Announcement wrote:The September issue of Kadokawa Shoten's Newtype magazine is announcing next week that Kannagi and Haruhi Suzumiya's Yutaka Yamamoto (a.k.a. "Yamakan") is directing the Fractale television anime series for Fuji TV's late-night Noitamina timeslot. Also involved are otaku scholar Hiroki Azuma (as story developer) and series script supervisor Mari Okada (Kuroshitsuji, Toradora!). Mandelbrot Engine created the original story. The illustrator Hidari (Uso-tsuki Mii-kun to Kowareta Maa-chan light novel) is creating the original character designs.
The story is set on an island at the far reaches of a continent where the "Fractale System" is on the brink of collapse. A boy named Kurain embarks on a journey to search for Furyune — a girl who disappeared, leaving behind only a pendant. Kurain will eventually learn the secrets of the "System."
The series will premiere next January with animation by A-1 Pictures with Yamamoto's studio Ordet. The anime's future website already has an address. Fuji TV producer Kōji Yamamoto (Paradise Kiss, Honey and Clover II) had indicated on Friday that Azuma, Okada, and Yutaka Yamamoto were working together on a January Noitamina series, and science-fiction critic Tsunehiro Uno had already revealed in May that these three were working on a television anime.
It doesn't hurt if what is probably one of the most notable and certainly the most ambitious anime this season has its own thread. Out of all Winter 2011 titles the one I've anticipated the most (even more than Kimi ni Todoke's second season) is without doubt the Fractale. I've been interested since I first heard of it and new tidbits of information have only raised my interest in it. (I'm also transcribing one interview not avalaible on net that discusses Eva briefly too!)
Rundown of the basics courtesy of ANN:
Starts: Fuji TV, Friday, January 14 at 12:45 a.m. JST
Studio: A-1 Pictures Inc.
* Director: Yutaka Yamamoto (Yamakan)
* Series Composition: Mari Okada
* Music: Sōhei Kano
* Original story: Hiroki Azuma
* Original Character Design: Hidari
* Character Design: Masako Tashiro
* Yu Kobayashi as Clain
* Kana Hanazawa as Nessa
* Minami Tsuda as Phryne
* Shintaro Asanuma as Sunda
* Yuka Iguchi as Enri
The story takes place in an island, where a "Fractale System" is beginning to collapse. One day, Clain finds an injured girl called Phryne under a cliff. She disappears leaving a pendant. Crane sets out for a journey with the girl-shaped avatar Nessa to look for Phryne and discovers the secret of the Fractale System.
I have few clear reasons why I'm interested in Fractale.
What initially really got me interested was the heavy involvement by Hiroki Azuma, a philosopher, culture critic and public intellectual who has specialized in writing on otaku culture (he may be familiar for eva fans for his discussions on the series, in particular for the fantastic Anime or Something Like It: Neon Genesis Evangelion). His best known book probably is Otaku: Japan's Database Animals which was best seller in 2001 and very influential. It was eventually translated to english and as a matter of fact I'm reading it right now. It's certainly interesting, not least for detailing the ideologial shift in creation and consumption of narratives in anime and the huge influence NGE had on the development.
A publishing event—the highly influential best seller in Japan translated into English.
In Japan, obsessive adult fans and collectors of manga and anime are known as otaku. When the underground otaku subculture first emerged in the 1970s, participants were looked down on by mainstream Japanese society as strange, antisocial loners. Today otaku have had a huge impact on popular culture not only in Japan but also throughout Asia, Europe, and the United States.
Hiroki Azuma’s Otaku offers a critical, philosophical, and historical inquiry into the characteristics and consequences of this consumer subculture. For Azuma, one of Japan’s leading public intellectuals, otaku culture mirrors the transformations of postwar Japanese society and the nature of human behavior in the postmodern era. He traces otaku’s ascendancy to the distorted conditions created in Japan by the country’s phenomenal postwar modernization, its inability to come to terms with its defeat in the Second World War, and America’s subsequent cultural invasion. More broadly, Azuma argues that the consumption behavior of otaku is representative of the postmodern consumption of culture in general, which sacrifices the search for greater significance to almost animalistic instant gratification. In this context, culture becomes simply a database of plots and characters and its consumers mere “database animals.”
