Fractale – First Impression

Ah, the beautiful Phryne

I picked up this show on pure whim after reading the winter 2011 expectations of some well-respected peers on AnimeSuki, and man, am I glad I did! This show jumped from low-mid to the top of my list this season.

The scene opens up onto some very pretty scenery art, reminiscent of Hayao Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky, or Howl’s Moving Castle.  I think of an early, Utopian Europe.  The very first character we see, the protagonist Clain, goes along with this assumption, as he’s blonde, blue/green eyed, and drinking milk in a charming little cottage on a cliff by the sea.

WTF family?!

My illusion is shattered in the next frame as the motherly/fatherly voices talking to Clain end up belonging to strange extraterrestrial-looking beings.  To top it off, a boxy, yellow creature sniffs at Clain’s leg much like a dog would.  At this point, I’m not sure what I was thinking watching this show and what the hell I’ve gotten myself into >.<

Whoaaa, doppel, what?

My sense of time continues to warp as Clain goes out on a bike ride through gorgeous scenery, listening to his music player (iPod style), only to end up at some sort of cyber-street fair full of illegal goods.  Clain reveals himself as fascinated with technologies from the “old world,” getting excited at finding a disc that fits into his music player.  The background holograms on the surrounding stalls read phrases like: “old century classic computer,” “old type CPU, RAM, memory, hard drive,” and “price negotiation OK.”  With the odd creatures floating around reminding me of the spirits from Spirited Away and the mix of a cyber-world overlapping reality reminding me of Dennou Coil, I’m starting to really like what I see.  Security (Police?) shows up to bust the action and the creatures immediately disappear, and the audience learns of the existence of “doppels,” something still to be explained.  With most of the vendors gone and security off chasing the runners, Clain pockets the disc.  It’s nice to see a protagonist going against the wholesome norm I typically see in shows of this atmosphere.

As Clain relaxes to check out the stolen disc–which turns out to be a history book and not music like he hoped–the show takes the time to relate a bit of history for the viewers.  The Fractale System is one that promotes a perfect world with no poverty or war.  Users must simply embed a “Fractale Terminal” into their bodies and send life logs to a Big Brother-like Server to receive basic incomes.  The history book calls Fractale a 22nd century “God,” which of course sets my sensors to warning buzzers letting me know that this system isn’t all that it’s professing to be.  This was already hinted at earlier with the street fair.

The following scene confirms this when Clain witnesses an air chase between two futuristic flying vehicles.  I automatically take the side of the girl on the very Nausicaa-like glider.  I mean, c’mon, she winks right at Clain when she overhears his music, and she gets a special scene all her own as she falls backwards off her glider and falls gracefully towards an unbroken ocean.  At this point, we’ve only just started the opening credits!

Talking about the opening credits…I can’t say I’m really impressed with the visuals as it’s just a bunch of, well, fractals.  The meaning isn’t lost on me since I assume they represent the overlapping, patterned worlds that we’ll come across when learning about the Fractale system.  But is it too much to ask to give me some pretty scenes and hints of future characters? Hmph.  Nice song though, “Harinezumi (ハリネズミ)” by Azuma Hitomi.

Yeah, I caught that split-second expression of yours...

After these unsatisfying credits, again there’s the Castle in the Sky feel.  Much like Pazu, Clain rescues a fallen girl and takes her to his home.  However, instead of the completely innocent boy from Miyazaki’s creation, Clain shows some sexual attraction to Phryne.  Tsk tsk! The humor that shows up in this latter part of the episode is pretty well introduced and spaced out.  Some shock from Phryne’s lack of shyness towards nudity, and some very Dola Gang-ish comedy!

Dola-like pigtails and gang!

Phryne’s attackers follow her to Clain’s home and attempt through some very comical costumes and acts to trick their way in.  When these fail, they burst in and are shocked not so much by her absence, but by the clothes she’s left behind, going so far as to accuse Clain of planning “naughty” actions.  After much fuss, they finally leave and we have some more one-on-one time between Clain and Phryne.

