ANIME & MANGA - Review
17:13 - 27th March 2013, by Amanda Young

.hack//4koma

As the astute of you may very well have already guessed, .hack//4koma is a collection of 4-panel comic strips from the .hack universe. Originally serialised in a monthly magazine, these strips have been ported to their very own manga volume, and are housed here along with a treasure trove of comedy stories from the .hack world. .hack lovers should note that most of the action revolves around characters from The World and The World R:2, so expect plenty of jokes alluding to that all-time epic struggle, Kite versus Haseo.

Whilst the majority of the content is given over to Koichi Sumimaru's 4-panel strips, there's plenty of other, varied content here too - although it rarely hits the peaks reached by the funniest 4-panel strips on offer in the first part of the volume. Sumimaru follows up the 4-panel content with a short entry titled Peaco's Story (which follows Atoli changing her avatar in order to gain the affections of Haseo), whilst a section entitled Joke Champion features a variety of content, including Gaspard's Go, Go The World! double page spread comics by Inumaru - characterised by much darker backgrounds and a more casual style that doesn't seem to be as rigidly informed by the .hack franchise. Perhaps the oddest inclusion to the entire volume is the section called Play Report, which chronicles a variety of artists and their experiences with playing .hack//G.U. - all in manga form. Consisting of little more than a series of adverts for the game, this is nevertheless an intriguing insight into the diversity of the manga industry in Japan...
Those unfamiliar with the world of .hack will find most of the inside jokes here going straight over their heads, as you might well expect. However, there are a few gags about online RPGS which are fairly universal, and should cause a similarly universal snigger. But, when most of the gags here revolve around the relationships of various characters from different games, it's hard to recommend this to newcomers. There's also no overall plot to the 4-panel strips, although some of them do form small story themes which are linked together by titles. Whilst on the one hand, this makes it easy to dip in and out of, it does make it a bit of a chore to work through in one sitting, meaning that the jokes start to wear thin. And, given the fact that many of these jokes rely on a near-encyclopaedic knowledge of the games, to the average .hack enthusiast, many of them weren't that funny to begin with - especially those that rely on Japanese cultural references and puns.

That said, if you liked your experiences of the franchise already, you might be inspired to find out more about the series after picking this up, and it also provides a fascinating window into the hardcore gaming community that .hack has built up in Japan.

.hack and slash your way through this epic compilation - but only if you're confident you're a hardcore member of The World.
SCORE: 3/5
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