A vital non-Western intervention in postmodern culture and theory, Otaku is also an appealing and perceptive account of Japanese popular culture.
Fractale is the first time Azuma actually works in anime industry and the fact he wrote the original story makes me very excited and curious. His penchant on social criticism and analysis bleeds out even from the short synopsis: deeply immersed in the "database" character traits and storytelling tropes and at the same time hinting at deconstruction of some kind. On the other hand the premise of story is also charmingly traditional (paying it debts to Miyazaki's Laputa in particular) and has nice feeling of upcoming grand adventure.
Apparently Benoît Mandelbrot is actually relevant to the titular Fractale system which hopefully satisfies the scifi fan inside me
The second reason (and I'd watch Fractale for this alone) is the fact it's NoitaminA show. NoitaminA is in my opinion nothing less than the best and highest quality programming block in whole world and absolutely crucial focal point of mature and artistically worthy tv anime that targets adult audience (they famously started getting 20-something women into anime with H & C).
It's track record speaks for itself: both seasons of Honey & Clover, Nodame Cantabile, Ayakashi, Mononoke, Library Wars, Eden of the East, Tokyo Magnitude 8.0...
Their offerings from last year were Masaaki Yuasa's Tatami Galaxy, House of Five Leaves, Shiki and Kuragehime - out of which particularly the first two stand out as mature and in Tatami Galaxy's case very ambitious artistically. I haven't seen Shiki but other three were easily head above most shows of last year, helding up well NoitaminA's record of quality.
Fractale's partner in crime this winter is adaptation of beloved Hourou Musuko - also a show that is probably worth checking out.
The thing simply is: in order for show to air on NoitaminA it must have that something. The end result might be unremarkable or damn great but no vanilla anime show has a chance of airing on NoitaminA.
Fractale is NoitaminA show. Adjust your expectations accordingly.
Third big reason is also the factor that makes the show quite a wild card: Yamakan and his burning ambition and audaciousness.
Now if I ever were to make list of notable anime directors and divide them in such modest categories like God Tier, Great Tier, Good Tier (and maybe Shit Tier for balance) there would be Tier to which only Yamakan would belong: ??? Tier
As far as anime directors go I doubt anyone is more notable and visible as Yamakan with such small resume. Hideaki Anno made name himself long before Evangelion (even before grand success of Nadia and Gunbuster) in 1980s with his phenomenal animation on Nausicaä, Macross: Do You Remember Love? and Honneamise's climax. Miyazaki had been working for decades before the dawn of Ghibli in 1980s in many key productions of era from Horus to Heidi. Makoto Shinkai exploded on the scene with Voices of Distant Star but outstanding quality of his works was clear from the start.
Only (full*) series Yamakan has directed so far is Kannagi - which as popular as it is certainly isn't new Gundam or even Haruhi. Most notable thing he has done so far is of course the famous Hare Hare Yukai dance - and despite the fact he only directed the famous ED and two episodes (the phenomenal anime original episode Someday in the Rain being one of them) he is far, far more visible than the "real Haruhi director" and force behind Kyoani's key successes, Tatsuya Ishihara, to the point some people think Yamakan directed Haruhi's first season.
*Yamakan was sacked from Lucky Star after first 4 eps for reasons that are still unclear. Some say it was due to strange sense of comedic timing, problems staying up with the schedule or pissing off producers and sponsors. Knowing Yamakan's trollish and biting personality I suspect the last option
So in terms of anime Yamakan has so far made name of himself as director of "moe anime" (term I find quite nonsensical in any case) and especially as creator of many famous dances from Hare Hare Yukai to openings of Kannagi and Lucky Star (I must admit the man has knack for stuff like this). The presence of idol elements ain't very surprising given that the man is idol otaku.
