US Distributor: FUNimation
Production Studio: A-1 Pictures
Was this provided by the publisher? Yes
More Info: Wikipedia

Fractale Boxart 001 - 20151207Fractale is a series that’s brimming with ambition. Born from the mind of Japanese cultural critic Hiroki Azuma and given life by director Yutaka Yamamoto, the series conjures a world of wonder and fantasy. Despite a valiant effort, the gorgeous artwork and fantastic acting aren’t enough to hide the struggle to find an identity as Fractale strains against its eleven-episode run time. While it does leave an impression, the impact may not be as deep as its creators originally intended.

Fractale tells the tale of a distant future, where society is finally at peace. Thanks to “Fractale,” a global system networked by countless satellites, humanity needs not for anything. Medical care, sustenance, even a basic income are provided by the system, in exchange for a bit of personal data. For many, Fractale is indeed a God, with temples built in its name, and priestesses who serve it.

In a remote coastal region of this world lives Clain, a lad who is fascinated by the technology of yore. While he’s content to live his simple life, Clain’s life forever changes after he helps a girl named Phryne, who gives the boy a pendant before disappearing into the night. Clain finds a data file within the pendant, which summons a mysterious holographic girl named Nessa. Together, the two embark on a journey, as they seek to find the truth behind the monolithic Fractale system.

Fractale 001 - 20151207Clain and Nessa meet many interesting people along their journey.  Most notable are groups of traditionalists who advent the days of hard work, sweat, and face-to-face interactions. Several factions of traditionalists decided to take up arms against the Temple of Fractale and became terrorists loosely associated under the umbrella name Lost Millennium.

Many other supporting characters also enter the scene. In fact, there are so many introduced that the series is unable to keep up with all of them across its eleven episodes. Each character is given a clear purpose within the story, which is then promptly dropped as the episodes progress. This unfortunately makes the cast difficult to grow attached to, as few characters are given a real chance to grow and evolve.

Fractale 009 - 20151207Episode and story pacing feels irregular, to the point that it’s difficult to detect an appreciable rhythm to the series. This gives the series an erratic, abrupt feeling that’s particularly noticeable as the show tries to shift paces. Numerous subplots are introduced, but few are resolved by the time the final credits roll. The lack of information makes it difficult to really absorb and appreciate Fractale’s underlying premise.

On an artistic level, Fractale is simply lovely. The backgrounds and landscapes are beautifully painted, with a carefully chosen color palette that highlights the stark contrast between the garish projections of the Fractale system and the pristine beauty of nature. Fractale’s world conjures the imagery of Ireland’s rocky and open pastures, with towns either being desolate ruins or, if under the administration of Fractale, pristinely perfect. In comparison, the character designs feel almost flat and lifeless; they lack the obsessive attention to detail that can be seen in each of the backgrounds. The difference is so stark that, as the series reached completion, I wondered if the disparity between character and background design is intentionally pronounced.

Fractale 010 - 20151207The soundtrack is pleasant, if repetitive at times. Music scores occasionally don’t seem to quite fit with the situations as they’re recycled. We’re certainly treated to excellent voice acting, particularly from Yū Kobayashi who played lead character Clain.

Overall, I loved the premise of Fractale. The story had a legitimate and wonderfully intense plot with plenty of intricacies to explore. Likewise, the cast had plenty of potential for development. The show’s ambition couldn’t be realized, however, as the low episode count killed much of the potential that seemed to shine so brightly at the outset. Unfortunately, many of the finer details were left unexplored due to time constraints, while robbing the series of its sense of urgency. More than anything, this is perhaps the most disappointing thing about Fractale. While it definitely lands on my list of works that I’m truly glad I’ve seen, I’ll probably never get the urge to watch it again.

DVD format note: Due to the beautiful painting and background details, Fractale is wasted in low definition. Furthermore, the subtitles aren’t smoothly edged, which makes reading them (especially while italicized) more difficult than necessary. Do yourself a favor and skip the DVD in favor of Blu-ray.