A one-shot manga offshoot to the burgeoning .hack media monolith, .hack//Alcor (Tokyopop) is a small character study about a young girl playing in the World virtualverse. Retiring, with a seemingly unrequited crush on a Guildmaster named Silabus, young Nanase shares a similar icon to Alkaid, a skilled virtual warrior and arena fighter. “Even though we have the same character model, we’re totally different,” Nanase says, making it pretty clear from the onset that the story trajectory of Alcor will involve our heroine’s growing more self-confident by the end of the book. This she does, but not before blowing an opportunity to come to the aid of Silabus himself after he’s ambushed by a pair of PKers (Player Killers).
Writer Amou Kanami doesn’t push his heroine into huge character changes, just a few small tentative steps, which is probably more realistic but may be frustrating for readers looking for a Big Story Finish. Unlike my first excursion into the .hack manga series, the sweet-centered Alcor contains regular moments outside the World (difficult to initially distinguish since artist Izumibara Rena doesn’t offer any immediate visual clues), showing us the shy and bookish Nanase as she is in reality, mirroring her behavior in the virtual World. “I just wind up doing the same things online that I do offline,” she says at one point. As the immortal Buckaroo Banzai once put it, “No matter where you go, there you are.”