Collins English Dictionary defines the word Fractal best, describing the noun as a figure or shape formed by repeated subdivisions of a simpler shape or form. In the way a snowflake is formed by a single triangle, with smaller triangles shaping out of its sides, with smaller triangles shaping out of those, the nature of a fractal form is infinite in its scope, yet simple in its execution. How appropriate, then, that the title of the anime that I have chosen to episodically blog, has already given me that initial impression of a story that understands itself as a system of smaller elements working together to form an organic, believable, and engaging plot.
Through an examination of the scene weave in this episode, I will examine several key elements of storytelling that this episode expertly touches on, and explain why it adds up to a dynamic, interesting story.
Every first episode of a series, especially those with a unique milieu such as Fractale’s, are very keen on being efficient at exposing the setting to the viewer. Even moreso, the story world tends to be an expression of the hero, showing his weakness, needs, and desires, all at once. Right off the bat, we’re introduced to an Irish-like countryside where the main protagonist, Clain, lives alone in a house overlooking the open sea. Despite living alone, he communicates with his parents in doppel form; digital avatars created by the Fractale system. Clain decides to leave the house after breakfast to visit a flea market to indulge in his interest with antiquities:
Mother: Clain, make sure you’re back for dinner.
Father: That’s right. Meals are meant to be taken together as a family.
His parents are traditional and hold family values, which Clain seems to brush off as he leaves on his bike. You can already get a feeling of his personality: free-spirited, open, curious, and isolated. You can imagine that he’s lonely sometimes, since he escapes said loneliness in his antiques. In his introspection, while listening to a folk song on his “antique” digital music player, he reveals himself to be vulnerable and self-conscious.
Data Player: [Playing Music] “If I were to offer a wish to the day star…”
Cain: “Offer a wish”? Sounds weird. Don’t you normally offer prayers instead? Yes, nothing’ll come out of it. I’m sure all that’ll happen would be that the day star will discover my small, stupid wish…and the day star will laugh at me.
At the flea market, he discovers an old data card, which ends up playing a small description of the Fractale system that governs his world:
Data Player: “Fractale is comprised of several trillion computers that are networked using 22nd century science. By embedding a Fractale Terminal in your body and periodically sending your life log to the SkyHigh Hovering Server, everyone can receive a basic income. It is a world that knows nothing of war, where a person’s livelihood is guaranteed, even if they don’t work. Fractale is, indeed, a 22nd century God created by mankind.”
This is the first and only piece of information that we are revealed about the Fractale system. Because it’s from an “ancient” digital textbook, it gives us an elementary overview of it, and purposely hides the secrets behind the supposed utopia that the program suggests.
The story suggests, however, that we are looking at an event-driven story, dictated by the fall of this Fractale system; the mild-mannered, carefree life that Clain leads will be tossed into chaos, his world along with it. While appearing like a slow opening, it sets the viewer up with a sense of unease, that he is vulnerable to the effects of what is to come.
Seemingly out of nowhere, clain is caught in the middle of a chase between a mysterious girl on a flying machine and a trio riding a rocket-propelled blimp, armed with a machine gun. The chase is intense, and the girl’s assailants are literally gunning for her. Clain is drawn in so easily, and follows suit on his bike.
In the end, the girl eludes the group by jumping off her vehicle and landing into the cliffs, suffering from injury. As the sun begins to set, Clain makes a sudden decision to rescue her from the cliffside, resulting in their first dialog exchange, which turns out to be as socially awkward as Clain himself:
Clain: Good afternoon…
Girl: Good evening…
Clain: Y-Yeah, good point. It’s already evening, so good evening.
This event is the spark that will set off the explosion of events that is the rest of the story. Clain is helping this girl escape from dangerous individuals, putting himself at risk as well. An exciting change of pace from just minutes ago in the episode!
After taking her home to his house, he is discovered by his parents, who discover the sudden appearance of this mysterious girl, ridden with injuries. He shoos them off rather painlessly, which is noted by the girl, who introduces herself as Phryne:
Phryne: Were they your parents’ doppels?
Clain: Yeah, and that was Jacky, our dog.
Phryne: You made your family disappear of your own will?
Clain: Family? You’re making a big deal out of it. They’re just doppels.
Phryne seems to make a point about Clain’s dismissal of his parents, which comes off as somewhat cold and heartless. Her concern for Clain’s parents shows her more emotional, tender side, contrasted with Clain’s self-centred nature, reflective of the isolation caused by the Fractale system. It doesn’t necessarily make her morally superior to him, but the character contrast allows for great dialog, and sets Clain up for character development in which he learns to care about others.
Phryne would be the ideal target for such a turnaround, which immediately begins when Phryne warms up to Clain upon realization of his need to find genuine happiness. Her tears show genuine concern and sorrow, which is sharply contrasted in just a moment afterward.
Clain: W-What’s wrong?
Phryne: It’s different…
Phryne: Your smile is different now. You don’t smile like that anymore…
Clain: Well of course it would change, I was a baby back th-
[Phryne jumps off the bed, charging at Clain and grabbing his collar, her tears disappear]
Phryne: That’s not what I mean! Please show me the smile you had then! More like this! Like this!
She suddenly shifts her seriousness into amusement after having contorted his face in an attempt to recreate the smile she saw in the home movie. She is shown to be driven highly by her feelings, and her growing fondness for Clain. It leads to the most powerful line in the entire script, where her foremost desire is made apparent, sung in the tune of the wishing song from the beginning of the episode:
Phryne: If I were to offer a wish to the day star, I’d wish for Clain’s smile to last forever.
Tomorrow will be Part 2: Enemies, Revelations, and New Equilibriums, and my overall impressions. Lemme know what you think.