The .hack (pronounced "dot hack") series is a conglomeration of books, video games, manga, OVA, and anime TV series that started with the games by CyberConnect2. Most of these are character dramas told from the perspective of online gamers playing an MMORPG called "The World," which displays the disturbing tendency to affect the minds of its players, calling into question the nature of human consciousness.Most of these series contribute to canon while others, such the second anime series, .hack//Legend of the Twilight, are retellings of the same story from differing perspectives. Each installment refers to the others, making this an All There in the Manual series. The title always follows the construction of .hack//title and are read as "dot hack title". The slashes are never used when referring to the series as a whole. The word "Dot" is often written in small print inside the "." to reinforce the proper reading.The setting for the series is Twenty Minutes into the Future, diverging from the real-world timeline beginning in October of 2002. On December 24, 2005, a supervirus codenamed "Pluto's Kiss" destroyed all of the world's computer operating systems. MS Windows, Mac OS, Linux... all gone. All except for one, OpenBSD ALTIMIT, which seems to be immune to all computer viruses. In response, hacking becomes a capital crime worldwide, and the internet returns to its roots as a communication network for government and military use for the next several years.Eventually, commercial internet access becomes available again, and the release of the first post-crash online game, The World, turns it into an instant craze, with twenty million users joining in the first few years. With a computer, a virtual-reality headset, and a gamepad, one becomes a swordsman, magic-user, etc. and experiences The World through the perspective of their own characters.Though they'd never admit it, the game's publisher, CyberConnectCorp doesn't fully understand how the game's core program was created. It was based on a prototype written by a German neurobiologist who has disappeared. He created his program after the death of the woman he loved, a poetess by the name of Emma Wielant, who began working on an unpublished online updated masterpiece after having what she called a "supernatural experience", which went by the name of The Epitaph of Twilight. This beta version of the game was known as frägment and a few recurring characters had active accounts during said beta test.The first chronological installment localized in the USnote A recent novel series, .hack//Epitaph of Twilight takes place before this. is the first novel, .hack//AI Buster, which takes place in 2010. Watarai, a game administrator, meets the first Vagrant AI (an NPC whose intelligence has grown to a level that cannot be programmed) that he cannot deny has a soul.Shortly after, in the anime .hack//SIGN, an introverted player named Tsukasa finds himself trapped in the game itself. Tsukasa's body is in a coma in the real world, but Tsukasa the character is still playing the game, and experiencing The World with his full senses, even to the point of experiencing pain when he's hurt or killed. The series focuses on a handful of players who become aware of his entrapment within the game, and decide to explore Tsukasa's character and his connection with an "unborn" AI character named Aura.The first series of PS2 games (.hack//Infection, .hack//Mutation, .hack//Outbreak and .hack//Quarantine), the .hack//LiminalityOVAs and the .hack//Another Birth novels chronicle the following adventure, where another band of players - later known as the legendary "dot hackers" - challenge Morganna, the evil AI lurking within The World. Using a game-breaking power given to him by Aura before her destruction, the newbie Kite and his partner BlackRose lead the fight against Morganna in the hopes of restoring Aura and the many coma victims that have resulted from Morganna's attacks. A set of Novels known as .hack//Another Birth retell this story from Blackrose's point of view, tells us about her offline and some of the things she does when not with Kite.The .hack//ZERO novel series is set shortly after; a set of stories that tells the story of a character named Carl, of what happened to the character of Sora after the end of SIGN, and of Tsukasa's real life after being able to log out from The World. This series was never finished and Carl's fate was eventually revealed in other material.The series timejumps to 2014, where .hack//Legend of the Twilight takes place. Shugo is the new hero, and he and his sister Rena take on limited edition, chibified clone accounts of Kite and BlackRose to try to defend Aura's Daughter Zefie, whose existence is threatened by debuggers that still don't understand that AIs are more than data, and