Haseo and Atoli

The .hack//G.U. titles can be a little uneven at times, but one of the things that is always great about the trilogy is the complex relationship that builds between Haseo and Atoli. The interaction between these two drives a lot of the events in the game, but it is far from a straightforward friendship.

At first, the two only meet and begin to play The World together for the shallowest of reasons. Haseo only pays attention to Atoli because she resembles Haseo's crush, and she stubbornly chases after him merely out of loyalty to her guild's objectives. The two are almost complete opposites, and initially they only can see each other's deep flaws. Haseo is a surly, distrustful jerk who is blindly obsessed with he quest for revenge, and can't get along at all with Atoli, who has neither self-esteem no ambition and naively trusts others. Yet, despite their early interactions often resulting in spectacular angry outbursts, there is a genuine undercurrent of attraction and romance that boils beneath the surface.

In the long run, the two begin to change. For Haseo's part, Atoli's stubborn and honest kindness slowly gets Haseo to overcome his traumas and open up to others. Meanwhile, her desire to earn Haseo's respect pushes Atoli to become more confident in her abilities and begin to fight for what's important. In time, they draw out each other's best qualities and become a genuinely good team. The two push each other to grow up and become better people, and it is a joy to watch it all unfold. Atoli is hardly the only character that is romantically interested in Haseo, and it's optional for them to become a couple, but no other relationship in the series is anywhere near as interesting as theirs.

It's rare to see a relationship between two videogame characters that is both so troubled and yet so natural and ordinary. Despite the fantastic circumstances they find themselves involved in while playing online games, the two are essentially modern teenagers with normal problems and flaws. Their relationship is complex and dramatic, but also surprisingly easy to relate to. It's hard not to like them. — Nathan Schlothan

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