Fractale 01: The Looming End of Our Fantasies

[HorribleSubs] Fractale - 01 [360p].mkv_snapshot_02.10_[2011.01.14_06.46.02]

Fractale starts off building a world of ambitious science fiction, then telling its story via a “meet cute” combining the extremes of adolescent fantasy: a girl falling from the sky, then a setup from bad porn. I am okay with this.

Clain’s awkwardness towards Phryne who strips naked in front of him is exacerbated by his sheltered, comfortable, yet isolated life. It gets me to consider the world being built by this tale, which is straight out of contemporary fantasy:

Everyone’s basic livelihoods are taken care of, simply by being connected to some form of the internet.

For many of us, this is already the case (always connected). As a result for some of us, we spend less time socializing in meatspace. Many if not most of our conversations occur electronically, and we spend more time looking at our friends’ avatars than speaking to them in the flesh. I’ve seen my best friend less than 30 times the past four years even if we live in the same metropolis. We’ve never been better, but I realize we’ve shared most of our time in our day-to-day with other people. In my case, friends I’ve made online.

For some of us, the idea of a safety net that exists because of our connectivity and the same time serves our connectivity is fantasy of a high order. This is the contemporary Hakuna Matata kind of life. The only enemy left is boredom.

Fractale illustrates this environment in a way that reminds me of Oz in Summer Wars, only that there is this interesting interplay between “doppels” (avatars) and physical people. The marketplace Clain visits to get his fix of archaic (21st century technology) is populated entirely of doppels.

[HorribleSubs] Fractale - 01 [360p].mkv_snapshot_04.08_[2011.01.14_06.45.22]

The memory card he shoplifted (for all intents and purposes) from the market contains a presentation of the Fractale System, and is the source of the exposition. We find out about the connectivity for $$$ setup, and then something very interesting to me: the Fractale System as God.

Religion is also organized around rituals, and these often involve prayer. In Catholicism there is the twice-a-day Angelus, wherein people stop whatever they’re doing (including walking) to pray.  Clain stops and stares at the sun, as instructed by the Fractale program, to pray and perhaps offer thanksgiving.

If the Fractale system removes the problem of suffering due to privation entirely, it is arguable that it has done more than God would do for creation. This is why it presents itself (or perhaps there are those who present it as) the operational God of this world. If your most basic needs are taken care of (an income to survive, to participate in the market), then aren’t you free to pursue your dreams?

There would be those who have no such ambitions, content to idle and the only dragon worth slaying is their own petty boredom. But that’s just part of the diversity of dispositions. The fantasy of the Fractale system allows the likes of them to perform no real contribution to the world, and yet not cost the world via their borderline parasitic existence.

image

But the thing is, the plot of Fractale is that this system is going to crash. The fantasy cannot be sustained. People will have to strive and therefore suffer. And perhaps, the way to this story is through the pastiche, mashup, collage, champloo of otaku database tropes and others (as the behavior and presentation of Phryne’s pursuers reminds me of Ghibli films, and “Happy Tomino” anime¹) – just as The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya did it for its own science fiction elements.

Will the fall of the Fractale System give rise to its success as an anime? The fall suggests, via the values of Phryne, a return to the archaic – but authentic life for humans; a return to a life where Clain can smile his real smile.

¹Tomino Yoshiyuki anime when he’s supposedly not depressed e.g. Turn A Gundam, Overman King Gainer.

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
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52 Responses to Fractale 01: The Looming End of Our Fantasies

  1. gwern says:

    For some almost silly in-depth discussion about related material, check out http://forum.evageeks.org/viewtopic.php?t=10519

    • I got turned off by the “state of anime and its fandom” tangents. Any time that comes up, just refer people to this annual series on Awesome Engine. You’ll notice that I never indulge this “OMFG anime was better back then, sure is cancer now” family of discussions, despite my aesthetic of “remembering love.”

      I think great shows are truly rare, but enjoyable shows are plenty, and subject almost entirely to one’s preferences. Thus, I will always find four shows in a year that I’ll enjoy — that’s 56 or so weeks of enjoying myself with new anime every year. If I account for the backlog of shows I haven’t seen… well that’s another thing altogether.