return her to her mother.By 2017, Aura has vanished of her own accord, and many errors started to form on the net, which had become dependent on her. CC Corp tries to fix this by reforming the Morganna system under their control to recreate Aura. They are unable to do so and are only able to restore the eight Phases she controlled, which are placed under the control of special players (with one stolen by a staff member). During a test the creator of the plan, Jyotaro Amagi, goes insane and sets fire to CC Corp ruining the servers and much of the data and losing the data of the phases in the system. The World's remaining data is combined with another project and released as The World: Revision 2.The anime .hack//Roots begins here, with the new player Haseo joining the game. For reasons he can't guess, two powerful guilds are competing for Haseo's allegiance from the first day he logs in. The story primarily follows the changes in his character as he joins one of the guilds, his leader Ovan disappears and the guild falls apart, his love interest Shino is attacked and put into a coma by a mysterious player-killer called Tri-Edge (who looks strangely like Kite), and Haseo finally becomes obsessed with destroying Tri-Edge and all other player-killers.The story immediately continues with the second series of PS2 games, .hack//G.U. (Vol.1:Rebirth, Vol.2:Reminisce, and Vol.3:Redemption). Haseo is back at level 1 after a losing battle with Tri-Edge, and finds himself embroiled in a complex plot involving the use of his newfound Avatar power (his character data possessing one of Morganna's eight Phases), warring guilds, rampant player-killing, a malicious AI phenomenon called AIDA, and the truth behind Tri-Edge. The .hack//CELL light novels are a side-story set between Roots and G.U.The latest story continues three years later with .hack//Link, where yet another new version of The World has been created. The World R:X. 14-year old Tokio Kuryuu gets sucked into this new game (apparently physically) by a mysterious new classmate, Saika Amagi, via her PSP. Currently a manga and PSP game in Japan (the American release is forthcoming), this new series combines elements from both the R:1 and R:2 eras. An organization of illegally modified characters is going after MacGuffins called "chrono cores" located within certain previous main characters. These cores connect to the Akashic Records of The World, and with Saika Amagi acting as Mission Control, Tokio has to repair them by actually traveling between all of the .hack series: the R:1 and R:2 games, SIGN, the novels, and the different manga.An OVA called .hack//Quantum, which also sets in The World R:X in 2022, was released in 2011.Originally stated that LINK and the R:X were to be the last of the .hack series, this does not seem to be the case, as a full-length CGI movie set in the The World FORCE:ERA was released in January 2012 titled .hack//Beyond The World, set in 2024 centering around a girl named Sora and her friends Balder and Gondo as they try to save the world from destruction. A new video game in addition has also been announced, by the name of .hack//Versus, set in 2025. This new arc, the World FORCE:ERA arc, will focus much more on the backstory and deeper workings of forces behind the scenes of .hack's universe, and most particularly on Emma Wielant, ALTIMIT, both of their associations with the environmental awareness and protection group mama, and their own ultimate desires intended with The World, and in extension, the Ultimate AI, Aura..hack is not for everyone, as it is mostly dialog and artistic character pieces, despite being about a video game. (Some have said that it's a good simulation of what playing an MMORPG is really like.)There is also a card game called ".hack//ENEMY" (previously distributed stateside by Decipher, but now no longer in print), online/offline RPG (not an MMO, and service has since ended) called ".hack//frägment" named after the prototype of The World, and a short ".hack//GIFT" which is a parody of SIGN and the games, available only on DVD; none are canon.Some media have their own articles - tropes for them should go on these pages, not here.
Art Shift: .hack//LINK featured an opening animation sequence animated by Studio4°C, the art looks radically different from previous .hack// installments game and animation series alike.
Art Major Biology: Some dungeons in the first games are Flesh-type Womb Level dungeons. Of course, don't expect them to follow any kind of sensible anatomy.
Justified in Vol. 1's Bonus Dungeon "Aerial Fleet". An accident has left a fleet of aircrafts carrying a mummified giant to wander the skies forever. The insides are of a standard Flesh dungeon until the Boss Area, where it is the only metallic room left. The boss's name? "Parasite Dragon".
