Fractale 11

Well, Fractale couldn’t really have ended any more amicably for our core trio of Clain, Phryne, and Nessa. The Temple is destroyed, along with most of the war-making might of Lost Millenium, but Fractale is still rebooted. And, oh yeah, Clain finally mans up and confesses his rather obvious love for Phryne, which she is only too happy to requite.

Clain also made the mature choice to let Phryne and Nessa go through with the reboot (following them up a very long elevator into an orbital garden). Nessa can’t live forever on her own, and the reboot ends up merging them into a melange; Nessa’s personality in Phryne’s body. This even surprises Clain, but it sure beats the reverse; and being in love with two girls at once wasn’t going to work ;)

So yeah, Fractale was a very nice-looking, if not incredibly-deep series. The bad guys were pretty pathetic (the “father” guy just let Phryne stab him, while the Grand Priestess just let Dias blow her up…wtf?) and the only truly perilous situation was when Clain was shot, but he pulls through almost instantly. And yeah, Nessa’s constant “I love love” declarations wore rather thin. But it still had some nice ideas about overdependence on technology, and how it may even one day merge with religion. Which, if you ask me, is scary. Rating: 3.5

Series Mean Ranking: 3.364

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Fractale 10

Clain and Nessa tear after Phryne in the dinghy (why did Sunda leave it there for them, anyway?) while Phryne tries to reason with her mom, the Grand Priestess. As the battle between Lost Millenium and the Temple continues, I continue to be unimpressed with it; huge sky battles should be more exhilarated, but I fear this isn’t the animators’ forte. The CGI models just look like rubber duckies floating around with slapped-on particle weapon beams.

The rather dull battle aside, the psychological stakes couldn’t be higher. Phryne’s mother isn’t any more pleasant than her father, as her syrupy platitudes ring hollow when she coaxes Phryne to her lap, only to strangle her half to death. Apparently her mother is also her sister (in a way), because when she was young she was Phryne too, only she wasn’t up-to-snuff enough to serve as the key to the world. She’s bitter, hence the choking.

Basically, Clain kinda fails hard in the Protect-Nessa-and-Phryne department. His first slip-up was not keeping an eye on Phryne, leading her to run off again. Nessa follows him to Temple HQ, so now both parts of the key are in enemy territory. Finally, he’s on the wrong side of a plate glass window when Phryne’s pederast father sniffs her out and grabs her. That’s three strikes in my book; it’ll take a miracle (or deus ex machina) to get the love-lovin’ trio out of this spot… Rating: 3

Fractale 9

The chips all go on the table in this very solid episode of Fractale. The Temple launches a propaganda war against Lost Millenium, forcing all its various branches to band together and launch a last-ditch assault upon the Temple. Sunda drops Clain, Phryne, and Nessa off at Granitz so as not to lead them straight to the lion’s jaws. A fleet of Lost Millenium airships floating in the azure sky was a regal sight.

What I first thought was, oh great, Clain, the somewhat dull lead, is stuck at the village just hanging out while the airships do battle offscreen. Indeed, there’s not much airship battling – at least nothing approaching Last Exile impressiveness – but that turns out to be okay, as this episode is primarily a poignant portrait of the triad of Clain, Phryne and Nessa – and how they’ve come to love one another. I’m surprised how much development has taken place between these three, and their chemistry has benefited greatly from it.

Then Phryne ruins it by running off again – which just seemed a bit like Deja Vu to me. I share in Clain’s rage upon waking up to yet another farewell note – especially since the three of them just promised to be together forever. Phryne has her reasons – mostly pride and responsibility – but she should also realize by now that she can’t go anywhere on her own and not expect Clain to come to her rescue. All the more so now that he knows what an effed-up dad she has! Rating: 3.5

Fractale 8

We learned many things this week. Nessa, or rather, the Nessas, are really younger versions of Phryne. Phryne was some kind of experiment that failed, but her father is trying to salvage her. Her father is also an all-around evil dude and skeezy perv who will watch her undergo a gynecological examination. Sunda and Co. team up with Dias to rescue them, though Dias seems more inclined to blow up the temple without regard to rescuing anyone.

After Clain saw how corrupt and morally bankrupt society can get living under a fully-operational and immersive Fractale system, he now sees its even more unseemly underbelly, where the powers that be play god, tinkering with flesh-and-blood humans like, well, tinker-toys. After these past two weeks of expose, I can safely say I wouldn’t want to live my life overdependent on or over-immersed in the Fractale system. Especially after meeting Clain, Phryne wants nothing to frikkin’ do with it anymore.

