Reviewby Rebecca Silverman, Sep 19th 2012
BD+DVD - The Complete Series [Limited Edition]
Many centuries in the future, humanity has permanently logged in to a system called “fractale.” Fractale allows people to live in a techno dreamworld, create real-world avatars of themselves, and basically takes care of their every need. Not everyone is thrilled with this reality, however, and members of a group known as the Lost Millennium want to put an end to the fractale system. A young teen named Clain finds himself caught up in the fight when a priestess from the technology temple appears before him and leaves him with a mysterious young girl named Nessa.
Many hundreds of years from now, the world is a technotheistic society where a system known as Fractale reigns supreme. People are implanted with Fractale terminals, allowing them to see digitally created imagery, call up menus and screens, and essentially live a life free of worry...so long as the technology they worship keeps working. And it might not – seven hundred years after its creation, Fractale is beginning to fail. The priestesses who control it (and the world) have a method of fixing it, but not everyone wants to see that happen. A group of rebels known as the Lost Millennium, made up of several different “family” groups, believe that humans should go back to pre-Fractale days, and they will use any method at hand to stop the archpriestess and her subordinates from renewing it.
As viewers we follow Clain, a teen age boy living in the Ireland of the future who has a thing for antique technology, most of which will look very familiar. Clain lives alone in a beautiful cottage – his parents come by only as doppels – real-world avatars – and even his dog is digital. One day while on his way home from the market, Clain sees a girl in a priestess' outfit flying by on an air bike. When she throws herself off of it rather than be caught by her pursuers, Clain rescues her and brings her home. The girl turns out to be Phryne, and she has run away from the temple for reasons she doesn't share. She sneaks out of Clain's home in the night, but leaves behind a mysterious blue orb which turns out to hold Nessa, an unusual doppel who attaches herself to Clain. The two soon find themselves on the run and end up with a group of Lost Millennials. As Clain tries to figure out where he stands in the fight between LM and the temple, he learns about Nessa, Phryne, and the world he lives in. Because Clain is our point of view character, we learn as he does, and the show allows us to make our own decisions about this future, which may not be so far away from what awaits us. While the show certainly has its own angle, ultimately the decision is left up to the viewer, with Clain simply serving as our guide through the tale.
Fractale, as a series, is in some ways an animated Brave New World. Those familiar with Aldous Huxley's 1932 science fiction novel will be able to see the Savages in the Lost Millennium and hear echoes of his warning in the show's blatant worship of what is essentially a glorified Internet. Good science fiction has an element of prophecy to it, and Fractale certainly does come off as a prediction of what could come.
All warnings and prophecies aside, Fractale in eleven episodes covers a lot of ground without feeling rushed. In fact, if one were to skip the opening and ending themes, it would feel like one long movie rather than an episodic television show. Characters, particularly Clain, Phryne, and Enri, mature and evolve, and even Nessa, who had real potential to be annoying, shows depth. (Interestingly enough, hers is the sole name that comes from Irish mythology. By the conclusion, this seems like more than a coincidence.) Part of Nessa's charm comes from her voice, with both Luci Christian and Kana Hanazawa giving her a puppyish quality that is very endearing. The story of Phryne's past, recent and far distant, has a nice symbiosis, including its use of the father figure. This makes a good contrast to Clain's own relationship with his father and even to the lack of father in the lives of Sunda and Enri, the siblings in charge of the LM faction Clain ends up with. Another theme of the series is the idea of loneliness, and how being too immersed in Fractale's semi-virtual world can cause people to be alone even when surrounded. This is central to the end of the show, and while it could have been better developed, particularly in episode seven, taking place in the visually overwhelming virtual city of Xanadu, the final episode still manages to wrap it up nicely.
Between dub and sub and DVD and Blu-Ray are very few differences. It is difficult to find a truly weak voice in either track, so watching this in the language you prefer will simply ensure that you enjoy the experience, though it should be noted that the dub voice of Barrot, Bucky Pearl, does a bang-up job sounding smarmy and creepy. The opening theme, simply a collection of brightly colored fractals, has less bloom on the DVD than the Blu-Ray, so it's a bit easier on the eyes, but other than that there is no appreciable drop in quality. Visually the backgrounds are consistently exquisite, with Celtic imagery abounding and helping to place the setting, something that is not really confirmed until the very end. Likewise the ending theme is a poem by Yeats set to the music of an Irish folksong; it switches between English and Japanese vocals twice over the course of the series.
Fractale is clearly a story that has something to say. Between the similarities to Huxley's novel and the origins of the system, not to mention the city of Xanadu and the contrasts between the Lost Millennium and other people's life styles, it really wants you to think about the world Clain lives in. That it can do this and still tell a good story without getting preachy is high praise. While it doesn't succeed in everything – Dias is a bit underdeveloped and Enri is frankly irritating, plus the brevity of the series doesn't allow for as much world building as one might have liked – it still manages to capture your attention and make you think. Is this the future we're headed for? Is it just an anime that I'm making too much of? Fractale leaves that decision up to you.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : B
Art : B+
Music : B
+ Interesting take on a familiar theme, the idea of a technotheistic society is well portrayed. Characters grow and the voice work is good all around. Nice Celtic touches.
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