I really wasn’t expecting much from Fractale. We’re all familiar with the grandiose claims Yamakan made at the start of the Winter season… bloviating about moe killing anime and how he was going to singlehandedly save it with his incredible new show. He even promised to retire if it performed poorly. Now that Fractale has bombed, how long do you think it will be until he starts claiming that plebian anime fans such as ourselves are incapable of appreciating the brilliance of his work? In any case, I wasn’t fooled by Yamakan’s posturing; I expected Fractale to be yet another mediocre offering from the overrated director who brought us such turds as Black Rock Shooter.
For most of the season, my prediction bore out. Fractale was an incoherent mess that failed to develop its characters or maintain a consistent tone. There were little snippets of cogent material, but they were buried under mountains of frivolous nonsense. But in the last few episodes, Fractale did something utterly terrible that transformed it from a stalled-out steam train into a full-blown derailment; it decided to play the rape card.
Rape is one of those storytelling devices that is frequently used, but seldom used correctly. It ranks right beside “dead parents” as the most bathetic cliche to give your protagonist a tragic backstory. Bad writers are content to throw rape around as a tool for generating mawkish drama, but never consider the full aftereffects of such a traumatic event. Ask any man or woman who’s ever been sexually abused: it is not a subject to be treated lightly. But that’s exactly what Fractale does when it casually reveals that Phryne was raped by a priest.
I can only guess that Yamakan was going for some sort of symbolism or social commentary here. “You see, it’s a PRIEST that did the raping! Just like those CATHOLIC PRIESTS in the news!” Of course, this has all the clever subtlety of your average political cartoon. And, near as I can figure, that’s the only reason that rape was included as a plot point. It doesn’t have any affect on Phryne’s character because she has no character to begin with. Clain displays some mild shock at the revelation, but this quickly dissipates after five minutes or so. The other characters never even take notice. There’s some technobabble about how Phryne’s rape makes her a suitable “God” for rebooting the Fractale system, but it’s so poorly explained that it practically becomes meaningless. In other words, the rape was entirely extraneous to the story, and was seemingly only included as a cheap attempt to seem edgy and mature. Pity is has the exact opposite effect.
Including rape in such a flippant manner is hack writing at its worst. Yamakan wanted all the drama and shock value that goes with such a terrible event, but didn’t bother to deal with any of the implications. This just comes off as childish; he could have simply said “The Fractale system is powered by the Holocaust! We clone and kill six million Jews every millennium to keep it going!” and it would have had the same nonsensical effect. This cheap, exploitive attempt at generating drama is what finally drove Fractale off the rails; otherwise, it would have been a merely mediocre affair notable only for the ruination of the Noitamina timeslot.
Ugh, do I really have to rate this rubbish? Like I mentioned earlier, it did have a few good elements. There were shards of a better story scattered about, like puzzle pieces that were thrown into the mud instead of assembled properly. However, this minor achievement was easily overshadowed by its downright offensive use of rape to generate cheap drama. For that slight, I award it the lowest score possible.