Saturday, February 4, 2012

.hack//Sign: Something Is Wrong Here

.hack recap: Tsukasa can't log out. Thus far Tsukasa has abruptly exited every single conversation he's been in, sometimes rudely.

Tsukasa is back at the spinning hoop gate thing, trying to log out. Nothing happens. Mimiru shows up and he is, again, initially afraid at the arrival of a new person. When they see that they've bumped into each other again Mimiru offers a smile and Tsukasa turns his back on her.

Mimiru sticks out her tongue. I'm not sure that there's a lot of point in trying to work out how the control scheme works, but I think that the most logical conclusion based on what we see and hear said in the show would be that it actually makes use of the player's facial expressions unless told not to. The player sticking out her tongue makes the character stick out her tongue. This could be accomplished by pointing a camera, or something like those sensor things for the games where you have no controller, back at the player's face.

Which would give the possibility for a lot of non-verbal communication in the game. A smile, a narrowing of the eyes, sticking out one's tongue, basically expression, really, could be communicated through the game.

The alternative is that doing these things requires keystrokes which I don't really buy, though it does make for an interesting image of someone who is so practiced in the game that when they try to make faces in real life their face remains the same because instead the impulse makes them move their fingers as if punching the appropriate keys.

Tsukasa looks back, catches her sticking her tongue out, and smiles for a short moment before going back to walking away. Then he stops and asks her if she can log out.

First off, this is a good question on his part. It's like when your power goes out. Before you go through the effort of trying to find and fix a problem in your house, you first might want to take a look to see of the other houses on the street have power. If the problem is for everyone, then you'll never fix it by assuming it's just you.

Second, this might be a good time to point out that the show has a lot of conversations where the participants aren't facing each other. When BT and Bear spoke it started out over his shoulder and ended up with him looking away from her. When Subaru was talking to Silver Knight the conversation started with her facing in the opposite direction. Here Tsukasa decides to ask Mimiru something, but he's still facing away from her when he does.

Mimiru points out that not only can she, she has. She's only been logged back in for a few minutes. Tsukasa walks away without offering an explanation for his question.


When Mimiru catches up with him he's sitting on a cliff looking down both literally and figuratively.

She asks if he really means he can't log out, he says it looks that way, she wonders if he might have done something wrong. Something like cheating perhaps. The beetle has returned, he knocks it over with his staff.

He can't remember, which is pretty troubling to him. He ends up repeating it several times with a fair amount of desperation.

Mimiru points out that if all else fails, all he has to do is reset his terminal. At which point Tsukasa notices something is strange and goes into full blown panic mode. When he tries to run away Mimiru stops him by grabbing him by his clothes and basically throwing him back where he started.

She's trying to get him to calm down, it has the opposite of the intended effect. There's a reason that Mimiru thought that was a reasonable thing to do. There's a reason that it wasn't. We'll get to those reasons but since they're very much tied up with what happens next, we'll go there first.

Tsukasa jumps up and angrily shouts, “Leave me alone!” which catches Mimiru off guard. And she responds with anger of her own.

This is the third time that Tsukasa has tried to rudely exit a conversation with her and, since she saw what happened with the Crimson Knights, the fourth time she's seen him do it. The last time he did it he first hit her with an out of nowhere statement that he didn't like her.  Then, when she tried to make a peace offering by smiling when she met him this time, he turned his back.

I don't think she hears, “Leave Me Alone!” I think she hears him claiming the right to totally control when and how conversations begin and end. I don't think she's hearing it as a request to be left alone so much as staking claim to being the one in control.  I think she sees him as saying that everything has to be done on his terms.

Regardless of exactly what her thought process is, she gets angry. Tsukasa gets scared. I'm pretty sure Mimiru doesn't notice this, I didn't notice myself the few times I saw it. Mimiru shouts at Tsukasa, the important bit being:

I don't want to be the one to say this, but the net is the same as the real world! There are certain manners you have to observe when dealing with people, and you won't be treated with respect if you behave badly.

That's not wrong, but it's not right either. It isn't the same.  She wouldn't have thrown him to the ground in the real world, but as I said, we'll get to that.

Tsukasa has managed to calm down, and he no longer appears to be afraid.  He simply says that he knows that but he would like it if she would leave him alone. She says she will but first brings up that he said he didn't like her and says she doesn't him him either. Or, in the dub, “I hate your guts!”

I don't know if there is a good way to respond to such a declaration, but I do know that Tsukasa's way wasn't good. He thinks that's great, they agree, she'll leave him alone, he'll ignore her ... and slap.

Mimiru smacked Tsukasa in response to being told he'd ignore her, and then there's confused silence. Neither of them really understands what just happened.

For Mimiru this is all just a game, she thinks that you ought to behave with a certain level of respect, but in spite of what she said she doesn't think the game is the same as real life because if she didn't she wouldn't be acting the way she is acting. She'd be saying the same words in all probability, but not doing the same things. Because it's a game. It doesn't hurt. You can slap someone without hurting them, you can grab them without violating their personal space.

