Fractale Complete Series (Cert 12)
2 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 252 minutes approx.
In the future humans live under the Fractale System, a computerised network developed in the 22nd century that ensures stability and comfort for their lives. Through visors and various connectable devices people can create their own utopia and populate it with virtual reality figures called Doppels, but the system is getting on a bit and needs a reboot.
For a curious young boy named Clain, his idyllic world is about to be shattered when a young girl named Phryne, who is being chased by three members of the renegade Lost Millennium group, literally crashes into his life. Clain takes Phryne into his home and hides her from her pursuers but the next morning Phryne has gone, leaving just a pendant behind. In trying to seek answers, Clain opens the data of the pendant, but instead unleashes a hyperactive but childlike Doppel named Nessa.
Whether by design or through simple fate, Clain is the nominal Luke Skywalker in this sci-fi action adventure co-production from A1 Pictures and Ordet, that also shares a few ingredients from other seminal sci-fi anime works including Ghost In The Shell, Laputa Castle In the Sky and Eureka 7. While some of these influences are worn shamelessly on its sleeve, it’s brimming with enough charm and fresh ideas to stand on its own two feet.
In an unusual slice of trivia, Fractale is directed by the outspoken Yutaka Yamamoto, who choreographed the legendary closing credits dance routine of The Melancholy Of Haruhi Suzumiya. He was so intent on making a great show that he vowed to retire from anime if Fractale wasn’t a hit. He hasn’t been seen within the anime industry since April 2011. Is this show that bad then?
Actually no, but it is quite obvious which areas are in need of improvement. The story has a few holes that need addressing. For example, the Lost Millennium’s motive for destroying the Fractale System seems more selfish than rebellious. Headed by Sunda Garntitz – his younger sister Enri and her two loyal cohorts Takami and Butcher were the comic relief trio chasing Phryne – are humans who don’t have the latest Fractale software installed inside them thus they cannot experience the same benefits as everyone else due to the ongoing faults. Rather than seek upgrades or a resolve to suit themselves they are going to ensure no-one gets to use it. And they are supposed to be the heroes?
But there is still plenty of meat to sink your teeth into here. The story takes a darker and unsettling twist in the final episodes and the climax is satisfying enough if a little rushed. And for such a short show, the characters are fairly well defined and fleshed out too. Nessa is no ordinary Doppel in that she can be touched, but by only those she allows to.
Hyperactive and capricious Nessa is also full of important information relating to the Fractale System but getting it out of her is one task Clain is struggling to achieve. As annoying as she can be, Nessa preaches one simple message and that is she “loves love” and she just wants to be with Clain and Phryne, an ambition that might just be a little easier to swallow if she wasn’t a vexatious trouble maker for much of the show. It’s a tight contest between Nessa and Enri as to which one of these will drive you to apoplexy with their decibel defying shrill voices.
Phyrne too is partial to some frivolity and impromptu acts of derring do (and public nudity) but she is the more serious of the two, and beneath her occasionally indecipherable moods, she is in fact a young woman with the weight of the world on her shoulders, and for once that is a fairly accurate summation of her issues, quite literally being the key to the problem within the Fractale system.
The big surprise is with Clain’s character. His journey is fairly archetypal of the fantasy genre yet the character himself is a lot gutsier and level headed than other male protagonists in his spot. He may still blush at the sight of Phryne’s bare shoulder and be the perennial runt of the litter but he will stand up for himself when needed. Even if he does remain a pacifist, he is not afraid to get stuck in to the battles when necessary.
If the story has some “spot the influence” vibes to it the artwork will also gleefully tease you, the immediate and most obvious name coming to mind being the one bearing the initials “SG”. Perhaps having just eleven episodes to make was a benefit in this respect as the animation and artwork quality remains top notch throughout, making the lack of Blu-ray release for this title a wasted opportunity. The pastoral landscapes of Clain’s home village create a soothing bucolic feel, in stark contrast to the busy neon madness of the virtual reality worlds our hero gets caught up in.
Fractale is a hugely enjoyable adventure series if you can forgive its niggling flaws – mainly its fairly derivative premise and trying to cram so much into such a swift episode count. It looks good, has a cast of strong characters and even an opening theme song that is a pleasant pop ditty and not the typical cheesy idol number with helium vocals we are often subjected to. It has its naysayers who might be taking it a bit too serious, but for a nice easy show to lose yourself in, you can’t go too wrong with this title.
English Language 5.1
Episode 1 Audio Commentary
Episode 7 Audio Commentary
Ratings – *** ½
Man In Black