There are two types of derivatives: fun, tacky ones that laugh at themselves and the more unfortunate ones that insist on selling clichés as though we’d never seen them before. Fractale lands firmly in the latter category, although, with such a plain, bumbling sincerity, it’s not the most punishing rehash anyone could watch.
Take the protagonist, Clain, a pleasant young man with manners and wits and all the natural gifts God gave him, but miserable because his life is boring. He reminds me a bit of Renton from Eureka Seven. But that’s just coincidence - the part that chafes is how everything else is also a bit like in Eureka Seven (…and Laputa… and Bounen no Xam’d). From roughly the first few minutes, viewers will begin to make certain guesses. What are the bets that he meets an even more miserable girl on the run from a self-serving organisation? What are the bets that somewhere along the line, he and this girl must unravel a devious plan to revolutionise/remodel/revamp/reboot the world? What are the bets that he stumbles across an airship of rebels with whom he will travel aimlessly for a while? And what are the bets that this story will meander via perfunctory tragedy and over-implied, barely-there romance?
At best, the show gums a reliable science fiction dilemma (I can’t quite say ‘sinks its teeth into’ because Fractale doesn’t have any): ‘perfect’ technology vs. flawed humanity. It pits tragic figures addicted to the luxury of the computerised Fractale system against those like Clain whose nurturing only suffered because of the system’s clinical embrace. It also has an intriguing blend of reality and virtual reality, in which people stroll through virtual cities using idealised bodies that don’t look anything like their real counterparts. Sadly, Fractale’s is such a diluted treatment of these issues that taking it seriously or even emotionally connecting hardly seems worth the effort. For all its profound themes (which are old news if you’ve already seen Toward the Terra TV) or mind-melting blend of realities (Dennou Coil), its execution is jarringly safe. Every other scene is a cliché, every other line of dialogue a clunky exercise in Because The Script Says So.
What saves the show like a reinforced airbag is its inexplicable cosiness, which I attribute more to its soft colour tones and quaint environments than the plot. Through sheer happenstance, it avoids feeling like that other Eureka Seven photocopy, Bounen no Xam’d, which, on top of being vapid eye-candy, is also gratingly pompous. At no point do the Fractale’s creators seem aware that they’ve created a derivative but I sense through their homely drama and comedy that their intentions were succinct entertainment rather than bombastic cinematic preaching. And that makes it tolerable, sometimes even comfortable to watch.
Besides getting the technical stuff right with fluid motion and convincing detail, Fractale looks like a fun place to explore. The world concept has a quaintness that I find highly attractive and comforting in the sense that it looks as though someone put a lot of thought into designing it. Aiming for something vaguely steampunk-ish, the people live several centuries into the future where underwear is apparently quite a mystery, but they still do things like hang Dickensian clothes on washing lines and fly high-powered ships with antiquated zeppelin designs. All the colours are warm shades and soft, and the character designs are charming without being distractingly beautiful.
I like the opening theme, ‘Harinezumi’ by Hitomi Azuma. It has a melody I can hear and some nicely held clear notes and a fun beat. It’s one of those songs I would gladly sing along to if I could speak a word of Japanese. The ending theme is also agreeable. But the fact that I struggle to remember any aspect of the in-episode score says everything about the limits of Fractale’s musical offerings.
Fractale features an ensemble cast that appear more like props than people. They drift through speaking their oh-so-familiar lines as if they were computerised, never convincing me that they’re worth investing actual emotions in.
The only ones not going through the motions are Clain and his holographic companion, Nessa. Their relationship works because both are uncontroversial likeable types, warm-hearted, good-natured, and innocent. Clain is defined by his parentless upbringing and compensatory desire for the simple life humans had centuries ago (he likes ‘ancient’ memorabilia like digital cameras). His appeal increases exponentially when considering what a gentle, unpolluted soul he is despite his childhood being largely devoid of human warmth. Nessa on the other hand barges her way into our hearts through unabashed pluckiness - she’s innocent and wild like a baby but also sensitive to the hurt of others at all the appropriate times. Their relationship describes a classic comedy, where one partner frustrates the other through well-intentioned idiocy but both maintain a strong loving bond. Clain and Nessa, in glaring contrast to everyone else, also seem most capable of infusing the dead-as-lead script with heartfelt warmth.
Fractale’s greatest crime is to lack imagination. While many shows borrow or adapt ideas from their predecessors, the sheer banality of Fractale’s achievement nonetheless leads to an overwhelming impatience; even though its events felt rushed and cobbled together, I was grateful they wasted little time on fleshing out its world or ironing out kinks in the script. I saw the ending ten episodes before it arrived, and when it did, I was just about satisfied.
