Winter 2011 – First Impressions (Fractale & Wandering Son)
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!
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.