Home > Episode Reviews, Fractale > Fractale Episode 2 – Feel Good Lost

Fractale Episode 2 – Feel Good Lost

I can’t say a lot happened, plot-wise, in this episode, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth talking about on its own. That alone speaks volumes about the quality of Fractale.

This episode is, for the most part, another introductory episode, both for Nessa, the girl who suddenly appeared in Clain’s room at the end of last episode, and to the nomadic world of ubiquitous affluence that the show takes place in.

The trippy fractals in the opening credits are a nice touch

Nessa is a doppel, one of the computer-generated avatars that riddle Fractale’s landscape and act as surrogates for most of its inhabitants. I believe they are at least semi-autonomous entities, rather than a virtual projection of a human consciousness (like people using the Internet), because one of the characters talks about how people let doppels do all the work they don’t want to do.

Nessa is special, though, because she looks exactly like a normal person (as opposed to Clain’s parents, who look like a gigantic pair of lips and a hookah), and because she is capable of touching and being touched by both people and other doppels, as long as that person has positive feelings towards her.

Nessa is capable of touching and being touched, as long as you don't bear her any ill will. That's a great safety mechanism

She’s also the kind of innocent, free-spirited character that has been an anime staple for years now, but she’s handled with such earnestness that she doesn’t bother me nearly as much as such characters usually do. It helps that director Yutaka Yamamoto has experience with this kind of character: Nagi, the heroine of his last show, Kannagi, was a very similar character, and she quickly became the core of that show.

She also seems to have a strange effect on technology, at least in this episode. She and Clain visit a group of mobile homes, the preferred home for the nomadic lifestyle of Fractale’s populace, and every piece of technology she touches malfunctions in entertainingly horrible ways, from car crashes, to uncontrollable rocket umbrellas to the robot with St. Vitus’ Dance. This power over technology probably stems from the same technological source as the rest of her unique attributes, but for now it’s just another of the show’s mysteries.

Keep Nessa away from anything more technical than a toaster

Her youthful naiveté is a good foil for Clain, the jaded teenager. Clain obviously knows a good deal about the technology underpinning the world, which makes him a good way to introduce the show’s posthuman technology without feeling unnaturally expository. But, while he’s knowledgeable about modern technology, his heart is clearly in the past.

He’s obsessed with finding and getting vintage equipment to work, as evidenced by the SD card he rescued in the first episode, and the film projector he has running in his room. It’s also why he lives in a house, rejecting the hedonistic nomad lifestyle of his parents and seemingly the rest of humanity.

Clain is constantly put on edge by Nessa's free-wheeling openness

Clain, like a lot of teenagers, is starting to interact with the world for the first time, and question the assumptions underpinning it. That makes him a great protagonist for a show like this, which seems poised to explore both the quasi-technological priesthood running the Fractale system, and the scattered rebels who choose to live without it.

For now, though, the show is content to continue its laid-back, pastoral atmosphere for at least another episode, which is fine. The vistas from Clain’s cliff-side home are gorgeous, and the pacing and tone is slower than most anime, in its attempts to maximize entertainment per second to please its fans, simply isn’t capable of.

These guys are back, too. Boo!

The focus on natural beauty also echoes what appears to be one of the show’s main themes: the way technology changes the natural order of things. It’s a familiar concept in Japanese cinema (and the West, as anyone who suffered through the numerous preachy, environmentalist sermons masquerading as animated children’s features in the 90s will attest): the idea that technology or modernity has created a new way of life separate from the natural order, the way things ought to be.

This is all well and good, until you realize that what is being presented as natural and right is really just the world as it existed a generation or two ago, a world with a different way of interacting with nature, but not necessarily a better one.

I kind of wish I had a cool holographic display like that

Fractale is unique in that the “natural order” that it seems to be endorsing appears to be the lifestyle of the late 20th century. Maybe that’s the reason for its nostalgic appropriation of the look and feel of 80s anime: it’s hearkening back to a simpler time, when anime was about boys going on grand adventures, instead of acquiring harems.

Or maybe this is setting up for a grand subversion, a way to take the tropes of old and stand them on their head, or appropriate them for the modern age. Either way, by now I’m confident it will be worth watching to find out.

Caught in a net being lifted by an airship. What is this, Looney Toons?

Actually, I guess there is one interesting thing that happens this episode. At the very end, Clain and Nessa get kidnapped by terrorists. No, really. Kind of a sudden cliffhanger. See you next week!

You can watch this episode here.

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