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FLCL: Nothing amazing happens here, everything is ordinary.
March 15, 2014 4:30 PM   Subscribe

' “Episode one, and a robot sprouts from a lump on a boy’s forehead. I certainly did not see that coming” (Tamplin 304). Director Tsuramaki was quoted in an interview, “I'd like you to think of FLCL as imagination being made physical and tangible, just as it is for me when I take whatever is in my head and draw it.” (Surkult). [FLCL, pronounced] Furi Kuri, or Fooly Cooly, keeps its audience on its toes waiting for the next bizarre turn of events. However, if the viewer pushes past the first layer – which can at first be confusing – they can reach the heart of this anime. This series is, quite simply, a coming of age story.' Of course, it's not really that simple, so let's dig in!

Kazuya Tsuramaki is the protégé of Hideaki Anno, who is best known for the series Neon Genesis Evangelion (previously). Tsuramaki's first show as director was this weird six episode OVA (original video animation) called FLCL, which is what we'll discuss now.

The series focuses on Nandaba Naota, a twelve-year-old boy on the verge of puberty living in the fictional, strange, and yet ordinary Japanese suburb of Mabase. The story begins when a strange energetic girl named Haruhara Haruko drives up on a Vespa and whacks him in the forehead with a heavily modified left-handed Rickenbacker bass guitar with a chainsaw start motor. by hitting Naota with her bass, she enabled him to pull things out of his head when he is stressed or in need of something, usually a guitar or robot. It is gradually revealed that Haruko is fighting a company named Medical Mechanica, which operates from a large building that looks like a clothes iron. Now that you have the general idea of what we're dealing with, let's start watching! The show was first licensed by Synch-Point, then FUNimation picked up the series and re-released the series on disc and streamed it for free online, with subtitles to boot.

Episode 1: Fooly Cooly (Furi Kuri) YouTube, Hulu
Fooly Cooly starts out with Naota walking home with his older brother’s ex-girlfriend, Mamimi. Out of the blue he is hit by an alien girl on a yellow Vespa bike carrying a 1976 Rickenbacker bass guitar. This all happens in the town of Mabase, dominated by the Medical Machine factory. The very next day Naota finds that the alien girl, Haruko, has been hired as the housekeeper at his father’s bakery.
Episode 2: FireStarter (FiSta) YouTube, Hulu
Mamimi been seeing weird things including a black winged angel from a pocket computer game she keeps playing. This episode Naota has yet even bigger and weirder lumps coming out of his head. Haruko scans Naota’s head and reports that he doesn’t have a brain. Robots seem to be coming out of Naota’s head.
Episode 3: Marquis de Carabas (Maru-Raba) YouTube, Hulu
Eri is one of Naota’s schoolmates. Her father, who happens to be the mayor, has been accused of having an affair with the secretary. Eri has also put Naota unwillingly into the lead roll of the school play. Naota has even weirder shapes coming out of his head!
Episode 4: Full Swing (Furi Kiri) YouTube, Hulu
Haruko has joined the opposition’s baseball team and is getting along a little too well with Kamon. Naota doesn’t have any strange bulges on his head, however he does have some sort of beacon in there that the Department of Interstellar Immigration are tracking.
Episode 5: Brittle Bullet (Bura-Bure) YouTube, Hulu
Naota has another horn, everyone’s playing paintball, and anime parodies abound. The Department of Interstellar Immigration are trying to take someone out.
Episode 6: FLCLimax (Furi Kura) YouTube, Hulu
There’s a huge giant hand looming over Mabase and the Medical Mechanica hasn’t stopped smoking since the battle with the last robot. Both Haruko and Kanchi are wanted. Mamimi has found a new friend, a little robot that has a taste for eating mechanical things.
Now that you've had a chance to watch (or at least read about) the short series, here's a bit more. You might have caught the references to other Gainax shows, and the director Tsuramaki said:
For FLCL I wanted to portray the entire history of Gainax, and each episode has symbols of what happened behind the scenes on each of Gainax's shows. Episode one has many elements of Karekano; episode two, a lot of Evangelion references, etc.
If you really want to dig into the show, you can browse through the "deeper meanings" FLCL forum from FLCL World, a decent fansite. You can also browse the TV Tropes page for the anime, as well as the pages for the characters and drinking games. There's also the 25 page Asian Studies paper titled FLCL: How Gainax Created The First Anime For The 21st Century (Word DOC file).

