Fractale 8 continues to be messy but fun. If I considered a show’s success to be measured in how many people can truly come to love it—not just enjoy it to some degree—then Fractale is a failure. I’d assume that it doesn’t have the qualities to make people call it a favorite or watch it ever again.
MAL says that twenty-eight people have it on their favorites lists of the 13,000 watching it, which isn’t much even for an unfinished series. Compare to the shows airing on the same day: Yumekui Merry is on eighty-four of its 16,000 viewers lists, Madoka Magica is on 391 of its 15,000, and Hourou Musuko is on forty-three of its 9,000.
None of that really means anything; it’s just to make my point that not many people will deeply love Fractale. Of those twenty-eight people, I’d assume most of them choose their favorites out of currently airing shows and others simply haven’t seen enough anime—they’ll grow out of the series before long.
I’m not interested in talking about Fractale’s flaws, but I think it would be inauthentic not to bring them up, because it’s true that I don’t love the show. I tend to speak with a lot of excitement because I like to express how much I enjoy the good elements, but I want to make it clear that I acknowledge this as flawed series, and my enjoyment of it on any level is purely personal bias. If Nessa wasn’t animated in the interesting way that she is and wasn’t voiced so energetically by Hanazawa Kana, then I’d have dropped this show after episode two. There’s just enough intrigue that I want to continue.
It certainly isn’t because of the plot, since I have no fucking idea what’s going on right now. There’s nothing that pisses me off more than dialog and stories that purposefully keep things hidden, yet talk about the hidden things constantly. Bringing up “keys” and “Phrynes” all the time means nothing to me because I don’t know what the damn things are. This isn’t a problem unique to Fractale and is generally why I hate most attempts at suspense in anime.
Anyway, there’s good stuff I want to talk about, but I still have something else to wade through.
In this episode, Phryne’s father prepares to do a purity check on her. Obviously it’s a gross and slimy move on his part, but hold on—this sounds familiar…
That’s right! About this time last year, a purity test was a major plot device in Dance in the Vampire Bund. Mina Tepes was being bullied by three similarly slimy old men, whom were trying to force her into marrying one of them. Mina made a deal that if her vassal/lover Akira could fight off each of their top assassins, then they’d have to give up on marrying her for the time being; but if he were killed by one of them, then whomever sent the assassin that did it would get her hand in marriage. The men agreed to this deal under the condition that they’d get to perform a purity test on Mina.
Said purity test was one of the most powerful scenes in the show. Mina was deeply upset and it took a fuckload of strength, courage, and, more than anything, faith in Akira for her to make it through the situation with dignity. The three men were utterly hatable. The scene was juxtaposed against Akira fighting, both he and Mina finding the strength to fight in knowing that their counterpart was trying so hard for them. Fucking amazing romantic plot device.
How does the purity check in Fractale compare? It doesn’t try. It makes no attempt to be dramatic. The whole thing is fucking meaningless. Phryne’s father isn’t threatening at all. (Compare to the slimeballs in Dance always half-covered in darkness and grinning madly with confidence in their deadly assassins.) Phryne herself barely reacts to the whole thing. She makes some faces that imply more annoyance than fear or anxiety or the crushing of her dignity. Honestly, it didn’t seem like she gave a damn.
It doesn’t even happen—Nessa crashes in just in time to stop it. (Not complaining, since it was the best moment in the episode). What was the point of it all? It had no effect on any characters nor the plot and didn’t even happen. Why the fuck is it there?
For the same reason that Phrynes were being destroyed in some crazy machine—it’s all an attempt at grimdark that falls completely flat. None of the scenes that should be terrifying feel that way. A Phryne is killed, but we don’t know why. The main Phryne cries over it for the unspecific reason that it’s just “too sad.” What purity even has to do with being the Key, we don’t know. Probably nothing important.
These are huge failures and why I can’t bring myself to care about the show, but there’s still enough to keep me watching. Nessa is still fucking amazing. Also, I actually thought Clain’s speech while trying to prevent the Phryne from being killed was really good.
But best of all, so much remembered love for Akira! It began in episode seven when Nessa Akira-bombed the city, but it wouldn’t be so clearly an homage to Akira were it not for this episode.
When Nessa shows up in the facility, ceilings cave in, electrical appliances shatter and spark, and random wires are exposed. Rooms instantly turn into half-lit wastelands full of dead guys. And then she yells: “Where’s Clain?!” and does it almost exactly the way that Tetsuo yells “Where’s Akira?!” all throughout his psycho-crushing stomp through the government compound. The way she walks down the hallways with angry confidence is *exactly* like the way Tetsuo did it.
When you think about it, Nessa’s pretty similar to Tetsuo in other ways. Both are very young characters that have no control over their emotions and go on tantrums to get what they want—with the power for those tantrums to level cities. And let me say, as a huge Akira fanboy and a huge Nessa/moe fanboy, seeing those things combined tickles the fuck out of my fancy.