There was definitely no shortage of surprise developments to make this episode befitting of a finale, but I admittedly found the impact of them all much less than it could have been. I attribute that primarily to quickly tying up all the loose ends and leaving little time for anything to sink in, such as the deaths of various characters. In Barrot’s case, it was almost comedic when an expressionless Phryne stabbed him for gloating about having her as his plaything, whereas Sunda’s happened off-screen so there was always lingering hope that he’d make it out alive. Sadly he didn’t, much to the dismay of Sunda fans out there who were worried he might be killed off. (Oh how right you were.). The same goes for Dias taking out Moeran with him, which was pretty significant yet didn’t seem like it because it all happened so quickly.
Ultimately, it was the lack of build-up toward most of these shocking moments that took away from them. I actually had to look back through the episode to really get a grasp of everything that happened, because I was only really concerned about Barrot’s revelation that a normal girl became the key (i.e. God) of the Fractale System followed by Phryne’s decision to restart it. After all, this was the big moment to see if the ten episodes before were going to amount to something big. However, whether or not they did is a different matter, since I still can’t shake the feeling that the ending was “incomplete” even though it was conclusive. There’s been little to nothing revealed about the workings of the Fractale System, including the restart mechanism in space that was used, as the story went on to emphasize that the original Phryne was just an ordinary girl with a stuffed rabbit named Nessa instead. What’s more, there was no indication as to what was going to happen to Phryne and Nessa during the restart process either.
Incidentally, that’s one of my gripes with this finale. I didn’t even get an opportunity to be surprised because I was still looking for answers as to what’s going to happen. If for example, I were led to believe that Phryne, Nessa, or both of them would die in the process, I would’ve been more emotionally invested in what unfolded. Instead, I was as dumbfounded as Clain, as he watched on while Nessa faded away in a flash of light. The spectacle also left a lot to be desired about Phryne’s decision to fulfill her purpose, since I was anticipating she would sacrifice herself to save Nessa and not take her with her. Once the epilogue showed that Phryne merged with Nessa’s personality has been in a coma for the past year, I had to start wondering if anything was accomplished in the story. Sunda died fighting just to feel like a free man, whereas Phryne did exactly what the Monastery wanted anyway (…and there was no danger to her life).
Looking back, the only thing that put a twisted spin on the progression was Barrot’s implication that he slept with Phryne to recreate the feelings of “love” that the original Phryne experienced, making her the perfect 16-year-old vessel to the 10-year-old soul housed in Nessa. Why the decision to make that a plot device is beyond me though, as it simply served as a means to garner more viewer hatred towards Barrot to no particular end. Instead of bringing attention to that subplot, I would’ve liked to see the story touch upon more of the history behind the Fractale System so that everything we did learn about it wasn’t simply explained to us in the very last episode. I still feel the scope of the premise is still fairly vast, but unfortunately we were only privy to see a very small portion of it through Clain’s eyes.
Regardless of director Yamamoto Yutaka ill-advised move that put himself under the microscope, I really feel that Fractale had a lot of potential that was never realized. It’s still a good series, but it never took strides towards becoming a great series. That’s partly due to how the story didn’t make better use of the fantasy world that it takes place in, but also the character interactions that never developed as much as they could have.
The finale took some steps to remedy the latter case by stressing the close-knit relationship that main trio have, yet maintained the stubbornness in Phryne that prevented it from really taking off. Rather than having a more predictable ending where Phryne falls for Clain and abandons her purpose, or where she sacrifices herself to allow Clain to live on with Nessa, we were left with a very “safe” conclusion that didn’t delve into themes of love or self-sacrifice. The biggest kicker is that the Fractale System remains for the time being, which goes back to the thought I mentioned above about how it doesn’t feel like anything was accomplished. No world-changing turn of events, no powerful themes, nothing.
What the series portrayed well was the lighter side to the story, which was really enjoyable from a slice-of-life standpoint. Phryne’s tomboyish personality was always a handful for Clain as he found himself helplessly attracted to her, whereas Nessa’s innocence provided the missing link to bring them together. Sunda, Enri, and the rest of the Granites family provided a fun environment for all their antics to take place, while the overarching plot surrounding the Fractale System continued to make progress alongside it. In contrast, the third, fourth, seventh, and eighth episodes left lasting impressions by bringing the darker side of the main plot to the forefront, and provided a good balance between seriousness and lightheartedness.
Be that as it may, for a show that I don’t perceive to be slice-of-life, an ending where the serious side of the story fell short is a bit hard to overlook. That unfulfilling final impression also has a retroactive effect on the series as a whole, which is why I can’t help but feel a little disappointed. This has absolutely no bearing on what Yamakan made a fuss over either, and only what I took away from my first-hand research into the production staff, premise, and promotional material. Still, I feel that the series is worth watching for all the good points I mentioned above. Just don’t go in expecting too much of an epic tale since it never really strives to be.