That said, I know that the life I enjoy, one of freedom and opportunity, has been made so by quite a lot of war, and that big societies like ours have their dark but apparently necessary sides to protect their values and interests. But Fractale goes too far. It is authoritarianism and subjugation under a thin veneer of simulated bliss. Futuristic Nazism, complete with human experimentation. In true Ghibliesque form, Fractale is presenting us with some dark stuff without losing its overall optimistic vision. Rating: 3.5

Fractale 7

Fractale deliverd perhaps its most visually dazzling episode yet by dropping Clain, Nessa, and us smack-dab in the middle of Fractale Central: the city of Xanadu. It’s huge, vibrant, and futuristic, but it’s also fake and empty; Clain is the only human there; the rest are doppels – and much of the city’s structure is just 3D projections. It’s strange how one minute Clain’s snapping pics on the airship, and the next minute, he’s waking up in an extravagant, Vegas-style boudoir with an ample-busted doppel woman leaning a bit too far over him.

It’s also a bit strange that Sunda would let him and Nessa fly off on their own in the small airship…Clain did try to spring Phryne, after all, and it’s not like we’ve seen him taking piloting lessons. These oddities aside, the episode finally gives us a glimpse of life with Fractale on 100%, and it reminds me of that Animatrix short about the Second Renaissance, when life for humans became one long party.

Of couse, it isn’t all fun and games; people have to work to afford the privilege of maintaining a doppel in Xanadu; if they can’t they’re kicked out of town. For one brief moment it seemed as though there might be good people here (or at least doppels controlled by good people) but alas, eveyrone Clain encountered there was looking out for themselves, and knowing Clain and Nessa are wanted, tried to work it to their advantage.

Their schemes are thwarted when Nessa shows off her power to totally knock out Fractale at will, but Clain still gets shot. Wasn’t expecting that, but I think we know the answer to the question, “is he dead?”. There are four more episodes and he’s the boring protagonist; of course he isn’t! Rating: 3.5

wawawa….go sleep

Fractale 6

This week we learn that there are more factions of Lost Millenium than the one Sunda heads up. We also meet a very interesting individual who is strongly hinted as being Clain’s real father, who wants to restore Fractale to what used to be a beautiful town, stating his belief that humanity can’t live without the system. He even shows Clain and Phryne a projection of the town in its prime, which is possible during the new moon. I really liked this guy, but the fact that he seems to be dying (cough-cough) probably means he sadly won’t achieve his goal.

His wishes run totally counter to Lost Millenium, but neither Sunda or the other leader, Dias, interact with him. Instead, Sunda and his crew simply wait and watch as Dias leads the refugees to a tent village to get food, shelter, and ahem…”vaccinations”, claimed to boost the immune system of the Fractale-coddled bodies. Clain sees this and is immediately impressed with the kindness and generosity of Dias’ group. Phryne (and I) are rightly suspicious. I like how Phryne is not only less naive than Clain, but as good a runner, too!

Sure enough, the vaccines destroy the refugees’ Fractale terminals. Dias lets them know in a very evil “By the way” manner, and when one hapless guy tries to run for it, Dia’s henchmen fill him with lead without hesitation. Thus Dia’s crew isn’t so much a family like Sunda’s, but one that preys upon helpless hopeless people and forcably conscripts them to join the fight against Fractale, which most of them want nothing more than to return to. Pretty nasty, but not surprising. Almost deja vu, in fact, but at least they make Sunda’s group look better. Rating: 3.5

Fractale 5

Their escape thwarted, Clain and Phryne are put to work on the airship doing menial labor – closely following Pazu’s path in Castle In the Sky. The rest of the ship’s compliment mercilessly riffs off the young couple’s obvious romantic tension, while the tsundere Enri constantly accuses them of debauchery. Meanwhile, Nessa is nowhere to be found. Clain thinks it’s because she’s mad; Phryne thinks its because she doesn’t like her.

But as the airship functions gradually go haywire, Clain crafts a new theory: Nessa isn’t angry anymore, and has forgotten why she went away, so now she’s just having fun playing hide-and-seek. After trying to get the crew to do fun things in order to draw her out, it is ironically Phryne who convinces her to end the game, ceasing the ship’s malfunctions.

