Naota is a regular twelve year old kid who idolizes his brother and lives in the suburbs. When a hurricane of a woman runs him over with her Vespa and smashes him with her bass guitar, Naota is forced to confront his relationship with adulthood.
Naota Nandaba is convinced that his life is nothing special. This feels more like a refusal than a lack of understanding. It seems pretty clear that his single parent household with the eccentric dad and the fake maid from outer space is not anything normal. But it’s not just that Naota refuses to see, he refuses to partake. He is part of the baseball team, but never swings. He is friends with many of the kids, but never plays. He is interested in some of the girls in the show, but he never says anything about it. He is obsessed with the idea of being an adult, possibly as a rejection of his childish father, but this makes him standoffish. He seems like he is in a constant state of being uncomfortable or being embarrassed. Naota is the only resistance that we get in the show to the wild things that are happening but, slowly, over time he gives in and is just as caught up as everyone else in the show.
Haruko Haruhara is a tornado of mischief, chaos, and sexual tension. It feels like she is the person in the room that draws all of the eyes. Mostly because she speeds around in her Vespa and crank starts her bass guitar like a chainsaw, but even without any of that, she is noteworthy. She is easily the loudest character in the show, almost annoyingly so. No one takes priority over her. If she wants something, there is nothing that can stand in her way to get that. Running someone over either literally or in confrontation has no consequences. She is the Tasmanian Devil with intrigue and sophistication that puts her on the more interesting side of characters we have watched lately.
Mamimi Samejima has my single favorite line in the show, “If I don’t do it, I’ll overflow.” She is in love with Naota’s brother, who left for university life in the United States. Because she can’t express her love for the brother, she pours all of her love into Naota. It feels highly inappropriate, not just because Mamimi is much older than he is but also because he often does not want it. She is a girl who has a lot of pain and loneliness. Honestly, a large part of why this review is delayed is because of her character. She reminds me a lot of myself. There are times where all the things you want but can’t have, emotional instability, or just confidence issues just feel like they swell up in your body. There comes a point where everything on the inside has to come out. Mamimi does not have effective outlets. She does not have people who support her. She struggles with herself and her story in FLCL is the journey to find someone to save her.
I am not a huge fan of rollercoasters. They bang you around and having people scream into your ear from behind is almost never fun for me. FLCL is the perfect kind of roller coaster. All of the physical jerking around becomes mental and I can lower the volume on characters screaming in front of me. But the show had the same feeling as the ride. There was near constant stimulation, if not too much, and even the scenes where action slowed down, there was a lot of emotional groundwork that made FLCL really exciting to watch. I often felt if I was not paying full attention that something would go unnoticed, even though a lot of the references went over my head. The show was so fast that you needed to be glued to the screen. The speed was a weapon to keep you hostage to the show. But the speed was part of the thrill. We ride roller coasters because it feels a little dangerous, a little crazy, and the rush we get is a thrill. I was impressed at how FLCL was able to capture this feeling. Somewhere in the madness that Haruko brings to the show, the lightning fast action scenes, and the lulls that create all kinds of anticipation, I found myself at the end of the six episodes out of breath and coming down from the high off the ride. But thinking, “Wow, I should really do that again.”
There are a number of ideas brought up in FLCL, but for the sake of avoiding spoilers, I want to talk about the one that stood out the most to me. I originally was going to talk about two to three
There is a special power that comes with being lonely. Something about us struggles to be alone. We always work our way back towards people, and often back towards people who we think can save us from the issues we are dealing with. Mamimi was so lonely after Naota’s brother left that this power attracted her towards anyone who she thought could take away the pain. I want to avoid talking about how she goes about finding someone to save her… more because it is a bit odd, rather than a spoiler. But it is incredibly clear that Mamimi is not a healthy person. Aside from smoking, her mind is distressed. Watching her shift from crutch to crutch, hoping that someone will change her life, is disappointing. I know from personal experience that looking for personal change in others is not healthy. There are lots of people who are able and willing to help others in life, but a dependency like Mamimi displays is problematic at best. So while we have this magnetic power to bring ourselves closer to others who we think will help us, understanding that and balancing independence is something that is always interesting to me. Taking that into account FLCL took a great look at the kinds of relationships that form out of this attraction.
I would be really shocked if many of my readers drove manual cars. I don’t know the first thing about manual cars myself, but I do know that FLCL only has two gears; second gear and fifth gear. We slowly cruise through downtown Mabase until we switch into high gear and tear across suburbia at Autobahn speeds. Police chase us, we lose them, and then we destroy our transmission by slamming back into second gear when, more often than not, the episode ends. This sounds like a bad thing, but what about the thrill? For anyone who has driven cars at high speed, the stakes are bigger. Any twitch of the wheel sends the car much further across the road than before and the show is not exempt from that. You want to go fast? Every frame matters more. Your dialog better be funnier. The contrasts better be clearer. FLCL wants to live fast and it can handle the speed. I genuinely think almost any other show would crash and burn but we reach the finish line before we know it and blow pretty much any competition out of the water.
