As an avid anime viewer, I’ve always had a deep sense of admiration with regards to how many of the shows express their ideas through its art style and the music that accompanies it. I love how anime shows aren’t afraid to be unconventional in terms of how they present themselves to viewers when it comes to exposition and characterization, it really pushes the boundaries of both visual ingenuity and creative storytelling. For my first anime review, I’m going to be talking about a personal favorite of mine, FLCL (or Fooly Cooly). This anime was produced by Gainax, a studio that is famous for producing notable works such as, Gurren Lagann, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt. When I was first getting into anime about eight years ago, I decided to go for a short series to begin with so I could slowly immerse myself to the idiosyncrasies of this medium rather than getting overwhelmed at the very start. After reading that FLCL was only 6 episodes long, I thought to myself that this would be a perfect entry point for me.
While I do consider this to be a magnum opus in the world of animation, I am hesitant to recommend this to first-time anime viewers. Some scenes are packed with so much information that it usually takes multiple viewings to coherently formulate an opinion on it. Hell, I’ve watched FLCL more than ten times over the last few years, and I still walk away with something new to think about. This anime doesn’t really have a clear-cut plot or structure that can easily be explained. It’s episodic nature has various different themes ranging from, the awkward years of puberty, abandonment issues, and space conspiracies, all of which are open to personal interpretation. But if you ask me, I’d say that FLCL is a very poignant coming-of-age story about maturity, opening yourself up to others, and stepping out of your comfort zone. Even though the story is extremely obtuse, it really has very well-written and complex characters.
FLCL- Official English Clip – Haruko Arrives with a BANG! on DVD & BD 2.22.11. Dir. Kazuya Tsurumaki, Shoji Saeki, Takeshi Ando, and Masahiko Otsuka. Kazuya Tsurumaki, Shôji Saeki, Takeshi Ando, Masahiko Otsuka. Funimation, 14 Feb. 2011. Web. 9 Oct. 2016.
In the opening episode, the first character that the audience is introduced to is a cynical and snarky 12-year-old Japanese boy named, Naota Nandaba. Internally, Naota feels very discontent with his life because he says that everything that goes on around him is normal and that nothing really exciting ever happens to him. After that brief moment of introspection, a licentous and pink-haired woman nearly kills Naota when she rams her yellow Vespa (scooter) straight at him in a head-on collision. She then brings him back to life by performing CPR, and then proceeds to bash his head vigorously with her bass guitar, which ends up leaving Naota with a phallic-looking bump on his forehead. The symbolism of the bulge coming out of his head can bear many different meanings, but I thought it mostly explored adolescence, which can be a very tumultuous and perplexing period in anyone’s life.
FLCL Manga Scenes. Dir. Kazuya Tsurumaki, Shoji Saeki, Takeshi Ando, and Masahiko Otsuka. Kazuya Tsurumaki, Shôji Saeki, Takeshi Ando, Masahiko Otsuka. MrRawrBadger, 16 Jan. 2011. Web. 9 Oct. 2016.
Much to his bewilderment, he later finds this peculiar lady having dinner with his father and grandpa and that she’s planning to live in his house as a housekeeper. Once he gets back in his bedroom, Naota confronts this mysterious woman by asking her personal questions regarding her background. She then reveals to him that her name is Haruko and that she’s an alien. To put his mind at ease, Naota decides to go visit and talk to her brother’s ex-girlfriend, Mamimi at a bridge that sits along a river. After they briefly converse with one another, two robots spring up from their heads and begin to fight each other. Before the two robots could wreak any more havoc, Haruko arrives in her Vespa, and smashes one of the robots on the head with her guitar. During this particular scene, Naota briefly conveyed a child-like sense of wonder towards Haruko. He revealed in an internal monologue that he was in a state of awe at how much she reminded him of his brother at that moment, who was the only adult in his life that he truly trusted. She initially comes off as a petulant annoyance towards him, but Haruko slowly becomes a very dear person to Naota as the series progresses.
FLCL – Bridge Scene. Dir. Kazuya Tsurumaki, Shoji Saeki, Takeshi Ando, and Masahiko Otsuka. Kazuya Tsurumaki, Shôji Saeki, Takeshi Ando, Masahiko Otsuka. Rocket Chan, 1 Feb. 2013. Web. 9 Oct. 2016.
Another character that I mentioned earlier is Mamimi Samejima. She’s a quirky 17-year-old girl and the ex-girlfriend of Naota’s brother. She usually skips classes, smokes cigarettes, and spends most of her time alone under the bridge. Ever since Naota’s brother moved away, she’s been making slightly sexual advances towards him, which has Naota feeling confused and conflicted since he’s still essentially a child. Even though Naota’s brother, Tasuku, never shows up at any point in FLCL, he is very central to both Naota and Mamimi’s development as characters. When Naota’s brother moved away to America to pursue a baseball career, it left both of them feeling vagabond. Not having a brotherly figure around at a very important point in his life made Naota feel as if he was being left behind and forgotten. I think that Naota also feels as if he’s living under his brother’s shadow since he only serves as a fantasy of his brother to Mamimi, which he accepts since she doesn’t appear to have any other friends in her life, and they both share a mutual sense of respect and fondness towards Tasuku.
FLCL – “I Love You.” Dir. Kazuya Tsurumaki, Shoji Saeki, Takeshi Ando, and Masahiko Otsuka. Kazuya Tsurumaki, Shôji Saeki, Takeshi Ando, Masahiko Otsuka. NebulaVolt, 30 July 2011. Web. 9 Oct. 2016.
As for the visuals, this anime is a feast for the eyes. Each frame is bursting with life, and the animation is slick and incredibly fluid. This was jarring at first since some of the anime shows that I’ve watched after FLCL (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Naruto, Soul Eater) come off as choppy and stiff by comparison even though they’re pretty good as well. Despite coming out in the year 2000, I still consider FLCL to be the gold standard when it comes to overall aesthetic in anime. These incredible visuals are accentuated by an engrossing soundtrack by a J-rock band called, The Pillows. In most other anime shows (and shows in general), I get the impression that the music being used is mainly an afterthought and not really emphasized that much. But in FLCL, the music really does shine since each track adds a lot of emotional undertones and layered complexity to each scene; it does a great job of making both the turbulent and melancholic moments in the show feel endearing and aurally stimulating.
All in all, I think this is an anime that is definitely worth experiencing at some point if you consider yourself an anime enthusiast. FLCL oozes with stylistic flair with each passing second, and it’s also thematically engrossing and explores the fears and anxieties that comes with becoming a teenager. If you’ve watched this anime before, I’d love to hear your thoughts on FLCL as well. Thanks for stopping by. Stay fresh!