Saturday, January 15, 2011

Review: Fractale Episode 1

Thank god for streaming. Without it, I would not get the immense joy of watching Fractale, a new show directed by Yutaka "Yamakan" Yamamoto (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya) and from a concept by famous otaku  scholar Hiroki Azuma, ONE HOUR after it aired in Japan. I've became curious about the show after reading this article in witch the director spoke out against the moe symptom that has infected all otaku products lately. It shocked me that the director of Haruhi would be the one to be saying these things about moe, seeing as Haruhi was basically the moe show that worked. Needless to say, I was intrigued by the idea of a show that "will target non-anime fans and one-time fans who have shifted away from the genre," and I was not disappointed. This is good, nostalgic fun with a nice hint of the demented bent I can expect from a Yamakan production.

 This show does absolutely nothing new. Not an ounce of originality. It is a rehash of many things we have seen before. But these things are things that have not been seen for a very long time, so I welcome this show like a friend who has been on vacation for months. This show contains no moe, no pushy-in-more-ways-than-one breast shots, no "sexy" helium voices. Here's what the show does contain: A youthful, wide eyed hero. A mysterious heroine. A unique setting. A leisurely storytelling pace. Incompetent, bumbling, but still plenty dangerous initial villains. Miyazaki-inspired (okay, rip-off) aircrafts. And a hint of that WTF that only Japan is capable of crafting. Now if this is not enough to make you immensely curious, then there is nothing I can do to make you watch this show. However, unless your heart broke the moment I said no moe, then you are probably immensely curious about this show. However, this show needs more than that. Only moe gets produced with a list of guidelines and nothing more. And sadly, this show may be like that. Because what I just described basically IS the plot at this point. And really, why watch this when I could just watch Castle in the Sky, which this show dubiously resembles. There are two reasons.

First of all, the fanservice in the first episode was handled carefully and tastefully. At this point, fanservice (which, if you don't know what this means by now, I will just say that it fairly obvious when most of the fans to service are male) is a necessary evil of anime (and manga), and it was refreshing to see one that left things to the imagination, something that I think/hope otaku still have, and did not shove panties at the screen every ten seconds. After all, when you are creating something that fans can probably already find mountains of doujin based on the minute it is publicly available, is stuff like fanservice that needed?

Secondly, the weird sci fi setting. The world of Fractale at first looks like the bajillionth calm countryside to  grace an anime like this, but in reality, it is much more sinister. Other than the protagonist and a handful of other charaters, everyone is hooked to the Fractale system, the "twenty second century god", which makes life more convenient, and allows everyday life to be handled by bizarre avatars called "Doppels". It's like if The Matrix was also based on Castle in the Sky as well as Ghost in the Shell.

Anyway, the first episode was actually kinda light, so I can't say the quality will hold up, but as you can see by my feverish praise, I'm happy with what I see. And I haven't even mentioned the rad opener.

UPDATE: The Fractale simulcast has been shockingly put on hold by Funimation after a bunch of illegal torrents and streams of the first episode were put out by some @$$#*!#$.

Fractale is currently streaming via Funimation

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