A parting note: unlike many anime shows, the manga came after the mini-series, not before. There were two volumes published, extending the scope of the OVA and getting weirder and darker than the series did.
posted by filthy light thief (67 comments total) 91 users marked this as a favorite

 
If you can't access the YouTube or Hulu content, here's the first video subtitled on AnimePlus, and the first episode dubbed. Both sites have links to the subsequent episodes, for ease of navigation.

And previously: Openings for the 3rd and 4th Daicon Japanese animation conventions; and Panty And Stocking With Garterbelt, the (at the time) newest Gainax production, which has been related to the insanity of FLCL by saying
One school of thought says that when you get some of the best storytellers Gainax has, put them in a room, and give them The Good Drugs, you get FLCL (give them all the drugs, and you get Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt).
posted by filthy light thief at 4:31 PM on March 15 [16 favorites]


I've been meaning to watch this again - one of my favorites of all time. But I've bumped up against the translation, because I distinctly remember feeling the fansubbed version that came out before FLCL got an American release was superior to the official version. I've been trying to get that original version again to compare but can't seem to find it — I know it's sitting on some old burned CD from 2002 or whatever, I just have to find it. Looking forward to perusing this before watching it again!
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 4:33 PM on March 15 [1 favorite]


Also, don't watch the dub, for the love of god.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 4:36 PM on March 15 [3 favorites]


It was one of the weirdest things to watch, and I couldn't stand it at first, but it sort of started to grow on me by the end. And the music is fabulous. I should probably rewatch it.
posted by limeonaire at 4:40 PM on March 15


Man, I loved this. And the music rocked as well.
posted by vrakatar at 4:45 PM on March 15


No mention of The Pillows and the pretty good soundtrack? Fortunately, someone made a playlist of it.
posted by Going To Maine at 4:49 PM on March 15 [11 favorites]


But I've bumped up against the translation, because I distinctly remember feeling the fansubbed version that came out before FLCL got an American release was superior to the official version.

Now I want to dig up my burned anime CDs and see if I kept the fansub. I know some groups did a great job informing the audience about more nuances and local aspects that are just part of a show that people from the culture would understand, like Shakespeare's audiences understood nuances that modern audiences need to read up to catch more details.


And the music is fabulous

A FLCL soundtrack (mostly) on YouTube, and more on Grooveshark.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:50 PM on March 15 [1 favorite]


I just now found that the AV Club did a TV Club review set of FLCL, too. Neat!
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 4:51 PM on March 15 [1 favorite]


I pulled out a small cd binder of old fansubs from years ago. The FLCL files are unreadable ;_;
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 4:53 PM on March 15 [1 favorite]


I think I might go and try to rewatch KareKano though.
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 4:53 PM on March 15 [3 favorites]


Indeed. I don't know if I could name another Japanese band, but I'm a huge fan of The Pillows solely because of FLCL.
posted by ob1quixote at 4:54 PM on March 15 [3 favorites]


It was produced by someone who thought that Excel Saga was too sedate.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:55 PM on March 15 [6 favorites]


Don't usually have much patience for anime, but FLCL is one of my favorite things of all time (and the music definitely helps make it so)...
posted by saulgoodman at 5:05 PM on March 15 [1 favorite]


...eyebrows...
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:06 PM on March 15 [12 favorites]


