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Review: Wreck It Ralph

For family fun last Saturday night, we decided to watch the animated Disney movie Wreck It Ralph. We all love video games, and the premise – of a downtrodden villain growing weary of doing villainous things, and wanting more – seemed appealing.

My kids mostly play their video games online on their PC, or on their consoles, or on their smart phones or ipods.  When I was a kid, if we wanted to play — we grabbed our quarters and cold hard cash, met up with friends and headed to the local arcade. To spend hours dropping quarters into machines.

But, what really goes on INSIDE those arcade video games?

And thus begins the story, of an 8-bit villain, wanting to be a hero…


Movie reviews

Review: Brave – a Pixar movie

Princess Merida: I want my freedom!

Queen Elinor: But are you willing to pay the price your freedom will cost?

Last weekend we took the whole crew to see Brave – Pixar’s first fairy tale.  Originally called “The Bear and the Bow”, Brave stars Merida, the first female protagonist in a Pixar film, and is the first Pixar film with their completely redone graphics system.

Merida is a Scottish teenage tomboy princess, with a wild mane of red curls. She has a huge, burly father, a by-the-book mother – loving and kind, but traditional and determined – and 3 mischievous tiny triplet brothers.

Merida is “just not ready” for her impending betrothal (arranged marriage). Merida and her mother, Elinor can’t communicate well; each of them has a valid point of view – but the other can’t see it.  Merida rebels against tradition, and her mother. She wishes to change her fate.

But, wishes can be dangerous things and can turn out not quite as we expect…

Anime Movie reviews

Coming Soon: The Secret World of Arrietty

“Residing quietly beneath the floorboards are little people who live undetected in a secret world to be discovered, where the smallest may stand tallest of all.”

Do you remember the book The Borrowers? About a family of little people and their adventures living, hidden, in a house of regular sized people?  When something small, like a thimble or sugarcube, would go missing it was because of the Borrowers – friendly, yet fiercely private little people.

Get ready to be swept away, and discover a secret world within our own. Walt Disney Pictures is releasing Hiyao Miyazaki’s latest Studio Ghibli film “The Secret World of Arrietty” on February 17th.  Arrietty is based on Mary Norton’s award winning childrens’ book series “The Borrowers”; Studio Ghibli and Miyazaki considered doing a film based on the novel for 40 years.  Written by master storyteller Hiyao Miyazaki, and directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, the animated fantasy film was initially released in Japan as “The Borrower Arrietty” or Karigurashi no Arrietty.

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Review: .hack//Quantum

The latest in the .hack conglomerate, .hack//Quantum is an animated three part OVA released in Japan January 2011.  Quantum is the story of Sakuya (who looks like a female Kite), Tobias, and Mary, and their adventures in The World R:X.

Here’s a couple of YouTube preview links here and here.  Can’t wait to watch this – hope I can find it with English subs soon!

Check out my earlier review of the overall .hack mythology here, and my other posts with more details on Sign, Roots, G.U., Link, and Quantum.

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Review: .hack//Link

.hack//Link takes place after .hack//G.U., and is the story of a gamer, Tokio, who can’t wait to play The World R:X. but is unable to get access.  A mysterious transfer student, Saikaal, invites him to play and somehow transports him, body and consciousness, into the game where she treats him as a slave.  It’s quickly apparent something has gone wrong in The World – Tsukasa shows up and is acting strange, Haseo is still crazy and searching for Tri Edge – it’s up to Tokio to figure things out.

There are three .hack//Link manga books currently available, and a .hack//Link PSP video game, released in Japan only.  While the art style for the beginning of .hack//Link  isn’t consistent with the typical .hack art style, that’s true only for the opening sequence – the rest of the game is has the typical .hack look.

There are also future plans for a .hack//Link animated OVA tie-in.

Check out my earlier review of the overall .hack mythology here, and my other posts with more details on Sign, Roots, G.U., Link, and Quantum

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Review: .hack//G.U.

Once you have watched Roots, you’ll want to continue the story either by playing the .hack//G.U. video games (Rebirth, Reminisce, Redemption), watching .hack//G.U. Trilogy, or by reading the .hack//G.U.+ manga or the .hack//G.U. novels (The Terror of Death, Borderline MMO, Harald’s Archetype).

