While I personally had a good time with Fractale, it wasn’t exactly a major hit. It flew under the radar for a lot of people, certainly compared to other A-1 Pictures anime like Anohana and Blue Exorcist which released the same year. Not to mention Sword Art Online, which would follow only a year later. Among those who did watch it, the story was a major point of contention.
Admittedly, there are some glaring issues with Fractale‘s story. While I like the setting and characters, the lore is not always entirely coherent. How Fractale works and how it relates to Nessa probably should’ve been thought out better, and other aspects of the plot feel similarly underdeveloped. In spite of that, I felt that the ending was a good call, even though it seems like a cop-out on the surface.
Spoilers from here on out…
Since so much about the story is about the wrongdoings of Fractale and the struggle to put a stop to it, choosing to keep it active may strike some as lame. So much effort, so many lives lost, all to just settle for status quo. It can feel like a betrayal and, usually, I’d be feeling letdown about that too.
On its surface, it reminds me of Ghibli’s shittier environmentalist movies. Films like Princess Mononoke and Pom Poko. Stories that advocate for a defeatist attitude where accepting terrible compromises is preferable over actually working towards real, unequivocally-good change.
The heroes battling their way to the heart of the system, switching it off, and watching it all explode would be so much more gratifying. It would also be too simple, at least in the case of Fractale. A cathartic highpoint that distracts from having to actually think through the nuances of the story.
The fight against Fractale is certainly important. The rebels who want it gone are framed as the more sympathetic characters, while The Temple are portrayed as cartoonishly evil. Therein lies the key already. While the rebels claim to be against Fractale, their real enemy is The Temple. They are fighting against its authoritarian stranglehold on society, its manipulation and brainwashing, and the military might with which they protect that power.
Fractale is the source of The Temple’s authority, but its not the cause of their evil.
Many episodes show just how dependent people are on Fractale. While it’s often portrayed as a system that promotes selfishness and indulgence, Fractale provides essential services for daily life. Without it, people find themselves living in disconnected, barren wastelands. They don’t just lose access to Netflix, they lose access to food, medical care, contact with the outside world. Nothing works anymore, because all productivity in the world is tied to this one system.
It’s not just like the internet being switched off. It’s like if every electronic device in existence would break down at the same time with no possibility to fix any of it. The world would, in an instant, become entirely unrecognizable to us. Good luck figuring out how to survive.
The rebels wouldn’t become heroes. They’d just be the next villains, who selfishly force a way of life upon a population ill-prepared to oppose them.
For some, that survival is even more pressing. Episode 7 revolves around a city where everyone lives through their Doppels. As we have come to expect by then, it’s a place of excess and pleasure. Most of the people there attempt to selfishly betray Clain, the resistance, and even each other. It may seem justified that they have Fractale taken away from them, the jerks. Until you consider that the antagonist of that episode is entirely bedridden, with medical devices pumping into him at all times.
Roaming the city with a Doppel is not just debauchery for him. It’s the only way through which he can experience a degree of normalcy. The tiniest bit of freedom. Turn Fractale off and he loses all of that. One medical complication later and he’s dead, at a relatively young age. No wonder he’s willing to crack a few eggs, just to hold unto that.
Choosing to preserve Fractale instead of destroying it is not giving up on the rebellion’s ideals. It’s choosing not to condemn countless people to sudden societal collapse. It’s choosing not to become responsible for an unimaginable amount of suffering. With The Temple and their brainwashing gone, people now have a chance to reinvent their lives gradually. Some will keep using Fractale as they always have, other will become completely disconnected, and some will fall somewhere in-between. The great achievement by the end of the anime is that now people have the freedom to choose.
2 thoughts on “Justifying Fractale’s Ending”
You have a good point, once the bad guys are defeated, is it even necessary to destroy the Fractale? Granted, eventually people will develop new technologies that don’t need Fractale anymore, but until those technologies are developed, without Fractale powering everything, everyone would kind of have to experience a Dark Ages event.
I haven’t seen this anime, but you bring up some brilliant points. If they were to take away that energy, it would be massive protagonist-centered morality on the heroes’ part even if the bad guys were using Fractale.