ARE AWESOME! And the source for the easiest cosplay ever! Dark dress suit + red hair dye + paper eyebrows = Amaro costume! Bring extras for fun photos! I did that, and a friend dressed up as Naota. Somewhere, someone has a picture of us posing with [someone] from FLCL at the San Jose anime convention, Fanime, back in the early 2000s, with that guy also wearing spare eyebrows that we brought along.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:16 PM on March 15


I love Love LOVE FLCL! It's on my go-to top five list when people get overloaded on mahou shoujo or crap mecha. So many "inside Japan" jokes. And the South Park reference! The Pillows singing Ride on Shooting Star! This and Tekkon Kinkreet and Mind Games and Paranoia Agent and Mirai Nikki (triggers abound here). It's just not all about big eyes and panty shots and tentacles anymore.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 5:22 PM on March 15 [1 favorite]


If you're a first time watcher and nervous about all the talk of how weird and complicated the show is, take heart: there is a plotline, and by the end of the series you will more or less understand what it is.

It's not actually that complex of a story; rather, it's a simple story told in the most complex (and intriguing, and gorgeous, and hilarious) way possible.
posted by Ian A.T. at 5:29 PM on March 15 [7 favorites]


This is one of my favorite films and the climax is one of the most perfect scenes--I love the "energetic music paired with earth-shattering large-scale fantasy as symbol for the personal emotional climax" style of storytelling that's possible in animation, and which is done best here.

I don't really like the humor, or people who insist on the humor. I suspect they don't have souls underneath their eyebrows. The humor is just a noisy foil for the beauty, to sharpen it, and not really worthwhile in itself.
posted by byanyothername at 5:50 PM on March 15


For real Amarao authenticity, the eyebrows should be made out of nori.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:05 PM on March 15 [2 favorites]


There's the older girl who's pining for the MC's older brother, but has sort of glommed onto the MC instead... she's lonely, he's not quite old enough to have any idea what's happening, she wants something else but doesn't know how to get it, and...

It's amazingly evocative of that time of life, and it's astonishing to have quiet moments like that, reflective and bittersweet and well-observed, in an anime which also includes a kid having forehead erections caused by space robots for fuck's sake. The whole show is an amazing piece of work which gives glimpses of the real potential of the medium. Also, RIDE ON SHOOTING STAHH fuck yeah.

See also Cat Soup.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 6:08 PM on March 15 [4 favorites]


If you're a first time watcher and nervous about all the talk of how weird and complicated the show is,

Boy, it drives me nuts when people do that. I don't know how many times I've read the Official Representatives of All Anime Fandom warning people away from FLCL. God forbid you should encounter anything really good before you've been made READY for it by watching a bunch of formulaic crap... grr....
posted by Sing Or Swim at 6:15 PM on March 15 [6 favorites]


I think I might go and try to rewatch KareKano though.

I sure miss karekano, GTO, hajime no ippo, tenshi na konamaiki, hanayoridango, kodocha...

pretty sure I was still getting fansubs on vhs back at that time. I had even convinced one of the major NA/US providers to accept paypal in addition to cheque/MO (sincere apologies for that, guys)

I'm fairly certain that FLCL was the very first 100% CGI anime. not long after that, there were basically zero non-CGI anime. which trend started out painful, but got better (e.g. last exile)

I remember that I loved FLCL enough that I bought it all on region-2 dvd at the time. I think some had subtitles but some of the discs required instead a complicated dance of getting subtitle files off the intrawebs and watch it from the computer instead of from the LD player. ooh and the R2 discs all came with super bonus extras like postcards, crap I need to find those now.

/gerroffmylawn
posted by dorian at 6:21 PM on March 15 [2 favorites]


Boing Boing has been running a webcomic, Bani Garu, by Lea Hernandez, who used to be Gainax's Vice President of US merchandising. It's got great art and is generally awesome. (from the start) She writes in the current page: "Gainax were mostly charming people working for charming people who were godawful businessmen."
posted by JHarris at 6:27 PM on March 15 [2 favorites]


(I've been waiting a few more pages to come out before posting Bani Garu to the front page.)
posted by JHarris at 6:30 PM on March 15


God forbid you should encounter anything really good before you've been made READY for it by watching a bunch of formulaic crap... grr....