Awesome but Impractical: Any skill beyond the standard Data Drain, such as Drain Arc and Drain Heart, is situational at best. With nasty side-effects like level down and deathinstant Game Over from overexposure to viruses due to Data Drain, using riskier forms of Data Drain just to get rare items or hitting multiple enemies seems superfluous.
Situational is the best description. 2128 Drain is good when your Infection Level is low & you really want that rare item. Drain Arc is preferable to having to use Data Drain multiple times, because it increases your Infection Level less. Drain Heart is just plain inconvenient.
Because Destiny Says So is subverted. The overbranching theme of the series is how the "gods" are dead and people have to make their own path.
Black Box: The technology of The World, and to some extent, ALTIMIT itself.
Black Comedy Rape: Try giving the Promise card to one of Aura's Knights, or Natsume. You've been warned. Also Mia on Elk in .hack//GIFT.
"Blind Idiot" Translation: The manga and novels, as published by Tokyopop, as the translators didn't stay true to canon. (And the soundtrack CD published by Pioneer.) Things got better starting with volumes 2 and 3 of Another Birth.
Bragging Rights Reward: Eventually averted, when all your rewards fuse into the Infinity Plus One Armour and Accessory.
Costume Exaggeration: The show somehow manages a Beach Episode that subverts this, where Shugo suddenly realizes that Ouka, being a Cool Big Sis, should naturally appear in the slinkiest swimsuit of any of the girls — until she shows up in wolf shape (which, granted, means she's technically naked).
Crap Sack World: Played with. The in-game world are ruins based on The World's in-game story, but since the real point of The World was to create AI's and have them learn human emotion, some based on Death, others Temptation. Sadly most of them were a crapshoot.
Digital Avatar: The characters in the series are shown as these instead of their flesh and blood players, with a few exceptions.
Defictionalization: .hack//Fragment is an online multiplayer game, essentially bringing The World to the real world.
Degraded Boss: Of Type-B variety. Think you've had enough defeating those Data Bug Bosses? in Vol.3 onwards, expect dungeons filled with NOTHING but Data Bugs. Happy hunting, hope you don't overdose on Data Drain!
Does This Remind You of Anything?: Mistral's "confession" in Vol. 3/Outbreak sounds exactly like anotherkind of confession. She acts like a teenager in-game but betrays that she's older than she acts in e-mails (by mentioning cooking, going to store and haggling, for example), which gives an interesting possibility: "Is she an older woman into shotacon?" Nah, she's an expecting housewife that will soon give birth to Mirei who will inherit her Player Character later in Legend of Twilight Bracelet.
Do Well, But Not Perfect: The Grunty races award prizes for beating the 1st, 2nd or 3rd place times, and you can race them over and over again to win more; however, your race times become the new record times to beat. If you want to maximize the payout, then you want to just barely beat the current times (starting with 3rd place and working up) so that the new times are not too hard to beat.
Dueling Games: Square Enix attempted to sponge off the series' success with an Action RPG named Code Age Commanders, which would have been followed up with a anime and manga series, as well as portable spinoffs. However, the mothership game failed and sunk any chance of having a series developed around it.
Early-Bird Cameo: Type 2. Kite (Sora), an unlockable extra character in Link, is the main character in .hack//The Other Side of the World.
Easter Egg: Keywords to access secret areas in the games were hidden throughout other media, including the subtitles for the Liminality OVA.
Natsume, a character in the games with the same character model, has this as well, so one can assume it's the character base.
Tawalaya, in .hack//Roots. Averted a few times when surprised.