More importantly however Yamakan has distinguished himself as one of the most vocal and ardent commentators on the industry (and criticizing/trolling his former employer Kyoto Animation) and excluding pure troll jobs like beheading Ui nendoroid (with hilariously predictable results) he comes off intelligent and perceptive with smart things to say and flair for true hoitytoity auteur theatricality.
Yamakan certainly is technically gifted director (I especially like his editing) with great ambitions - and now it looks like he has finally found the work to accompany his vision. In fact he has gone to the point of threatening to retire from the industry if Fractale flops. Act which speaks just as much about his confidence in the project as about his notable vanity.
He really is aiming high with Fractale:
- it will not target specialized otaku audience, meaning it will probably avoid all the major pitfalls that have plagued anime during last few years
- it will destroy Yamakan's reputation as director of "moe anime"
- There will be no dancing! (*gasp*)
- He feels his responsibility is no less than to "change anime"(!!)
Whether he will be succeed or not ambitious shows are as a rule far more interesting than ones that play it safe. And anime industry has churned out way too many that belong to latter category.
I really like what I've read of the manga so far (as is usual with anime original projects manga adaptation starts to run couple of months earlier in order to promote the upcoming anime).
Basically Fractale is what happens if you combine Laputa's famous meeting between boy and the girl floating down from the sky and GAINAX/Anno's classic Nadia: The Secret of the Blue Water with science fiction utopia crumbling apart with some of the weirdest designs I've seen in a while and replace cheery Jean with demotivated and apathetic (though not openly angsty) 00s post-NGE main character.
Nadia is the most apt comparison because they go to the point of "copying" Grandis Gang (down to character designs in case of Sanson & Hanson Mark II) and Clain is basically less optimistic and more lonely version of Jean. The emerging spirit of high adventure is another shared aspect and something anime has missed for ages. The combination of Azuma's scifi musings and classic feel of Laputa/Nadia era is most delightful in my opinion.
It isn't all that surprising either, given Yamakan's and Azuma's Anno fanboyism
So, these are the reasons why I'm interested in Fractale. At this point it's impossibly to say if it'll flop, be good but nothing special or truly phenomenal work. But at the very least it's something different from usual drudgery of anime from last years.
It would be preposterous of me just to offer my own hype as it's more important to draw your own conclusions. For that purpose here are the first three chapters of manga:
There's no telling how closely anime and manga will correspond with each other but it should give you the basic picture of what kind of work it seems to be shaping up into
I really love the concept art for this show, they have that lovely Ghibli (or maybe Sora no Woto?) feel:
It's a pity they changed character designs from Hidari's original artwork to such large extent. I really liked the violet hair schema with Phryne and Nessa.
AIRSHIPS FUCK YEAH
Anime designs look like this
Still nice but brown is a bit bland in comparison...oh well, Nessa is cute as ever. Phryne gets something of a Nausicaä vibe, especially in the scene where she is flying seen in weird PV/OP combination released today on Nico Nico Douga.
The new PV/OP with hypnotic Fractale patterns (account required)
Hmm, I think I really like the song and what I see. A1 Pictures can churn out some great animation when needed (Birdy Decode's sakuga nomnomnom)
And here are Yamakan interviews promised earlier in different thread with most relevant bits bolded:
This one is from Asahi.com
While many businesses go abroad to take advantage of low production costs, Yutaka Yamamoto is looking overseas for inspiration to jump-start what had once been considered an infallible Japanese product: anime.
The anime creator, who likens his trade to manufacturing, says he seeks to develop an equal standing with partners overseas.
"The bubble has burst" in Japan for the anime industry, Yamamoto said.
He said the reluctance of the anime industry to change its business practices has driven down wages, drained the creative spirit and consequently turned off many fans.
"It is becoming the norm to order some of our work to anime productions in China and South Korea. Not because we want to suppress our personnel costs, but rather because we are unable to find enough people to work (in Japan)," Yamamoto, 36, said.
He said that while the skills and quality of work produced in those countries are improving, "many of the works appear to have been influenced strongly by Japanese designs."
