Sunday, September 2, 2012

.hack//Sign: Rumor, Truth, and Digital Ducks

[meta bit that you might want to skip begins]
So, the plan was to be doing at least one .hack post a week, sometimes even more than one. It hasn't exactly worked out that way. Even if we count the index, and the times I had multiple posts in the same day, it doesn't even averaged out that way. Hell, the plan for this week was to have this done on Friday but Friday was spent on the Deus Ex post that was supposed to be done on Thursday Wednesday, and then Saturday was spent on a roller-coaster of hope and the opposite having nothing to do with the blog. (I think that, given the existence of the compound miter-saw and the wood I found, things can be made to work out if I can acquire 1/8th of an inch thick clear plastic, 2 inch long wire nails, clear epoxy, and possibly wood-stain.)

Anyway, I did want to get something done this week, even though the week I've been calling this week ended yesterday, and we've been three weeks without a .hack post which is clearly too long.

So bear with me as I try to get back into the swing of things, and as always if you have anything you're even considering sharing, for the love of God/gods/nonexistent-thing comment.
[/meta bit]

.hack recap: Tsukasa, believing he has tamed the Guardian, has been told to do whatever he wants. Bear has asked Subaru to look at the access log.

(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 4: Wanted, Beginning-4:01

First off, some of these episode titles seem to be on a very, “Give away the end,” kind of wavelength. Which is a legitimate storytelling choice, I guess, sometimes the question isn't Will it/they/whatever or won't it/they/whatever but, “It/they/whatever will, but how?”

Anyway, the episode name isn't about how it starts, but how it ends, and god only knows when we'll get to that point, so lets talk about how it starts for now.

Mimiru logs on and within seconds overhears a conversation about Tsukasa:

A new skill?
Yeah, Tomato said he saw one. The guy was toting around a monster and letting it kill off the enemies to gain experience.
I haven't heard that. What kind of guy is he?
A small wavemaster.
Don't you mean the guy the Crimson Knights are looking for?
What? Is that for real?

The dubbing is somewhat different, but the basic idea is that people are talking about Tsukasa to the point you can't be logged in for more than a few seconds without hearing some rumor or other.

Also, until I saw it in writing I didn't know the guy's name was Tomato because the emphasis is different enough to mean that it just didn't register.

The reason for Tuskasa generating all these rumors is that he's been told he could do anything he wanted to do, he could go anywhere he wanted to go, and for a kid with nothing... Yes, I'm quoting Tangled, it's a good movie.

The rumor here is wrong, it isn't a new skill and as far as I know Tsukasa doesn't gain experience when the Guardian defeats someone/something. He remains one of the weaker characters. What has happened is that Tsukasa has gone from someone who is afraid and is boxed in by authority figures and the limitations of the game to someone who seems to have been shown a world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries... and now I'm quoting The Matrix, perhaps getting back into this, without turning into Quotefest 2012, will be more difficult than anticipated.

Tsukasa started the series afraid of everyone and everything, now he has a seemingly invincible (and, unlike in episode 2, seemingly tame) guardian which means that instead of having to react with fear every time someone shows up he can go wherever he wants to without the need to run or hide. If he wants to go into the hardest dungeon there is, he can. The Guardian will take care of the monsters, he can just stroll through. What does he care if someone sees him?

Thus: rumors.


We cut from Mimiru looking concerned about the rumors to a group of ducks in the canal at Mac Anu. Once upon a time I tried to find out what a group of ducks is called and at the end of my search found digital scans of a very old handwritten manuscript, probably at open library, I wanted to look that up again so I could say “a group of ducks is called [whatever manuscript said]” and link to the manuscript. Mostly because I thought it would be fun to provide such a link, it's interesting to see how handwriting and spelling have changed. There is a charm to old manuscripts, I think.

Anyway, I couldn't find said manuscript again, so I'll go with the easy to find answers. A group of ducks in water is called a paddling or a raft, since these ones aren't moving I'm guessing a raft. They, combined with the camera tilting up to show one of the bridges over the canal, provide an establishing shot of Mac Anu before we get into the meeting of Bear and Subaru, Silver Knight is there too.

The ship from which Subaru is usually seen directing the knights is docked, Silver Knight stands on the land near its bow, Subaru some distance in front of him, Bear even further out front, leaning back on what I think is a lamp post.