A-FUCKING-MEN. Watch the good, challenging stuff first, then move on to Dragonball Z. If, like, you feel you have to; you could just skip it.
posted by JHarris at 6:32 PM on March 15 [4 favorites]


So, did it really take three years for f.l.t. to follow up on his comment in the Panty and Stocking thread, or was that due to a time glitch caused by a combination of (1) the MeFi server change, (2) Daylight Savings Time (3) the War Doctor or (4) Kill La Kill (the next phase in batshit crazy anime, and oddly, unrelated to Gainax).
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:33 PM on March 15 [4 favorites]


I think I might go and try to rewatch KareKano though.
I just did for the first time in half a decade and found it's held up remarkably well and was certainly less problematic in its representation of gender than the norm which I've come to tolerate less and less of in the medium.

Interestingly, my fiancée—who dislikes most anime—really got into it.

I wish Hideaki Anno was still making new stuff rather than being stuck in "Let's redo Evangelion except in a really uninteresting way." for the last decade.
posted by whittaker at 6:38 PM on March 15


Kill La Kill (the next phase in batshit crazy anime, and oddly, unrelated to Gainax).

Can't get away from Gainax that easy. Studio Trigger, the production studio behind Kill la Lill, was founded by former Gainax employees. Hiroyuki Imaishi, in particular, was the key animator for NGE, the animation director for FLCL, and the director for Gurren Lagann.

And... yeah. There's definitely plenty of room for a Kill la Kill FPP once it finishes, because there's a lot there and I'm not sure what to think of it. It takes that line between "Does the fanservice outweigh the interesting, or does the interesting outweigh the fanservice?", and dances all over it. (even when ostensibly it's a critique on fanservice, to borrow a phrase, much like there is no anti-war film, there is no anti-fanservice anime, I think)

There's also an oddly Kantian theme to it popping up, specifically with regards to the Second formulation of the categorical imperative (Treating people as ends, and never as means). Plus there's threads of about twenty years of contemporary Japanese fashion trends running through the whole thing in ways that I only have enough familiarity with to see the outline of.

It starts off appearing like a Gainax-take on post-apocalyptic Japanese high school-social-structure-as-applied-to-society-at-large, but by this point in what's aired, I'm no longer sure what genre it's going for.

There's also at least one case where the animators seeded early episodes with frame-clues for fans, then deliberately subverted the hints.

So... yeah. It's fascinating, but it's also one I hesitate to recommend, because of the fanservice. (But if you can get past that, it's amazing)
posted by CrystalDave at 6:56 PM on March 15 [6 favorites]


I feel like this thread is permission for the Slayers thread I've been kicking around in the back of my mind a little. Maybe.
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 7:09 PM on March 15 [8 favorites]


God forbid you should encounter anything really good before you've been made READY for it by watching a bunch of formulaic crap... grr....

A-FUCKING-MEN. Watch the good, challenging stuff first, then move on to Dragonball Z. If, like, you feel you have to; you could just skip it.


right? I gave up on naruto years ago. I gave up on bleach years ago. it's really sad, they did have some good writing and potential. but the stuff that goes into the hundreds of episodes is always eventually disappointing, you only keep watching because you're hooked on it.

but I have watched EVERY DAMN EPISODE of kenshin. ugh can we talk about filler arcs? I guess I learned some historical semi-facts about edo and the ishin shishi and the maburo at least?

as said, people need to try something really difficult e.g. now and then here and there it is uncomfortably painful.

ok on preview yes there totally needs to be space for fun things like slayers, rune soldier louie and those who hunt elves
posted by dorian at 7:15 PM on March 15 [3 favorites]


I never watch anime, never really appealed to me. stumbled across this by accident years ago and loved it start to finish. Loved it so much I started watching more anime in the hope I'd enjoy it. never did. But FLCL I could watch again and again.
posted by davejay at 7:39 PM on March 15 [1 favorite]


dorian: I remember that I loved FLCL enough that I bought it all on region-2 dvd at the time. I think some had subtitles but some of the discs required instead a complicated dance of getting subtitle files off the intrawebs and watch it from the computer instead of from the LD player.

