Choosing Sides: Fractale Episode 3

There are a few things that bug me about spoiler warnings.  Firstly, the mere mention of the existence of a spoiler often feels like a spoiler in itself, since people can often infer the possibilities based on contextual knowledge of the show (when in doubt, a character probably died).  Secondly, selective usage of spoiler warnings is indicative of importance bias; deaths, confessions, betrayals, in today’s drama-hungry society, are more important in a plot than the developments that lead to it.  In my opinion, equal weight should be given to every new installment of a story, regardless of the importance of the events in it.  It is implied, therefore, that episodic posts for any type of show should be considered spoilers, and any reader should take caution if they are not caught up with the story themselves.

That said, people die in Episode 3 of Fractale, namely Butcher, and Nessa’s physical persona makes her first appearance.  They’re important turning points in the story, but only because of the developments that lead up to them, and thus should not be discounted.

Scene 1

I’m the only one who’ll be killed!

Summary: Clain laments his inevitable doom while held captive in Enri’s airship; Nessa is unaffected due to her being a doppel.

The opening scene directly picks up where the last episode ended, the two main characters easily captured by the annoying mook squad.  Clain states straight away that Nessa is a doppel, which sets the tone for the rest of the episode for making a point out of her not being a regular person.

Scene 2

“Their shame will contaminate you!”

Summary: the two prisoners are taken to Granites, a village completely isolated from the Fractale system.

This scene is pretty long, and establishes several important points.  Firstly, the village itself, along with the people in it, represent a moral argument against the Fractale system.  The villagers partake in a lifestyle that is completely opposite to Fractale, where people work together in a community, and are tied down to a home.  Enri’s association with the village, depicted by her friendly exchange with one of the children, indicates her group’s moral argument regarding Fractale.

Secondly, it also further establishes Nessa as a doppel, and a non-human character.  The villagers, who cannot see Nessa, have to wear a visor in order to interact with her.  Compared to Clain telling the audience that she is a doppel, this scene shows it, quite well at that.

Scene 3

“That person hates Nessa.”

Summary: Sunda speaks with Clain, inviting to speak with him inside a weird-shaped building.  Upon speaking with Nessa, Sunda is unable to make physical contact with her.

Again, the audience is shown that Nessa is a doppel, and far from human.  This scene pushes that idea further by using Sunda to completely disregard her as a character altogether, highlighted when he removes his visor to speak with Clain.  Clain still treats her like a normal person when Sunda leaves the scene, and Nessa’s troubled expression afterward is humanizing, which contrasts well with what happened.

Scene 4

“Fractale has robbed man of his natural way of life!”

Summary: Inside the building, Sunda tells Clain about the Lost Millennium, a movement that aims to bring about the downfall of the Fractale system.

Sunda’s monologue about the Lost Millennium is an efficient way to summarize an entire history of backstory to the audience.  This scene is a necessary information dump, and is done so through dialogue between carefully selected characters.  The two “boys” in this scene are in sufficiently different places on the scale of idealism against the Fractale system; Sunda’s argument against Fractale would appear less strong if he had monologued in front of Butcher or Enri, making Clain a logical choice for the writer.

Scene 5

“Check-up complete.  Your physical condition today is- a bit high on sugar!”

Summary: Enri tries to avoid Nessa, but her private space is digitally invaded as a result.

This scene showcases Nessa’s ability to appear out of nowhere, and uses that ability to comedic effect.  In episode 2, it was shown in the bell tower, but is pushed to extremity in this scene.  The difference here is that, due to the story highlighting Nessa as a doppel, her teleporting abilities are justified, due to being a hologram.

Scene 6

“You know nothing of true freedom!”

Summary: Clain passes by a hospital, observing the difficulties of dealing with numerous patients.  The village chief argues to Clain that it is a necessary component of opposing the Fractale system.

The anti-Fractale sentiment is brought up again from Scene 4, but this time, it’s brought on even harder.  Instead of Sunda, leader of the quirky miniboss squad, the village chief from the second scene shows up and lectures clain about the costs of freedom.  The chief’s views seem more extreme than Sunda’s, making the contrast in idealism even larger, illustrated further by having the conversation next to an overcrowded hospital.

Scene 7

“I don’t like the people here.  They’re being so stubborn for no reason at all.  They seem to be nice, but I can’t trust them.”

