The Fractale system is comprised of a world-spanning augmented reality computer network. With nanotech terminals in everyone, Fractale is 'overlayed' onto the real world. Nobody has to work anymore: the only requirement for a life of leisure is periodically offering a 'prayer' (your personal data) to the nearest repeater balloon. Clain lives in this world, in a house on a rocky coast (presumably somewhere in Ireland). His parents and even his dog manifest as 'doppels', avatars. And even while his father says it's important to have meals together (which are just tubes of processed food), they haven't met in person in years...
Clain is interested in old data, and when he returns home after a trip to a flea market, he sees a girl dressed in formal robes, in an airship, being chased by people in another airship! He hides the girl from their prying eyes and takes her home. The girl introduces herself als Phryne, and she leaves her brooch with Claine when she dissapears again. Claine investigates the brooch, and out comes a doppel of a little girl who introduces herself as Nessa.
She is quite the handful, full of inquisitive mischief. And she is able to affect objects in the real world as well! Claine tries to take her to the 'security station', but she sticks with him. Then they end up getting involved with one of the groups of "Lost Millenium" -- a loose alliance between various groups who want to break the dependency of humanity to the Fractale system. Clain, Nessa and Phryne end up travelling with this group, seeing the truth behind the Fractale system for themselves.
Fractale starts off as mostly harmless, but this is a post-cyberpunk story. The Fractale system is controlled by a caste of priests (mechanimism in effect, really) who conduct rituals which are designed to keep the nanotech inside the population updated, which will keep them calm and distracted. But the Fractale system is slowly falling apart, with more and more nodes shutting down, creating 'dead zones' where the augmented reality doesn't reach. This is the domain of the various Lost Millenium groups, each with their own way of dealing with things.
Fractale must be rebooted, and Phryne and Nessa are somehow the 'key' to this. This is why the church is after them both, and Clain gets mixed up in all of it. People get killed. Entire cities lose their lustre: what seemed like a bustling metropolis turns out to be a cold collection of square rocks when the augmented reality shuts down. And the reality behind the whole system is... chilling, to say the least.
Visually, the series is dazzling. There's the clean lines of the Fractale-induced augmented reality, but there's also the normal villages and people living there. The character designs are pretty nice too. The line between CGI and cell-shaded is sometimes quite stark -- but that is fully intentional. When CGI is used for objects in the 'real world', it blends seamlessly with the rest.
The voice acting is nice, with some familiar voices in the leading roles. It's clear that this series had the budget to deliver quality. I quite liked the opening music (and the accompanying animation is a nice throwback to the 'fractal color cycle' programs of the '90s), but the ending music takes some getting used to...
Thematically, the series reminded me strongly of Laputa: Castle in the Sky. Not in the least because of the airships, but also because of the themes of a boy living 'alone' when a girl falls down from the sky. She carries something that is the key to some mythical power, which others want. There are some scenes that seem to have been lifted literally from the movie. But far from being derivative, it takes these themes and shows how they work in a post-cyberpunk setting. More like a tribute than a rip-off, really.
Also, while technology plays an understandable large part in the story, the series is not about the technology. Rather it is about what humanity will do with it. The theme of shut-ins who feel like they're connected anyway is something that's certainly on the rise in Japan and elsewhere in the world. In that way, the story has many levels: you can enjoy it as a simple adventure story, but you can also see it as a parable for socio-economic changes that are happening right now.
- Believable post-cyberpunk setting;
- Really interesting plots.
- How the Fractale system actually works is not really explained (or I am too dense to get it, in which case it's too hard to understand (for me)).
Fractale was run in the Noitamina timeslot -- source of consistently top-grade series. Fractale is certainly no exception. I'll give it an 8.5.