Oh man, what a flashback. My anime club in college was lucky enough to have a member who was well off enough (and addicted to anime enough) that he'd buy a bunch of R2 DVDs, and then members would transcribe fansubs (with a version of VirtualSub that a member modified just for this purpose) into subtitle tracks so we could watch beautiful DVD video and good subs on shows that had not yet gotten US releases. I think some members even translated episodes when they couldn't find fansubs online.


Our Ship Of The Imagination!: I feel like this thread is permission for the Slayers thread I've been kicking around in the back of my mind a little.

Good luck. The Slayers universe is pretty big. And it brings to mind a college anime fan's license plate: DRGNSLV, which her parents first thought meant "drugs and love" (ignoring the transposed N and S). We joked it was actually Dr. Gun Slave, not Dragon Slave.


dorian: but I have watched EVERY DAMN EPISODE of kenshin. ugh can we talk about filler arcs? I guess I learned some historical semi-facts about edo and the ishin shishi and the maburo at least?

Hah. We watched that series for years in the anime club. Instead of binging on a single series, we watched one episode per week of 6 different shows, so it literally took years to complete the 96 episodes and subsequent movies. I have since forgotten most of the semi-historic facts from Kenshin. Luckily Atreides made this nice Kenshin post to remind me of what I've forgotten.


oneswellfoop: So, did it really take three years for f.l.t. to follow up on his comment in the Panty and Stocking thread...?

Sad fact: I still haven't watched the DVDs I purchased years ago. I was reminded of FLCL by this comment from emptythought in the Rick and Morty thread.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:43 PM on March 15 [4 favorites]


and, ok, fans will know this all already, but for some more historical parts on kenshin edo, please take a look at
jumble
and
peace maker kurogane
(sorry kenshin got me thinking on the shinsengumi and Okita Souji and the maburo and all)

kyou mo jimmy ikimashou
posted by dorian at 7:47 PM on March 15 [1 favorite]


Just stopping by to say that the live-action Kenshin movie is really good and a sequel to it is coming out this year. Even if it's been years since you've thought about Kenshin, the movie is worth seeing.
posted by betweenthebars at 7:50 PM on March 15 [1 favorite]


FLT: oh man...yeah. I'm so out of the loop that'd be too much work just to get caught up. I haven't even seen the last OVA and the new season and even that was a couple years ago I think? Maybe longer? It would need to cover the manga, the anime, the OVAs, the movies, the light novels, the games, the the the...holy smokes. Not to mention all the freaking music and radio stuff or what ever.

I spent way too much time on Slayers many years ago. Your friends license plate is one of the coolest things I have ever heard of.
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 7:54 PM on March 15


FLT, good lord, yes! VirtualSub was what made the magic back then.

also, my school's club would ask/vote if people wanted to skip the openings of episodes. I was one of the annoying eejits that always wanted to watch the opening no matter how long we'd been watching the show...
posted by dorian at 8:01 PM on March 15


Studio Trigger, the production studio behind Kill la Lill, was founded by former Gainax employees.

Should've known better than to say "unrelated"... just as everything in American animation has cross-pollinated from a few wellsprings, it must be even more so in Japanese anime. D'oh!
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:05 PM on March 15


oh holy carp how did I miss the bit about the license plate and it has been so, so many years since I heard the words
DORAGU SUREEBU

best. spell. ever.
posted by dorian at 8:07 PM on March 15


Wow, people hate on the dub of this way too much. It's perfectly fine. I watched the fansubbed version way back when, and saw the dubbed version on adult swim, then later showed that to friends.