"I'm hoping that something that is typical of that country will come out," Yamamoto said.
Yamamoto's expectations come from watching the domestic industry become glutted with similar anime styles.
He joined an anime production company after graduating from college, and he helped to create such popular anime hits as "Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu" (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya) and "Lucky Star."
Three years ago, he started his own business, which today employs about 10 people.
But while he has found the work of his calling, he said he is facing a "block."
"There was a time when people were under the impression that anime makes money, and that anime is a culture that can gain respect worldwide," Yamamoto said. "But at the same time, the priority has been on quantity."
Working conditions have remained dire, and the industry has been hit by a chronic shortage of creators.
The recession exacerbated the animators' woes as sponsorships have shriveled since around 2007. With television broadcasters cutting their budgets, the anime industry has tried to make up for lost sales through DVD productions. But even that strategy has been undermined by illegal broadcasts on the Internet.
Another concern for the industry is a possible shrinking fan base. Estimates put the population of die-hard anime fans at around 150,000. But Yamamoto suspects the number now falls short of 100,000.
Part of the reason, Yamamoto said, is that producers, including himself, devoted too much of their energies in creating cutesy "moe" (budding)-type characters in hopes of making sure-sell products in an already small market.
"Although the otaku (geek) market is said to be a robust one, even the otaku are not immune to Japan's economic doldrums," Yamamoto said.
Yamamoto is now trying to think outside of the box.
Last year, he directed "Watashi-no Yasashikunai Senpai" (My mean senior colleague), a romance-comedy featuring popular teenage actress Umika Kawashima and comedian Satoshi Kanada.
Yamamoto said the experience reminded him of the importance of human interface.
"In anime, the division of labor has become the norm. And in some cases, one never meets other staff involved in the same project. That may be one reason for the current stagnant situation," Yamamoto said.
Yamamoto said his new way of thinking has helped to open up business opportunities. He joined hands with Good Smile Co., an anime character figurine maker, to create an anime DVD packaged as a promotional tool for an anime figurine.
His latest anime series, "Fractale," to be aired from Jan. 13 on Fuji Television Network Inc., will target non-anime fans and one-time fans who have shifted away from the genre.
"The anime industry is said to have become introverted. But our business is about providing something fun and exciting to people. I decided to stop being inward-looking," Yamamoto said.
Yamamoto said he hopes to create an interface with prospective fans overseas through such measures as adding subtitles to his works.
Nevertheless, he believes simply selling anime abroad is not enough. He said it is crucial for the domestic market to regain its vibrancy that will attract people overseas.
"I hope that we can develop an equal relationship with creators overseas, and not simply subcontract work. For that, we need to continue creating works that other people will be interested in," Yamamoto said.
More important and indepth one is one found from Patrick W. Galbraith's Otaku Encyclopedia. As far as I know this is not avalaible on internet so I had to transcribe this. Because it discusses Evangelion (as well as problems facing anime creators today) in part it's of some interest to those who have no interest in Fractale so I'm leaving this unspoilered so more people bother to read it. Parts directly relevant to Fractale (interview was conducted over a year ago so it isn't mentioned by name) are bolded. Also, Yamakan's definition of otaku is both most honest and hilarious I've ever read
Yamamoto Yutaka, or "Yamakan", was born 1974 in Osaka. He is among the most talented of Japan's new generation of anime directors and is known among otaku for directing the animated dance sequences in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Lucky Star, and Kannagi. After a mysterious brouhaha concerning his direction of Lucky Star in 2007, he was demoted and left Kyoto Animation to found Studio Ordet
PG: What anime do you respect?
YY: I wrote my graduation thesis at Kyoto University on Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke and the movie version of Anno's Neon Genesis Evangelion. These were epoch-making films. I don't think anyone in our generation will make an anime that moves the industry, Japan, and the world as these two did.
PG: So no anime will ever match these?
YY: I hope it will. I don't know what post-Eva anime is, but it's insulting to these masters if we don't try to make it. It's also irresponsible not to try and make work that resonates with our times. But no matter how you look at it, what can be done in anime has been. Genres, forms of expression, themes, characters, it's all been exhausted. So what can we do? Only copy, and add our own little bits along the way.
