Out of the winter 2010 line-up, one of the most anticipated anime was Fractale. Directed by Yutaka Yamamoto (Suzumiya Haruhi no Yutsu, Kannagi), story developed by Hiroki Azuma (Database Animals), and screenplay by Mari Okada (Toradora, Vampire Knight), this show seems destined for best anime of this season. This is culture critic Azuma’s first anime project, and most of all, Yamamoto personally staked the future of his directing career by declaring that he will quit if this anime is not a huge success. A lot rides on this anime; this is serious business.
This anime is set in the 22nd Century around a young boy named Clain who has a love for antique technology, some of which is rather shady (cops trying to arrest the stall owners, and him stealing a memory chip). People rarely communicate with each other in person, as demonstrated by the avatars that Clain’s parents use, while they live and do as they please (sounds like the hippie dream). Low and behold, a girl in a shrine maiden outfit comes flying in, chased by a loli and her two goons on a rocket propelled air balloon. Standard useless male lead Clain follows on his bike to watch the shrine maiden girl get shot at, and then promptly falls off his bike. Shrine maiden girl decides to fall off her glider, boy brings injured girl home, the standard ecchi moments, blah blah blah. Shrine maiden girl leaves behind a virtual loli, and the young boy’s adventure begins.
My first impression of this anime was that this feels Miyazaki-like. The scenes are reminiscent of Miyazaki and Ghibli movies, notably Phryne’s glider and clothes (compared to Nausicaa), as well as the Phyne falling from her glider scene (Castle in the Sky). The overall “feel” also screams “NOSTALGIA FTW”, something that Miyazaki often puts into his movies. Clain, the male lead, loves antique technology from the past and he clearly dislikes the distance between him and his parents (clearly shown by how apathetic he appears to be in the opening scene). Phryne, the female lead, is clearly of the same opinion when she cries about how Clain can’t smile like he used to ever since he’s no longer physically with his parents. If all of this doesn’t scream nostalgia, Miyazaki, and “technology is bad”, you obviously have not seen or do not understand Miyazaki’s movies. On the topic of nostalgia, the setting is definitely geared towards the nostalgia theme. The setting is, I believe, in rural Ireland (rural, lack of technology, you know what I mean), key characteristics being the steep cliffs, the rolling green fields, and the Celtic crosses. Since I mentioned Ireland, the ED “Down by the Salley Gardens” is an old song by William Butler Yeats set in Ireland.
A side note concerning this anime, a manga was first released half a year before. There has been a radical palette change from the color illustrations in the manga. Literally everyone’s hair color and eye color have been changed. Trying to fathom the reasons behind this decision baffles me to no end. In anime, the character’s hair color and eye color are key distinguishing characteristics. Changing that is like changing the identity of an anime, similar to changing the title of a book. It’s not like the manga was a disaster and the staff wanted to distance themselves from the manga. The only thing this accomplishes is to distance fans of the manga, which is a stupid move. Maybe I’m missing the whole point entirely, who knows.