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Winter 2011 – First Impressions (Fractale & Wandering Son)

January 15, 2011

So this is the last of my First Impression posts for Winter 2011 – ending on a high with the two noitaminA series, Fractale & Wandering Son!

Fractale

This was an intriguing start. I loved the world setting & concept, and I also loved the Ghibli-esq feel of the show at times, but at the same time I’m pretty unimpressed with the characters at the moment. The world of Fractale is one where actual human interaction is rare; instead people communicate through avatars (bloody weird-looking ones at that!), even keeping up the pretence of family via these ‘dopplers’ while the actual members are living in completely different places. It’s a strange world as no one seems to need to work, rather just being part of the Fractale system and observing its rules of something akin to ‘worship’, people receive a stipend upon which they can live quite comfortable, if very isolated lives. As I said, the world set up is fascinating. However the characters aren’t, being rather boring with quite clichéd reactions – the male lead all but has a coronary upon seeing a girl (although since he barely ever sees real humans I suppose this reaction is pretty understandable) and that trio of ‘villains’ were just unbelievably bumbling and hammy. Still, we’ve got time to get to know the characters, episode one was really more about setting up the world and it did that very well.

They’ve changed the art slightly for the anime – specifically the colouring of the female characters hair from purple to a more normal brown & red; I definitely prefer the promo art’s designs, but other changes are minimal. The landscapes are gorgeous, and the animation is very smooth – it’s a very attractive series and most definitely pulls its inspiration from Studio Ghibli’s work. The music is very orchestral and grand – it’s sometimes a touch too much given how nothing particularly epic happens on-screen! I loved the acid trip of an OP – a dazzling kaleidoscope of colour with pretty catchy music. The ED was a surprise since it’s a song I know well “Down by the Salley Gardens”, a pretty little ditty which is sung entirely in amusing engrish here.

It’s a pretty solid start for Fractale, I’m not completely wowed by it but there is a metric tonne of potential in this show and I’m quite excited to explore more of this world. Definitely looking forward to more – if the 2nd episode is as impressive & interesting I definitely want to blog this show.

 

Hourou Musuko (Wandering Son)

This was an impressive, if slightly confusing opening episode. We seem to have landed into the middle of the story as all the characters clearly have established relationships already, and those of us who have not read the manga don’t have the advantage of knowing that back-story or some of the events mentioned in this episode. However even though I floundered about a bit trying to remember who was who for a while, I was impressed by how well Wandering Son fleshed out its characters in such a short space of time. I was also very impressed with the atmosphere the show creates – it’s almost melancholic in its approach, very serious and gentle in its portrayal of the issues faced by these transgendered characters. Wandering Son is not going to be a light-hearted fun anime – I can already feel it tugging on my heartstrings; but at the same time it isn’t gloomy and depressive either, it’s just very serious from start to finish.

The art style is unique – very soft and pastel with lots and lots of white highlights so the characters almost seem to have a polished finish to them. It’s an interesting effect, but very pretty and the animation is wonderfully smooth (love those cherry blossoms). The dialogue is straightforward and cuts straight to the heart of things since the majority of it is internal monologue, the voice acting is suitably subdued and measured for the most part, fitting well with the atmosphere – the music also adds well to this (although the OP & ED are both solid but nothing special).

I’m very impressed with this first episode, definitely keeping Wandering Son on as I’m interested in seeing what direction the story is going to move in.

 

14 Comments leave one →
  1. ojisan permalink
    January 15, 2011 10:00 am

    In perfect agreement. A great setting and premise for okay-so-far characters in Fractale, and very, very interesting confusion in Wandering Son, which I plan to rewatch with pencil and paper in hand –

    • January 16, 2011 8:32 pm

      Yeah a rewatch of Wandering Son is probably required – so many characters all at once!

  2. adaywithoutme permalink
    January 15, 2011 11:00 pm

    I thought that the villains in Fractale actually were fairly Ghibli themselves; they reminded me of the ones in Howl’s Moving Castle who then ended up not being villains. Or, that’s what I remember of it. Its been a long time ^^;

    I could probably just have watched Fractale sans subtitles and sound and I would’ve been happy. Those backgrounds were beautiful and it made me all nostalgic. I wanna go back to Ireland again wicked bad.

    Hourou Musuko… *sighs* I can’t sum it up neatly. I would direct you to my post on it instead. I enjoyed it.

    • January 16, 2011 8:34 pm

      Now you mention it, I can see the Ghibli in the villians. Still having such unthreatening antagonists killed the tension a bit.

      Backgrounds are glorious in Fractale – its really very pretty.

      • adaywithoutme permalink
        January 18, 2011 4:56 am

        This has nothing to do with this post, but I just wished to inform you that Happy Endings Are All the Same now has a seventh chapter, and it involves wine, a futon, and Mrs. Muroi. But definitely not in that order, thank the lord.

        …yeah, I told this you on Twitter, too, but I wanted to tell you some of what was in it, too😄

  3. ariannasterling permalink
    January 15, 2011 11:32 pm

    So I wasn’t the only one thinking Ghibli during Fractale? I’m planning to mention that myself in a future post, haha. Even the art made me think of Ghibli’s work.

    Wandering Son confused the heck out of me for awhile. I couldn’t for the life of me keep track of the characters. So I plan to rewatch the first episode before I see the second.

    Still, they both had pretty strong openings, I think.

    • January 16, 2011 8:35 pm

      Think lots of people got the Ghibli vibes from Fractale.

      Noitamina looking good once again!

  4. January 16, 2011 1:50 pm

    Fractale- Not a bad show looks amazing art wise anyway, characters also look nicely done but hard to say what the story will be. Guess he has to protect the data from the baddies?! either way looks cool so far will have to see more.

    Wandering Son- Wasn’t going to even bother looking at it, but not that bad of as how was confused at the start. Will have to see more of this one too seems to be alright.

    • January 16, 2011 8:36 pm

      Fractale looks to be an adventure type series – but since it only has 11 episodes I hope it doesn’t over extend itself.

      • January 18, 2011 4:22 am

        Course! agreed about Fractale, lets hope things are good for 11 more episodes.

  5. January 19, 2011 8:51 pm

    I enjoyed the beginning of Fractale a lot too. Sure, the supporting chracters are pretty off-the-peg but it’s the weakest link at the moment. The concept alone was enough to get me hooked…it’s Miyazaki-inspired in a way that reminds me Xam’d. The writers could do hell of a lot with it…not sure how much they’re planning to do in just eleven episodes if that’s what’s planned though.

    I’m definitely going to make a start on Wandering Son sometime this week. I’ll try and find a time of day when my connection can handle Crunchyroll’s 720p video. From what I’ve read so far it does indeed pick the story up a few chapters in, so you’re probably not the only one feeling a bit lost!

    • January 19, 2011 10:30 pm

      The concept for Fractale is what has me entranced at the moment – such an intriguing world set-up, it would be so easy to just take it and run with it. However with Noitamina’s limit of 11 episodes I don’t think they’ll be able to really expand on things. I’m interested in seeing what they do decide to focus on.

      Yes Wandering Son apparently skips about 30 chapters to start with, however I’m sure we’ll soon get to grips with all the characters soon enough – the first episode really did do a good job of introducing everyone (its just that there were so many characters all at once!).

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