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[In which I review] New anime, Winter 2010-2011

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
I actually watched Fractale first, but I really wanted to get this one off my chest.



Wandering Son (Hourou Musuko)

Disclaimer : I've read the manga.

What's it about ?

A boy who'd rather be a girl. A girl who'd rather be a boy. But the onset of puberty might ruin it all...

Characters

Suichi Nitori, our main character. He's been experimenting with dressing as a girl for years, and by now he's wandering in the streets alone in full drag. He describes himself as "wishy-washy", and that's pretty accurate.

Yoshino Takatsuki, his accomplice in crossdressing. They used to go on "dates" in the city (with her as a boy and him as a girl), but things have been awkward ever since he confessed to her and she refused.

Chizuru Sarashina, a bold girl who shows up in a male uniform for the first day of middle school just for the heck of it. She immediately becomes a role model for Yoshino.

Saori Chiba, a very jealous girl who has a thing for Suichi. Also an avid church-goer.

Maho Nitori, Suichi's sister. Has started a modelling career, and is thus a bit annoyed that he's using her best clothes when she's not looking. But she's not that hostile to his hobby. (Heck, they both started modelling together, although he has since dropped out.)

And TONS of other characters, like Suichi's bespectacled sidekick, his and Yoshino's adult transsexual friend, Maho's model friend who has a thing for Suichi... But they barely get to do anything in this episode.

Production Values

It looks very pretty, with a gorgeous-looking watercolor look that extends to the characters. The classical score completes the "artsy" tone.

The OP is very bizarre : a fancy CG type for the credits over shots of the school... but it's completely empty, devoid of any human beings. Are they planning to fill it with characters as the series goes ? The song's nothing special. Meanwhile, the ED has a nice moody song that contrasts with minimalistic animation.

Overall Impression

Oh, dear. What were they thinking ?

If you're feeling completely lost, like you're joining this series halfway through... Well, you're not entirely wrong, considering this adapts the start of Volume FIVE of the manga. As a result, there's heaps of backstory alluded to, and major story beats are told rather than shown. Also, tons of supporting characters are barely introduced. I can't help but wonder what somebody completely new to the series would understand of it.

But on the other hand, this episode does try to fit in lots of awkward exposition, to the detriment of its actual story. This is supposed to be Chizuru's big entrance, and it feels like a complete afterthought. Urgh. It's only in the second half that it starts finding its footing, when Suichi's moody wandering through the city finally gets the space it needs to breathe (and I loved the wonderfully awkward end to the episode).

I'm sure that once this series gets a bit more underway, it will become much better. The source material is remarkable, after all. But the sudden jump midway into the story is sure to alienate most non-fans, which ain't good for a series with such a difficult subject matter. I really can't understand it : why not relate Suichi & Yoshino's relationship from the start ? This is just baffling.
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Fractale

What's it about ?

Several centuries in the future, most humans have linked themselves into the Matrix Fractale system, which seems like a cross between Second Life and Big Brother. Except we can see the weird avatars in the real world. This seems mostly an excuse for everyone to spend their idle lives isolated.

Characters

Clain, our teenage protagonist. He's a vintage enthusiast (hey, look, a 64GB SD card !), and lives by himself in the middle of nowhere (although his parents regularly chime in through their avatars).

Phryne, a mysterious girl who suddenly shows up on a flying bike pursued by goons on a blimp. Crain rescues and hides her. It's strongly implied she's some sort of time-traveller.

The goons are a couple of MIBs led a small girl. Frankly, they act more like Team Rocket than competent government agents, and I really doubt they've actually got any actual official authority.

Another girl shows up at then end, but it's too early to get a handle on her.

Production Values

My, this is gorgeous. They've obviously got some budget, and it shows. On the other hand, I don't like the soundtrack : it often feels very poorly integrated with the action (a fanfare-ish number during quiet dialogue scenes ? WTF ?).

The OP takes the Fractale theme at heart and produces some wonderfully psychedelic visuals. The ED's a nice melancholic piece.

Overall Impression

Well, this is certainly different from anything else in this season. It's bursting at the seems with intriguing world-building, and it's obvious a lot of thought was put into the setting. I've yet to fully understand it, to be honest. But it's pulsing with earnestness, and I can admire that.

On the other hand, I'm not so sure about the characters. I'm not fond of Yuu Kobayashi voicing protagonists (they always feel flat, as opposed to when she does supporting characters), and the goons feel slightly out of place, like coming from a different show. But that's probably the point, and they were by far the funniest thing in the episode anyway.

I'm really intrigued by this one.
 

