Good things about the show: Fractale clearly had a lot of effort and care put into the world behind it. They created a playground to explore philosophical issues like identity, the value of technology vs. good old fashioned hard work, and the good of the many vs. the rights of the one. At its best, Fractale was a lens for me to tackle these sorts of issues. It also had riproaring adventure! A loose coalition of rebels flying a ragtag fleet of airships to attack the evil temple? That is that sort of thing that makes me lick my lips and exclaim “yum!”
Bad things about the show: It felt abridged. The philosophical issues I delighted in were not explored in sufficient depth, characters were introduced and then disappeared forever without comment, whole plot arcs were compressed into sub-episode extents. Fantastic locales were rushed into, perfunctorily explored, and then rushed out of again, like a European tour group on a tight schedule. They obviously had more than 11 episodes of story they wanted to tell, it’s a shame they couldn’t take more time. Also, many of their plot devices fell flat, especially their attempts to build tension. Golly, are the protagonists going to find shelter in time not to be crushed to death by this cave-in? Of course they are. Is the protagonists’ airship going to reach the closing door one second too late, crash into it, and kill them all? Of course it isn’t.
Memorable moment in the show:
Nessa’s destruction of Xanadu. I couldn’t believe they didn’t follow up on that! Once the episode was over everybody pretended like it didn’t happen, when it was the most emotionally affecting scene in the show. I guess everyone was worried about Clain being shot, but one man versus a whole city?
Worthwhile characters in the show: Well, Clain’s retro obsession made him a little more interesting than your generic default protagonist, but really the only good characters in the show were the two opposing rebel leaders. I enjoyed Nessa for a while, but it kind of ruined it for me to discover that her quirks were due not to her being an imperfect simulation of a normal human but due to her being a perfect simulation of a broken human.
All in all: Has some interesting ideas, some really good bits, but it completely fails to effectively string them together. If you have an anime club that is analogous to a book club, I think that Fractale could generate some really good discussions, but otherwise this is an anime to pass on.