  2. foomafoo says:

    I actually like the premise of the story, but after what you’ve said about Clain’s real smile and the authentic life, I’m quite confused.

    The unhappiness of people these days could probably be attributed to the lesser amount of time they are given to enjoy their lives which is pretty much eaten by work, work and work. The Fractale System gives the solution to that through that daily income and other things you’ve mentioned thus, giving people the time they needed back then to enjoy things.

    If that’s the case, why are people not happy enough? The final sentence of this entry somewhat suggests in the anime, that true happiness can only be attained through authentic life — which I don’t think the case is. If I were to be asked, it would boil down to humans themselves because they’ve been attached so much to what was the past era (Clain’s interest to old stuff), instead of actually trying to adapt on what’s going on presently. Even though Fractale System already did it’s job to open up a new era for people to have enough time for their lives, people still unconsciously want to go back.

    or so I think 🙂

    • AnonGanon says:

      It might have to do with the saying that a person may not know true happiness if that person does not know sadness. If everything were “happy” then what is there to truly appreciate?

      • Panther says:

        This is precisely one of the points the show tries to bring up but very subtly. A fine way to put it.

      • foomafoo says:

        What you said is true but I’m not trying to equate implementation of Fractale System to happiness and I don’t think Fractale System would actually lead to the situation you were saying wherein everyone is happy thus, no more room for true appreciation.

        All it does is to provide you the things you might needon whatever you might want to do in your life (although this still needs verification as the series goes on since this is merely based on the assumption that it only provides the income and such.). It doesn’t guarantee success on whatever you want to achieve. Therefore, I still believe that there’s a room for true appreciation in such universe/setting XD.

      • I don’t think a life without horror will be devoid of happiness. Rather, the profound enemy is boredom. A safety net like this may create a class of indolent people who contribute nothing and this perhaps is the true horror of such an “utopia,” that when nothing is truly necessary, nothing of value is contributed.

    • To a degree, work keeps us away from enjoying free time. However, we aren’t really required to work long hours in these high-powered jobs. We work this much and push so hard because we want to get ahead. I imagine people subscribed in the Fractale System may still want to get ahead. Some have ambition. After all it’s just minimum wage that Fractale offers. One can subsist on it and not suffer, but sometimes you still want more. And some people, will want a whole lot more.

      The authentic smile, insinuating a more authentic life referred to here I think is more about connectivity to real (as opposed to virtual) things, and people (not avatars). What I find interesting here is that the story suggests a “desirable fall from the Garden of Eden.” The seeming near-perfection of the world is proving to take something too precious away, and to get that thing back, this world and its god may just have to go.

      The violence of this process may be told in this lighthearted magical kind of story and I think I’m up for it.

  3. Sounds very interesting~ will think about all this when I watch it (which won’t be until umee or someone with 720p rips subs it).

  4. Shadowmage says:

    I’m just waiting for the characters to be harassed constantly because of the pendant, the tsun chick and her cronies prove to be decent people teaming up with the protagonist, and all of them ending up on a magical castle in the sky.

  5. Panther says:

    An interesting way to look at it GL, but as with foomafoo I have to agree that living the authentic life (as you seem to have defined it implicitly) is not the way to go for human beings to suffer and then attain true happiness through that suffering. Much of what we as humans do nowadays (and, I might argue, as part of the middle or working class on average, and even worse for those who are less unfortunate) are basically slaving away at work and earning income just to support ourselves and others. The ones who cash in are those at the top.

    The authentic life would be one spent pursuing happiness by doing what one wants. For some, the basics being taken care of by the Fractale System would be the “authentic life”. For others, maybe not. But (and I have not seen the episode yet and only know this from the synopsis so I might be wrong) since it has been in place for a thousand years, you must also factor in that the Fractale System is all that these people have known. How then can they live with what they consider to be “true” suffering for them, having to return to work for their own basic needs, no longer dependent upon the almighty “God”? What is worse, have they actually acquired the necessary skills to do so?