This is such a perfect show, seriously. It's right up there with the best films i've seen and it's so short, to the point, and generally bite-size for a show. You can watch the whole thing in two nights or one marathon without blowing an entire day. It's also my personal opinion and stuff, bla bla bla, but i think this is the best gainax show. It's the most approachable IMO too. and while it's weird it isn't as dense as evangelion which people consistently bust a nut over and praise as the ~best anime ever~ or whatever. I put it right up there cowboy bebop and several of the miyazaki movies in "stuff you probably should have watched by this point".

It also has an amazing soundtrack. I actually got to see the pillows live twice, and i heard about them through this show. They rule.

I'll also echo others that you don't need to be "ready" or "prepped" to watch this. I was a young teenager who had no idea what to expect and just got blasted in the face with it, and i loved it. Not being ready just makes it better IMO. The whole show is almost structured under the assumption that will be your state of mind and approach.
posted by emptythought at 8:20 PM on March 15 [3 favorites]


there's a lot there and I'm not sure what to think of it. It takes that line between "Does the fanservice outweigh the interesting, or does the interesting outweigh the fanservice?", and dances all over it. (even when ostensibly it's a critique on fanservice, to borrow a phrase, much like there is no anti-war film, there is no anti-fanservice anime, I think)

I totally considered trying to start a barroom brawl about Kill la Kill much earlier in the thread. Kill la Kill wants to be a floor wax AND a dessert topping, but I'm not sure I'm buying it. Its unforgivable transgression is that it's not anywhere near as entertaining or original as FLCL; it's descending into cutout animation and cheap melodrama, and you've got to do a lot better than that if you want to sell people on the idea that the boobs you're drawing aren't really boobs, but some kind of extremely subtle, sophisticated satire of boobs.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 8:26 PM on March 15


I didn't know FLCL was supposed to be "difficult" - I've heard of it - it didn't seem to be up my alley, style-wise, but maybe I should try again.

I love NGE and Serial Experiments...

I figure if I can tolerate Lain and that sort of plot, this FLCL stuff surely can't be that bad? Then again I'm a sucker for weird, complex and that diverge from the ho-hum typical narratives.
posted by symbioid at 8:31 PM on March 15


I was a young teenager who had no idea what to expect and just got blasted in the face with it, and i loved it. Not being ready just makes it better IMO. The whole show is almost structured under the assumption that will be your state of mind and approach.

In fact one of the really nice things about FLCL is that the people who made it pay you the compliment of assuming that you're capable of catching on and keeping up. Nobody needs to have a God damn roller coaster EXPLAINED to them.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 8:32 PM on March 15 [6 favorites]


Further on the Kill la Kill derail, it's one of the best serial animes in ten years. It blends so many tropes that are designed to make it stupid into easily the most brilliant thing I've seen in a long time. I have proselytized it successfully in MeFi chat, we are LEGION. Fuck with us at your own risk.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 8:56 PM on March 15


That's what I thought about it at first. It's been losing me, though. I think the problem is that the most interesting character has been used less and less since the early episodes, and is lately almost entirely unrepresented. I am referring, of course, to Guts.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 9:09 PM on March 15


Adult Swim used to run a promo (they may still? I haven't watched the broadcast in awhile) where one person got to program the block for a night with any of the shows they had the broadcast rights to. At the time the block was three hours long and repeated for a total of six hours. For a couple years the people who won picked their favorite episodes of the comedy and anime shows Adult Swim aired. Then one year a friend was over to watch assuming it would be another best of Space Ghost/Home Movies/Harvey Birdman/etc., and the first episode of FLCL started. We hadn't seen it so we watched, and it turned out the winner had picked a FLCL marathon, which fit the 3-hour block perfectly. It was a hell of a ride, and since it repeated immediately after we got to watch it again.
posted by edeezy at 10:59 PM on March 15 [8 favorites]