Every once in a while I see videos of people doing speed typing challenges. They get hundreds of words a minute and I sit here wondering if I even break forty words in an hour. For those who monitor my posting schedule, the answer is no. FLCL was a lot like those speed typers. Images race across the screen like you are in the front row of a NASCAR race. It was so jarring at first that I had to take a break after the first episode. I really had to stop watching the show so that I could let my mind catch up with everything that was happening, then prepare for more of that to happen. Because not only is the animation fast, but it is highly surreal. Giant items get pulled out of people’s heads, robots are painted as dark angels, and Haruko does anything from veiled sex scenes to setting up space debris to be hit back into outer space like she is mid baseball game. The show is from 2000, so the colors are more pastel than we are used to seeing with modern shows, but I really liked how darkness was used in this context. A single cigarette would be lit to warm up an entire screen. These kinds of small details and playing with colors and moods are so interesting to me. I have been pretty obsessed with the use of color in movies and shows since I watched the movie La La Land (not an anime) with my, now, ex-girlfriend years ago. So seeing these interesting plays on action and color was super fun and sets FLCL aside from the recent shows that I have been reviewing in a very positive way.
“I am an alien,” Haruko says, grinning. To which I responded, “What the heck?” FLCL decided that explaining what is going on is people who use twelve episodes in a season. Our suburban town of Mabase is the home of a new and ominous “Medical Mechanica” building that looks a lot like someone undercooked a loaf of bread and just left it at the top of a giant hill overlooking the town. There are no entrances or exits to this building, but everyone seems to know that they make machines. So to take stock, we have a mysterious facility, a wild woman claiming to be an alien, and an absent brother studying in America. Now let’s add in wild contusions coming out of our main character. He grows horns out of the front of his head, he grows cat ears, and it’s not just him. People around him seem to be sprouting wild things from their bodies that need to be dealt with, either by Naota or the intergalactic space police that keep popping up. Yet, aside from all the things that actively happen in front of us, the world is always moving. There is family drama occurring in the lives of side characters. They have lives that take place outside the show that we catch up on in the few moments of the show that we aren’t traveling at lightspeed. I really appreciate how this makes the world feel alive. This isn’t just a story about Naota, this is a world that breathes, even if it is between wild sprints.
Somewhere in the world, the members of AC/DC are saluting FLCL, because this soundtrack rocks. Maybe not the kind of rock that my dad idolized in the 80’s, but pretty close. the pillows is a rock band somewhere at the intersection of classic 70’s and 80’s rock and the “Indie/Alternative for sad bois” playlist that one of my former residents shared with me when I was his resident assistant. And they were the perfect band for the show. Rock was the perfect choice for FLCL too. Not only does Haruko carry around a giant bass drum that she pulls that starts like a chainsaw, but the fast paced and action packed nature of the show just screams for light headbanging and foot tapping. Listening to the soundtrack outside the show feels so different than watching it in the show however. The pace of the animation and the wild nature of the show makes everything feel faster and harsher, lending itself to the heavy strumming of the electric guitar. Hearing the music on its own takes you out of the adrenaline filled, concert like, environment, and into your living room. Here you are walking around doing this and that, bouncing to the songs in your melancholy. The album reminds me of a time where I would pretend to read in the living room while I just absentmindedly listened to the music my dad was playing. Flipping pages after a little while with no real aim other than to be in the space where everyone else is while the music is on and everyone is doing their own thing. It’s an album that perfectly fits a character who dislikes his life for no particular reason and refuses to acknowledge the fantastic nature of what his life has become in an effort to be more adult-like. I can’t say that the same person who would sit in that living room is excited to grow older, but I am excited to listen to this soundtrack on repeat for the next couple weeks.
|Category||Points Given||Points Possible|
|I am interested in the characters in the story||5||6|
|I liked the emotion the story made me feel||5||6|
|The story brings up interesting ideas||5||6|
|I felt the pacing of the show was appropriate||4||4|
|The animation in the show is beautiful||4||4|
|I am interested in the world that the story takes place in||3||3|
|I felt that the music added to the story in a meaningful way||3||3|
FLCL made my top ten favorite animes. Emotional distress at lightspeed with witty dialog is the perfect combination to shatter my expectations of what a comedy can be. The sci-fi elements are fun, intriguing, and leave you wanting more. On top of that, there really is no excuse for you not to watch. Newer anime fans might miss some references like I did, but it is still easily enjoyable and worth your three hours of time.