Fractale develops further upon the themes it explored in its opener here. Clain meets Nessa for the very first time, but he is blinded by his anger at Phryne for leaving her with him. So, on the suggestion of his father, he decides to leave her with the police in a nearby (almost deserted) town. He returns home, dejected, and after a tumultuous talk with his parents he realises his mistake. The pair reunite, but they blunder into a trap set by Enri and are kidnapped by the girl and her goons. And so, our heroes get carried off into the distance in a Team Rocket-spec net, but with no Pikachu to save the day with a well-timed Thunderbolt.
Clain is understandably shocked to find a shouty, red-haired HanaKana pop out of his computer, but he is even more surprised to find that while Nessa is a doppel he is also able to touch her. After a little research he finds that such technology has become the new standard – unsurprisingly, Clain is not the type of person who stays up to date on the latest technological advances of the Fractale system – and was essentially precipitated by the sex industry in order to replace humans. This is the first explicit reference to a seedier side to Fractale’s world. We still don’t see this aspect of the setting, but the show keeps dropping hints and building up to the reveal later on in the series.
Nessa’s character is very simple to describe – cheerful, care-free, bubbly. Phryne and Nessa are both completely different to Clain: Phryne is more mature and more confident than him, while Nessa is more childish and innocent. Is Nessa really as innocent as she lets on, however? After she falls from Clain’s bicycle she lies still in the road and asks him to touch her. The word she uses is 触って (sawatte), which most often has a negative or sexual connotation. Why use this word specifically? Is there something in her past that might lead to her saying a risque word in a purely innocent context? This is something that is actually revisited in Fractale’s finale, but for now it’s simply a small hint of sinister goings-on that non-japanophones might miss. Heck, I only caught it by chance.
In having Phryne and Nessa thrust upon him, Clain has been confronted by two wildly differing personalities, both of which are at complete odds with his own. CLain is isolated and unstimulated, but suddenly a mature, confident young woman and a happy-go-lucky, inquisitive young girl walk into his life and leave a massive impression. He begins to question his life cooped up in that tiny house, physically separated (albeit not digitally) from a whole world of new people and new experiences. His experience with Phryne running away made him reject the infinite possibilities, but he soon realises his mistake. He is finally ready to open himself up to a world beyond the confines of his lonely existence.
Some of the animation in this episode was top drawer. The scene where Clain meets Nessa for the very first time is wonderfully done. In every medium shot the characters were lively and dynamic, with Nessa rarely staying still for more than a few milliseconds at a time. The close-ups of the pair’s faces are where A-1 Pictures really excel, however. Their facial movements are meticulously animated, conveying infinitely more emotion and meaning than the same conversation shot with near-static models. Clain’s eyes flitting from side to side, looking anywhere but at the young girl in front of him; a frown creeping across Nessa’s face, followed by tears welling up in her eyes as she is told that Phryne abandoned her… These are the sorts of things we often take for granted in anime, which is surprising given how often we anibloggers hark on about “show, don’t tell”.
Episode two is not as good as Fractale’s opener, but it’s still decent. At the time this aired a lot of people criticised the comedy in the episode as being too slapstick and silly – Nessa ruining the campsite, Enri and her goons trying out their suspiciously-similar range of disguises etc. – but I found it quite welcome. It showed that for now, at least, Fractale isn’t taking itself too seriously. Without this comic relief the only moments to really break through the tension of the plot would be Nessa’s initial meeting with Clain’s parents, and relentless HanaKana would have grated even more than Nessa already does (for what it’s worth, I don’t find Nessa particularly annoying, but I can totally see why other people would). Clain and Nessa being kidnapped at the end of this episode signals the start of the plot proper – with the basic setting established, Fractale needed to move Clain out of his comfort zone and throw him into conflict with the Lost Millennium group.