Friday, 1 April 2011

Fractale - Episode 11 (Completed)

Fractale has certainly been many things during its broadcast run, but one thing is hasn't particularly succeeded at being is consistently good.  But, here we are at the show's finale nonetheless, and the chance to imbue some real meaning on a series that seems to bear all of the hallmarks of having lost its way.

To be honest, the opening to this eleventh instalment couldn't be much clumsier, with Phryne's "father" spilling the whole beans about how Fractale works, or more importantly what it needs to reboot and how Phryne and Nessa fit into this, complete with creepy undertones of child abuse.  At the end of this decidedly rushed monologue, a detached Phryne stabs her so-called father, before realising what she's done and running away in terror - Nessa follows, leaving a shell-shocked Clain alone.

Cue some machinations, twists and turns, including the Fractale temple being set to blow itself up (not the most imaginative plot point, I'm sure you'll agree), Dias throwing himself at the Grand Priestess and getting blown up, and Sunda getting shot and then (and you may see a pattern emerging here) blown up.  The last of these explosions allow Nessa, Phryne and Clain to escape, as they shoot off into the sky on a glass elevator like so many extras from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory - only this time, the end of their journey is treated to little more than a clip from K-ON... sorry, I mean a clip of a Phryne from many years past which is probably supposed to be evocative but ended up being boring.

Come the end of it all, Phryne decides to do what she was created for and reboots the Fractale system (for what will be the last time given that its temple has collapsed), complete with the agreement of Clain that she is doing it for reasons that aren't purely selfish.  Lost Millennium continues to live their own life, while a post-reboot Phryne/Nessa hybrid lives with Clain, only awakening after a full year of sleep.

I'm going to throw this out here as frankly as I can - the latter of Fractale was, largely, a bit crap.  While its early episodes held an interesting premise and were, if nothing else, a fascinating mirror held up to Hiroki Azuma's previous work and theories, the second half of the series saw a lot of its intellectual facade crumble, much like the Fractale system itself, to reveal a tired and clunky story that really didn't have anywhere to go.  This lack of scope for any kind of interesting ending is readily apparent in this series finale, with an ending full of explosions and some pretty visuals but utterly devoid of any real meaning to the point of almost being frustrating as it simply reboots its world with little more than a shrug which screams "oh well, Clain got his girlfriend, the rest of it doesn't matter, right?".

Ultimately, I'm not sure whether Fractale is a series that was undone by its own ambition (those early episodes were so heavy with allegory that I suspect its actual outward storyline simply collapsed under its weight) or whether it was just a poorly conceived idea from beginning to end - I'd still argue that the first few episodes of the series are worth watching for anyone who has read Otaku: Japan's Database Animals as an exercise in seeing Azuma's philosophy transferred into a living, breathing anime show in its own right (while posing some fascinating questions at the same time), but beyond that (or perhaps because of that early promise) the series as a whole is pretty hugely disappointing.

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