Haseo’s story continues, and he’s recruited into Project G.U. and the guild Raven.  Still searching for a way to save Shino and the Lost Ones, Haseo trains to regain his character’s strength and power.  Haseo learns about his hidden power and struggles to gain control of it.  While there are many familiar characters from .hack//Roots, we are introduced to several new characters including Endrance, Atoli, Bo and Saku, and Sakaki.  Haseo has several arena battles, becomes more involved with Atoli and Moon Tree guild, learns more about AIDA and the 8 Phases/Epitaphs/Morganna Factors and grows into his role as an Epitaph User with his Avatar Skeith.  (Cool fact:  Skeith means “Shadow” in Old Scottish.)

Mysteries are unveiled right up to the very end, and we watch as the characters are faced with questions such as – to what lengths will a person go to, to achieve their goals?  At what costs?  What are we capable of?  How strong is the human will?

For more information:

Liar’s Smile (From .hack//G.U. Trilogy) ***Warning:  Spoilers***

Check out my earlier review of the overall .hack mythology here, and my other posts with more details on Sign, Roots, G.U., Link, and Quantum.  And, here’s a little bonus, now that we’re getting in deeper…

The Epitaph of Twilight: (source)

Yet to return, the shadowed one.

Who quests for the Twilight Dragon

Rumbles the Dark Hearth,

And Helba, Queen of the Dark,

has raised finally her army.

Apeiron, King of Light beckons.

At the base of the rainbow do they meet

Against the abominable Wave,

together they fight.

Alba’s lake boils.

Light’s great tree doth fall.

Power- now all to droplets turned

in the temple of Arche Koeln.

Returns to nothing,

this world of shadowless ones.

Never to return, the shadowed one,

Who quests for the Twilight Dragon.

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Review: .hack//Roots

.hack//Roots is the prequel to the second group of three PS2 G.U. games (Rebirth, Reminisce, Redemption).  Roots is the story of Haseo, a black adept rogue who holds a secret not even he knows about.  Set in The World:R2, it takes place around 10 years after Sign.

Again, strange things are happening and we search with the characters for answers.  Haseo is recruited by Ovan and the Twilight Brigade guild, and also by the shady TAN guild.  Other characters are introduced including Ovan, Shino, Phyllo, Kuhn, Tawalaya, Tabby, SakiSaka, Ender, Yata, Pi, and Tri Edge; it’s difficult to tell who is good and who is evil.  The Twilight Brigade is searching for the Key of the Twilight.  Does it exist?  What is it?  Again we are faced with mysteries, but this time, something darker is going on.  What is causing player characters in the real world to fall into a coma, and become Lost Ones?  Why is it happening?  Who is responsible?  Is there any way to save the Lost Ones?  Why is there such an interest in Haseo?  And what is with Ovan’s left arm, with its huge cylindrical container sealed with a massive lock?

As Haseo and his guildmates search for the Key of the Twilight, Shino is attacked by a mysterious PK (player killer) and becomes a Lost One.  Haseo becomes obsessed with finding the one responsible, and finding a way to save Shino.  Crazy and half mad, Haseo searches desperately, earns the nickname The Terror of Death, and trains to become stronger.  While I personally find the Tabby-focused episodes a bit boring, she serves as a light counterweight to Haseo’s intense and brooding personality.

Roots brings you even deeper into The World of .hack.  Everything we’ve learned about the creation of The World becomes the building blocks – The World is evolving.  The mystery deepens and by the end of Roots we are introduced to the G.U. Project, Epitaph Users, Phases, Avatars, and AIDA.  The story is now in full swing, leading into the G.U. video games.

For more information:

Some great music from Roots:

God Diva (Ali Project)

Dwindled Bible

Junkyousha No Yubi/Martyr’s Finger

Check out my earlier review of the overall .hack mythology here, and my other posts with more details on Sign, Roots, G.U., Link, and Quantum.

