Japanese animated tv series (2011). A-1 Pictures, Ordet. Written by Mari Okada. Directed by Yutaka Yamamoto. Voice cast includes Shintaro Asanuma, Kana Hanazawa, Yuka Iguchi, Yū Kobayashi and Minami Tsuda. Eleven 23-minute episodes. Colour.
In twenty-second-century Ireland, fourteen-year-old Clain (Kobayashi) lives in an isolated cottage; his social interactions are usually with "doppels" or Avatars, such as his parents'. Most people have implants which allow them to experience the Virtual Reality that overlays much of the world, broadcast via satellite. A quasi-Religious apparatus controls this system, which is called Fractale: looking up to the satellites (called "praying"), allowing updates to the implants (and some brainwashing) plus medical treatment through Nanotechnology. Clain is happy with his life, indulging his fascination with old Technology: however, things change with the arrival of Phryne (Tsuda), a sixteen-year-old priestess of Fractale. She brings Nessa (Hanazawa), a doppel who's an electronic copy of the original Phryne at ten (who was the "God" of Fractale). Should Nessa combine with a Clone Phryne who psychologically matches the original they will form a key that can renew the failing Fractale system (the mechanics of this are a little vague). The Phryne that Clain meets is such a clone: she is fleeing to avoid assimilation, fearing a loss of Identity.
Those who reject Fractale form a loosely knit organization called the Lost Millennium: they are not persecuted, but one faction, seeing Fractale is in decline, launches an attack that leads to all-out conflict, resulting in the destruction of the religious and political infrastructure of Fractale and the weakening of the more militant Lost Millennium factions. Phryne and Nessa combine, then sleep for a year under Clain's care: Fractale still broadcasts at some level but without brainwashing, whilst Lost Millennium continues to exist as a back-to-nature alternative.
Neither side is painted in an entirely good light. The most sympathetically portrayed group is a Lost Millennium faction called Granitz, led by Sunda (Asanuma) and his younger sister, the feisty Enri (Iguchi); yet even they instigate an attack that kills not only Fractale troops but also many innocent bystanders – they are called out on this by Clain and others. This is one of the darker strands of the story, as is that both this version of Phryne and the original were abused, so making the former the perfect match for Nessa.
The Lost Millennium's giant Airships have a Steampunk appearance, though the world we see is largely Pastoral, save for a virtual reality City where the rich live – decadently, of course (see Decadence). There is Satire of Religion and Politics, though this does not cut too deep: however, violence is not romanticized. Clearly influenced by Studio Ghibli (see Hayao Miyazaki), Fractale is a good, if flawed, Anime: the animation is usually solid; the plot is functional but sags at times; its strengths are the interesting themes and worldbuilding. [SP]