Summary: The villagers of Granites throw a feast in Clain and Nessa’s honor.  Nessa observes as Clain tastes a bowl of soup for the first time.

In a logical step from Scene 5, where the background information about Lost Millennium is given, and Scene 6, where the Village’s perspective on the argument is given, Scene 7 starts off with Clain’s side of the argument.  While he doesn’t openly oppose the ideals, he still can’t yet trust the people that support them.

However, when he is intrigued by the taste of the soup offered to him, his distrust waivers a noticeable bit.  Nessa’s non-humanity is also put into view, when she reveals that she cannot eat the soup either.  This transitions well into the next scene.

Scene 8

“Try dancing what the flavor was like!”

Summary: Before the two go to bed, Nessa asks Clain to describe the soup he ate at the feast using dance.

This scene pulls the story away from the Fractale moral argument.  After several scenes of Lost Millennium presented in numerous ways, this moment shared by Nessa and Clain is a refreshing reprieve, yet still develops the idea of Nessa being a doppel, and not human.  Using one sense to describe another is an effective way of storytelling, especially in novels.  Clain’s gestures for describing the food are outrageous, and fit his character well.

The comfort-level that Clain shows while with Nessa is noticeable, after seeing his reactions to the inhabitants of Granites.  It also shows how Clain treats Nessa like a person, despite being a doppel.  This, juxtaposed against the building notion that Nessa isn’t really a human, makes for an interesting tension wrapped into a cute little scene.

Scene 9

“We may suffer casualties, but the Star Festival Must be stopped!”

Summary: After learning of a Star Festival being held, the Lost Millennium take Clain aboard their mothership to sabotage the festival.  Nessa appears again out of thin air.

This scene wraps the two developing storylines into one, building up towards the next scene where the Star Festival happens.  It intensifies the Fractale storyline by having Sunda debriefing his crew about the dangers of sabotaging the festival.  Warning about casualties, the tension is raised even higher.

The second storyline involving Nessa’s humanity is also put into play.  When she appears, Sunda once again dismisses her, this time bluntly referring to her as “just data.”  Such strong words bring Nessa down, perhaps leading to her apparent defeat.  There’s no arguing that she is not human, given what she’s done in the episode so far.  This sets up perfectly for the second reveal in the next scene.

Scene 10

“We offer thee our untainted prayers.  We offer thee a life free of blemish.”

Summary: At the Star Festival, after Sunda reveals to Clain the brainwashing nature of the Fractale system, the Lost Millennium and the Fractale priestess engage in a shootout, resulting in numerous casualties from all sides.  Phryne arrives and quells the skirmish.

There’s an effective tool that writers use to increase the impact of a climactic scene: to withdraw the most important information until the last possible moment.  Think realistically from Clain’s view:

You spend an entire day questioning the ambiguity of a system that you rely upon for sustenance, and suddenly you are thrust into a war between factions.  You are just a short distance away from an important spiritual event.

“Oh, one last thing.  It’s not a spiritual event.  It’s just a brainwashing scam to keep everyone isolated from each other, including your parents.  Attack!”

You can see how everything just comes in at once, and suddenly you’re thrown into the chaos of the conflict.  How coul-

Oh, and one of the priestesses is actually the real Nessa.

Everything you’ve learned about Nessa the doppel is pretty much thrown out the window.  Oh look, doppel-Nessa just ran into the crossfire.  Watch out, Nes-

Butcher is dead.

The pacing of this scene is absolutely perfect in its execution, and it’s made even better by all the buildup of both conflicts presented to the audience in the beginning.  For some reason, the general audience reaction favored the Fractale conflict moreso than Nessa’s.  Reasonably so, since her energetic attitude and Manic Pixie Girl nature is hit-and-miss with people.

However, the plot possibilities of having two Nessas is intriguing, and has a lot of potential for exploration, especially given the context of the doppel system.  What we have here is a secondary plotline used as a way to comment on the primary plotline, putting it into a different perspective, making it even stronge-

Oh, and Phryne’s back.

Well, fuck.  We’ll just have to see what happens in Episode 4.  Either way, there’s so much new information splattered at the end of this episode, it just irks me it had to end on this note.  I for one am really against the usage of cliffhangers, and this episode definitely felt like it ended with one.  However, the way the episode built up on the primary two plotlines made Butcher’s death and Nessa’s reveal foregone conclusions.  With Phryne being the only question mark at the end of this episode, 2 our 3 isn’t bad, I suppose.

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