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Review: .hack//Sign

.hack//Sign is the prequel to the original four PS2 games (Infection, Outbreak, Mutation, Quarantine) and is the story of Tsukasa, a wavemaster, who wakes up in a dungeon in The World with no idea where he is and no memory of what he was doing.  Also, for some unknown reason Tsukasa is unable to log out of The World.  Other characters are introduced including Mimiru, Bear, Lady Subaru, Silver Knight, Sora, BT, Helba, Harald, Morganna, Aura; some want to help Tsukasa, and some just want to get their hands on the Key of the Twilight.

Mysteries abound, and with every episode we follow the characters as they search for clues, yet every revelation leads to more questions than answers.  Why is Tsukasa unable to log out?  What happened to Tsukasa’s player character in the real world?  Eventually we discover that Tsukasa’s consciousness is trapped in the game.  But why, and how?  What is really going on?  What is the Key of the Twilight, and does it even exist?  How can Tsukasa be saved?

A character driven story, .hack//Sign slowly immerses you in the layers under the game The World as various thought provoking themes are explored.  Why do people play online MMORPG games?  For fun and entertainment.  To pass the time. To level up, quest, and achieve goals.  To escape reality.  Loneliness.  What happens when virtual reality is preferable to real life?  And most importantly – the importance of friends.  How sometimes we can’t save ourselves – we need others to help us.

For more information:

Check out my earlier review of the overall .hack mythology here, and my other posts with more details on Sign, Roots, G.U., Link, and Quantum.

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Review: The World of .hack (Dot Hack)

Welcome to The World.

.hack (or Dot Hack), is a series of separate but connected stories told through anime shows, video games, manga and novels.  In .hack, human players interact online in The World – a fictional MMORPG (massive multiplayer online role playing game) – using virtual reality headsets and a gamepad controller.  Filled with mysteries and adventure, the .hack saga is a complex and intricately woven journey that includes virtual reality, artificial intelligence, human players, corporate cover-ups, a mad scientist, all with MMORPG job classes, dungeons, and monsters.

Imagine a popular MMORPG where strange things are happening, and you are searching for answers along with the characters.  An entire mythology, a journey with great depth, .hack is the struggle to save others and to save one’s self, and to what lengths a person will go to, to achieve their goals.  When you finally reach the end of the journey, it’s mind blowing and you’ll want to travel it all one more time.

Chronological order

Probably the only drawback to the whole .hack franchise, is that it can be confusing to newbies.  There are so many different stories and media types, and it makes more sense if you watch/read them in order.  Also, there is some overlapping and retelling of the story; for example, some of the anime, manga, and novels retell exactly the same story.  It can be repetitive, and there are discrepancies, but it sometimes adds small details – especially the novels which add more background details to the anime.  Sometimes the story is retold from a different point of view – for example, the .hack video games are told from Kite’s perspective, while the .hack//Another Birth novels tell the same story from Black Rose’s perspective.

The best way to enjoy .hack – in chronological order:

.hack//Sign (anime; prequel to the original four .hack games)

.hack (PS2 video games) or .hack//Another Birth: Infection, Outbreak, Mutation, Quarantine (novels)

  • .hack//Infection
  • .hack//Outbreak
  • .hack//Mutation
  • .hack//Quarantine

.hack//Legend of the Twilight (anime and manga)

.hack//Roots (anime; prequel to the three .hack//G.U. games)

.hack//G.U. (PS2 video games, manga, novels)

  • Vol. 1 Rebirth
  • Vol. 2 Reminisce
  • Vol. 3 Redemption

.hack//Trilogy (DVD movie)

.hack//Link (manga, PSP game)

.hack//Quantum (DVD/OVA)

I would recommend the .hack video games for ages 10 and up.  The PS2 games are all rated T; there’s no blood, but lots of battling (REN GEKI!), and some swearing.

I would recommend the .hack anime shows for ages 7 and up.  The anime shows have some battling and swearing.  Keep in mind, the battling is taking place in an online game, so only the player’s online character is “killed”, and then has to relog in at their last save point.  There are some profound concepts to think about, and very young kids might be frightened by Haseo’s 3rd form, Flick Reaper.

