I binged on Fractale one afternoon, thanks to Hulu Plus (which has a surprising amount of anime in its archives). I found the series as a whole enchanting but not addicting, the characters interesting but not captivating, and the world unique but not provoking. (spoilers…)
The main concept of a world where humans are delegating their capacity to think is not exactly original – in fact, I was heavily reminded of the Pixar film WALL-E. I think that the purpose for Fractale’s existence (the system, not the anime) was never really highlighted – was there an apocalypse? Was it like Facebook or Google Plus – people just kept signing on until network effect meant everyone was using it? There wasn’t really any indication of the reason why people had to be “protected” in this way.
Of course as the writers intended I completely identified with the “terrorists” cause of self-determination and I think that there was an opportunity lost here to really explore the fact that this is what most terrorist groups espouse, but by making the Fractale system so obviously authoritarian we are left with a black and white pitue of morality with very clearly defined good and evil, though they did try to paint it in shades of gray at the outset (something Steven picked up in one of his earlier episode reviews).
The other area of potential interest was the doppels – they had an element of augmented reality to them which had me excited at first – I was hoping for something in the same vein as Dennou Coil. I was especially reminded of DC in the rebel camp when people had to use visors to see Nessa, though I didn’t quite get why some people could see her without needing glasses (was it only people without a Fractale terminal who needed the glasses?). That element seemed to later be deprecated in favor of the “ghosts in the machine” aspect, where the doppels have a sub-sentience of their own, though they are still linked in some way (of varying degree) to their creator. The denizens of Xanadu seemed to be running their doppels like subroutines whereas Clain’s parents’ doppels are arguably gone rogue. I think Steven put way more thought into doppels than the series writers did. It’s worth noting that the word doppelganger has a very different meaning than the word avatar – a doppleganger is a duplicate, whereas an avatar is an aspect. This same distinction was important in the episode of Dr Who this season where they encountered “gangers”. I’m inclined to be pedantic in interpreting doppels based on the name chosen for them, and this interpretation is consistent even with the Xanadu folks (which kind of reminds me of the original Tron movie, but now I am getting way out there.)
As far as Mr Creepy goes, consensus seems to be he ruined the series as most lecherous old men do (I am thinking of Ranma now…). But I think his character was justified in creating the emotional damage central to the character of Nessa/Phyrne. She had low esteem based on her abuse and this was critical to her motivation. In many ways Phyrne was the real center of the show.
As far as the ending goes, I think it was fine. After all, rebooting fractale but with reform necessarily means that there wouldn’t be huge changes to the world overnight – it will take time for the society to evolve anew.
Overall, I was satisfied and would recommend the series. It’s not a mind-blower but it gives the viewer everything we want in terms of plot, characters, and setting. Why complain when we are fed a solid meal?
UPDATE: of course, if the meal isn’t to your taste, then complaints are warranted. I do have to wonder though, given the griping that seems prevalent in animeblog circles nowadays, what is the perfect anime?