[[caption-width-right:328:[[MysteriousWaif Aura]] is in the background. From left to right: [[WildCard Sora,]] [[CoolOldGuy Bear,]] [[ShyBlueHairedGirl Subaru,]] [[IdentityAmnesia Tsukasa,]] [[ShortTank Mimiru,]] [[LargeHam Crim,]] [[DefrostingIceQueen B.T.]]]]

Airing back in 2002, ''.hack//SIGN'' is a 26-episode {{anime}} with 3 bonus episodes centering around a [[KidHero teenaged boy]] named Tsukasa who wakes up InsideAComputerSystem, an {{MMORPG}} called The World, with little memory of RealLife. Around the same time, a number of strange anomalies begin to occur in the game, causing a number of other characters to investigate the events surrounding Tsukasa and his strange connection to the game.

The show is notable for taking place inside an MMO yet featuring very little action. Most episodes consist of tense conversations between the various characters about the state of things, and [[SpeechCentricWork the show is largely dialog driven.]] It does not suffer from this. Also note that the entire thing is just a setup for the .hack games, so large chunks of the plot aren't resolved in this series.

See Franchise/DotHack for information about the franchise as a whole.

There are [[Characters/DotHack character sheets.]]

!! This anime contains examples of the following tropes:

* AFriendInNeed: [[spoiler: Bear, Mimiru, Silver Knight, and Subaru are apt to act like this throughout the series. By the end of the series, Tsukasa, Macha, BT, Crim, and ''maybe even '''Sora''''' are thinking this way. Helba "couldn't guarantee what would happen" when the players returned to Net Slum -- their real selves could have been in danger.]]
* AbusiveParents: Tsukasa's father is shown in flashbacks to be quite a {{Jerkass}}, despising Tsukasa for [[spoiler:[[WhyCouldntYouBeDifferent being a girl]]]], slapping Tsukasa after being caught shoplifting, yelling and screaming in the kid's face while raving drunk, and cruelly yanking away a little kitten that Tsukasa was caring for. The crowner to all of this is when he talks with the doctor about pulling his comatose child off life support [[spoiler:and later, tried to physically pull Tsukasa's body off life support himself, only to be pulled away by doctors and presumably police.]]
** [[spoiler:Tsukasa was trying to shoplift a brassiere and a TOOTHBRUSH, hinting that she's denied such basic things.]]
* AIIsACrapshoot: Morganna certainly turned out... Badly.
* AllThereInTheManual: [[spoiler: So what are their real names, anyway? Wait, what's that Skeith thing? Whatever happened to Sora? Oh no, did Tsukasa ever actually log out? Also, if you watch/read/play other parts of the .hack franchise without understanding the content in SIGN, you'll be equally confused.]]
* BetweenMyLegs: Mimiru's introduction.
* CherubicChoir: [[spoiler:During Aura's awakening.]]
* CityOfCanals: Mac Anu.
* ClothingDamage: The main cast's clothing disintegrates in the opening animation, Subaru's dress is destroyed when she's assaulted by another PK, and when [[spoiler:Morganna]] punishes Tsukasa, his clothing is completely ripped apart.
* ContemplateOurNavels: Quite a lot. Including some rather amusing thoughts on {{Save Point}}s by Bear.
* CreepyMonotone: Morganna.
* {{Cyberspace}}: The setting, almost entirely, is an {{MMORPG}}.
* DancePartyEnding: The [[OriginalVideoAnimation OVA]] ''Unison'' concludes the R:1 saga with characters from both the anime and the [=PS2=] tetrology having a dance party at Net Slum.
* DarkReprise: There are two versions of the song, ''Aura.'' One showing the majesty of the world, and the other showing the horror.
* DarkAndTroubledPast: [[spoiler:Tsukasa lived with an abusive father who [[WhyCouldntYouBeDifferent hated her for being a girl]], which is suggested to be why she adopted a male identity in The World.]]
* DeliberatelyMonochrome: All the shots of RealLife are in static-filled greyscale, with HiddenEyes. Except for the final real life shot [[spoiler:which doubles as the final scene in the show. It shows Tsukasa's player/real self leaving the hospital after waking up (and thus finally being logged out due to the server crashing) and running into Subaru's real self as she leaves and manage to recognize each other despite never having met in real life before. There's no spoken dialogue, but we do see the words they say on the screen: "Welcome back." "I'm home."]]
* DespairGambit: [[spoiler:A key part of Morganna's plan.]]
* DoesThisRemindYouOfAnything: The scene where [[spoiler:Morganna tortures Tsukasa]] is ''incredibly,'' '''''disturbingly''''' evocative of rape; [[spoiler:Tsukasa is pinned to a bed, apologizing profusely. After that, all of his clothes are ripped off from the overwhelming power of the torture, and he is deposited back on the bed, naked, with a completely despairing, empty look on his face. All the while, he begs Morganna to "stop this, please"]]. The camera angles during the first part just make the comparison all the more chillingly real.