Expy: Justified example (see Facial Markings below), but it doesn't stop the trope from being lampshaded and played with; for example, BlackRose and Mimiru actually argue over this in a SIGN omake episode, accusing the other of being a copycat; in the same episode, Bear is killed by Orca but everyone assumes one is the other. A similar incident occurs in Roots and the G.U. games, where Haseo finds himself being befriended by a character who's nearly identical to a close friend of his, who was PKed and put into a coma. Mistral and Mirelle are an interesting example as Mistral and Mirelle are the same The World character, but Mirelle is played by Mistral's player's four year-old daughter. (She changed the character's name to Mirelle at an event.)
The character of both Kite and BlackRose has been used many times, particularly Kite. Aside from Kite himself, there's Shugo (Legend of The Twilight Bracelet), Azure Flame Kite (G.U.) and Azure Flame Knight (LINK). Oh and, Kite (Sora) in LINK as well as Sakuya in Quantum (both being played by females, incidentally).
On another note, some has noted the physical similarity of Kite's X-Form with Kaworu. Hey, Sadamoto is the character designer after all...
Facial Markings: Used to distinguish Player Characters, since, as in some real video games, the base "design" is the same for each gender/class combination. Also doubles as a Power Tattoo.
Fanservice: All parts of the franchise have some, but the biggest offender is definitely the Legend of the Twilight manga.
.hack//GIFT probably has the best example: After the cartoony silly parody of the series is done, it goes to a silly cartoony parody of the .hack//sign credits, before suddenly inexplicably cutting to a photo of Mimiru, BT, and Subaru completely nude bathing in a sauna. Barbie Doll Anatomy took a step back for that scene.
Final First Hug: Ovan gives Haseo one of these when he's finally defeated in the manga.
Fun with Acronyms: In GIFT, there is one part where they muse on whether the three kana that make up the Japanized pronunciation of the word (gi, fu, and to) point to three words (three-word combinations serving as room names/coordinates). One of these hilariously random Wild Mass Guesses was partially bleeped out (if unbleeped, it would be Awkward Marital Slaughterhouse or something like that).
Genre Savvy: Justified since they're people playing an MMORPG.
Wrong Genre Savvy: Some characters suspect that the unkillable monsters, mysterious message board posts, and players "allegedly" trapped in the game are all part of some elaborate meta-event or Alternate Reality Game. Very few realize that the situation is entirely real and beyond the boundaries of the game.
Of course, Leaning on the Fourth Wall is the subject of the game as it's supposed to simulate a MMORPG in a fake reality. It even advertises itself as an MMORPG with no need of connecting internet cords, and what not.
G.I.R.L.: Played straight, subverted, and inverted all over the place. The most classic inverted example is of course, Tsukasa. ASTA (from G.U.), on the other hand, is a straight example.
Götterdämmerung: In the backstory of The World, the humans had a war with the gods which ended in the death of the gods, and the general ruined feel of much of the game world. Also, in G.U. most of the AI "gods" are inactive, apathetic, or dead.
Hidden Eyes: Nearly everyone's depiction in the real world has overshadowed eyes. Only the few honest or "free" personalities have eyes.
Probably to make the RL counterpart as "close" to the "In-game" avatar counterpart.
Honest Axe - In SIGN and the original video game tetralogy. The honest answer provides the player with an upgrade or downgrade of the item they have thrown in, while the dishonest answers provide weak golden and silver axes that are only useful for trading. Tsukasa just tries to kill the water spirit.
If the item is out of the level range for the pond you tossed it in, and are honest, the water sprite will suggest you take it to a different area and give it back along with both the Gold And Silver axes.
Late Arrival Spoiler: If you insist on being spoiler-free, start by reading a novel, then follow up with its sequel [a short story collection], then watch a 26-episode anime series, then play 4 games (or cop out by reading 4 novels... actually, just do both as the books tell the story from BlackRose's point of view while the games are from Kites and some events are only shown in one version as only one of them is there), then read a 3-volume manga series (and don't you dare cop out by watching the anime adaptation, as that's in Canon Discontinuity), then watch ANOTHER 26-episode anime series after that, then play 3 games. In that order. Not to mention the movies that come with the first four games, which tell what's going on in the real world in the time period the games take place in.
