Friday, 25 February 2011

Fractale - Episode 6

I began to fear for Fractale a little last week as it frittered away an entire episode on... well, pointless stuff broadly speaking, with the odd exception.  However, with the Granitzfamily airship needing to land for maintenance, episode six brings us a chance to mix things up and get back to more interesting goings on once again.

Luckily, that's exactly what happens, as it isn't long before we're introduced first to a rather suspicious guy with an antique digital camera who is happily snapping away at Clain and a naked Phryne, and then to another faction of the Lost Millennium group to show us that there's more than one line of thinking when it comes to "saving" people from the Fractale system.  Although this faction seems friendly enough towards the lost and weary souls who are left helpless without the communications that makes up the Fractale system, there's clearly at least some tension between them and Granitz's bunch for reasons that soon become clear later.

Our "guy with camera" also proves to be an important part of this episode's story, as Clain follows him back to his home to find it packed with ancient technology, later returning with Phryne at the promise of even more impressive sights to come.  In short, what this man wants to show Clain is a system he's created to boost Fractale's signal, giving people in the area a brief dose of virtual "bliss" than uncovers both the shortcomings of Fractale itself as well as the disturbing truth about how this alternate faction of Lost Millennium really operates.  That isn't all either, as a stray photograph picked up by Phryne seems to offer up an answer to just who our mysterious lover of old technology is....

After the disappointment of last week, this was an immeasurably better episode of Fractale that went back to exploring so much of that social (and even otaku-focused) commentary that I've talked so much about in earlier episodes.  For starters, we now have our two factions of Lost Millennium to compare - can either of them genuinely claim that their way of doing things is "right", and how do they both stack up against the Fractale system itself ethically?  Sprouting out of this is once again the question of technology and at what point it actually begins to limit human innovation and endeavour - witness the lost sheep of a post-Fractale world once its signal is no longer received in that area, then think about how you felt and behaved the last time you had any protracted period without any form of Internet access.  This point is then pushed a little further into the realm of human communication, as Clain admits that for all his virtual friends it's a very different feeling to have an actual, face-to-face conversation with someone who shares his interest, and it's a scenario which strikes him at an emotional level far more than any virtual conversation could ever hope to.

All of these questions arguably strike at the heart of otaku-dom in particular as it asks questions of the relevance of their online communications (including this 'blog, I suppose) - it's an interesting bait-and-switch tactic on the part of Fractale at times as it teases with fan service then hits you with some heavy-hitting philosophical comments, but you know what?  On an occasion such as this episode, it actually works rather well.  If only the series thus far wasn't quite so hit and miss - when Fractale gets what it's trying to right, it really does succeed pretty admirably.

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