Not a word is spoken. Subaru walks passed Bear to something she herself can lean against (she leans forward) while she looks out at the canal. One of the ducks flies over. Finally, Subaru speaks:

Subaru: I have taken a look at the log files.
*Bear makes noise of acknowledgment/questioning/something*
Subaru: If I am to believe the logs, he's been here continuously for the past ten days.

So, quick note to any who don't know about the difference between continuous and continual. If Tuskasa had been there continually for the past ten days it probably wouldn't concern anyone. Something that continually happens happens again and again. Something that continuously happens never stops happening for the duration.

Now we don't know exactly what the log files contain, but we do know that it shows he hasn't logged out to eat, drink, or sleep in ten days. This is why people like Bear and Mimiru are so concerned with the not-very-likable Tsukasa. His life appears to be in danger, and in that case personal likability isn't high on the list of necessary attributes to justify involvement.

If your response to the ethics 101 thing about the drowning man is asking, “Well, is he a jerk?” then your ethics could use some tweaking. The appropriate response is to do what you can (be it calling for help or using lifeguard training) to keep the guy from dying.

It will be demonstrated later on that it is possible to leave one's terminal for a short time without logging out (which leaves one's character immobile and non-responsive) that no one is suggesting that Tsukasa is doing this indicates that that couldn't explain the data he's produced. Either the log files indicate such things (periods logged in but with inactivity are listed in the files) or being inactive long enough to take care of necessities would kick you from the game, or something like that.

Regardless, Tsukasa has been in the game, without pause, for ten days according to the log files.

Bear: No wonder you can't believe it.
Subaru: I don't want to believe it.

That is, I think, understandable. Not only is it impossible, not only is she probably considering the stuff above about time without water, food, or sleep, but it's also simply an indication of wrongness. Things like this should never happen. Things like this shouldn't be able to happen.

*Subaru turns to Bear*
Bear: Is there a possibility that the logs have been altered?
*Subaru leans forward*
Subaru: What need is there to do so? Who did it, and for what purpose?
*Subaru goes back to standing straight*
Subaru: I have no reason to doubt what the log files indicate.

She goes on to point out that someone altering the files likely wouldn't leave such a big unmissable sign that something isn't as it should be. On the one hand, this is used as an argument in favor of hoaxes not being hoaxes (any inconsistency is pointed out and said, “If it really were a hoax, wouldn't the hoaxter have made this consistent?”) on the other hand, there is something to be said for asking the question: if this were a hoax, why the hell would they do that?

The main point of this is that, while Subaru doesn't want to believe it, she does in fact believe it.

Subaru: The fact that he continues to stay here... he stays no matter what condition he is in... why does he have to continue to stay here?
*Subaru makes sound of frustration and looks away*
Bear: As I said, maybe there's a reason to find that out. What is he doing, staying logged in for all this time?
*Bear turns to Silver Knight and gives a “Hmm?”*
*Silver Knight goes “Hmm” in return*
*Bear turns back to Subaru*
Bear: Maybe he doesn't know what's going on at all, either.
*Subaru reacts with surprise*
Bear: I have a feeling you won't find the answer just chasing after a character on the 'net'.

And with that, the scene ends.

So, there's a fair amount to unpack here. Subaru is showing an interest in Tsukasa as a person, though she's never met him, and concern for his situation. Before now we really don't know what she thought about him. He only came onto the knights radar on account of his having been seen with the floating cat in the pointy hat (Maha) and then was at the center of an unforeseen catastrophe, with him being the only one present when her top knight was beaten in such a way to leave the player controlling him unconscious and with (temporary) memory loss regarding the incident.

She posted guards in an attempt to intercept Tsukasa when he tried to log out (or at least approved of such postings) and that seemed the limit of her thought on the matter. And as it probably should be, she didn't know any of the details of his situation. Now she does, and when a … no.  I'm not going to quote Firefly. Now she does, and her response is one of concern. Now she wants to know what's driving him, or forcing him, to do what he does.

Bear is of the opinion that Tsukasa might have no more idea what's going on than the rest of them, and that it's worthwhile to find out what's going on, and that it won't be done on the internet alone. The reason he called in the Crimson Knights in the first place was that he was hoping they could give him the information necessary to locate Tsukasa's player in the real world. That hope was crushed under the CC Corporation's respect for player confidentiality and the fact that, while the Crimson Knights might be on good terms with System Administration they are in fact just players.

