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Fractale Review — C-

Fractale is an adventure set in a world where a system of satellites, the Fractale system, runs to maintain a virtual world in conjunction with the real world which satisfies basic necessities and allows people to interact with dopples, virtual avatars. Clain meets a girl, Phrynne, a priestess and Nessa, a dopple, who are the key to restoring the breaking-down Fractale system. The three travel together while avoiding the forces trying to capture them.

The main problem with Fractale is that the use of time is terrible, which really matters in an eleven episode show. The middle episodes were a complete a waste— they added only inconsistent information about the world which didn’t relate to the titular Fractale system, and were more or less long sequences of jokes about how Clain is a pervert. They weren’t even funny. Then, of course, because so much time was wasted, the ending was rushed. The series asks so many questions, but doesn’t look at any of them in detail.

Fractale has an interesting setting, certainly, but it is treated so inconsistently and without lead-ins that it seems fragmented and not like a single world. Initially, it seems that everyone in the world lives alone in trailers, and Clain’s living in a house is a social taboo. But not long after we meet rebels who live in a town. Then there are refugees fleeing from a town destroyed when parts of the Fractale system shut down. Can’t they just pick up and move if they live in trailers? Then we jump to a decadent city run by shepherds, and a secret base with robots and clones. It just seems like the creators didn’t know what to do with the setting and changed their mind every episode. The world of the first episode didn’t seem anything like the world of the final episode, and they weren’t able to build a consistent and believable world.

In addition, the creators don’t really address any of the issues raised by the Fractale system at all after the first episode. Clain’s parents raised an interesting question in the first episode, saying that asking people to live together infringes on their freedom. It’s never mentioned again. There are some references to “data drugs”, but it never plays much of a role. Plus, it’s never explained why everyone is so dependent on the Fractale system. It doesn’t grow food, does it? And you can’t live in virtual houses, even though the refugees seemed to- Clain did fall through the floor of one. At the end of the show, the characters end up restoring the Fractale system, but no reason is given. They came to destroy it and ended up fixing it, but why? It just seems like they’re going with the flow. In general, the show ignored the interesting questions in favor of Clain being a pervert.

Fractale also had a strange mix of a peaceful, beautiful Ghibli-esque setting with acts of brutality. One minute we’re laughing and running through the trailer park, the next we’re gunning down innocent bystanders, getting raped and stabbing people. There’s hardly any transition between the two, and I couldn’t really take the violence seriously due to the rest of the show. It just seemed completely out of place.

  • Plot / Script – 6 / 10 – Too much time wasted on Clain being perverted, not enough time on the Fractale system. Inconsistent world-building.
  • Characters – 7 / 10 – Clain gets annoying because of all the jokes surrounding him, and the main villain is a complete joke, but otherwise interesting (particularly Nessa and Phrynne).
  • Production – 8 / 10 – Great animation, especially when they try, such as the scene with Nessa’s mischief in the trailer park and the town market.
  • Overall – C-

Recommendations – Ghibli Movies, Dennou Coil

Fractale 11

A bit rushed and a tad over-dramatic for my tastes, but at least everything was resolved. First of all, Phrynne’s father: I could just never take him seriously. He looks like a complete idiot and is totally incompetent. Taunting Clain as a “clueless adventure boy” through the window does not exactly make a formidable or even respectable antagonist. Phrynne’s response to his taunts was nice though. I liked how understated her stabbing was, with no build-up or warning whatsoever. Just one minute he’s discussing raping her and the next he’s half-dead on the floor. The amount of time it took for Clain and Nessa to react was a nice touch as well. But maybe this is just my “why hasn’t he die already?” inner voice speaking.

I mostly liked the lover’s suicide that the creators decided to do with Dias and the head priestess as well. When Dias first appeared, my immediate thought was “second-stage final boss.” It’s nice to be surprised  and have a villain like Dias who believes and does exactly what he says. Generally the kinds of things like sincerity and conviction are reserved for the good guys (or the unwilling bad guys / bad guys who switch sides). But still, it was rushed and the priestess’s reactions didn’t make much sense.

Now on to the bad side: nothing in the ending was really a surprise. We already knew about Phrynne and Nessa’s relationship. Nessa is 16 and is named after a teddy bear, but this doesn’t really change anything, aside from making the lolicon ending more socially acceptable. Nothing new was revealed, and they should have saved a few things for the final episode.

