A Sad, Infuriating Spectacle
My experiences with the new anime Fractale began innocently enough with this article in the Asahi Shimbun (official romanization; ‘shinbun’ in text but ‘shimbun’ as spoken in Tokyo dialect).
Long story short, director Yutaka Yamamoto sees a glut of formulaic “moe” anime that directors like himself are pressured to make because that brings in reliable dollar bills, like “the formula” in romance novels or “the formula” in action movies. He thinks this has made creators not want to work in Japan and has led to a critical shortage of real creators. So, he looks to China and Korea for creativity, since Japan is a dry fossil (or more so).
Late in the article, Fractale is mentioned. He’s pitching this towards non-anime fans and people who were once fans and who have dropped out of anime.
So then I watched it, and…
Fractale: Miyazaki Clone
I don’t write these words lightly, but good God, people!! This is a Miyazaki clone.
The French cultural influences (police are “securite”).
It goes all the way down to specific behavioral mannerisms and specific dialog styles.
It walks like a clone, it quacks like a clone… it’s a clone.
I don’t have time to put down links for all this stuff, but go and Google, oh, Nausicaa, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Porco Rosso, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke and things like that. Oh, and Totoro. You can find a Wiki on the director himself and his famed style here.
The only thing Fractale is doing differently is in that some sort of holographic people vibe and pieces of advanced computer technology (in a world that looks rural 1910 otherwise) takes the place of where Miyazaki himself would use magic, or spirits, or some other fantastical element.
This is creativity? This is a revival of Japan’s anime industry?
I mean, yeah, I can see how people who saw Totoro as a kid and haven’t seen a thing since might find this nostalgic but… man.
Anyway, this story has a third act.
Americans: No Fractale For You
Hitotsu! Funimation was supposed to air a translated simulcast of Fractale for American audiences before even most of Japan would get to see it. (That’s not hard – outside the Tokyo area, Japanese viewers might have to see it on satellite, with an up to 40 day wait.)
Hitotsu! (Explanation of term & use) So English fansubbers ripped Fractale episode 1 off the stream (that is, the Funimation stream) and illegally distributed it.
Hitotsu! Even as Funimation puts its anti-piracy team in motion, the Fractale production committee hereby declares: since this episode is in the wild, you have let us down, Funimation, and you may not broadcast this anymore. So there.
Americans, no Fractale for you.
Unless, of course, you pirate it.
Aside from obvious jabs I could make, like referring to Ahab and certain white whales, I see a trend here.
Now, there’s no question that the Fractale creators have every right to do this, as self-destructive and childish as it may be. If I thought that harr harr harr, a pirate’s life is for me, I’d fansub myself. I’m a more than good enough translator. I don’t. It’s not legal. I don’t lend any support to it… and I know legitimate translators, too.
But that’s not the point.
Here we have, at the drop of a hat, a complete banning of the anime for Americans. I mean, what, they didn’t think piracy takes place? Do you think Japanese viewers in non-Tokyo areas typically wait 40 days to see these shows? Do you? They have ultra high speed internet in spades in that country, and Japanese people are not shy about using it, but the studios aren’t demanding a crackdown on that.
Perhaps Director Yamamoto is so focused on a revival of the Japanese anime industry that he really did not take much convincing to decide that Americans should not be privileged to watch his show. If so, that’s a terrible message to send to the rest of the world.
Americans are not the bad guys here. The people who were legitimately logging onto Funimation’s website to view a professional localization of a new anime with high billing, not least of which from Director Yamamoto himself, should not be punished because unrelated people decided to pirate. It isn’t grounds for a temper tantrum. Everyone else’s stuff gets pirated too, but they understand that they are conducting a business.
Singling out Americans is not sound business, nor is it just.
Maybe We’re Not Missing Much
I appreciate what this guy’s trying to do, but I’ll say it again: it’s a Miyazaki clone. It reeks of clone-ness. You can’t impress a serious appreciator of Japanese culture by cloning and calling it originality. In fact, my appreciation makes my ability to call a clone a clone, all that much more refined.
So my sympathy is out the window.
Context: Yamamoto publicly chewed out his own employer when he was working on Haruhi (yes it was about the Endless Eight reality loop, but still), and he was fired when working on the very moe Lucky Star. So he’s a known malcontent. Perhaps the fact he’s been hired again proves what he said about a lack of creators to be true, otherwise he’d never get any work in Japan again.
I just wish he’d stuff this attitude in his pocket.
Creation, good. Tantrum, bad.