Shay Guy

Registered User
Validated User
Several centuries in the future, most humans have linked themselves into the Matrix Fractale system, which seems like a cross between Second Life and Big Brother. Except we can see the weird avatars in the real world. This seems mostly an excuse for everyone to spend their idle lives isolated.
We haven't seen anything from the perspective of anyone who uses a Doppel, or any high-population-density areas. So we don't know all that much about Fractale or the world outside the clip from the textbook and the "five o'clock prayer." (Come to think of it, I wouldn't be surprised if humanity's experienced a massive population drop due to lack of births.)

It's strongly implied she's some sort of time-traveller.
That's one way to interpret it. Another is that she's lived a very sheltered life recreating an earlier age, with only second- and third-hand knowledge of the modern world.
 

Kurotowa

Weird Science Nut
Validated User
Clain, our teenage protagonist. He's a vintage enthusiast (hey, look, a 64GB SD card !), and lives by himself in the middle of nowhere (although his parents regularly chime in through their avatars).
I'm not so sure about that last part. My first reaction was to take them for telepresence avatars too. But now I'm not so sure. They're called dopples, which has to mean dopplegangers. That starts to imply duplicates or copy people. The text book narration said that people were rewarded for regular uploads of their "life logs" to the "Skyhigh Hovering Server". I now suspect the dopples are virtual copies being run by the Fractal network to provide basic socialization for a massively shrunken and dispersed human population. It would explain why Clain was so at easy about dismissing his parent dopples, and why they have nothing better to do than sit at the table all day.

A little further speculation. The textbook said that Fractale was a 22nd century god. If the call to prayer and to face the temple, a glowing spot in the sky, is the daily upload to Fractal's Skyhigh Hovering Server then it's become a god in practice and not just name. So when Clain says that Phryne's robes are those of a temple priestess, I have to wonder what that means. Is she a run away server maintenance tech?
 

FortMan

Viva Romanesco!
Validated User
If you're feeling completely lost, like you're joining this series halfway through... Well, you're not entirely wrong, considering this adapts the start of Volume FIVE of the manga. As a result, there's heaps of backstory alluded to, and major story beats are told rather than shown. Also, tons of supporting characters are barely introduced. I can't help but wonder what somebody completely new to the series would understand of it.

But on the other hand, this episode does try to fit in lots of awkward exposition, to the detriment of its actual story. This is supposed to be Chizuru's big entrance, and it feels like a complete afterthought. Urgh. It's only in the second half that it starts finding its footing, when Suichi's moody wandering through the city finally gets the space it needs to breathe (and I loved the wonderfully awkward end to the episode).

I'm sure that once this series gets a bit more underway, it will become much better. The source material is remarkable, after all. But the sudden jump midway into the story is sure to alienate most non-fans, which ain't good for a series with such a difficult subject matter. I really can't understand it : why not relate Suichi & Yoshino's relationship from the start ? This is just baffling.
(Disclaimer: Manga fan too)

The show only gets 11 episodes (The peril of Noitamina timeslot). I guess the production team did try to get some sort of story done, so they pick where there's going to be a lot of tension in it. They did try to lay the main groundwork, at least. Plus, although not quite introduced yet, supporting characters' personalities do come through for me.

I did like what I see so far, but I'll wait to make judgement myself.
 

Jhiday

Unrepentant Froggie
RPGnet Member
Validated User
I actually quite like that the setting in Fractale is so ambiguous : it feels richer that way. We only really got Clain's viewpoint, and he's obviously not typical. Presumably the next few episodes will develop the world and how it's really supposed to work, and that's fine with me.

Plus, although not quite introduced yet, supporting characters' personalities do come through for me.
Yeah, but that's because we know them. I worry what a newcomer would make of them.

I don't worry about the remainder of the series being good (it gets the characters right and the source material was very good to begin with), but this just doesn't feel like the right point to start. Oh, well.


Second episodes !

Puella Magi Madoka Magica #2 has Mami expositing the heck out of the setup... in a way that sounds a lot like she's lying through her teeth. This episode's fight scene is a bit more muddled than before, but it still looks deliciously creepy. And the music's still ace.

Dream Eater Merry #2 had the title character being very angsty... but the real high point of the episode was the subplot with a girl and her dream-creature friend. I complained last episode that the colors in the dream were too plain ; this time around they're doing it properly, resulting in a very chilly scene.

I'm still not sure I care about Merry and the MC, but the plot got my attention.


Oh, and I gave up on Starry Sky after the fourth episode. (I wanted to give it another arc to check whether the first guy was just a misstep.) It's miles better (less wangst !), but the characters are still generic archetypes and I really don't give a toss about those wankers.
 
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