The major quarrels I have with this show lie in the relatively slowish/idyle plot development. It's not your typical sci-fi series in that the aspects of sci-fi are present but are hidden within the midst of a setting on a more normal/contemporary scale.
The anime explores the effects of complete reliance on technology and questions the authority of religion as well as explores the themes of communism. Yes folks, the Fractale system becomes an authoritarian and times communist technology leading along its sheep until it feels the need to cut them off. The concept of questioning religion may make the series controversial if taken at face value in the future. Nonetheless, the plotline is one of absolute innovation and brilliance
The animation found within the series was brilliant. However, many of the series that came out in this 2011 anime season had brilliant animation. What seperated Fractale from these series was the way in which it attained simplicity and complexity as well as realism and idealism animation simultaneosly and was able to create a magnificent and memorable setting for its viewers.
The OP/ED don't really impress me and if anything, they leave more to be desired. However, I still think they're bearable.Theres one song that constantly plays throughout the show and has a signifcance to the plotline as well.
Herein lies the majority of the problem with this series. The main character, Clain, is unbelievably weak. His emotional range is wide but he's an otherwise weak lead. A series that revolves around a weak lead suffers a fate of not being memorable. The other characters are far stronger than Clain both emotionally and in the way in which they form attachments to you. Nessa and Enri specficially leave a lasting impression of their personalities you aren't soon to forget.
Overall, this series is promising but at times can be unmemorable and doesn't necesarily leave the lasting impression on you. The last episode delivers the best plotline and emotion of the entire series. It's well worth the watch but only time will tell whether it will be a memorable series.
Disclaimer: This is the first review I've written even thought I've been on this site for a year (I know right? took me long enough). I'm not really that great at writing these things (much better at writing code then writing essays) but hopefully you'll find something useful in this review and if not, check out one of the other reviews (personally, I thought the one by RedCrossRobbery was pretty good).
Story: 8 out of 10
Ok, here's the thing about Fractale, from episodes 1-10 I had it rated 4.5 out of 5. Totally loved it and thought it was turning out to be a great story. Then I had to wait a week for Hulu to get the last episode. Now, I'm not sure how much that break played into it (I'm generally the sort of person who likes to watch one series straight through), but I thought the ending was a bit of a let down. The story is pretty good though, and at the end of the last episode they finish strong. Basically, it's a sci-fi similar to The Matrix with the central system controlling people and artificiallity etc. (check out the other reviews if you want a better summary)
Animation: 8.5 out of 10
One of the reasons I think I liked Fractale so much was because of the animation style. Simple, clean, and refreshing.
Sound: 7 out of 10
I wouldn't say there's anything really special here for sound. Wasn't really a major factor for the series (compared to say, Cowboy Bebop for example), but also didn't really detract at all. I have a hard time deducting here so 5/10 seems too low, but wasn't spectacular.
Characters: 6.5 out of 10
With such a short series (only 11 episodes) I think it can be hard sometimes to really have meaningful character development. The main character, Clain, is weak on episode 1 and pretty much the same weakness on episode 11. Now, having said that, I did like the characters in the series and there's definitely a wide range of them. But still, I would have liked to have seen more growth or development.
Overall: 7.5 out of 10
So like I said, this anime started out very promising and in the end, I would reccommend this to anyone looking for a short sci-fi anime. It's a good anime and with a few more episodes, it might have been a great one.
So the world is now peaceful and everybody is happy. And the lead is this kid obsessed with relic technology. And he meets this cute girl who is chased around by… rebels? Who want to free mankind from this utopia? And religion is evil? What’s with the genki loli? Hey, why does all that remind me of something and why do I don’t give a damn?
Fractale is heavy as lead on themes but light as a feather in presentation, which is why it never manages to become anything above sweet or cute. It also uses themes that can easily be found in other anime, where the same thing was done in a much more captivating way. It also created a blend that to the most part plays as a mediocre children’s adventure or a light ecchi comedy that again leave you almost indifferent if you are versed into better handled shows. Down to it, it is a bad mix of various good ideas.
Let’s start with the technicals and say that the visuals are very good as a whole, despite lacking identity and finesse. A-1 Pictures is a good studio when it comes to production values but otherwise hasn’t made a single great show. Although there are many who probably love this and Ano Hana, it is still too far away from excusing their overall weakness to have proper storyboarders or not to be stoned to death for making the dreadful Trinity Soul and the horribly boring Fairy tail.
