Fractale – 8

The buzz for the last week was concerned with whether Phryne had been raped, based on her behavior in episode 7. I certainly wasn’t prepared to make that assumption based on the narrow evidence provided, but neither would I rule it out – clearly, something was amiss here. And based on this week’s contradictory evidence, I’m not sure we know what our answer is.

This much is clear – the man Phryne calls “Father” is a seriously creepy SOB. Based on his disgusting behavior when she was returned to the temple, he certainly seems to have done some nefarious things to Phryne – but then, we also get a strong indication that in order to be a “key” she has to be a virgin. We’re spared what promises to be be a very unpleasant examination scene – with Father leering over the table – when Nessa arrives in an electronic rage, looking for Clain.

As for Fundoshi-boy, there are some serious questions too. First in my mind was, why exactly wasn’t he seriously wounded? He certainly appeared to have been shot by a RL bullet, but awoke feeling nothing more than a little pain. I wouldn’t discount the chance that Father was withholding treatment only as a ploy to coerce Phryne to obey him and that Clain didn’t need it – but why? Nessa – who calls herself Phryne – is next to Clain when he wakes but very cagy about what happened. As for her, she appears to be – unlike her twin – not a doppel, but a clone. In fact, the temple is full of clones who are apparently younger versions of Phryne – they all look like “our” Nessa bur are corporeal and kept in tubes, submerged in some kind of liquid. They’re all part of this mysterious key mystery – just what is a key and why is it so important to both the temple and Lost Millennium?

Whatever the key issue, it’s obvious enough why the “real” Phryne fled and took doppel Nessa with her – the temple is clearly not a pleasant place for her to be. The fate of the clone Phrynes seems to be a grisly one, as we see some of them being destroyed – perhaps unable to become keys for whatever reason. One of those is the Phryne who helped Clain, and he’s none too content to see her destroyed whether it be punishment for saving him or not. But as he’s pleading with her to escape with he, Phryne and Nessa Lost Millennium attacks – both Sunda’s faction and Diaz’ Alabaster group. Sunda sees it as a search & rescue mission (though he was content enough to let Clain rot when he still had Nessa in his clutches) but Diaz has other plans and blows up the temple, apparently with our young heroes still inside it.

That was certainly a uniformly dark and violent episode. It’s become apparent that this series is very much about having a dichotomy and using it to shock the audience. I think the bright color palette and cute character designs are an intentional device to make the violent and disturbing events that occur periodically that much more jarring – it’s a very deliberate tactic being used by Yamakan. As he’s trying to portray a world where the characters can’t trust what they see with their eyes, Yamakan is trying to do the same to the audience. And it’s been pretty effective – the violence truly has been shocking, and the events surrounding Phryne in the last two episodes have been profoundly unnerving, not least the examination sequence this week. The question is, what now? We have only three eps left and we still haven’t really identified any good guys apart from the young heroes. It’s possible, as one of the older Lost Millennium chieftains says, that Fractale will simply collapse without anyone having to do anything except watch it happen – but that would seem to be a rather anti-climactic climax. Though, in a way, I think the story of what happens in a post-Fractale “Fractale” world might be even more interesting than the series being aired right now…



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    One thing that I think should be remember discussing this show is that Azuma Hiroki is writing it… the guy who conceptualizes modern anime characters as drawing traits from a "grand database" of sorts.

    And while Hiroki is generally regarded as a bit of an advocate for otaku thinking… I can't help but think that he and Yamakan may have collaborated on a bit of a "take that" here. On one hand we have clones that seem as though they could represent database generated characters… and on the other hand we have a creepy priest dude who seems to have a creepy sexual obsession with Phryne… and who also seems really concerned with whether she's a virgin. It doesn't take much to connect that representation with… a certain idiot element within the fanbase of a show Yamakan previously worked on. Normally I dislike otaku-bashing but since those fans deserve it, I can only applaud.

  2. Very interesting take – I hadn't thought about the Kannagi angle. It does make a perverse kind of sense – and like you, I would applaud Yamakan and Hiroki for taking those idiots to task.

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