PG: Are you targeting otaku with your anime?
YY: I just want to make anime. I'm an otaku, so naturally similar people are attracted to my work, but I personally don't like it when otaku monopolize anime. Anime made by otaku for otaku, that sort of narrow conception isn't good. I want people who like anime, from the old to the young, watch my work.
PG: What does "otaku" mean to you?
YY: People who are unpopular with the opposite sex and blame that on the anime and games they love. I was that way, so I can say it. Otaku are people who don't get along well with others. In truth, it isn't my favourite word.
PG: What are otaku fans like?
YY: As an otaku I can say they're generally rude and selfish. It's tiring to be with them. Miyazaki Hayao, Anno Hideaki, and Okada Toshio all gave up. They aren't trying to communicate with otaku but rather to be rid of them entirely. The worst thing about otaku is their tendency to think they're different from everyone else and cut others off to retreat into their own world. Maybe Miyazaki, Anno, and Okada just don't recognize that about themselves... if we abandon otaku now, it won't result in happiness for anyone. I can just come out and say it, "Otaku are annoying," but we still have to find some way to get along.
PG: Is your anime MOÉ?
YY: I say I make moé anime because it's convenient, but I have no idea what moé is. I can't deny that some characters are moé, but if we try and define those elements we end up creating separate camps of fans that cut themselves off from one another. I'm not criticizing moé anime, and it's fine if moé elements are there, but making it on purpose and categorizing it isn't good. Anime as anime is just fine, so we should leave it that way.
PG: At Kannagi event in 2008, you announced you're married. Are you still an otaku?
YY: Yes, I'm not all that sociable. For me, being an otaku is a persecution complex, like everyone despises me. I don't think Okada's generation felt that. Otaku don't have the power to change society or create culture the way Okada wanted them to. Otaku are people with complex about being otaku. The same way I hope for another anime masterpiece to emerge, I hope that otaku become stronger.
PG: Anime suh as Haruhi were instrumental in the phenomenom of otaku making pilgrimages to certain locations (seichi junrei). DId you expect that?
YY: To some degree it was predictable because seichi junrei is part of otaku culture. I myself did it as a student, going to Higashi-Koganei in search of Ghibli. But it wasn't my intention. If you draw settings from your imagination, you end up with Doraemon or Sazae-san, with their boring, uniform backgrounds. Anime is better if we add a sense of reality to the unreal.
PG: Is your use of idol similar, like giving reality to movement? For example, when you used the group Berryz Kobo as a basis for the Haruhi dance.
YY: No, it's because I like idols. They're like water, food, and air, something I can't live without. I always thought I wanted to make an anime idol dance. Just doing it had meaning, and that is something I can take pride in. Forgive me for that.
PG: How do you define idol?
YY: If you translate "idol" into Japanese, it is "image". Like an image of Christ. And when you say image, it means something that's not real. It's shrouded in lies. Communal worship of the image is what creates an idoru. An idoru is about remaining as close to the image in the minds of the believers as possible. I want idol remain wrapped in lies, and I don't care what the real person is doing. In a way it's a sad existence, but that tragedy is also appealing. It's similar for anime characters. Anime is a lie, drawings of a human form. But when wrapped in the right lies, the character can create a sense of moé in the viewer.
PG: What do you want to do from now?
YY: As a creator, I have a responsibility to change anime. We need to stop categorizing, suppress the tendency to cut ourselves off from others in the community, and liberate anime and bring it to the masses. If we don't then we will continue to retreat into smaller groups watching more specialized anime until we perish.
PG: What is coming up for you?
YY: I have new anime in 2010. I can't say anything detailed, but it will be an original story. I want it to be a work that overthrows the "moé anime Yamamoto Yutaka" image. There will be no more dancing in my anime. I'm also working as a critic, writing and lecturing.
Whatever the results will be I'm sure the ride will be fascinating. So, who is going to watch Fractale this winter?