Done with that? Great! Now you've got a few more books to read, one more game to play (which is unlikely to be officially localized but will at least play on your PSP) a subtitled miniseries to watch, and the movie that'll be out sometime in 2012! Have fun!
Level Grinding: Aside from the events of the plot and the odd event here or there, this seems to be the entirety of what The World consists of, you go into dungeons to level up and get better equipment so you can go to higher level dungeons to level up more and get better equipment...
More conventionally, be prepared to do some of this yourself in the games. If not for actual levels, than for the randomly Data-Drained Virus Cores. Annoyingly, using Data-Drain increases your infection level, which makes it less likely that you'll get Virus Cores from using it, meaning you can't just spam Data Drain at the enemies that have the cores you need.
Legacy Character: In series following the original tetrology, many characters have their avatars modeled after the original heroes, including Kite (Shugo, Sora, Sakuya, Tri-Edge), BlackRose (Rena, Mary), Orca (Gondo), and Balmung (Tobias, Baldur).
Lost Aesop: A lot of effort is made in R:1 to show that Man and AI can get along together and build a bright future. Most of these AIs die in .hack//ROOTS and after or else choose not to interact with humans directly ever again. The plot no longer cares.
Perhaps it will be regained in Links.
It wasn't. If anything, the final boss made that aesop even more lost.
Love Hurts: Poor, poor Elk. Not only does Mia, the only friend he has in The World and his first love turn out to be an AI but immediately after that revelation, he is forced to fight her alongside the main character and erase her from the game. It gets better in the Bonus Dungeon where you bring her back into the game...only to get much, much worse during the move into G.U. when Mia gets destroyed anyway along with the rest of the world. This turn of events causes Elk, now Endrance, to become a social recluse and spend his life addicted to the world. When he thinks he is finally reunited with her in the form of a cat, he finds out that it was only AIDA manipulating him and watches as she disintegrates right in front of him when you defeat him in battle, leading, understandably, to ANOTHER Heroic BSOD where he becomes a recluse in The World, literally trapped in crystal. Elk's got it rough.
Meaningful Name: Everyone. Seriously, everyone. Even the ones that aren't even names, like BT. Invoked in that players name their own characters, and would naturally choose something personally meaningful.
Mind Screw: From the "What is .hack//XXXX?" page of the first volume of said manga, here's this: "* Incidentally, this background image is a random image from the non-existent manga ALTIMIT XX which .hack//XXXX is simultaneously related to and disconnected from. (CC 2: Matsuyama)" Wha...?
No Export for You: .hack//frägment an online RPG version (not to be confused with an MMO) that allows custom created characters on a playable online server, only released in Japan. Fans fear that this may also be the case with .hack//Link, as the PSP is nearing the end of its lifespan.
Nonstandard Game Over: If you use Data Drain too many times, your corruption level will rise to such a high point that when it reaches 100%, you have a fair chance that the game just immediately kills you. Made even worse later on when you NEED to Data Drain everything in sight to look for rare Virus Cores. Made even worse than that because a bonus dungeon contains almost nothing but protected enemies that require you to data drain them to kill them, so your corruption level will reach 100%.
Old Save Bonus: As can be expected, playing the games in order and loading new games with the saves of previous ones will benefit your characters, usually transferring their levels over, as well as any Optional Party Members you encountered. Transferring from the first four (and frägment) to G.U. even unlocks a few special e-mails
Inversion? Starting a new game of .hack G.U. volume 1 with volume 2 clear data starts Haseo at level 35 with better weapons and armor.
One-Gender Race: All the Vagrant AIs appear entirely female except for one, whose gender is listed as "male?".
Only Six Faces: Justified. Lots of characters have similar voices, or faces, or body types, or hair styles, or costumes. But since this is an MMORPG you're bound to run into stuff like that now and then.
