Saturday, June 16, 2012

.hack//Sign: Kinds of Power

.hack recap: Subaru went off alone to keep an appointment.

(I recommend actually buying .hack//Sign since my words don't really do it justice.  One can get either the DVD this episode is on, or the full series as a set.)

.hack//Sign, Episode 3: Folklore, 4:50 - 6:08

Thus far we've seen Subaru in her position as head of the Crimson Knights, and just seeing her in that position somewhat masks one of the effects of holding that position. There is a vast gulf between Subaru head of the Crimson Knights and just plain Subaru.

As head of the Crimson Knights Subaru is one of the most powerful players in the game. She is the only person we will see in the series who commands an army. Other groups tend to be your standard adventuring parties with just a handful of people. They're in one place at a time, and they can't muster overwhelming force. The Crimson knights can be in many places at once, as seen in the second episode when they were able to guard every Chaos Gate in their attempt to catch Tsukasa, and they can mobilize a sizable force when they feel the need, as we'll see in episode five. They are a force without parallel, and they're loyal to Subaru (to varying degrees.)

On the other hand being head of the Crimson Knights has left Subaru as a very low powered player. Most of her time appears to be spent administrating, which she does from a boat on a canal in the root town that I call Venice (again, real name: Mac Anu) and even if she weren't occupied by running the knights, she never really needs to fight her own fights. She has never had opportunity to level up. On her own basically anyone can push her around. (Physically at least, when it comes to willpower she will not be moved.)

Something similar has happened on a social front. As head of the Crimson Knights she's a celebrity, one of the most visible players in the game, people copy her style and she's popular and adored (and hated) and theoretically at the top of the social heap. But she's also isolated. Her position doesn't lead to her mingling. When she does interact with people outside of the knights it's on knight related business. She doesn't have friends, she has subordinates.

She originally came to the game because she was drawn in by the social aspect of being able to interact with people without real life limitations and prejudices getting in the way. When she came she found that a certain segment of the population had taken the, “Decide how to play for yourself,” mandate and used it as an excuse to enjoy themselves at the expense of others. There was no rule saying, “Don't be an ass,” so they decided to be utter jerks.

The Crimson Knights were founded, almost by accident, as a response to this. They were built around the idea that just because you can push people around doesn't mean you should. Just because it is possible to be a jerk doesn't mean it is all right to be one. They exist to get everyone to play nice, and that's what Subaru has been devoting herself to ever since. It's the responsibility that she ended up with and she takes it seriously.

But lost along the way is that whole social interaction thing. She doesn't do it, she doesn't know how. She doesn't have any practice when it comes to how to interact with friends. The social contact she originally came to seek out is something she never really got. Instead all of her time is devoted to maintaining the peace.

And just as she's not likely to start making friends with others, others are unlikely to approach her. She's not Subaru who you ask if she wants to hang out just to hang out, she's Subaru who commands an army and is famous and probably seems like she's above your station if you're a normal player. In that way her position really isolates her. As time goes on and things go wrong it will become more explicit, with one member of the knights taking steps to keep people he considers bad influences from contacting Subaru.


Subaru is, at this moment, heading off alone to meet with Sora.

Sora is also one of the most powerful players in the game, for completely different reasons. At some point he worked hard, leveled up a lot, and is now stronger, faster, more deadly, voted most likely to win in a fight and so forth. His power is entirely individual, he even goes so far as to tell other people that if they side with him he will betray them, and it is based wholly on violence and the threat of violence.

He's a player killer, and thus the exact kind of person that the Crimson Knights was founded to stop. (Subaru is almost certainly unaware of the fact that Sora is a playerkiller going into this interaction.)

Subaru’s power flows from an idea, and the hard but not level-up gaining work that went into supporting that idea. Sora's is from physical power, and the hard work that went into gaining that.


Sora, as is common for him, jumps down from a high place to make his entrance, because simply saying hello is never enough for him. (It also has the effect of startling Subaru.)

After checking that this is the right person, and Sora saying he's not used to being called “Mister”, Subaru asks why he wanted to talk, he doesn't tell her at first, she threatens to leave, and then we get this:

Sora: The Key of the Twilight. Sounds interesting, huh?
Subaru: There is no such thing.

And she turns and walks away. Bear had a similar response when BT mentioned it not-by-name. (This is the first time the name has come up.) Those who have been around have pretty much dismissed this. Part of the reason we know that Sora hasn't been around is that if he had he'd know that Subaru is well acquainted with the idea of the key since at one point, back when Crim was still a part of the Crimson Knights, the knights searched the entire game for any evidence of it.

As it turns out, those who have been around are wrong, and the new generation of believers, as represented by B.T. and Sora are right.

Subaru actually took a bit longer to dismiss it than Bear. She started audibly thinking about it when Sora said “The Key of the Twilight,” and still let a moment of silence hang before responding that there's no such thing. Possibly mulling over her personal history.

Anyway, Sora doesn't give up that easily.

(While walking:)
Sora: Oh, so you don't listen to what other people say. That's not good.
*short pause*
Sora: Stop.
*extends a blade directly in front of Subaru's face, forcing her to stop*
*short pause*
Sora: C'mon, let's talk about it.

Remember what I said about violence and the threat of violence?

Subaru decides to listen to him.

We'll see later on that, “I can kill you, so do what I want,” isn't actually something that can be used to control Subaru, but in this case I think that she decided that it was simpler to just go along with the jerk. As it turned out the jerk had things to say that did interest Subaru and convinced her to tolerate his presence even once the threat of violence no longer applied.

Unfortunately that conversation happens off screen, and we only get a vague description of it afterward, so we don't actually know what information Sora brought to the table.

It ends here with her deciding to stay around at bladepoint.


As a programming note, I'm having trouble figuring out exactly how to break things up in this episode, made somewhat more difficult by the fact that, while I have no problem going out of order within a post, I'd like the posts themselves to be chronological, so there are things I might want to put together but they're separated by things that don't really fit.

I think that, for the moment, I'm just going to go with having several shorter posts. The down side is they'll have less content, this post basically has one scene worth of content and a page of talking about Subaru padding it out. If I stick with the idea of shorter posts then they'll have about the same content from the show, a scene each, but won't have a page of talking about Subaru. So they'll probably be pretty thin on substance. The up side is that it won't require me to jump from topic to topic to fit disparate scenes into a single post.

I'm not completely sure, but I think that's what I'll be doing. So expect the next three posts to be shorter ones without a lot to them called, “Can't give up,” “Color my world,” and “These points of data make a beautiful line.”


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