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 is the first good Science Fiction anime I have seen in quite a while. I expect the story to eventually tank, or disappoint me in some major way, because that is the general destiny of high-minded SF anime, but so far it's maintaining a good balance of tone that is really impressive.
A lot of anime go for the bait-and-switch tactic on their tone (see Mai HiME, Trigun) to lend gravitas to their later developments; this is a tactic I find entertaining, but a tad lazy. Fractale has instead interlaced a generally cheery atmosphere (lots of big beautiful outdoor shots, doing laundry on the open deck of the airship, etc) with really horrible things, which the main character seems to actively ignore as much as he can. This contrast is nicely un-explicit (they're not beating you over the head with it), but I believe it is very intentional, since the SF-theme of the show is a decaying virtual reality.
So far I think Fractale is oozing with potential to strike a vibrant thematic middle ground somewhere among Laputa, Haibane Renmei, and Dennou Coil. It's overly optimistic to expect it to stay there, but a man can dream.
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.
Oh Fractale, how you remind me of my beloved Last Exile.
Fractale is a new sci-fi anime, and is a rarity in the anime world, in that it is short, sweet, and to the point. At only 11 episodes, this is an anime that you could easily finish in a few days, if only watching at a casual level.
Story: 8 out of 10
If I had to hook someone with a quick summary of the series Fractale, I would probably tell them "Pretty much Last Exile meets The Matrix,”. The story revolves around a young boy named Clain who lives in a world where humans no longer truly "live". They interact by entering a sort of real cyber-world in which all pain and unhappiness is gone.
Seemingly taking it's plot from the endless harem animes out there, a girl more or less falls out of nowhere to Clain, and after rescuing her, is left with a strange device. Inside the device is a cyber-being known as a Dopple (Doppleganger? eh?). After the human girl Phyrne skips out on them during the night, Clain and Nessa start on an adventure of a lifetime.
My personal feelings of the story are fairly good. Like I’ve mentioned twice, it reminds me a lot of a more sci-fi version of Last Exile (my favorite anime), and packs a lot into only 11 episodes.
The series starts off kind of light-hearted and slow, but the ending really shows itself as a mature series. Don't worry, no spoilers :]
Animation: 10 out of 10
There isn't much to say for this section. noitaminA does a killer job as always. Air ship battles, Miyazaki (to me) reminiscent character designs, and a rich sci-fi fantasy floating fortress. Everything in this series is pretty.
Sound: 8 out of 10
Sound was a peculiar section for me. The series has great sound and voice recording all around, especially when you get to the final air battle, but the soundtrack wasn't really doing it for me. The opening video is a montage of fractal art, and a boring, weird, sort of... 80's techno sounding song, and the ending sounds more like a folk song of Scotland. Not bad, just not my cup of tea I 'spose.
Characters: 9 out of 10
Characters are what really did it for me in this series. Alot of animes can be enjoyed easily, even if you have to overlook dull characters (for example, go watch the noitaminA series "Shiki). However, when your series is only 11 episodes long, you sure as hell better put some great characters into the mix. I am proud to say that they most certainly did that very thing.
Clain is a typical good character to me. He starts off afraid, young, and naive. As the conclusion draws on us, we see that he has grown as a person, but not in an unrealistic way. He doesn't just snap into maturity, and turn into a smooth talking, cold-blooded killer. All he does is change how he thought based off the truths he saw that life offered him. To me, this speaks volumes of his character.
My personal favorite character though was Nessa. Sweet, cute, innocent Nessa spends most of the series making you say "D'aaaaaw!" and rooting for her to help Clain save the day. Opposite of Clain, Phyrne starts off arrogant, selfish, and impulsive, mostly due to how she is treated back at home. She tries so hard to be serious, but it isn't until the end she becomes humble, and steps into her own as a character.
The entire crew of the Lost Millenium Granites division are fun. The animators really did a great job capturing that small village comradery, and rebel spirit that they all share. Even little Enri, the angry, snaggletoothed stereotype angry little girl character grows up near the end, and makes you happy to see she is on her way to becoming an adult.
Overall: 8.5 out of 10
Overall, the only thing that could have made this series better would be a few more episodes. Maybe around the mid 20s. There was so much storyline thrust on you at some points, that you had to ignore the characters just to keep up with it, and it's a shame because both characters and plotline are really well done.
If anyone of you out there wants a series that starts off, much like Clain, slower-paced, and light-hearted, and then still much like Clain, ending up on a mature note, with a sweet, well-thought out ending, then Fractale should be the next on your list!
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.