Let’s move to the direction, which is done by Yamamoto Yutaka. So this guy has directed super famous and high seller titles, such as Suzumiya Haruhi and Lucky Star. Then all of a sudden has a change of hearts and wants to make “a serious and deep anime that will not be just fan service”. And as you can tell, he failed miserably because THIS MESS was the best he could come up with. The guy is simply good only at making storyless moe shows and tried to play it intelligent and artistic by creating something outside his field of expertise. Sorry man, you suck at being intelligent and artistic, go back to your moe softporns where you know what the devil you are doing.
Enough with that; let’s now focus on all the things that catches your eye while watching this… show.
The first thing that strikes as bad is the intro and ending themes. They are so damn generic and with almost nothing to look at. They are there for a reason you know; to get you into the mood and then hook you for the next episode. These here are freaking blunt to the point of skipping. Although I know some people who loved them for being relevant to the story (fractale and depiction of innocence) that still doesn’t make them interesting or that artistic to care.
The second is the main character Clain. He is a freaking harem lead archetype! He keeps bumping on pretty half-naked girls, he gets hit and blamed and he acts all spineless and scared. That sort of archetype is blunt to the point you don’t give a rat’s ass about. Supposed he is representing the average pampered kid out there so we can easily identify with him or something. He is still boring as hell and I mostly wanted to smack him that feel compassion or excitement over his quest to find out the truth about the world.
The third is Nessa’a haircolour. It is red while all the promotional posters have them purple. What kind of last-moment change is that? It’s like the animators didn’t even know what they were doing five minutes before starting to paint.
The fourth is the story exposition that just can’t remain steady for 5 minutes and thus constantly not allowing you to get into the mood of the show. At one moment it is a harem, then it is an adventure, then it is some sort of thriller, then it is a drama, then it is harem again. And never all of the above at once but one at a time. What a terrible handling of the plot! You end up not caring about any one of its various sub-plots.
The fifth problem is its unoriginality. Anyone who has seen a few dozen sci-fi or children’s adventures will most likely keep making comparisons to this anime; and chances are he will find Fractale as lukewarm compared to them. For example, at points it will remind you of the Matrix movies but it’s nowhere near as good. At others it will feel like Neon Genesis and again hardly as good. Everything feels like laundry from various people… and the clothes have washed out colors. Thus it doesn’t look good.
The sixth is the actual ending, which tried to be mysterious and serious but it otherwise looks as nothing but a perfect eroge harem ending yet again. It leaves you with the worst final impressions.
In other words, it is a show with a plot you can’t enjoy much, a cast you will find mediocre at best, and a story you have already seen elsewhere in a better way. Super fail all the way.
The Matrix trilogy
And now for some non-fractal numbers:
ART SECTION: 7/10
General Artwork 1/2 (not high budget but decent)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 2/2 (nice pasture sceneries and weird high-tech gizmos)
Animation 2/2 (lively)
Visual Effects 1/2 (average)
SOUND SECTION: 5/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (nice but not great)
Music Themes 1/4 (boring)
Sound Effects 2/3 (nice I guess)
STORY SECTION: 6/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting themes)
Pacing 1/2 (keeps jumping from interesting to boring)
Complexity 1/2 (rich context but easy going presentation)
Plausibility 1/2 (handled poorly but everything is excused)
Conclusion 1/2 (there is one but it’s generic and harem-like)
CHARACTER SECTION: 5/10
Presence 1/2 (generic)
Personality 1/2 (generic)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic)
Development 1/2 (generic)
Catharsis 1/2 (generic)
VALUE SECTION: 1/10
Historical Value 0/3 (none; it’s a weak rehash)
Rewatchability 0/3 (nothing to gain by watching it again)
Memorability 1/4 (too reminiscent of other better shows)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 2/10
Art 1/1 (looks nice)
Sound 0/2 (sounds boring)
Story 1/3 (good ideas but terrible handling)
Characters 0/4 (they are all harem garbage)
I like my anime with good handling and without freaking harem leads. NoitaminA has descended to mediocrity with this title. Not a good thing for the anime industry…
Fractale has a lot of intresting ideas and the world that the anime is set in is filled with mystery and wonder, but the anime seems to lose focus during the middle and even though it 11 episodes, some episodes felt really pointless. More in video review: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJbjLQmUFpI
BBFC rating - 15 for infrequent strong violence