So far, we’ve watched Sign (twice, as once we knew what was really going on, we had to watch it again), and Roots.  We bought all 7 PS2 games of .hack and .hack//G.U. from eBay and Amazon.  We’ve also read the Legend of the Twilight and G.U. manga and novels.  We’re waiting to watch Trilogy until after we finish the 3 G.U. games.  Then we’ll also watch the OVA Returner, and, after we read the Link manga, we’ll hopefully find a way to watch Quantum.

Immerse yourself in the fantastical World of .hack, and while you’re there discover some awesome music.  Sign, Roots, and Trilogy all have amazing soundtracks, ranging from driving/fast paced to relaxing/slow.  The kids and I have downloaded all the songs from these shows to our iPods and YouTube queue.  Here’s one of my favorites, Fake Wings (Yuki Kajiura):

To make life easier for you – .hack media, sorted by type:

Games (all by CyberConnect2)

.hack (PS2):

.hack//Fragment:  (PC mmorpg) released in Japan only; now closed.

.hack//G.U. (PS2):
Vol. 1 Rebirth
Vol. 2 Reminisce
Vol. 3 Redemption

.hack//Link (PSP – Japan only)


.hack//Sign (series)

.hack//Liminality (4 part OVA)

.hack//Gift (OVA)

.hack//Legend of the Twilight (series)

.hack//Roots (series)

Online Jack (clips)

.hack//G.U. Trilogy (DVD movie of the .hack//G.U. games)

.hack//G.U. Returner (OVA)

.hack//Quantum (new 3 part OVA) 


.hack//Legend of the Twilight







.hack//AI buster, .hack//AI buster 2


.hack//Another Birth (Infection, Outbreak, Mutation, Quarantine)

.hack//G.U. (The Terror of Death, Borderline MMO, Harald’s Archetype)

.hack//Epitaph of Twilight



Classes/Jobs in the MMORPG The World:

The World:  blademaster, wavemaster, heavy axeman, heavy blade, long arm, twin blade.

The World R:2:  adept rogue, steam gunner, flick reaper, harvest cleric, blade brandier, edge punisher, lord partisan, macabre dancer, shadow warlock, tribal grappler, twin blade.

For more information:

Official website 

Dot hack Wiki

Fan sites:

Be sure to check out my upcoming posts with more details on Sign, Roots, G.U., Link, and Quantum.  Are you a .hack fan?  Share the love, and any tips you have, in the comments!

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Review: Arthur’s Perfect Christmas

Our family has 4 favorite holiday specials:  The original Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (not the Jim Carrey live action one), A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, and Arthur’s Perfect Christmas.

Opening with a riff on the magical Pachelbel Canon in D (my heart-melting favorite classical music song), Arthur’s Perfect Christmas has bright cheerful animation, catchy original tunes, along with wonderful and touching story lines.  Entertaining and educational, it also explains the many different ways to celebrate the holidays – Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Saint Lucia – and Arthur’s Dad even cooks an authentic, time-of-Christ Christmas dinner.

(I digress, but I wanted to throw these 2 videos in here for fun:  relaxing classical Pachelbel Canon in D, and fast and furious guitar version.)

Christmas is coming.  Arthur wants snow, and to give his mom the perfect gift.  DW wants Tina the Talking Tabby – but it’s Sold Out.  Clumsy Uncle Fred’s car breaks down, and he ends up at Arthur’s house.  Muffy’s throwing a Christmas Extravaganza, but her best friend Francine can’t come.  Binky’s trying to cook something tasty.  And Buster Baxter’s Mom is stressed – trying so hard to make sure Buster has a perfect Christmas.  And all Buster can think is – maybe Christmas doesn’t have to be such a big deal; maybe it could even be Baxter Day:

“No need for presents
There’s nothing I need
You won’t find it at a store in the mall
We’re together
And that’s my gift
It’s the very best present of all”

Watch it with your kids.  I know you’ll love it.  Miracles do happen, even small ones.  And this Christmas, try something new and start a new family tradition – “stay in pajamas all day, and maybe eat a snack or five”…

Check the online schedules of your local PBS stations to see when Arthur’s Perfect Christmas is on in your area.

As Uncle Fred says, “Remember Arthur, you don’t always get what you want in life – sometimes you get something better.”

Arthur’s Perfect Christmas is appropriate for all ages, created by Marc Brown, and copyright 2000 PBS Kids.