The pendant Phryne wears looks mysteriously a lot like the symbol on the old chapel ruins.  This similarity, added with her disappearance, the suspicion of the Fractale System, and the comedic antagonists, makes for an intriguing start.  The interest only heightens with the sudden introduction right at the very end of the episode of a girl who materializes out of the computer data Clain extracts from Phryne’s pendant.  At least she didn’t fall out the sky onto him ;)

 

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8 thoughts on “Fractale – First Impression

  1. After reading this entry I honestly have no clue what this is really about. I remember looking at this the other day on MAL and deciding to pass. Now after reading this I’m so confused that I can’t help, but check this out. Luckily for me this is early in the season so it won’t take, but a minute to catch up. Hopefully I’ll be thanking you for changing my mind about this one.

  2. I actually went and watched this right after I commented on all of your blogs and you described the episode so well that it felt like I had already watched it. It really did grab me though as I loved both the characters and the art style. I particularly liked Phryne and the leader of the people chasing after her. I’m hoping we see more of Phryne and that she will be a main character, but I’m kind of suspecting the girl that came out of the pendant will be more of a focal character than Phryne.

  3. The Utopian/Dystopian genre is one in Anime I thoroughly enjoy.

    After watching the first episode, I think there is a connection between Data Drugs and having to face the temple at the certain time of day. I think the show even implies a connection between the two: one must face the temple to sing the song to induce the drug-like effect. The Juxtaposition of scenes between when Clain looks towards the temple (right before the Nausicaa flying scene–beautiful movie btw), and the non-doppels trying the Data drugs seems to suggest this connection.

    The doppels themselves are interesting. At first I thought they were mere projections of people inside the Fractale system, and that by being part of the Fractale system they receive immortality. However, if that’s the case, then what’s the point of the dog?
    Now, I’m not exactly sure what they are. They seem to be controlled by the ‘real’ people; however, I think that’s another theme that will (hopefully) play out later in the series. At first Phryne doesn’t like Clain because of his ho-humness to doppels, and the ending (with the loud cute girl) also plays up these questions. I’m sure they’ll be bonds formed and philosophical inquiries abound.

    I’ll watch the next episode and keep up with the series. If it doesn’t disappoint, perhaps we could have a conversation about this Anime.

    Oh, and for a small editing remark, there’s a small typo when you mention “Castle in they Sky”, when I think you meant Castle in the Sky.

    1. I find it interesting that you focus so strongly on the whole aspect of the Data drugs, a section of the episode that I completely overlooked. Now that you mention it, I’m interested to see if that will pop up more in the series and becomes as prominent as you seem to imply.

      I agree that the doppels very intriguing, especially after watching the 2nd episode. Also, thanks for catching that typo!

  4. Meh, after watching Episode 2 I’m a bit let-down by the doppels. It seems the series is adamant on shoving down our throats this future of non-committal people. Which is fine, but seems like the focus won’t be on doppels after-all, which is surprising and intriguing.

    It just seems like Clain’s parents and everyone else with a doppel is just a projection of someone living in those mobile homes, transients able to check in with loved ones and do as they please. An interesting feature, but not something I think is going to sustain the series unless there’s a twist or they focus elsewhere.

    My guess, with Nessa, is they focus elsewhere. There’s already something hinted at when Clain could and could not touch Nessa, something to do with the smile and happiness/fear associated with it, aka emotions, as many Anime tend to go. Emotions are what make humans, human, afterall.

    Here’s looking to episode 3. !!

  5. Episode 3 ratchets up the stakes as we are introduced to the ‘resistance’ of this new world order.

    Naturally, the audience sympathizes with the resistance group. Are these the people we will follow the rest of the series? Probably since they’ve been with us since the first episode. Clain will soon have to decide his path: left or right. Now that he’s seen the ‘truth’, his decision means something.

    1. Yes, I gave in and kept on watching, and the third one certainly did throw a lot of my expectations right out the door >.< However! I'm glad to see that the whole alien premise is still in motion, as I was afraid that that would turn out all fake as well.

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