Fractale 1 – Geek Paradise
Like many other people, my interest after the first episode of Fractale is more in the setting than the characters (not really much to them yet) or the story (bare bones right now). I don’t think that’s an especially big problem after one episode, but if it stretches into two, then it obviously becomes more of an issue, particularly given noitaminA’s abbreviated seasons.
Anyway, like Scamp, I immediately made the hikikomori connection when presented with Fractale‘s world. It’s a fairly well-worn aspect of science-fiction — the world of high technology that isolates people from each other as they grown more reliant on technology. But they have the illusion (or is it?) of not being isolated because they can communicate through avatars (or “doppels” as they’re termed in the series). (By the way, wasn’t doppeling the technology where people inserted themselves into virtual reality animals in Overdrawn at the Memory Bank? You can blame Mystery Science Theater 3000 for me actually remembering this . . . )
Even though it is a well-worn concept, however, it’s still clearly relevant due to the advancements of the Internet, and in particular social networking sites and programs. (Facebook, Twitter, Skype, etc.) Fractale‘s is a world where you seemingly don’t need to see a single person in your life to get by. Just put a chip in your body, and the almighty computer takes care of the rest — each person gets a tidy income (and presumably a decent living space from that income), the guarantee of a decent life, etc. Technology takes care of everything. And because everything is taken care of, that seems to take away some of the incentive for people to make the effort of seeing each other in person. Why do that when doing it over the computer is just easier?
Technology is powerful enough now that it does a halfway decent job of replicating in-person human interaction. We can communicate through text, voice and video in real time. It’s not exactly the same as talking with someone in person — there will always be a perceptible distance felt between people communicating through technology, I think — but it’s strong enough to make people genuinely wonder if this technology could someday become a dominant social tool rather than a tool of communicative convenience like a telephone. I can’t really imagine communicating with people solely through phones (the very thought makes me seethe, actually), but could I imagine communicating with people only through computers day in and day out? Not totally . . . but I would have to think about it.
The people in Fractale seem to have thought about it and accepted it long ago. It’s pretty peculiar that Clain lives all on his own (he’s a teenager, right?) even though the land seems like a nice, safe place, and that the only interaction he gets with his parents is through these bizarro avatars. And even his reaction to Phryne pointing out his childhood video recordings is strange.
“Oh, you must love and cherish these precious memories, right?”
“No, no, these video recordings are just rare, and I want to hang onto them.”
Is he going to sell them on eBay, or something (or whatever the Fractale equivalent of eBay is — maybe we saw it in the first episode with the online swap meet)? Or maybe he’s just one of those hoarders. Who knows? What matters, though, is that his childhood memories are some sort of commodity . . . or maybe it’s that the technology itself is just a commodity, and it doesn’t really matter what’s on it in the first place, because Clain already retains everything that matters to him in his mind. I suppose it’s too early to tell for sure.
(By the way, why would anyone choose those ugly ass avatars as representations of themselves? Jeez.)
Anyway, setting is cool, but the plot/characters come off like the work of a homeless man’s Hayao Miyazaki so far. One episode is kind of early for me to completely dismiss something with this neat a setting, though, so I’ll hang back before heaping too much hate on that stuff, though.