Then there’s Sunda’s death: it was completely pointless. Dias’ death was pointless as well, but at least it accomplished something useful by clearing the room. Why, a year later, do they show Enri reminiscing about Clain, the “true pervert”, and not about Sunda? And the epilogue used the one-year coma plot device, which I really hate. What is the point of making the character fall into a coma for ten seconds of viewing time? Am I supposed to be surprised and touched when she wakes up or something?

Nice explosion.

Fractale 10

Luke, fire the proton torpedos!

Fractale has begun to pick up the pace and seems on track to deliver an excellent finale. It had a deep dip in quality in the middle, but seems to have recovered once they came back to focus on the heart of the story.

In this episode, we witnessed the assault on the main temple, and Phryne’s failed attempts at negotiation. Clain even makes his own attack with Sunda and uses a gun, although he misses everyone, but they’re slaughtered a few seconds later by Dias anyway. I was impressed that the creators refrained from even a single “Clain is a pervert” joke! What a refreshing change.

It's a trap! It's a trap!

Probably the biggest surprise for me this episode was that Dias doesn’t seem headed for final boss status. It seemed like the creators were setting him up to betray Lost Millennium and rule over the Fractale system for himself. I mean, he wanted to make the assault on the temple, eagerly followed Phryne and Nessa’s movements, seemed intent on reuniting them (the key) within the temple, and still had his terminal in spite of removing the refugees’. It seemed reasonable that he planned to reunite them to reboot Fractale and seize control for himself. But he actually just wants to find Nessa so that he can kill Phryne. It speaks to how cliched the betrayal and rise of the new final boss is that the uneasy, evil ally Dias acting  and believing exactly how he claims comes across as unexpected.

Phryne sure had it tough this episode. A near suicide attempt, being strangled, biting people, being licked, dodging bullets blocked by old ladies. Not to mention the two attempted rapes in the previous episodes. I think Nessa may go on a rampage after seeing Phryne being licked…

Fractale 09

Clain, you player you!

He deserved that one.

This was a calm before the storm episode, and it worked quite well. This show is best when it works with the world it has instead of making new things up. I’m cautiously optimistic about the finale – Fractale has been quite decent when it sticks to the core of its story and not random trips off to God knows where or entire episodes of “Clain is a pervert” jokes. It seems like for the finale we will finally resolve the fate of the Fractale system which has been largely ignored for the rest of the show.

In spite of its titular role, we know nearly nothing about the Fractale system. It lets people see and use dopples, but what else does it do? As we saw, it can make fake towns and buildings, but people cannot touch them. So how do people get food? It doesn’t seem like the Fractale system does anything to the physical world (except with Nessa, who is an exception) so how did people get food before, and why do people become starving refugees once the system goes down? It doesn’t make much sense why something which doesn’t influence the physical world could have such an effect. So either there is a lot they aren’t telling us (or I have missed) or there is a gaping plot hole. I wouldn’t be surprised in the latter case though considering how the creators have treated the setting.

Fractale 08

In which the clones make their appearance and Phryne’s father molests children.

On the positive side, the frequency of the “Clain is a pervert” jokes seem to be decreasing, although there were still a few too many in this episode. I do have to admit that I laughed when Clain appeared out of the grate under Phryne’s skirt.

The scene with Phryne’s father helps to explain a bit why she was running away and her reaction to her attacker in the last episode. But I’m not really able to take him seriously as a villain because of how he’s been presented in the earlier episodes as not entirely competent. His very appearance screams “comic-relief character”. So now when he does these very disturbing things, it’s a bit hard to buy. The same thing is true of Enri and the rest of Lost Millennium suddenly starting a massacre. It’s just… where exactly did this come from?

Some shows have a similar contrast being seriousness and playfulness, such as Narutaru and Higurashi, but I feel that these are much better executed. Even though everything is bright on the surface of these shows, the creators make it so you can sense that there is an undercurrent of darkness behind the facade. Fractale completely lacks the feeling that it’s hiding things or that anything is deeper than it seems.

The show has a similar problem with the setting – it’s just jumping around all over the place, but there is no hinting of more to the world than what they’ve shown. Everyone lives in mobile homes? A ruined town which is off the grid? Oh, now they live in dopple cities? How about some shepherds?A secret based with some clones? The creators seem to be trying to create a large, diverse world, but they’ve neglected the parts that tie the world together. The characters just tend to show up at locations almost by accident, and are surprised by what they find there. Shouldn’t they know something about the world they live in, as should the viewer over the course of the show? But the various locations are almost entirely disconnected, without a sense of a larger world that ties them together. (case in point: the priesthood didn’t seem to have much if any influence in the city)

Bandage-Phryne was sad though. 🙁  Even if it was completely predictable what would happen. Bandages make everything better.