Where he's getting the idea that Tuskasa might have no more idea what's going on than he does is probably Mimiru, Mimiru was the one Tsukasa asked if she was able to log out indicating that when it first happened he was unaware it was something specific to him. Since then Bear has seen that the floating cat in the pointy hat seems more in control than Tsukasa, and seen that Tsukasa was completely unaware of the extent of what the Guardian did to the Silver Knight.

And as for the Silver Knight, he seems content to sit out this conversation. He utters not a word, and the only time he makes a sound is when prompted, he doesn't move. He really, really seems disinterested in discussions of the well-being of Tsukasa.



  1. I think that this behaviour is consistent with the picture of Subaru as an anti-griefer; she basically wants players to have a good time.

    (As for the Crimson Knights, as personified by Silver Knight... they don't really seem to enjoy that role, and I wonder why they do it.)

    1. expand on that, why isn't Bear a Crimson Knight? He seems like the sort of guy who'd fit in with the organisation Subaru wants - and not really the one she's got.

    2. My best guess is that it's because of the organization she's got. When BT considered going to the Crimson Knights he didn't think it would help anything. He seems to have a more positive view of the Knights than Mimiru, but he still doesn't regard them that highly.

      There's also a question of whether he would want to even if the organization more closely matched the intent.

      Bear might not be the type to join an organization. When we meet him he says that he's always helping newbies, it's possible that's what he's initially doing with BT but I'm not sure, after that the Tsukasa situation in general and Tsukasa in particular sort of take over his play so we never really see him on the helping newbies front, but it could be that that's his preferred mode of play: a lone individual who helps people out until they're on their feet, and then helps out the next newbie.

      If it is then he might be an ally of a more-to-Subaru's-vision Crimson Knights, but he wouldn't be a member.


      As for why the knights join up with the the Knights, I would venture that there are all kinds of reasons. Some probably do share Subaru's vision, the Silver Knight seems to see a different but related vision where they do much of the same things, but the focus is on catching/punishing the rule breakers rather than protecting the victims.

      Put it another way: He's Buffy, he slays the evildoers; she's Angel, she helps the helpless. A lot of times those two things can look the same, but not all the time.

      But anyway, I could see myriad reasons. If you think that those without power need to be protected, you join the knights; if you think there needs to be order, you join the knights; if you think social standards must be enforced, you join the knights; if you want the ego boost that comes from being part of a recognized club, you join the knights; if you want the fear/respect that comes from the only paramilitary group in town, you join the knights; if you want authority, you join the knights; so on, so forth.

      Presumably the worst offenders would be weeded out, if they were recognized as such. A dictatorship, which is what the knights are, does have the benefit of being able to respond to obvious corruptions pretty efficiently. Subaru can be contacted by ordinary players and responds to that (seen in the show by her showing up for meetings), so if someone were overtly abusing authority they might find themselves gone in an instant if their victim told Subaru what they did.

      (On the other hand, she gives a pretty wide latitude to the Sliver Knight when it comes to him doing things alcoholically wrong.)

      But even assuming a pretty decent weeding process of corruption, there's still the problem of multiple different visions. Silver Knight sees their role as System Administration Support even though any connection to the System Administration was post-founding (presumably a result of them passing on information that was pertinent to System Administration gathered during their normal duties and forming a relationship thus.)

      Anyway, anyone who wants to be in a group like the Knights has two options. One is to join the group that exists. The other is to create their own. I'm guessing most people favor the first, and that's why they're there.

  2. A new skill?
    Yeah, Tomato said he saw one. The guy was toting around a monster and letting it kill off the enemies to gain experience.

    Am I the only one who heard this and thought "That's not new. That was four and a half years ago."? (Well, my actual thought process was more like "That's not new. That was three and a half...wait, I always underestimate these things. Four and a half? *check* Yes!")

    A group of ducks in water is called a paddling or a raft, since these ones aren't moving I'm guessing a raft.

    I would have thought flock, but okay.

    Virtual ducks in particular always kind of weird me out. They're neither useful to the players nor animals living their lives. They're decorations pretending to be living creatures.