The Fractale Scandal And Its Implications

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 characters.

The setting.

The background.

The “mecha.”

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.

Insular Arrogance

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.

We clear?

J Sensei

About J Sensei

Blogger, writer, linguist, former Japanese> English translator, rusty in French, experienced in Japanese, fluent English native. Writing for and various blogs. Skype: jeremiah.bourque (messages always welcome). E-mail: [email protected]
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10 Responses to The Fractale Scandal And Its Implications

  1. Kylaran says:

    I can see why this is a culture blog because it seems like you know very little about the animation industry.

    Every single blame you pin on Yamamoto should be placed on the Fractale Production Committee, which most likely consists of the members hired by the corporate sponsors of the animation. What the producer(s) of a show do is that they contact, coordinate, and fund the various branches involved in getting a series out to the public, including but not limited to: anime production, staff selection (depending on the amount of freedom given to the director to choose his own staff), production schedule, client approval, profit/investments, and advertising.

    The only thing that Yamamoto is in charge of would most likely be anime production (possibly staff selection); everything else falls in the hands of people with more power than the director. In fact, Yamamoto must work within the borders of the contracts established by the producers, which often include leaving the broadcasting and merchandise rights out of the animation studio’s hands.

    I do agree that Yamamoto is not the most humble of directors, but his arrogance is only tangentially related to the actual problem at hand.

  2. Yumeka says:

    I agree that the people who want to watch Fractale legitimately shouldn’t be punished because of what some pirates choose to do. The companies want to stop illegal methods of downloading the show by taking away fans’ only legal method of watching it? That really makes no sense.

    Cloning Miyazaki elements doesn’t hamper my enjoyment of Fractale since I enjoy Miyazaki’s work, but I agree that the show isn’t as “cliche-free” as I thought it would be.

  3. cyshtoph says:

    Now, isn’t it ironic? Now Americans know how the rest of the world felt when American anime industry started streaming anime for their viewers only. They started taking down most popular fansub sites that provided subs and scans in English with no regards that some shows were licensed in USA only, and in dubbed version too.

    It’s funny how both them and the Japanese doesn’t want to let people from across the globe pay them for what they want to pay.. and it would only require designing one universal system of payment for online content. Thank to those ‘tantrums’, as you’ve called them, obnoxious activists (or pirates) such as horriblesubs (in opposition to Crunchyroll) will always be present. It’s becoming a serious matter. Most likely it will be game poorly played, just like has shown.

  4. Mina says:

    Erm, if it is truly not legally viewable in the USA, why is it on hulu?

  5. J Sensei J Sensei says:

    Oversight? ^^ Seriously, this doesn’t sound like a well planned thing here. More like a fit of pique. If it has already blown over without my being on top of it, all the better.

  6. J Sensei J Sensei says:

    I think you have an excellent point. When pirates are more consistent than the legits, legitimate business can only suffer. As Toyota likes to say, it’s a lot easier to keep a customer than to create a new one. Losses may never be recouped. But if a Japanese company thinks American business is pure cashing in, and individual creators think that it’s sullying the craft, we will continue to see “kodomo mitai” (childish) outbreaks like this.

    I’ll always pick the cool professionalism when push comes to shove.

  7. to be honest, i heard a lot of japanese traditional stories and new thing such as slang words from my japanese friends, but i never know about this one, i will ask more detail about it.

  8. J Sensei J Sensei says:

    I realize this is a late reply but, to Kylaran: I did question, as I wrote this post, if I should cite the production committee specifically, but there was one point of ignorance where I didn’t want to tread: I have no idea if the director’s part of that committee or not. That prevented me from venturing there.


    Matters of bureaucracy aren’t really the problem here. The attitude itself is very much the problem at the root of the issue. An attitude that says “this is too good for Americans to watch” and blaming an American company for not being able to control internet piracy is entirely consistent with the tone the director has pushed. In other words, he echoes it and it echoes him, so I did not bother to drown the story in issues of process.

    I really feel no shame at all to sticking to what I know and not making wild speculation about what I don’t. I know what the director said, and I know what the company collectively did, and how they further relate, this I do not know.

    You’re right, though – this is a culture blog. It’s not my job to miss the forest by staring too much at one tree. Nor is it my desire to point out how I didn’t say Yamamoto decided the show couldn’t air, but rather, that he decided to hold a particular position – and whether that position influenced matters, I did not speculate. But that is too fine a point; it’s the attitude I take issue with more than any specific person or group of persons.