“It’s FLIctonic KLIpple Waver Syndrome. An adolescent psychological skin-hardening syndrome. A common affliction where children grow horns from trying too hard. Okay, I lied.”
FLCL is set in a simple Japanese town where nothing interesting happens, and nothing remarkable ever occurs. However, it does have a Scientific Laboratory in the shape of an Iron looming over the entire town, the Laboratory lets of a gush of steam once a day at the same time. Aside from this, the inhabitants of the small, unnamed town are bored of the town they live in.
The protagonist, a young boy named Naota is a withdrawn, frustrated junior-high student who has a strong relationship with his older brother’s ex-girlfriend Mamimi who’s not only flirty but somewhat vacant as well. Along with Naota’s friend, the world they inhabit couldn’t be any less interesting. That is until rumours of the Vesper start circulating at school, and Naota falls fowl of this rumour. Haruhara Haruko appears from nowhere on her yellow vesper and literally hits Naota with a bass guitar.
This causes Naota to have an unusual bump to his head; it’s as big and in the shape of a horn. Yet, it will go away when pressure is applied. With this in mind Naota goes to get it checked at the hospital, before he knows it Haruhara is attacking him and she is employed as the family housekeeper. Not forgetting the family robot that escapes from the horn on Naota’s head.
If not strange enough, they are the bits that are easily explained. Defining FLCL is next to impossible, it spits on genres and ignores all staple conventions of anime, takes itself very seriously and not seriously at all. Flicks between being an anime and being a manga and at all points defies logic. By the end of the first episode Naota has grown an robot from his head, fended of his brother’s ex, been attacked by a guitar wielding alien on a vesper and dealt with his zine loving father. Not forgetting his adolescent thoughts and problems.
FLCL is incredibly fast paced, and holds back no punches when it comes to divulging plotlines. However, whilst it moves incredibly fast, it can sometimes feel very slow. In a similar way that Serial Experiments Lain feels very slow per episode, an incredible amount of information is discovered. Unlike Lain, FLCL is a 6 episode series and the slow parts feel slow, but more information is uncovered throughout those periods than during any of the action packed parts of the show. This is due to the very nature of Haruhara Haruko, who reveals no information about herself or her mission, but simply speaks her mind, but actually says very little.
For those who like closure, FLCL is certainly not a show for them. It’s far too punk rock and rebellious to give closure to the lead characters. It doesn’t even reveal much about anything, it just happens and that’s accepted by the characters and he viewers.
One recurrent theme throughout all episodes is the transition that the main cast are going through in their lives. These junior-high schoolers are all adolescent and trying to comprehend and understand new feelings. This isn’t just restricted to discovering sexuality – which is a huge theme; but also in trying to become an adult whilst remaining a child. Characters who fail to understand this will end up becoming more confused by the situation and Haruhara only attempts to further confuse the situation.
Music plays a huge part in FLCL, as it does in many people’s lives. Throughout there are cultural references to Paul McCartney, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Rage Against the Machine, Filler, Van Halen, Anna Nichole Smith, Evils, Jimi Hendrix, and plenty of references to Japanese music. Throughout the soundtrack is performed by The Pillows, whose logo appears on the vesper that Haruhara drives. There are also plenty of cultural references to Hamtaro, Tom & Jerry and in the English version of the show MTV.
To understand some of the puns, a basic knowledge of the Japanese language is useful. Throughout the term mouth to mouth is applied for kissing amongst other things, in Japanese the “th” sound doesn’t exist, so it would sound like mouse to mouse. This is used in a few episodes where mouse outfits will be seen.
The translation from the Japanese show has been fairly faithful but some elements have been changed for localisation purposes. This has been widely discussed in the past and for better or worse it’s in this version of the show. Due to the pace of the show, unless a real fan of the Japanese show is watching, this localisation doesn’t detract from the quality at all.
The animation quality is brilliant as well. Considering this show isn’t far from hitting its tenth birthday, the show hasn’t aged much at all. The characters are all well designed, distinct and it’s impossible to confuse the characters on appearance, as they all look so different – even the supporting cast. The backgrounds are well drawn and brilliantly presented and the transition between the town and the mecha robots is smooth and natural. At no point is it obvious that the animation style has entirely changed – which it does. The CG robots look like they are in the same style as the rest of the show, which is unusual these days.
The extras are plentiful, with audio commentary, textless opening and endings, trailers, and interviews just to name a few. It’s well worth the £30 price tag.
FLCL, otherwise known as Fooly Cooly, evades genre, defies convention and has such little logic that understanding the show is simply intrinsic. It’s an experience that’s next to impossible to describe.