These things are not being done to the player, but to the character. The player sits at a safe distance far away somewhere. People will misuse that distinction and do things to characters that actually seem to be intended to traumatize the players, but that's not what Mimiru is doing here. She doesn't expect Tsukasa to respond with such immediate anger to being thrown on the ground because as far as she knows that's not what she's doing. She certainly doesn't think it's a violation. She doesn't expect the slap to hurt him because it literally cannot do that and she is blissfully unaware of the fact that impossible things are happening.

For her she's in a world where you can slap someone without being abusive, it would be on the level of trading insults perhaps, nothing more. She has no idea that Tsukasa isn't in that world. As far as she knows what she's done is nothing more than going low level nuker at the end of a discussion with someone who has repeatedly demonstrated a lack of respect for her.

To look at it in a completely different way, she thinks she's in NCIS. The parallel isn't exactly right because Gibbs never slaps people in the face, but if you've seen NCIS you probably know that I'm talking about. The Gibbs-smack is a literal blow to the back of the head that, because of the unreal qualities of that setting, somehow manages not to be abusive but instead a simple wake-up call. More like a harsh word than a realistic portrayal of slapping someone in the back of the head.

Gibbs doesn't have to worry about his hitting people being a problem, because he's living in a semi-slapstick world where things are different and that's ok.  Slap people all you want, it's safe.

Yet here Mimiru has done that to someone, in a place where it's not supposed to hurt, and he's reacted like he really did get slapped and it really did hurt quite a bit and it really was a violation and Mimiru has no idea what to do as a result.

At first she's confused, then, as his reaction deepens and he is on the verge of tears, she moves to concern. But then she shakes it off, turns up her nose, and leaves. She has no idea of the pain that she's caused.

Once you get to know Mimiru, once you understand the character and realize that if she had even the faintest inkling of what was going on she never would have done any of this, the scene is pretty heartbreaking. Someone, someone who takes the feelings of others pretty damned seriously, just caused physical pain to someone else, someone already in real distress, because of a misunderstanding. They were playing by different sets of rules, and she didn't know about it.

She threw an imaginary blow and Tsukasa really got hit with it.

It's always bad when someone gets hurt but, for me at least, it's so much worse when it's all because of misunderstanding.  At least when someone sadistic is hurting someone (or hurting you) you can channel your emotion into something like anger or hate, but when a good person is hurting someone because they don't realize what they're doing is causing harm, all you're left with is sadness.

We never see what happens when Mimiru finally realizes what happened here, but I think it's worth mentioning that we never see her doing these things again.  Not even to people whom she knows with absolute certainty wouldn't feel it.


Tsukasa is closer to understanding what's going on. Unlike Mimiru he's had indications aplenty that something was wrong. When we first see him he's in lingering pain after being knocked unconscious and left on the ground. The only part of the previous sentence that shouldn't set off, “That's impossible,” bells is “left on the ground.” He can't remember how he got there, soon after he can't remember about the anthropomorphic cat the knights are interested in beyond that he's seen it, he can't remember if he cheated (though he is convinced that he didn't).

The reason he tried to log out the first time was that he had an unpleasant, never elaborated on, feeling that caused him to stand up in the middle of a conversation and head straight to log out. That failed. Now he's failed to log out again. And what he's just realized was enough to send him into utter panic, he is coming to realize more and more that something is very wrong.

But none of it came with quite the force of a slap to the face. As he's left standing there, on the verge of tears, he can't understand why it hurts.

Unless you follow the dub instead of the subtitles, then he can't figure out why him. I've actually written a post addressing that subject already, but I'm waiting until I'm done with episode one to publish it. The short answer is that he's been chosen by a force he doesn't understand to fill a role that he is singularly unqualified to fill. He was chosen because his emotional state is fragile enough that the one who chose him believes that he can be manipulated into abject failure.

In fact, the one who chose him doesn't even intend to tell him what it is that he is supposed to be doing.



  1. This is a good post, but not in such a way that I have anything to say in response. I'm just commenting to point out that it's tagged "Skewed Slightly to the Left" for no apparent reason.

    1. This is a good post, but not in such a way that I have anything to say in response.

      And I was so looking forward to reading what you had to say.

      Anyway, thanks for the heads up. It's fixed now. It was because "Skewed Slightly to the Left" was right next to "Slow Reading" which is my term for something that I don't really think qualifies as a deconstruction, but is done at a similar pace. Because, “not-deconstruction” would probably be unhelpful.

      Normally I type in the tags but the option exists to simply click on them which should be quicker, so I figured I'd do that this time. And apparently clicked on the wrong ones.

  2. I don't have much to comment on but that I love this post. It's such an important moment in the episode and you nailed it on breaking down Mimiru's character.