Fractale Episodes 10 and 11 – The Long Goodbye
If it seems like a long time since I wrote about Fractale, that’s because it has been. As of this writing, it’s been over a month and a half since the finale episode aired, and I’ve been far too busy to write about it.
But in a sense, if the last two episodes had been groundbreaking, if they’d taken the show from being what was frankly a mediocre adventure show to being something truly special, I probably would have made the time. I made the time to write about Madoka realizing its potential and becoming the kind of show that is almost instantly a classic. If Fractale had turned into the show I’d wanted it to be from the beginning, you probably would have already read about it.
In a way, this is unfair to the last two episodes of Fractale, as they’re clearly the best part of the series. My vain hope that the ending would bring the show together in a way that the first nine episodes failed to do actually came true. Unfortunately, as good as the ending is, it’s not enough to make Fractale as a whole anything more than a mediocre adventure show.
The show thus far has basically been telling two stories: that of the rebels in Lost Millennium and the priesthood of Fractale fighting for the destiny of the crumbling Fractale system, and the smaller, personal story of Clain, Nessa, and Phryne, and their respective journeys of personal discovery and growing relationship with each other.
These two story threads are colliding, of course, since the latter two are the only people capable of restarting Fractale, and only if they merge into one whole being, body and soul. They’re the pawns Lost Millennium and Fractale are fighting over, so it’s only natural that everything is going to center on them. What did surprise me was how well the story ties up both story threads, and does it in a satisfying way that lets everyone kind of get what they want.
The show has tried to paint both sides in the great conflict as more or less morally ambiguous, and while it has mainly done that by making everyone but the three main characters and Granitz Village folks unredeemable scumbags, that does mean the ending is going to have to be a compromise. Fractale has always been, at its heart, an adventure anime, and it’s certainly not bold enough to go without the required happy ending. Although a happy ending doesn’t necessarily preclude killing off a good chunk of its cast, and in that Fractale does not disappoint.
So that means pleasing everybody, and it mostly does. The Fractale system is restarted, but the facility that allows it to be repaired is destroyed, ensuring that the next time it falls apart, humanity will be on its own. Nessa and Phryne merge into one being, but still remember what happened before. It’s pretty much as balanced as things could be.
And told superbly. The rush to cram in as much incidental detail and character development is gone here, leaving the show as much time as it needs to resolve the plot, and then filling in everything else with intricate action scenes. The action scenes have consistently been the best thing about the show’s visuals, and more of them here just improves on two solid episodes.
There’s another thing, a revelation about Phryne and Nessa’s origins that explains some of why they are who they are. But the truth is disturbing, and something that seems to have been done mostly to get a rise out of its audience. No doubt it was meant to play with the otaku obsession with purity and innocence in its female characters, but it comes off a bit crass and exploitative.
I’m somewhat torn about this, because it does help to explain the natures of both Nessa and Phryne, and I think that if the reveal had been done sooner in the series it would have allowed for some more interesting character development (and livened up the dull middle of the show). As it stands, though, it just seems like a blatant, if probably effective, way at inserting some pathos into a show that hasn’t exactly been full of it.
But here’s the thing: the success of the finale is more a justification for the three hours you’ve spent watching the show so far, rather than a reason to watch the show in the first place. If you’ve already watched the first nine episodes, you’ve probably already watched the last two, and know they’re the best. If you’ve been waiting until it was over to figure out if you should watch Fractale, I’ll tell it to you straight: don’t bother.
While adventure shows have been neglected as of late and Fractale does try to mix things up a bit, ultimately it hews too close to the formula to be novel, and its cluttered storytelling and overeager world building make it too incoherent and dull to really enjoy.
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