

.Hack//SIGN: What Is Reality? A Strange Gaming World In Anime. This time, we are covering a rather unusual show, .Hack//SIGN (the "dot" at the beginning is pronounced), which became a big phenomenon in Japan in 2002. Why is it so unique? Because the story presents us a main character, Tsukasa, who loses his self in reality and cannot get out of the game. In the 1980's, a science-fiction movie, Tron, presented a main character who entered the world of an artificial intelligence and got lost. Here, .Hack//SIGN presents characters who play the game and willingly enter the NET world, via a head-mounted display, when they play in "The World". Of course, the whole thing is a fiction and we cannot enter the game world physically in reality (yet?). But, wait, are there not many gamers today who literally play as if their souls were sucked by the game? Here, director Koichi Mashimo (the rising star director of Noir) is showing you a boy who cannot get out of "The World", as if he were a ghost! What is his psychological state? When gamers in reality get really involved with playing a game, they literally forget the time, to eat, to sleep, etc., because their minds are too busy or simply gone somewhere else! Haven't you experienced that state when you are enjoying playing a game or doing a hobby? Then, when you see Tsukasa here, who does not like to face the reality of his life, calling the real world "st", we do not feel too unfamiliar. So what happens when Tsukasa cannot get back to reality when he wishes? What happens when his reality disappears? Inside "The World", he becomes like a ghost, a Zombie (a living-dead?!) and finally, when he started connecting with other characters emotionally, he began to suffer psychologically. Although this anime's story is a fantasy, we see a lot of gamers like Tsukasa and we all know that reality is sometimes very ugly and hard to deal with. Therefore, it may only be natural for humans to create a place where they can escape it (it's called escapism), like games, movies, plays, books, etc. In .Hack//SIGN, Tsukasa is inside a dungeon that literally looks like a human body's internal organs and bones, probably created by Tsukasa's imagination, and symbolizing that he is in the process of going through his deepest inner emotions. Director Mashimo presents many images for "The World", such as the desert, European cities (Italy, maybe Venice? Or Florence?), the forest, a cathedral, etc., but they are all illusion, reflections of the human mind and state, using light and shadow to symbolize positive and negative human feelings.

As I watched the show here, I began thinking about human anxiety and the defense mechanisms of our psychology. Why did Tsukasa become like that? Because human anxiety is an exceptionally uncomfortable experience that is hard to cope with. When the pressure of anxiety is excessive (like Tsukasa's case) and cannot be relieved by practical problem-solving methods, the human ego uses maneuvers such as a defense mechanism to deny, falsify or even distort reality. But, as he meets others, he begins to gradually change. Many threats, conflicts and frustrations are part of growing up as adults in reality, right? Despite the fancy gaming, costumes and settings inside "The World", this show does not offer much action. Instead, it proposes a trip inside the psychology and soul of an emotionally bruised, but slowly healing person. So, enter the world of modern fable, as well as a psychological labyrinth! Let's see... Can you really get out of "The World"?

Miyako Matsuda

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This issue is quietly (without fanfare) celebrating our 15th anniversary and the fact that we have become this great, independent, anime magazine that offers you more useful information than any other anime magazine! Being fifteen years-old also make us the oldest anime magazine in publication (so we KNOW anime). The anniversary itself was in fact last November (and we've been too busy to really celebrate), but issue 75 seemed perfect to highlight the occasion. Of course, this issue doesn't look much different (a little more color maybe) than usual, probably because, for us, every new issue is special and better than the previous ones. We hope that you feel the same way (in any case, let us know what you think about the magazine and what you would like us to talk about: Now, we are ready for at least another fifteen years!

In the following pages you will find the first part of a feature article on Osamu Tezuka and his work, a 8-page Spotlight (all in color!) on .Hack//SIGN, as well as a great harvest of "Anime Stories": Ai Yori Aoshi, Captain Tsubasa, Chobits, Galaxy Angel, Gatekeepers 21, Hikaru no Go, Mahoromatic, and Najica. Of course, this issue also offers many "Anime World" articles (anecdotes from Yoshiyuki Tomino and the Cowboy Bebop crew, convention reports on Otakon and Anime Expo NY, the Modern Japanese Music Database Part 19, interviews with Hilary Haag, Monica Rial and Kristine Sa), tons of reviews (6 live-action movies, 11 manga, 2 model kits, 1 video game, and 42 anime videos!) and the latest news! Enjoy!

Next Issue: spotlights on Rahxephon and Dragonar as well as many "Anime Stories", introducing anime like Abeno Bridge Magic Shopping Mall (the latest comedy from Gainax), Hakujaden (the very first Japanese animated movie), Kikaider, Patlabor WXIII, Read Or Die, the Turn A Gundam Movies, and more!! Dont miss it! Check the Upcoming Issues section for details!

Claude J. Pelletier

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