The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Fractale

Title: Fractale
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: A-1 Pictures
Format: 11 episodes
Dates: Jan 2011 – 31 Mar 2011

Synopsis: In the far distant future, humanity has come to rely on an economic system known as Fractale, which uses advanced technology to oversee and provide all the basic physical needs of all the world’s inhabitants. Clain is a teenager living on his own under minimal supervision from his parents. With no need to work, he is free to pursue his fascination in collecting old technology. But a chance encounter with an enigmatic girl fleeing from dangerous outlaws yanks Clain out of his comfortable routine, and thrusts him into an adventure that unravel the greatest mysteries of the Fractale system.

The Highlights
World concept: Intriguing ideas left behind as trivialities.
Characters: Dimensionless twits.
Action: Set pieces are disorienting but exciting.
Story: Main plot meanders and never settles on a central emphasis.

Fractale hearkens to the pre-90s era of anime when fantastical adventure stories were popular. Its rolling green fields, rustic structures, and blue skies occupied by curious flying machines bring to mind classics like Nadia, the Secret of Blue Water, Castle in the Sky, and Future Boy Conan. Fractale tributes these predecessors, but also sets out to distinguish itself by integrating modern notions of communications and technology to establish a seemingly utopic society. However, this novel mash up stumbles on storytelling basics like forming a coherent plot and developing engaging characters. Design flaws prevent this anime from being either an immersive escape from reality or an effective thought piece on societal concerns.

The pastoral setting of Fractale is interrupted by intriguing future age science. While our main character Clain lives in a romantic cottage atop a cliff overlooking the sea, his world is largely inhabited by holographic avatars called doppels. Doppels, remotely controlled by people, can resemble humans or inanimate objects. They interact in the physical world to lead separate semi-virtual lives for their owners. Mixing old-school nostalgia and The Sims, this setting is a perfect canvas to explore real world concerns about the reliance on digital information and social isolation. Where did it all go wrong?

First to blame is the cast. The chief characters, Clain, Nessa, and Phryne are poor actors in the grand scheme. Clain is a nervous, shy youth with a personality too weak to register an impression. He is only important for being swept into the tide of the story’s events. For some reason he is constantly called a pervert by supporting characters, usually without warrant, and with such frequency that it left me wondering if these incongruous accusations were either forced characterization or just a bad joke that was never put to rest. Nessa is a bubbly sprite who has a strange influence over electronics and repeats inanely cheery one-liners like, “Nessa loves Love!” Her childlike act teeters between endearing and dumb, and she has convenient mood swings when the plot demands it. Finally, Phryne is a traitless pretty teenage girl that’s “Important to the Plot”, has no interests or ideas of her own, and is the constant object of molestation by leering old men on a several occasions. These scenes with said men come off as equally sleazy and unnecessary, played more for cheap shock value than advancing the story. The other characters are barely memorable for singularly defining quirks and otherwise provide clumsy exposition dumps. I failed to care for any of them.

The other great fault of Fractale is how it becomes lost within its own story. Initially, the main trio joins a resistance group against the Fractale powers that be. The series was most interesting when both sides of the conflict made seemingly nuanced ideological statements and the plot was propelled by chaotic battles and exciting twists. However, I suffered mood whiplash when later episodes suddenly changed gears to several tangential thematic topics: the effect of the internet on our society and lifestyles; the role of religion in an increasingly advanced civilization; and the balance of public safety versus personal freedom; in addition to basic narrative necessities of world-building and plot advancement. Fractale was burdened by its self-imposed juggling act and only shallowly developed each element. It became unfocused and random, substituting ideas so often that it’s easy to confuse what’s important and not. Did the creators forget they only had 11 episodes to tell everything?

Fractale wouldn’t have come off so remarkably poor if it didn’t take itself as a serious intellectual commentary about modern social mores. Even technical production woes, like frequent loss of visual detail, lumpy character animation, wooden dialogue, and poorly utilized background music, could have been overlooked if it simply succeeded to deliver a dumb action-adventure fling. That it clearly had ambitions, and failed so miserably at articulating them, sucks the whole anime down to a joyless cacophony of half-baked scholarly observations. Watch Fractale only if you’re curious as to what a pretentious trainwreck looks like.

The Rating: 4
4/10

Reviewed by: kadian1364

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