In the Case of Mai Minase is the first episode in the .hack//Liminality OVA, packaged with the .hack//INFECTION video game. It tells the story of Mai Minase, a girl who collapsed with her boyfriend while they were playing in The World. While Mai wakes up, her boyfriend does not. She soon meets up with Junichiro Tokuoka, a former high-level employee for the company behind The World, and they set out on their own investigation into the connection between The World and the mysterious comas.
So far, the Liminality series provides an interesting twist in the .hack universe, because it approaches the story from the real world. There are a few moments when characters are playing in The World, but you see very little game footage. To me, this really helped sell the affect the comas are having on people, and it creates a deeper mystery, too. Does the company know what’s going on, that they’re responsible? Is there a way to protect yourself? Are there any happy people who play in The World? Yes, Mai has her own backstory, and while not as dark as those found in .hack//Sign, she still seems to have a few troubles at home. It helped me feel sympathy for her, but I hope this isn’t a recurring theme in the rest of the universe. It could get old very quickly.
The art style is very similar to .hack//Sign, with a couple of key differences. First, since this takes place in the real world, the character designs are grounded in reality. No crazy hair colors, body tattoos, or excessive skin here. Also, since it’s an OVA, the animation seems to be of a higher quality. A bit crisper, but also with a darker look, to emphasis the difference between reality and The World. Music is provided once again by See-Saw, with a new opening theme. “Obsession” makes an appearance during the episode, though, and really helped this feel like a continuation of the story begun in .hack//Sign.
I’m really intrigued by this branch of the story so far, and I’m really curious to see just how far Mai and Junichiro go in their investigation. Are they going to have any effect on the plot of the video games? For that matter, will they make cameos in the games? In the .hack universe, that’s always a possibility. The fact that I’m already looking ahead, past the first game, to the next episode of the OVA shows just how well done this one episode is.
Score: 4.5 out of 5