Hating on dubs is par for the course. People will always and forever love to tell everyone how much they think dubbing sucks. The voice actors for the FLCL dub did a fantastic job.
posted by Brocktoon at 11:24 PM on March 15 [2 favorites]


I love NGE and Serial Experiments...
You really might not like FLCL, and that's okay. FLCL is beautiful and wonderful and as good as both of those shows (Lain is still my "favorite" "anime"), but its style is to bounce back and forth between nonsensically goofy to suddenly-quite-subtly-dramatic; the goofball energy is only there to heighten the sudden shift into, "But, I'm serious, look at that sunset." Evangelion does some of this (The End of Evangelion and the second of the newer movies do it just as well as FLCL, but in different ways), but it's generally...calmer, and Lain is downright dreamy. Personally, I like the beauty part of the show but don't care for its spasticness. If you can sit through the spasticity to get to the beauty, you're golden, but I think it's a valid criticism if you can't. A lot of people like the spasticity more than the beauty, and those people are weird and wrong and dumb (you know who you are).

Definitely check out Texhnolyze (which has an amazing English dub) if you like Lain, though.
posted by byanyothername at 11:33 PM on March 15 [1 favorite]


Fuck yeah FLCL!

How I first watched it: I picked up a tape from a rental store just before they closed for the night, to discover once I got home that it was neither subtitled nor dubbed. I had a blast anyway. I still adore it, and I love the fact that the episode descriptions sound like Mad Libs.
posted by Pronoiac at 1:00 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


Also, don't watch the dub, for the love of god.

I know this is an article of faith for many anime fans but I really disagree it both as a general principle, and in this case in particular.

The dub is quite good, imho, it was one of the better ones going in that era.
posted by smoke at 1:25 AM on March 16 [2 favorites]


Hating on dubs is par for the course. People will always and forever love to tell everyone how much they think dubbing sucks. The voice actors for the FLCL dub did a fantastic job.

No matter how good a dub is, hearing American or British voices where Japanese voices should be is still jarring; it just doesn't fit. Even if you don't speak Japanese (and I don't) the original voices plus subtitles are so much better, especially fansubs done by the sort of nerd who makes the effort to explain just what kind of soda Naota is buying and why that matters.

Anyway, I just rewatched FLCL last year and had forgotten it was only six episodes long, rather than the eight I was expecting, so the ending was a bit of a surprise. It's an incredible melancholy series, isn't it, all the zaniness and wacky action just underscoring that.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:56 AM on March 16 [3 favorites]


The best thing about FLCL is that tension between the ordinary life of the protagonist and the extraordinary shit he's caught up in. It always appeals to me to see the glimpses of real life Japan in an anime like this, that obviously mundane stuff; The Melancholy of Haruhi Szuzumiya has some of that as well, not to mention Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:06 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


> Boy, it drives me nuts when people do that. I don't know how many times I've read the Official Representatives of All Anime Fandom warning people away from FLCL.

I dunno, I'm on the fence about that call.

It's easy enough to appreciate FLCL without knowing anything about anime, but you have to be really relaxed and ready to go with the flow. Because they're going to be dwelling whole minutes on things that make no sense to you but aren't zany enough to enjoy just for distraction's sake.

Of course having an otaku-level knowledge of late-90s anime and industry gossip is going to unlock the injokes and callbacks for you, but that's not what I'm referring to.

This is a show that expects the user to already be familiar with the tropes and narrative methods of anime -- not any anime in particular, just the way things are done generally -- otherwise it's going to seem like a big hot mess that's weirdly appealing at times.

