All of the big ideas that are wrapped up in Fractale are finally starting to come together in a coherent and impactful way as it nears the conclusion of its 11-episode run on NoitaminA. Yet, it’s the increasing bond with the characters that makes the series a success at this point – the trio of Clain, Phryne and Nessa has developed beautifully – collectively and individually – as the series progressed.
There remains a sense here that there are really no good adults in this universe – or at least, not ones in a position of influence. As Clain himself says, Lost Millennium are murderers – yet, also his friends. And not only that, but the only “real” friends he’s ever had. There are no good people in L.M. – only a range of moral ambiguity and determinism-driven violence. Yet even among their group, in the end it appears no one is as vile as the people at the temple. The folks who brought you the Fractale system are a seriously messed-up bunch.
Among our heroes it’s only Phryne that has a true sense of just how wrong the world is – although Clain is definitely learning – and about the temple, she knows all too well. The Head Priestess, whom Phryne calls her big sister, is apparently responsible for the grisly process of restarting the system every few years. She hates Phryne for being “beloved of the people” when she, in fact, is loathed by them – though they’re apparently genetic clones. Phryne speaks of a process of being “defiled, over and over” every time the system restarts, and of all the experimenting on the girls to find the true key. Truly, it’s a grisly image.
A hint of that is brought to life only too vividly by the return of Barrot. “Daddy” is a disgusting, vile pig and he makes it clear he’s done his share of defiling. Mercifully we don’t get too much detail, though one does wonder about it given the apparent need for Phryne to be a virgin. His behavior towards Phryne is hideous, but so is the impact it’s had on her – she truly feels defiled, referring to Nessa as the Phryne from “when she was still beautiful”. It’s no wonder she’s so willing to sacrifice herself – but of course, the truth is that she is beautiful, and if not innocent she’s certainly blameless. And Clain, bless his heart, sees all this in her. That’s the real tragedy of the story – that poor Phryne has been made to loathe herself by the evil inherent in maintaining the Fractale system. And that’s enough to make me side with the L.M. as the lesser of two evils in both the large and small picture.
As for the aforementioned terrorists, they have their share of secrets up their sleeves. Alabaster apparently have Fractale terminals – Dias does anyway – and they used them to hack into the system and make the temple defenseless to invasion. Sunda goes with Clain to try and retrieve Phryne, but Dias’ only goal is to kill her. And he would have already succeeded if countless elderly priestesses hadn’t sacrificed themselves as human shields to save her. But Clain, though he took up the gun to defend the girls he loves, did not stoop to murder – he used it on machines only, not on flesh. Not that it stopped the bloodbath. One wonders if Clain would have been willing to kill if there was no other way to save Phryne. Has his time with Sunda’s group taught him to believe that the end justifies the means?
With the Head Priestess planning to launch the restart process, Barrot terrorizing Phryne with a pane of glass blocking Clain from assisting and Nessa starting to fade away as Fractale breaks down, things are looking grim indeed. I still don’t see a way out of this that leaves all three children alive and well and happily ensconced in Clain’s cottage – it doesn’t seem possible that Phryne and Nessa can both survive. I do believe Fractale will be destroyed in the end, and the dead-eyed population left to start over – but I find myself caring less about that than about what happens to the kids. My money says Clain and Phryne make it due to a sacrifice by Nessa – though there are holes in that scenario, I admit – and I think Sunda is a dramatic casualty as well. We’ll all know in a week – hopefully I’ll be reporting on it from my hotel in Tokyo.