After director Yamamoto Yutaka made a big fuss about putting his career on the line with this original anime project, the start of Fractale may come off a whimper to most. For me, the immersion into a fantasy world and the visual introduction to what I’ve read about has me looking forward to what’s in store, with the only real disappointment being that the series doesn’t look anything like the promotional art. Instead, the style is very reminiscent of A-1 Pictures’ work in Sora no Woto and Kannagi, the latter of which “Yamakan’s” studio Ordet assisted in the co-production of. It’s definitely a far cry from the unique artwork that I was looking forward to seeing in motion, and raises some questions as to why the characters themselves look so different. The most obvious case is shrine maiden Phryne’s (Tsuda Minami) hair and eye colors that have been changed from purple to brown and green respectively — something that caught my eye immediately in the promo videos. Of course, hair and eye colors are of minor concern when the characters designs themselves have been “anime-ized” to what some people may refer to as their “moe” counterparts. To put it bluntly, I like the style they decided to go with, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t somewhat disappointed when I found out the series doesn’t look as unique as it was made out to be. On the plus side, the animation itself is pretty fluid, the cinematics are impressive, and the characters have a lot of “life” to them. It’s very Studio Ghibli-like, which I gather a lot of people will be reminded of.
Moving beyond the obvious visual changes, the fairly uneventful opening and ending sequences also caught my attention. While I’m a firm believer of the statement that you should never judge a book by its cover, I feel that an original series can really benefit from having flashy ones to showcase what it has to offer and to further heighten viewer anticipation. To me, something like that wouldn’t faze me one way or another for the series in question, though I can see how many potential viewers who have hopped on the bandwagon in the past month are already thinking of getting off. I hate to say it, but the success of a series does ride on people with such fickle attitudes to a certain degree, so it’d be a shame if the lack of a strong first impression ends up losing a portion of them. I gather expectations came in really high for some people after the statement that Yamakan made, so perhaps dug himself into this hole by he raising the bar too high. I still say it’s far too early to make an accurate judgement, especially when this was a purely introductory episode that established the premise before ending off with the arrival of our other main character, the mysterious “Doppel” Nessa (Hanazawa Kana) who came forth from Phryne’s pendant. There’s really no need to throw anyone under the bus. Not yet anyway.
Where the production doesn’t leave much doubt is the story, focusing on a carefree boy named Clain (Kobayashi Yuu) and the world’s Fractale System, a supercomputer network that interfaces with humans directly, has turned the world into an easygoing paradise. As if implicitly trained from playing role playing games, I was suspicious of this seemingly perfect system right away, particularly when all that’s needed to fuel it is data from everyone’s “life log” and them staring off into the distance at a bright light without blinking for a daily “prayer”. While it’s anyone’s guess as to what’s truly going on, it’s probably safe to say that something is up and that the appeal of the story will be Clain’s adventure to find out what that is and why the system is breaking down. The whole ancient yet advanced technology that everyone uses but no one understands anymore plot device may be overused by now, whether in Final Fantasy or even the aforementioned Sora no Woto, but the search for answers is something that I’m almost always captivated by. In a fantasy world where the possibilities are endless, it’s hard to anticipate what’s going to happen, yet a lot of fun for that very reason when the story starts dropping hints here and there.
Ultimately, that’s the selling point for me in this original series, which works well in conjunction with the “Doppel” avatars that have become a way of life, allowing parents such as Clain’s to raise their children remotely. There’s also the mystery behind Phryne (i.e. is she from the future?) and questions surrounding why Enri (Iguchi Yuka) and her two goons are after her to get things rolling. From a story standpoint, my interest is as piqued as ever, so this first episode was far from a disappointment for me. At only eleven episodes long, I’m just hoping that this series will have at least a plot twist or two planned. If they’re depicted well, it may just be the thing to turn this series to a masterpiece like Yamakan’s envisioning. If not, it will probably end up being mediocre and quickly forgotten. The only way to find out is to watch, which you can safely bet that I’ll be doing.