    That aside I liked how you compared our current lives (being connected online) to the system in Fractale. This is all very true for most of us that are going to be reading this, but there are always those in the lower social classes who have problems with even their three meals. Would not Fractale be an “authentic life” for them? Such is its service and purpose – to provide one and all with equality.

    And ironically and ultimately, it proves, with its crash, that such a system cannot last forever, nor can humankind ever escape the dogmatic tragedy of having to be self-sufficient and more importantly having the ability to survive individually.

    • My comment got eaten ugh.

      Personally, authenticity with regards to life has more to do with a profound honesty with oneself. It has to do with being clear with where one is in life in relation to where one thinks she should be. It has to do with what one declares her life to be to others and what what it really is. Aside from the moral value of honesty, or specifically integrity, it is a non-moral thing.

      The authentic life I feel that’s being referred to here has to do more with real vs. virtual relationships — suggesting that the person dealing with data (the construction of the avatars) is further removed from human interaction. The scene in the marketplace, when the avatars all disappeared it provided a striking image of how solipsist our lead’s existence can be (or is).

      What I like about these ideas here, is it is presented with what seems to be a story of an utopia about to unravel, and that there is something to celebrate in that. I find it similar in a profound way with Yokohama Shopping Trip though with a different temporal relationship with its apocalypse.

  6. Jack says:

    If Fractale is trying to achieve something, of any note, the director needs to set a tone. Is it a comedy? A drama? A sci-fi story with lots of exposition? The first episode tries to do a number of these things, and does many of them poorly.

    I enjoyed the set up right until the first two ‘main’ characters began talking and then it quickly deteriorated.

    • I was too busy thinking to catch all these failures you speak of. What is remarkably wrong about the dialogue — of which I only think of as unremarkable?

      • Jack says:

        The dialogue was not this episodes major problem, it was how the tone failed to remain consistent throughout the episode, or even individual scenes. Nevertheless.

        In terms of exposition we have a number of cases, but “Could you have gotten it from your dad, since he travels around the world?”. The rest of that whole set of conversation is the parents telling the child something he already knows, but the audience needs to hear. It doesn’t even resemble a conversation.

        Later on they do it a bit better with an audio transcript that plays explaining the Fractale system, at least it makes sense that such an education document would be nothing but information.

        Strangely enough Cain goes on to block the audience from getting any exposition with regard to Phryne. He never enquires what is actually going on with the girl, why she’s being chased, etc – the first time he tells Phryne that she doesn’t need to explain herself is reasonable, after all she’s pretty tired. Yet later on he does it again at a point where they seem pretty comfortable talking to each other and she seems to ready to explain, but he shoots her down, mainly to keep the audience in the dark.

        We get into seriously bad dialogue when the “family video” starts playing and Phryne goes on about smiles and how he (Cain) “Never smiles like this any more”. How does she know? She’s only been around him for a few hours at most. Indeed, all the discussion around smiles is a little odd. It’s certainly nothing like any conversation I’ve ever heard (outside of an anime).

        Anime scripts aren’t usually that great but that doesn’t mean I’ll forgive this show for having poor dialogue.

        • Gotcha, having paid attention to this in rewatching the HD rip really brought out how clumsy it all is. It’s not enough to turn me off; as you said, a lot of anime have this problem — dialogue that only makes sense to tell the viewer about the world, and rather ridiculous if considered as conversation between people in that world.

          That said, it isn’t the writing that got my attention for this show, as should be obvious from this post. I’ll see how it goes, thanks for the tip.

  7. TWWK says:

    Excellent analysis, as always. 😛

    I have nothing to add, except that the prayer reminded me of Islamic salat, where Muslims turn toward Mecca and pray 5 times a day, no matter where they are or what they’re doing.

    • redmaigo says:

      Wasn’t there daily silent prayers made to the emperor, and by extension the goddess Amaterasu, in pre-World Two Japan as well? The daily prayers seemed so shinto in its execution.

    • Yes, rituals follow strict schedules. The monastic life even has more of this, but you would already know.

      The god conceit is pretty heavy-handed, but the prayer touch made it go down easier I think. It gave character to the dry exposition. The sun as the focus makes for an archetypal, cross-religion accessibility as well. Thanks for sharing this post on your blog and on MAL. I truly appreciate it.