* EmpathicEnvironment: [[spoiler: The place where Aura sleeps and Tsukasa retreats. Sometimes it legitimately reflects Tsukasa's mood, but sometimes it's manipulated by Morganna to look more or less inviting.]]
* TheEndOrIsIt: The series ends with a pretty clear indication that [[spoiler: Morganna is still alive and well in The World]]. Justified, since the story really isn't over, and the anime was intended to be followed by the video games.
* EurekaMoment: When Tsukasa [[spoiler:remembers who he/she truly is and wants to log out]]. Morganna lets out a BigNo at that.
* EyesAlwaysShut: A-20. It shows that even though all the characters are drawn the same way, hers are much more cartoonish looking than most others.
* FacialMarkings: Used to distinguish {{Player Character}}s from {{NPC}}s.
* GainaxEnding: Very little of the ending will make any sense unless one follows the rest of the franchise. In this case, ''SIGN'''s ending happens just before the beginning of the video game ''.hack//Infection''.
* GenderBlenderName: Tsukasa. {{Lampshaded}} by Mimiru and Bear when they discuss Tsukasa's identity, saying that the name is gender-neutral so they can't be sure he's even a boy in real life. [[spoiler:She isn't (though for most of the series, she's unaware of this), but her real name is "An", which is feminine.]]
* GenreSavvy: Justified since they're people playing an {{MMORPG}}.
* {{Gotterdammerung}}: In the backstory of [[FictionalVideoGame The World]], a war between the humans and the gods ended with the death of the gods and massive destruction.
* GuardianEntity: Tsukasa has a cruel and trigger-happy guardian. [[spoiler:However, in the end, it ends up [[HeroicSacrifice sacrificing itself to protect Tsukasa.]]]]
* HairColors: For the same reason as the FacialMarkings.
%%* HermeticMagic
* HeroicBSOD: Tsukasa after [[spoiler:being data drained by Morganna.]]
* HiddenEyes: Nearly everyone's depiction in the real world has overshadowed eyes. Only the few honest or "free" personalities have eyes.
* HitodamaLight: A blue flame symbolically appears in the background when Bear explains to Mimiru that their enemy is not an entity that can be simply attacked but is both nowhere and everywhere.
* InactionSequence: There are substantial stretches of dialogue in this series which can come across as filler. But because of the nature of the story, players are just trying to explain what is happening outside the scope of the game.
* InstantAIJustAddWater: Or research on emotions, in this case.
%%* InstantRunes
* InternalReveal: At the end of the [[FirstEpisodeSpoiler first episode]], there is a [[FreezeFrameBonus ten second]] {{reveal shot}} of [[spoiler:Tsukasa's real self, An Shoji, collapsed in front of her computer]].
* TheKenBurnsEffect: The series is full of it.
* MeadowRun: [[spoiler: Tsukasa and Subaru do this, only it's in the city and it freezes and dissolves before they do reach each other.]]
* MindRape: Tsukasa and Sora really get their minds slammed by Morganna. Tsukasa's was particularly gruesome in "Tempest" - forced to lie down, floated into the sky, and her power stomps on his mind and rips his clothes. He spends the next episodes catatonic, but manages to claw his way back to sanity. Sora's was so bad (in episode "Return") that after he was finally freed his mind completely blanked out the experience. So much that he didn't realize [[spoiler: when he played the game again as Haseo.]] AIDA in .hack//GU also gives its special whammy to its victims.
* MortalityPhobia: Morganna is a [[AIIsACrapshoot Rogue A.I.]] who became aware of her programming to self terminate once ''The World'''s true god [[BigGood Aura]] was born. She goes to great lengths to make sure that she never is, and it takes the combined efforts of Tsukasa, Subaru, and all the others to stop her.
* NotDisabledInVR: In the epilogue, it is revealed that [[spoiler: Subaru's player is an introverted paraplegic girl in RealLife, who plays ''The World'' for the freedom to travel anywhere and to make friends she doesn't have offline.]]
* OnlySixFaces: Not really with the main characters, but because this is a video game, many extras and background characters show up now and then with the same character customizations as the protagonists. Apparently Subaru is so popular that other players create characters in the game to look just like her.
%%* ThePowerOfFriendship.
* ParentalSubstitute: Bear becomes one for Tsukasa.
* TheReasonYouSuckSpeech: Because of the nature of the show, there are a lot of these. Two notable examples are when Subaru and the Silver Knight exchange a couple, ultimately resulting in [[spoiler: Subaru disbanding the group]] and Tsukasa, Mimiru, and Subaru to each other in the last episode. [[spoiler: It's really Morganna, but they get payback.]]
* ReplacementGoldfish: Bear again; makes up for his failed relationship with his son by meeting and helping other young people. He eventually adopts Tsukasa's player and puts her through college.
%%* RolePlayingGameVerse: Literally.
