“Fractale” starts out quirky, and I like quirky, so I knew I was in for a good show.
Funimation’s latest this week opens with a human boy talking to his parents, two alien-looking creatures who, it turns out, are doppels, virtual doppelgangers of his actual parents, who live somewhere else.
Clain lives in a world run and overlaid by Fractale, a future Earth where most people are content to live their lives virtually, with little human contact. Clain doesn’t care about other humans so much, but he is an active collector of antique computer hardware, so he prefers to keep it real.
Enter Phryne, a girl being chased whom Clain helps after she dodges her pursuers. She disappears overnight and leaves behind an amulet. She’s a priestess of the religious order controlling the Fractale network and the people plugged in. After all, Fractale is “the godlike manifestation of humanity’s oldest dream” — no poverty and no war.
But the network is falling apart. Clain hooks up the amulet to his computer and discovers a rambunctious doppel named Nessa whom he can actually touch.
Throw in a rebel movement of people who want to remain unplugged from the Fractale network, the Lost Millennium, and you’ve got a recipe for an exciting drama.
And it’s a very human drama, which makes it all the more compelling. Clain and Phryne are natural together — no forced companionship or the overused trope of people who hate each other and then fall in love. Not that they’re necessarily in love, but they do seem headed that way (at least in the first six episodes I watched). And Nessa, even though she isn’t “real,” is still jealous, but doesn’t go over the top.
There are still plenty of questions that need answering: Why can Clain touch Nessa but others can’t? If the vast majority of people are content to live virtually, how and where do their human bodies live? How much control does Fractale really have over people? With no power sources in site, how do Clain and others run their old technology?
It’s all getting doled out in well-paced chunks. And just when you think all the players have been introduced, in come more. But it’s never cluttered and serves the greater story well. The show explores a lot of gray area, which can be the most interesting.
I do have a couple quibbles. Brina Palencia voices a lot of young boys for Funimation, and usually it’s fine. But she’s just not working for me in this one. It’s distracting. And the music doesn’t quite fit in several scenes. It’s as if someone just wrote a bunch of music, and they’re stuck with what they have and try to make do.
I watched the first six episodes of the 11-episode complete series and only stopped because I had to get caught up on “Alphas” in preparation for its DVD set and upcoming season premiere. But I’ll be returning soon to see the rest.
Preview episodes at the Funimation website.