  8. Pingback: Spirituality in the Anime Blogosphere: Fractale System as God «

  9. Dan says:

    Stunning post to whom little I could add. I started writing my comment Before reading your post and then was like “uh-oh, we’re saying the same things”. So I’m going to add nothing. But I loved the Nadia reference with the two black boys haha

  10. Shiroi Hane says:

    I don’t think that was the sun he had to stare at (the sun doesn’t light up on cue) but rather the hovering server mentioned in the exposition, which would make the “prayer” the memory upload also mentioned.

  11. Dan says:

    Ah, yeah, I forgot to mention that the Ending, if someone didn’t notice, as I thought, is not an original song. It’s an Irish Poem which was already often made as cover song. Just a little curiosity.

  12. Xard says:

    Because I am a lazy ass I’m just going to directly link the big post I wrote on Fractale before it started to air:

    http://forum.evageeks.org/viewtopic.php?t=10519

    As for my reactions to first ep, I think your post alone was pretty summary of my awfully similar thoughts but “In My Own Write”: http://forum.evageeks.org/viewtopic.php?t=10519&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=20

    • Xard says:

      oh wait, gwern and linked to it already. Whoopsiedaisies.

      And you can just ignore those tangents that I didn’t actually even intend to happen in the first place (it looks like topic is getting back on track after airing of ep 1 though)

    • On some of your impressions,

      The naked Phryne IS fanservice. This is the otaku database at work:

      Wussy male – check
      Hot girl – check
      Awkward sexual situation – check

      Just because they didn’t show Phryne’s tits doesn’t make it less fanservicey. We never got to see Asahina’s tits in Haruhi too, but WE THINK ABOUT THEM whenever they’re the subject of the scene. Arguably this is even better execution of fanservice than gratuitous nudity (e.g. Evangelion vs. ehm, Gunbuster).

      Having fanservice doesn’t make a show bad. Anime mostly serves different fans. This one is just a bit more subtle with going for/at the otaku.

      I followed your link to Strauss and his rant about “gentle nihilism” — I have a bunch of thoughts regarding my own view which is rather nihilistic but not inclined to espouse the things that Strauss is strung out about. That’ll be for another time.

      • Xard says:

        It’s ancient scenario in anime (that isn’t even anime only thing) that at least I don’t think automatically as mere fanservice – it depends entirely on execution. I’m not saying scenes like it can’t be interprepted only as fanservice (just like you could do with pretty much every henshin sequence in magical girl anime ever) but that isn’t the whole truth. I don’t even want to touch the database theory now, given the implosion it caused back at my “home forum”.

        As for Strauss, I wasn’t being very serious there. Just a thought that happened to bemuse me (I added wiki link mainly because otherwise people would have no idea what I was going on about).

        By the way, I thought you were Catholic (at least that’s the impression I got). Why on earth would you call yourself a nihilist in that case?

        • I am atheist, but was raised Catholic. I spent a few years in a Born-again Christian Church (oh LOL), but pretty much I’ve been atheist in my views. I don’t go around brandishing it and fighting believers LOL. None of these things mean anything ultimately so there’s no point in creating strife and discomfort; just as there is no point causing myself, my family, and other people problems by identifying myself other than Catholic.

          Also, I am so very much a Catholiphile. I don’t believe in it, but I love it. It’s kind of like how I like Gundam so much. Catholicism is to religion as Gundam is to robot anime; that’s how it is for me.

          As for nihilism, people are easily mistaken for making the emptiness and meaninglessness within nihilism to have something within it (bad) and mean something (it’s bad), when it is empty AND meaningless. It is NOT bad, wrong, or anything. It is empty and meaningless and that in itself is empty and meaningless.

          SO, any meaning you affix to this, is your own creation and your own responsibility. I create from it as if it were a blank canvas — not that it would mean anything at all that I did in an absolute sense, but it is a source of my power in the face of life, and a big part of why I’m so damn cheerful and upbeat.

