What They Say:
In a near-perfect society, humans enjoy virtually anything their heart desires by simply staying connected to Fractale – a centuries-old technology on the verge of collapse. One day, Clain, a teenage boy who collects antique electronics, saves a girl on the run from dangerous pursuers. She disappears in the night, leaving only a pendant full of data behind. Suddenly Clain’s quiet life turns to chaos when he’s caught between the religious order determined to save Fractale, and the Lost Millennium, who want to destroy it.
Contains episodes 1-11.
The audio presentation for this release is standard fare in that we get the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English gets the bump up to 5.1, both of which are done using the lossless Dobly TrueHD codec. The series is by its nature pretty dialogue driven but it has its bigger moments where it stands out well with the action and ambient effects, giving it a more involved feeling that works very well. The stereo mix handles the forward soundstage well and deals with placement and depth where needed while the English mix gives it all the same treatment, just with a louder and more distinct feeling. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2011, the transfer for this eleven episode TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show is spread across two discs, seven on the first and four on the second, offering a dual layered disc and a single layered disc respectively. The series has a very good visual look to it with its detail and colors that are all much more striking here than the simulcast I had experienced, giving it a bigger feeling than it had before. There’s a lot to like with the transfer here as it brings all of this to the forefront, and especially with the opening sequence where it gets a lot of the bitrate and really stands out well. Within the show it also has some very striking moments, but they’re more varied and not a constant based on the style of animation and the backgrounds. But I came away really appreciating the look of the show a whole lot more compared to my simulcast experience.
The packaging for this release is in limited edition form where it has the heavy chipboard box that also contains two standard size Blu-ray cases. One case is given over to the DVDs and the other to the Blu-ray discs. The heavy chipboard box is really nice in the artwork illustrations chosen where one side has the main trio in the airship floating over the sky while the other features the cityscape with the same three characters. Colors are really good and I like the illustrations used in general. The spine and framework is a bit darker with a brown spine and soft white framing, but it ties to the show itself and the illustrations well. It may not be cover artwork that really strikes out and says buy me, but I really like the choices used. Inside the box we get the pair of case which uses more really good character illustration artwork, showing others from the series, which adds a bit more color but also some great detail. The back covers are kept simple with a listing of the discs and what episodes and extras are on them while the reverse side has more illustration artwork that you can turn around if you like one of them better. No show related inserts are included with this release.
The menu design for the release is certainly interesting as it has some very soft and blown out bits of animation playing in the background at times, but mostly goes with the pyramid style pieces floating upward underneath the logo. The logo itself is done in white and it has a good clean look that does blend at times with the soft white background. The bottom has a large navigation strip that’s done in white with black text which makes it very easy to read and navigate. Selections are straightforward and easy to access, making for a quick and clean menu. It also doubles as the pop-up menu which during regular playback covers up a whole lot of space.
The first disc has a pair of commentary tracks by the English language production team that deals with the first and seventh episodes. The second disc has a good number of extras in addition to those two commentary tracks. The clean opening and closing songs are here, including one with the English lyrics for the closing and one with the Japanese lyrics, while we also get the original preview and production videos. Commercials and trailers are also included. A neat extra is the 5 minute piece from the orchestral performance from the Shobi Wind Orchestra that shows part of the score in great form. We also get an “Art Sanctuary” which shows off a great range of artwork and promotional material from the show that really looks fabulous.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Revisiting Fractale after the simulcast run was something that I was essentially dreading. The show was one that stared off strong for me but felt like it fell apart quickly and left me trying to figure out what was working and why it wasn’t working overall. It also didn’t help that at the time it looked like a pretty low quality simulcast that didn’t let the animation show through well, which is definitely one of its selling points when it comes to the designs, the characters and the background. The show as a whole was one that I was surprised to see get picked up for home video based on the general reception it got both here and in Japan.
Going into the show in marathon form with its eleven episodes, I have to admit that I did come away with a much more favorable opinion. The show introduces us to a world quite far into the future where it references something in the ancient 22nd century at one point. The world changed during that century where the Fractale System was introduced, a network of thousands and thousands of computers that worked to bring peace to the world and end suffering. Part of what happened is that humanity declined significantly so there’s barely a tiny fraction of the overall population left anymore. What is left is completely taken care of from birth until death where their needs are met and they generally keep some distance from other people. Cities and towns exist, but they serve as little more than minor government functions, a place where Security and others exist to help those that live or pass through. Few people live in homes anymore, instead favoring mobile homes to travel about in so that they aren’t tied down. Family is distant at best and everyone has things called Doppels that provide companionship and otherwise keep an eye on everyone.
What we’re introduced to here is a young man named Clain who is an oddity in the world. He’s the type that has a small house for a home and is vastly interested in old things, such as the MP3 player he has and other trinkets. He’s living an unusual life to be sure but it’s still one that keeps him apart from everyone else. What causes things to go awry for him though is the arrival of a woman named Phryne who has landed in his lap and brings about a bit of trouble as a trio of characters are looking for her. She doesn’t stay long though as the next day she’s gone, leaving in her place an outgoing and curious person named Nessa, who is essentially a Doppel herself as she’s made up of data. She’s the polar opposite of Phryne in that she’s child-like, loud and interested in everything.
Nessa’s arrival spurs a series of events that eventually has the two of them being picked up by a group called Lost Millennium. This group is labeled as terrorists by the Fractale system as it operates under the archpriestess and the pair get caught up in their events. What we see through them is a look at how the world really operates as Clain is brought in on an operation to disrupt a Star Festival. While it’s an innocent event to Clain, one he’s partaken of himself, seeing it through protected eyes shows him that it’s how Fractale controls everyone, essentially using a method to adjust their nanomachines to make them more docile and compliant and to not realize that they’re living the lives of sheep. Those in Lost Millennium have removed the Fractle System from their bodies so they’re able to show him how to live life in a more natural way, doing things on their own and without the System to help them.
With Clain drawn into Lost Millennium, and this particular subset group called the Granites, we get a growing exploration of how the world is set up and see some other groups, including a flashy one lead by Dias who has a lot of style but also some cold intensity as he looks to change the world. And therein becomes the focus of the show as it goes on as we see more of how the Fractale system has broken down over the centuries, why it requires the reset that the church-like operators want to have happen and how various contingents of people out in the world have coped with losing their connection to it. There are some intriguing areas out there, especially the city of illusion that’s brought into it, and getting a look at all these different things over just a few episodes and interacting with them goes a long way to showing just how broken the world and humanity is at this point. It all ties in to the core trio of characters with Clain, Phryne and Nessa and while there is some silliness along the way as we try to understand why they act like they do, especially the changes in Phryne from the first episode to her later appearance and a lot of Nessa’s child-like personality, it does all come together. To my great, great surprise.
After the simulcast run with this show where it progressively lost me week after week, I was really surprised by my marathon experience with it here. While the animation quality shines a whole lot more and I felt like a lot of it was a revelation compared to before, I also felt like the story itself really came together even better. I had a lot of problems with it in my first viewing during broadcast, but pretty much all of my issues felt like they were wiped away by this experience. Things clicked better, the characters do some silly things to be sure, but it fits in the mold of the world as created. This was a series that I dreaded revisiting after my first experience but now it’s one that I can definitely see myself revisiting over the years to come to see some of what I may have missed.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Commentaries, Previews, Promos, Clean Opening, Clean Closings, Orchestra Piece
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: July 17th, 2012
Running Time: 275 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.