The Other Darrin: Balmung was voiced by Doug Erholtz in the first game of the original tetralogy. He is voiced by Crispin Freeman from Mutation onwards. This is in cutscenes only, however; Erholtz' voice is still used for battle vocals. Evidently they recorded them before Erholtz was replaced.
Perspective Flip: .hack//Another Birth tells the story of the R1 games through the perspective of Black Rose.
Power Tattoo: The Wave symbols on any given character model are more or less a permanent bonus trait to whatever spells or abilities your armor grants you, granting different attack styles or defensive perks that would otherwise not exist.
Say My Name: There's a scene in the Legend of the Twilight anime which is nothing but the two main characters shouting each other's names. For about ten minutes.
Scenery Porn: Especially in .hack//SIGN, where the camera spends ages languidly panning across the World's various landscapes.
Schmuck Bait: The Guardian enemies Protect Break after unusually small amounts of damage. If you Data Drain them, they become The Bracelet. Enjoy your Game Over.
On the other hand, actually killing The Bracelet nets you huge amounts of experience points (far more than any other enemy in the game), so if you're capable of it, it saves a lot of time on level grinding.
Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Emma Weilant's Epitaph of Twilight. Harald Hoerwick used her poem as the setting for frägment, the beta version of the The World, both of which which are actually an attempt to create a true AI by studying the millions of players. But part of his program ends up becoming intelligent on its own and rebels against its purpose, resulting in the rebel AI and a handful of players actually reenacting the story of the Epitaph in ways Harald never anticipated. And considering Emma's rather mysterious inspiration for the poem...
On a more conventional sense, the gender of Hotaru's real-world player, one of the characters of .hack//Legend of The Twilight Bracelet, is very fiercely debated due to several conflicting informations across the medium. Specifically, while many has said that Hotaru is a female, she is revealed to be male in the non-canon Let's Meet Offline, and in a throwaway, hard-to-translate line in A.I. Buster 2, which is canon. It doesn't help that real-world Hotaru is shown at the end of Volume 3 (along with the other real-world versions of the cast), and looks VERY genderly-ambiguous.
This series brings this trope Up to Eleven. Players of The World never seem to just take a step back and say "OK, this is a game - even if something really terrible happens, I can just quit and forget all about it". As such, you never see players log out or turn off their computers when faced with "real" threats from The World, which is what any sane person would normally do.
Note that a scene in Liminality suggests the Mind Raping begins with just the presence of such a threat. When Mai and Junichiro encounter Skeith, Mai just pulls off her headset, but Junichiro's twitching and foaming at the mouth, madly mashing his control pad, until she shuts down the system. And he wasn't even Data Drained.
There are quite a few to another one of CyberConnect2's games, Tail Concerto. Various "other players" are named after the charaters in Tail Concerto (Waffle, Cyan, etc.). There are even ads on your desktop about the game.
Sneeze Cut: Subverted in Beyond the World. After having allergy-induced sneezes throughout the movie, David actually manages to hold one in during his flight back while the other characters are talking about him.
Synchronization: Happens in reverse form, where various AIs - Aura, the eight Avatars, and AIDA - are linked to certain players and respond to their emotions. More than one player openly questions how such a thing could be possible.
Theme Naming: It seems many Captains and Guild Leaders in G.U. have to be named after Heavenly Objects. The various arena champions are all named after stars, and the guilds are named after birds (although Silabus offers an alternate explanation for "Canard").
Woman in White - Mainly Aura and Helba , though there are quite a few others. Helba takes the evil version of this trope, being a hacker and her character name is from the Queen of Darkness in the Epitapth of Twilight, though she is more an Antihero. Aura takes the pure from of this being the core of the system.
Your Mind Makes It Real: Characters who get attacked by Data Drain also reportedly suffer severe comas in the real world; this is explained in Legend of the Twilight, where it's revealed that Data Draining causes the mind to assume a "nocebo" death.