In the first part of this series of posts on episode 2 of Fractale, I pointed out the importance of Nessa’s perspective of the world in regards to Clain’s character development, and how he eventually sees her as someone close to him. It’s a bit strange to accept that he would openly let her into his life within the span of a day, but the writers have taken good care of gradually opposing the philosophy of being free from the restriction of having a family and home
With each scene, Clain’s beliefs have been attacked with growing magnitude, setting up for a potent culminating scene at the end of the episode, where he realizes where his values now lie, all thanks to Nessa.
In the world we live in, we leave anything tiresome…to dopels. But something you can feel on your skin leaves an entirely different impression. Am I right, boy?
Summary: The three captors take Clain back to their hideout, where the leader interrogates him about Phryne’s whereabouts.
The leader of the trio of mooks is introduced in this scene, representing the a more authoritative perspective of the antagonist’s side. He’s more serious about capturing Phryne and Nessa compared to the roundabout incompetence that his underlings (his sister, Enri, included) display.
This shouldn’t take away from the fact that the Giovanni of this team is face-to-face with the protagonist. Whether or not he is the true villain of the show remains to be seen, but he does finish the scene with probing rhetorical, this time attacking Clain for taking doppels for granted. It seems to be enough for Clain to dismiss his statement, but combined with the sheer audacity of Enri and her goons’ stalking attempts in the cut right after, leaves Clain emotionally exhausted from everything he’s experienced so far.
Was this room always so big?
Summary: Clain contemplates Nessa and Phryne’s absence.
This scene, due to its brevity, leaves a large impression on the audience regarding Clain’s attitude towards his current situation. Nessa and Phryne are gone, and the mood is suitably set by the lack of music, the empty room, and a single sentence that summarizes his revelation that he is alone in the Fractale system.
Summary: Back in his attic, Clain researches touch doppels on his “archaic” laptop.
A lot of information is visually presented on the screen, most of which is completely missed by the viewer due to the holographic nature of the screen’s display. I’ve taken the liberty to flip the screenshots of the article that Clain read, and there’s some interesting information about doppels that is revealed as a result.
In this time, most people have an electronic avatar of themselves called a doppel. With artificial intelligence programs supported on the network, the doppel makes judgments and responses to everyday situations in a way basically the same as the individual it represents.
Through augmented reality it can take on the outward appearance of the user and of course different outward appearances as well. It is, in fact, a personal artificial intelligence secretary.
The doppels communications memory is reported to the user at regular intervals in video or text format. Using the capabilities of the fractale, the user can, through augmented reality, enhance the experiences undergone by the doppel.
In this time, in the interest of smooth interaction, it has become normal in business or personal relationships to begin with the granting the right of access to this avatar. The doppel looks fter the exchange of formal and administrative affairs.
This type of personal relationship has become the norm. Courting and dating are left to the doppels, and it is said that many even have their first sexual experiences through them as well.
The scene altogether is just a giant infodump, a very heavy and ineffectively conveyed one at that. However, it’s a necessary one, and by “hiding” it in between two important scenes, it lessens the negative somewhat. Still, it’s very crucial for effective storytelling to show instead of tell, and this scene is definitely the weakest link in the episode.
The information extracted from it is interesting at most, in retrospect, but there probably could have been better ways for the doppel system to be explained. A scene where the mechanics of a doppel is shown, such as the relay of doppel information to Clain’s parents, would probably be more effective. However, the writers make a logical choice in not showing the parents’ actual identity, preserving the isolating nature of the Fractale system, and putting more focus on the protagonist reacting to it.
Is it a fair trade-off in the end? It’s something worth discussing in length, but I won’t mention it here.
Clain’s Father: We only made doppels in the first place because you’re important to us.
Clain: That’s great and all, but in the end, you just do whatever you want.
Summary: after researching more about doppels, Clain is confronted by his parents’ doppels regarding his recent association with Phryne and Nessa. Clain speaks out against his parents and dismisses the doppels.
Despite being taken captive by Enri’s group, the moment of greatest conflict lies in the argument that Clain has with his parents. It starts off with the stern “Son, we need to talk” from Clain’s dad, that all parents tend to use. Despite the fact that the world is completely different from real life, the conflict unraveling in the form of a lecture makes Clain’s rebellious statement all the more familiar.
Because of everything that’s happened in Clain’s life in the past 2 episodes, the distance between Clain and his parents are made apparent; neither party agrees with the other, but Clain makes the decision to distance himself by waving off his parent’s doppels, making for a powerful gesture of defiance, and a sign of maturation. However, Clain won’t realize it until he reflects on it in the next scene.
I am alone now. It wasn’t fair to blame it on my parents…Which is why Nessa…No, I don’t want this. I don’t want to be alone.
Summary: Clain contemplates his outburst while running. Exhausted, he collapses onto the ground, wishing for Nessa’s return.
It is only in the apparent defeat, whether it be in physical battle, or self-psychological, that one realizes their own disparity and takes action in response. It’s the archetypal visit with death that moves a character forward and gives him the drive to continue. In Episode 2, this is the pinnacle of tension in the episode (within the context of the episode, granted that it’s still very early in the series), where Clain fully realizes the problems in his life. He realizes the loneliness that he feels when he’s in the Fractale system, and that despite having parents that are only available to him in doppel form, he comes to think of Nessa and Phryne as family, and feels closer to them than his parents ever were. As the child hero, he needs the familial association in order to develop properly as a person. His needs are basic, but he goes about realizing them after a gradual, accumulative process of having family figuratively shoved in his face, thanks to Nessa.
He needs the two of them more than ever, and they are nowhere to be found. Even the absence of BGM further strains the mood.
Nessa: Clain, you’re so warm.
Clain: That’s my line.
Summary: Clain reunites with Nessa, only to be captured by Enri’s group again.
The best part about including a scene where the character has a archetypal visit with death is seeing how he or she bounces back, or how he or she responds to being suddenly removed from that particular desperate situation. In a moment of what seems to be deus-ex machina, Nessa appears out of nowhere with impeccable timing, running in slow-motion while Clain admits through introspection that Nessa’s smile is no longer as scary as it was at the halfway point. The heartwarming moment is established with perfectly timed music and a wonderful backdrop that once again shows the emptiness of the world; except this time, Clain is no longer alone in it.
And like the first episode, whenever that moment occurs, it’s often punctuated by complete shift in mood, either through a sudden event or new revelation that completely turns the mood around, and sets the audience up for the next episode. In this case, Enri’s plan to capture the two of them, despite being too stupid to work, succeeds. The pitfall trap is a standard part of the Rocket’s reportoire, and despite being so blatantly obvious, its success is justified due to the distraction of the heartwarming moment that precedes it. Enri trolls the audience by doing so, and moves the plot forward once again; the adventure of life continues.