The world of the future relies on the Fractale System, a network of satellites that allow mankind to live a worry-free existence. In the thousand years following Fractale’s inception, man relinquished all responsibilities for the operation of the world, and society effectively crumbled. Indeed, no longer would people be required to labor for wages, as Fractale allowed digital avatars, known as “doppels,” to do the work for them, substituting a virtual society for the real. Human contact became outmoded, as did the concepts of home ownership as well as community, as public gatherings of any sort were stigmatized. As a result, mankind under Fractale has become isolationist and nomadic, and to live otherwise is to see oneself stripped of freedom.
But what is Fractale? On the surface, it’s an extension of the internet, a plausible evolution of our own technology-reliant society. In this, it is an agent of peace, but it is also a dictatorial regime and it is oppressive. At the same time it has become the world’s only religion and there are subversives who would see it destroyed.
This 11-episode anime from studio A-1 Pictures (the same studio that brought us Black Butler and Fairy Tail) follows Clain, a peculiar teenage boy who not only obsesses over antique electronics, but resides in a house rather than a motor home. Clain’s society-imposed isolation unexpectedly comes to an end when he rescues Fractale Priestess Phryne from a group of revolutionaries. Soon, Clain finds himself swept up in the conflict between the Temple of Fractale and the anti-Fractale subversives of Lost Millennium, and discovers that choosing a side in this war over the future of mankind is no simple task.
With the fate of the world on the line, Fractale sets the stakes as high as they feasibly can in its mere 11 episodes. Yet the tone of the series belies the magnitude of the conflict. For although the conflict threatens to tear the entire world apart, the series radiates with a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere so that the effect of the series on the viewers mirrors that of the Fractale System on mankind. Sudden bursts of graphic violence serve as periodical reminders of the severity of the situation on whole. And although the series’ tone would seem to promote unhurried storytelling, the narrative never languishes. Instead, it pushes steadily toward its climax, evolving and shifting focus before ever becoming tedious, and occasionally surges forward suddenly throughout with epic action set pieces and the revelation of game-changing bits of information.
Thus, Fractale draws you in with its pleasant tone (a tone in no small part facilitated by the series’ vaguely Irish setting) and maintains investment through constant narrative evolution. Moreover, in spite of the narrative’s grand scope, a very personal tale lies at the center of it all, the story a single boy’s search for love and friendship in a world diametrically opposed to human relationships. This is one of Fractale‘s single greatest strengths, along with A-1 Pictures’ inspired animation, highlighted by thoroughly exciting character, prop, and location designs and character timing reminiscent of Studio 4°C’s Tekkon Kinkreet.
On July 17, 2012, FUNimation will release the complete series of Fractale in a Limited Edition Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, which comes packaged in a hardboard case, beset on front and back with beautiful paintings featuring Clain, Phryne, and Nessa. Two standard-sized dual Blu-ray cases within said hardboard case house the Blu-ray and DVD versions of the series, each with a unique bit of character art on the front of the artwork, and the episode and special feature list conveniently located on the back. Needless to say, the HD transfer of the Blu-ry version outshines the standard definition DVD, but the series looks absolutely marvelous either way. And if you didn’t know you had put in the DVD, you might well mistake it for the Blu-ray. The only tell, really, would be the difference between soundtracks, where the Blu-ray obviously outperforms the DVD, with typically dynamic Blu-ray audio.
Special features on the set include commentary on episodes one and seven; trailers, commercials, and promotional videos; an artwork slideshow; textless opening and closings; and, by far the most rewarding feature of the lot, the Shobi Wind Orchestra performing the first movement of the “Fractale Suite” by composer Souhei Kano. These features appear on both the Blu-ray and DVD versions of the Fractale.