It was just over a year ago that I started watching Fractale and yet i've only just managed to finish it. However, that is not to say Fractale was a bad show, I unfortunately had a lot on at this time last year and have only recently had the opportunity to get past episode 2! As a quick recap, Fractale is set in a future were most people are reliant on the "Fractale System" for almost everything, from earning a living to entertainment. Clain, a young boy and the main character, is a part of the Fractale System but prefers to live outside of it. Indeed, he is a huge vintage enthusiast and the contents his room, filled with current-day technology, is evidence of that. However, his casual life takes a bit of a turn when he encounters a girl from Fractale's church and learns of how the Fractale System is in danger of collapse.
The animation in Fractale was variable. While backgrounds were often done in stunning detail, equivalent to that of a Studio Ghibli film, other things such as characters left a little bit more to be desired. While the character design was very good overall and often 'colorful', especially in Phryne and Nessa's case, this detail did not always make its way in to the animation and is quite noticeable on any mid to long range shots of characters. It wouldn't have taken much more effort to improve this and I am disappointed that it was not corrected in the blurays either. Screencaps further down this post illustrate just how beautiful the animation can be, while the screencap below shows how minor issues can bring it down.
Both the opening and ending themes were appropriate but radically different and unusually, [spoiler]relevant to the plot[/spoiler]! The opening, ハリネズミ (Harinezumi, Hedgehog) by 吾妻仁美 (Azuma Hitomi), is quite upbeat and techno, while the ending is the poem Down by the Salley Gardens, also sung by 吾妻仁美 (Azuma Hitomi), sometimes in Japanese and sometimes in English. Both the English and Japanese versions sound equally good unlike some Japanese artist's attempts to sing in English! I was somewhat disappointed by the opening animation in that it was just generated fractals rather than any actual animation, however in hindsight it is appropriate for the series and does link in to it, albeit briefly.
Background music was used infrequently and was normally quite quiet. However, when used it was appropriate and added well to the scene. This was especially apparent in any scenes involving the Temple.
Overall I have enjoyed Fractale. As a series that aired as part of the noitamina broadcast slot I expected a show that was less prone to common anime sterotypes and I was not let down in this respected. The plot seemed simple at first, but once the series got going I found myself guessing right up until the end about what direction the series may go next. In a way I am disappointed that I didn't continue writing per-episode summaries for this series now. The ending itself however was not quite what I was expected nor did it leave a huge sense of closure about some topics that were introduced late on such as [spoiler]Phryne's work at Fractale[/spoiler], Fractale would have certainly benefited from a post-Ending episode to help tie up outstanding questions. Nonetheless, you could still say that it did have a definitive ending for the the topics introduced early on, specifically the collapse of the Fractale System.
With all that considered, I am giving Fractale an overall rating of 4.5 out of 5. It has a few small flaws that could have been easily corrected but most of the other elements were outstanding and far above most other series. I would recommend Fractale to anyone looking for a decent plot-driven anime that dosen't succumb to common sterotypes.
I would like to thank UTW for subbing Fractale. The translation quality was excellent and the typesetting was also very good with the exception of the insert song in episode 9. There's a rumour that MangaUK will be releasing it in the UK and if so I will definitely be picking it up. There is also a light novel and manga series which I will be looking in to shortly, hopefully it will help answer a few questions that I have remaining.
Over the past few days, I've (unusually) had a bit of spare time. Madoka had been recommended to me by several people and the premise seemed interesting so I decided to get through it.
On the surface, Madoka seems like your typical magical girl series, with girls being granted magical powers in order to fight the forces of evil. A seemingly cute critter going by the name of Kyubey is able to grant power to those girls with magical potential in return for granting them any one single wish. In return, they must then fight witches, evil creatures that are responsible for murders and suicides. However, it's at this point that Madoka splits from a traditional magical girl plot line, ending up with something very dark and emotional.
Overall, i'm extremely impressed by Madoka. The plot kept me interested and was quite complex, with certain elements only being predictable moments before they occurred and others being completely unpredictable. The series does come to a nice well-reasoned conclusion while possibly leaving room for a second season.
The animation, while detailed and intricate, did suffer from frequent mistakes. This is however rather typical of the animation studio Shaft who, are known for their frequent mistakes. However, having seen the first episode from the BluRays, a lot of the animation has been tidied up and presumably the remaining episodes will also benefit from this. Therefore, the final BluRay/DVD animation should be of a high quality. The artwork used within the barriers of the Witches was crazy (but appropriate), another Shaft speciality.
The Opening and Ending themes where radically different. The opening, コネクト (Connect) by ClariS, was fast paced but had an element of sadness/desperation in it, especially when combined with the opening's animation. The ennding, Magia by Kalafina, fitted the darker elements of the show much better. However, both the opening and ending are good choices for setting the overall mood of the series. Background music seemed to be used somewhat sparingly, but when used, such as in fight scenes, it fitted perfectly.
While most of the characters featured where girls, this is a magical girl show. However, their personalties where quite wide ranging an each had their own unique reasoning for becoming a magical girl. The series didn't constantly follow Madoka either, often we viewed events through another character's eyes or even saw a flashback of theirs, which often helped to explain current events or revealed vital back-story.
Overall, i've found Madoka to be an excellent show. While I have watched a few magical girl series, such as Nanoha which I did enjoy quite a bit, Madoka strongly differentiates itself from the typicalities of the genre. Most magical girl series are about magical girls fighting evil monsters, and winning. Madoka on the other hand has no problems with making the magical girls loose and putting them through some extremely emotionally testing events. Another difference from the genre is that Madoka had a very strong plot that was hard to predict, rather than the straightforward fight an enemy, fight a bigger enemy plot style. All of these differences really helped enhance the show and made for a very interesting viewing experience. Madoka is definitely not an 'enjoyable' series because of it's dark nature, but it is certainly extremely interesting.
Overall, i'm giving Puella Magi Madoka Magica 4.5/5. It is certainly my favourite magical girl type of show and having now watched it I can understand why it has gained so much praise. Sales figures have recently come out for the first BluRay volume, it sold 53,000 copies in the first week and now holds the record for the most sales of a TV anime BluRay in a week (the previous record holder was Bakemonogatari with 51,000). Madoka has also gained a large Western fanbase and hopefully we'll see it's eventual licencing and release here in the West.
I would highly recommend Puella Magi Madoka Magica to any anime fan. It clearly demonstrates that just because a show falls into the magical girl genre, there's no reason not to have a complex, intricate plot and an overall dark feeling. Many thanks to Yesy for subbing up to episode 10, the translation was of a very high quality. Unfortunately, Yesy have not released episode 11 or 12 yet and I had to go with an alternative group in order to watch the finale.