I always like airship slice-of-life, but the whole time there was the feeling this could have been a ship at sea; not enough of the majesty and freedom of the skies was explored here (something as simple as performing maintenance from a precarious perch on the ship’s exterior would have sufficed, as was used in Castle). Still, with no safe harbor and enemies circling them, there’s no doubt that when the airship inevitably needs to land, there will be considerable hardships, contrasting with the lighthearted time-killing that takes place this week. Rating: 3

Fractale 4

Things are moving at a very brisk pace indeed, as the raid leads to the successful kidnapping of Princess Phryne (albeit with lives lost on both sides) and a return to the village. It isn’t long until the Temple declares Sunda’s entire family wanted criminals (even the little kids and elderly!) and send an airship to the village to kill them, so once again Sunda, Enri, Clain & Co. are on the move once more.

I’m liking this pace, as we don’t stay long enough in one place to get bored. I am still a bit bemused by Phryne; she is apparently against Fractale and the Temple, despite being the Grand Priestess’s daughter, and yet doesn’t seem to want any help from Clain or anyone else. Her feelings toward Nessa, and vice versa, are also a little cloudy. What exactly is the issue between them?

Whatever is in store for our young heroes, Fractale puts on a good show with its immensely rich and pleasing setting and some well-placed and well-animated action and chase scenes. I just need to wrap my head around some of the quirks of the various characters. Rating: 3.5

Fractale 3

This week really elaborated on humanity’s situation in this strange, Ghibli-like world. Most of the world is sheep, plugged into the Fractale system and living as their handlers order. Then there is a bastion of unplugged, self-sufficient humans, committed to taking down that system. Clain sees them as terrorists, and later we find that, well, yes indeed, they are!

This group’s leader, Sunda, is charismatic and passionate in his cause, and treats Clain and Nessa as honored guests more than prisoners. Aside from a couple of cantankerous old men, the villagers are kind and curious about them as well. There’s a lively banquet, and they get some solid digs to crash at. But all the goodwill and friendly faces don’t prepare Clain for what follows.

After a whimsical excursion aboard their airship, Clain accompanies them on a horribly-designed raid of a “Star Festival” designed to keep people brainwashed. Sunda’s idea of “crashing” this festival is to open fire on it…with bullets. Blood is spilled all over the place. Unarmed bystanders and priestesses alike. Sorry, but this is how terrorists act.

Why are they killing? Has it really gone beyond talking? Are the people being brainwashed really better off dead in Sunda’s eyes? WTF? Phyrne also reappears to calm things down. Clain is sick. Neither side is innocent, but I’m left wondering which side (if any) is more in the right here. Rating: 3.5

Fractale 2

Fractale doesn’t break any ground in its second episode, but it’s enjoyable enough. Picking up where it left off, it introduces Nessa (voiced by Kana Hanazawa, who plays it like a caffeinated Kobato), a lifelike doppel that you can touch. Clain shows her around, showing us around in the process.

The city he lives near is all but deserted, while the few citizens around live in RVs. We ask ourselves…why? Where is everyone, and why don’t they want to live in such a gorgeous, Ghibli-esque place? Clain says he likes his home because “he likes old things.” Will technology make us all nomads like this?

What is obvious is that Nessa had a profound effect on Clain, though he doesn’t realize it at first. Her friendly, affectionate nature and inquisitiveness are a tonic of sorts, and when she’s gone, she misses her. When his doppled parents scold him for “not acting normally”, he shuts them off. Clain can’t go back to the way things were. He wants to know what Nessa – and Phyrne – are all about. Rating: 3

Fractale – First Impressions

I immediately took to this series’ first episode. Sure, it seems to shamelessly ape three or more Studio Ghibli films in its first five minutes, but I don’t have a problem with that as long as it tells its own story. The variables are there, though: an era somewhere between the past and the future; an earnest kid (Clain) who saves a eccentric princess-type girl Phyrne), an amulet of some unknown power, and a trio of hapless “villains” who don’t come off as evil so much as crafty and enterprising.

The look is very Ghibli, too: great vistas of what looks like Ireland; very clean and simple yet emotive character designs; and airships. Underlying this world is a strange network called Fractale that basically allows people to create whimsical “doppels” of themselves, including Clain’s parents and dog.

There’s also a very nice tender romance brewing between Clain and Phyrne. She books it in the first episode, but I’m sure she’ll be back, while a third character, Nessa, just pops up at the end, so we’ll see where this goes. Whether it has anything truly original to offer is definitely up for debate, but there’s no doubting this show looks and sounds great, and has immediately captured my interest. Rating: 3.5