A Parent's Guide to Anime
Parental Guidance Advised
Reviewed by Kelly L.:
In the near future, virtual reality technology is perfected, resulting in the ultimate roleplaying games. The most popular of these is "The World".
One day, a frightened young boy appears, accompanied by a mysterious creature that attacks anything trying to harm or restrain him. His name is Tsukasa, and he says that he cannot log out of the game and can physically feel everything happening to him in The World.
A handful of seasoned players tries to reach out and help him - Mimiru, an outgoing young girl with enough self-confidence for both of them; her friend Bear, a warmhearted man with a strong paternal streak; Bear's associate B.T., a beautiful, ice-cool woman playing so many cards even she must have trouble keeping track of them and Lady Subaru, a compassionate young woman who founded the Crimson Knights - an informal order of rule enforcers working in unison with system administration to keep the game pleasant and fair and who's highly respected in spite of her realatively low experience level due to her distaste for fighting. Also joining them on occasion are Crim, a nice friend of Subaru's who perhaps has the healthiest attitude towards the game and Sora, a witty but rather nasty manchild who tails them when he's not being tolerated for his connections to a legendary hacker.
At first, Tsukasa's dilemma is an interesting mystery, but things become more serious as they discover that The World might not be as disconnected from reality as most of them believe...
Parent's Guide Rating:
yellow (parental guidance advised)
The characters are in a roleplaying game, so although the story is very relationship driven they naturally engage in battle on occasion. There is never any blood. Some characters do get "killed", which is indicated by the character dropping to the ground and turning stone grey. We know, of course, that they're fine in the real world and they soon reconnect no worse for wear. In particular, Sora makes a rather unnerving hobby out of killing B.T. whenever the mood hits him.
More disturbing are the tasteful hints of what's happening in the real world. We find out not too far into the series that Tsukasa has an unstable and sadistic father, and in quick flashbacks it's strongly suggested that the child is a victim of child abuse. We also see that Tsukasa is hospitalized with a very serious medical problem.
The Voice - the unseen character responsible for Tsukasa's situation - is also emotionally and eventually physically abusive. The most disturbing scene of the series does not involve Tsukasa, however. Another player does not make it out of The World safely, and near the end of the series we watch the results in the real world in an unsettling, understated scene made even more shocking by the knowledge of how young the player really is.
The party is generally a very clean crowd. The adult men throw out maybe five or so mild curses between them in the subtitled version throughout the whole series, and I don't think there's anything at all in the English dub.
Again, nothing here. B.T. and Crim are natural flirts, and we're aware that there are some vibes going on between some of the adults (with somewhat serious consequences in one case when someone gets hurt due to mixed signals), but it's all very clean - the men are honorable guys. There's a curious and very misleading segment in the opening sequence in which the main characters appear to be on the verge of losing their clothes, but this presumably represents the stripping away of their characters to reveal the real players behind them - a major theme of the series - and is in no way suggestive.
The main concern that parents might have is actually much more subtle than the issues I've already discussed. In general, the children in the party are - or become - completely comfortable with the adults, who are decent people who would never do anything to hurt them. Unfortunately, real life doesn't always work that way. Any children with access to computers who watch this series should be old enough to understand that there's no way to know what kind of person you're really talking to on message boards and in chat rooms, and how to protect themselves in the real online community.
As a final note, I don't think this series would have much appeal to anyone younger than high school age at any rate, as it's focus is the conversations and relationships between the characters - much of which can be very subtle and will probably go over their heads.