* SchrodingersButterfly: The series ends with [[spoiler: Helba forcibly deleting Net Slum in a desperate effort to stop Skeith, causing everyone to be ejected from the game as the server crashes. This results in Tsukasa finally waking from her coma and having a heartwarming meeting with Subaru in the real world... But when their hands touch, a distinctly cyberspace-y hexagon grid appears, and it then cuts to a scene of what appears to be the ruins of Net Slum, with a mysterious monologue from Morganna. It doesn't help either that the "real world" segment of Tsukasa leaving the hospital and meeting Subaru has a somewhat surreal tone to it, what with the whole silent movie style and all. Ultimately, it's not really clear until later installments in the .hack series (or the second SIGN OVA) whether or not Tsukasa actually ever managed to log out.]]
* SchoolGirlLesbians: Tsukasa and Subaru.
* [[SeriousBusiness MMORPGs Are Serious Business:]] The basic point of the franchise but .hack//SIGN is infamous for taking it to ridiculous extremes.
* ShutUpHannibal: [[spoiler: Everything is basically solved simply by Tsukasa telling Morganna that he's not going to listen to her anymore.]]
* SpeechCentricWork: Became rather infamous for its large number of episodes in which ''nothing'' happens aside from characters meeting and talking to each other. May be justified in that this is an online community.
* StoryBreakerPower: The Key of the Twilight, within the confines of The World. It allows the user to contradict the rules of the system and basically do whatever the hell they feel like doing.
%%* ThereAreNoGirlsOnTheInternet: Averted.
* TooCleverByHalf: Sora. One of The World's most powerful characters and skilled players, with maxed-out level and attributes, and he's fully aware of how good he is while being insufferably immature about it all. Then in the last episode of SIGN we learn [[spoiler: he's JustAKid -- a fourth-grader, to be more exact.]]
* TrappedInAnotherWorld: Tsukasa is stuck in The World and is unable to log out. Figuring out why is one of the driving mysteries of the series.
%%* TwentyMinutesIntoTheFuture
* UnbuiltTrope: .Hack//Sign could practically be considered a deconstruction of Isekai stories such as ''Anime/SwordArtOnline'', except it came out years before they received anime adaptations and became the megahits they are now.
** You have Tsukasa, the socially awkward loser who gets trapped inside an MMO, except he's such a jerk to everyone he meets that few people can stand to be around him for more than 5 minutes and those who do eventually become his friends make it their mission to make him stop being such an ass.
** He sees being trapped in the MMO world as a great thing initially, but unlike other Isekai, the appeal isn't for him to become a badass he could never be in real life, but as a place to escape to and be alone without any social expectation.
** Unlike many isekai characters who are nerds or NEETs who use the game to escape their dull existence, Tsukasa is [[spoiler:a girl who is regularly physically and mentally abused by her father for being a girl when he wanted a boy. She plays the game to find an escape from her abused life, and is initially excited to be stuck in the game because she doesn't have to deal with anyone who could hurt her like that (though she doesn't initially remember her life outside The World, or even that she is actually a girl).]]
** He gets a game breaking ability early on, a guardian that one hit kills anything it attacks. However, such an ability causes him a fair amount of grief as nobody respects him for having it, indeed much of the player base hates him and it becomes a public mission for a while to hunt him down for being such a blatant cheater.
** His character doesn't even become a badass statistically. His class is a support class and remains as such for the entire story. Whenever he actually does any fighting, its in a purely support role, healing and buffing his teammates as they do the actual fighting.
** And finally, the final solution to getting Tsukasa out of the game isn't some grand final battle or completed questline. It's accomplished by [[spoiler:a hacker crashing the server.]]
* WidgetSeries: There are enough qualities of ''The World'' to make it qualify, such as an HonestAxe quest featuring a water fairy with a deranged accent instead of Mercury, and an emo Grunty that runs away to be [[TheEeyore an Eeyore]] somewhere if you force it to grow up.
* WomanInWhite: Aura and Helba.
* WorldOfCardboardSpeech: [[spoiler: Tsukasa at the end of the series.]]
* WhyCouldntYouBeDifferent: Tsukasa's father doesn't like [[spoiler:her for being a girl.]]
* YouAreNotAlone: [[spoiler: Tsukasa's friends, especially Subaru, send this message strongly.]]
* YouGottaHaveBlueHair: There are player characters like Sora running around with green hair. [[spoiler: It's revealed that Subaru's player has blue hair in real life. Although, this might just be a stylization of the dark black hair some Japanese have that can almost have a blue sheen to it.]]
* YourMindMakesItReal: Characters who get attacked by Data Drain also reportedly suffer severe comas in the real world.