  13. kadian1364 says:

    I made a comparison to Nadia, Secret of Blue Water and Dennou Coil, but seeing as you have seen neither it wouldn’t help here. But your predictions are the same as mine: something is fundamentally wrong with this world and the girl with the magic glowing pendant is the catalyst for Clain to do so. Classic adventure story along the lines of Castle in the Sky. The memory of the trainwreck that was Allison and Lillia caps my optimism for this, but I’m still excited.

    • Man, this is getting tough. My backlog is getting obscene.

      Unfortunately I made a commitment to taking on my immense robot anime backlog this year after branching out so much in 2010. Still I know from experience that I’d need periodic breaks, but I don’t know if I could take on 2-cour shows as breaks from 4-cour ones (and I’ll be watching mostly 4-cour 80s robot shows ugh).

      I’m definitely interested in watching more of this, albeit the character database hooks aren’t what I like. The investment in the setting and premise got me.

  14. Xard says:

    Huh, Ghostlightning has not seen NADIA? What is this travesty?

    Get down to watching it right now! you won’t regret it, as long as you jump over infamous island filler arc

    • My backlog:

      Mobile Suit Victory Gundam: 44/51
      Armored Trooper VOTOMs: 30/50
      Infinite Ryvius: 0/26
      Dai-Guard: 1/26
      Aura Battler Dunbine: 0/49
      Muteki Kojin Daitarn 3: 1/40
      Fang of the Sun Dougram: 0/65

      I dunno how I’m going to fit more old anime in it, these titles are non-negotiable.

      • Xard says:

        Hah, you and your robots! ^_^

        I’d say Nadia is better than any of those but then again, I really ain’t /m/echa otaku so…ignore me if you want 😛

        • Yeah probably, but I spent a lot of last year expanding my tastes and was successful at doing so. However, I’ve neglected what I want to really watch to begin with, and quality is not as big a deal when it comes to this… only relative quality.

          This list is only partial, as I have Tetsujin 28, finishing the Legend of the Galactic Heroes side stories, After War Gundam X (5 eps in), VOTOMs OVA series, Armor Hunter Mellowlink, Heavy Metal L-Gaim, and so on…

          I want to be able to watch SPT Layzner, Dragonnar, and Xabungle someday as well.

          All of this will be useful I think by the time the next major Macross production arrives (or the next Gundam TV series).

          • Xard says:

            That reminds me, I think you propably know this already but there’s going to be Macross fan event in March. What is notable here is that it comes AFTER the film…All I can think of it is as announcement of tour (but do they really have own events for those?) OR as announcement for new work. And given that 30th Anniversary is JUST behind the corner I’m hopeful 😉

          • I actually stay away from news and rumors and don’t mind being the last to know. In my own strange reasoning, by the time it reaches me it means it’s probably true and inevitable. Yakk deculture!

          • Bonesy! says:

            Are you planning on watching the VOTOMS OVAs in production or chronological order? Everyone I’ve talked to about it says production order so I’ve been sitting on I believe Big Battle -> Roots of Ambition -> Mellowlink.

            I’m gonna be honest, I’m much more receptive to watching every single VOTOMS production than Gundam and not just because of the link. It’ll be interesting to see where the series goes now that they’re going to branch out.

          • Haven’t really thought about it. I’ll be happy just to finish the one I’m watching.

          • Bonesy! says:

            *length of Gundam shows

          • Bruno J. Global says:

            There’s a friggin’ YF-29 out there. It’s one of the signs that the next Macross is coming. Soon.

  15. Kabitzin says:

    The religious aspect is interesting in Fractal; a simple god for a simple life. Because there is no real hardship to explain away, it comes down to being part of something bigger.

    • I’m not sure if I get what you mean, but if it is about having such a safety net liberating people to ask bigger questions, then yeah it is very interesting.

      “First world problems,” as I’ve heard it put one time or another.

  16. Pingback: The Deathseeker » Blog Archive » Fractale 01 – The Utopian System

  17. Pingback: Top Blog Posts About Anime and Religion in 2011: #1-6 «

  18. Pingback: Top Blog Posts About Anime and Religion in 2011: #1-6 | Beneath the Tangles

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