I'd slot Kill La Kill similarly(and, frankly, most productions by Gainax and by studios founded by ex-Gainax staff): Shows that you can appreciate without any understanding of anime generally, but which are going to present a learning curve if you want to understand the following.
posted by ardgedee at 6:03 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


I also have some unfinished thoughts about coming-of-age themed anime (and there is a hell of a lot of them: Boys' early adolescence is kind of a fixed point in Japanese popular culture), and the ubiquity of a Japanese counterpart to the Manic Pixie Girl. Haruko in FLCL and Haru in Tsuritama come immediately to mind: They're not necessarily girls, but they're manic, they might have superpowers or be aliens, they know things that the protagonist and audience don't/can't know, but principally they exist in the narrative primarily to goose along the emotional development of the protagonist, after which they're more or less used up and have to move on to some other thing.
posted by ardgedee at 6:09 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


[they] principally they exist in the narrative primarily to goose along the emotional development of the protagonist, after which they're more or less used up and have to move on to some other thing.

That is definitely not the case in FLCL because-

*Spoiler Alert*

Haruko subverts the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope. When she first appears in the series she seems like a non-sequitur that exists to move the story along and interact with Naota. But by the end of the series you learn that she's actually using him to get to her boyfriend through Naota's head-portal. Once the portal's gone, she's off because she has no more use for him, not because it's convenient for the plot. She is, contrary to appearances, not doing any of this for Naota's benefit.
posted by Ndwright at 7:01 AM on March 16 [3 favorites]


The interview with FLCL director Kazuya Tsurumaki is great, and actually speaks to a number of comments in this thread.

ardgedee: It's easy enough to appreciate FLCL without knowing anything about anime, but you have to be really relaxed and ready to go with the flow. Because they're going to be dwelling whole minutes on things that make no sense to you but aren't zany enough to enjoy just for distraction's sake.

"For all the fans that are confused at all, if you had to define in one sentence what FLCL is about, what would you say?"
KT: FLCL is the story of boy meets girl. For me it is also about how it's ok to feel stupid. With Evangelion there was this feeling that you had better be smart to understand it, or even just to work on it. With FLCL I want to say that it's okay to feel stupid.
ardgedee: I also have some unfinished thoughts about coming-of-age themed anime (and there is a hell of a lot of them: Boys' early adolescence is kind of a fixed point in Japanese popular culture)

"Is there any particular reason why so many Gainax series feature very anxious, unhappy young male protagonists with no parents?"
KT: Yes, the directors at Gainax are all basically weak, insecure, bitter, young men. So are many anime fans. Many Japanese families, including my own, have workaholic fathers whose kids never get to see them. That may influence the shows I create.
It's kind of shocking to hear a director come out and just say that, when fans talk about the possible life histories of their favorite (reclusive) directors.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:42 AM on March 16 [3 favorites]


See, I think Evangelion -- at least the original version -- is easier for an anime newbie to get into. Both FLCL and Eva pivot on how things have played out before vs. how they're not playing out this time. But the basic motif of angsty teens piloting alien-smashing robots is pretty easy to grok and can be appreciated with little more context than that. (At least up until the last episodes. But that's a separate discussion.)

In contrast FLCL needs certain expectations set in order for the viewer to appreciate they're being kept off-balance for a reason.

> Haruko subverts the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope.

Yeah, and that's part of why I hedged my statement originally; It's not so much Japan's pop media has a MPDG with the specificity that American pop media does; I'm handwavingly addressing a personified deus ex machina/wish fulfillment engine, a role performed by the MPDG in American popular media and which has some overlaps in Japanese media. And to directly address you: since FLCL is hell-bent on flipping off tropes, this will inevitably be one of them.
posted by ardgedee at 8:54 AM on March 16


she's actually using him to get to her boyfriend
Actually, a misunderstanding on Amaro's part. Haruko isn't in love with Atomsk. Haruko wants to devour and become the Pirate Queen. She ends up being not only as but more selfish and monstrous than everyone except for Naota thought all along; and even then, I still like her. She's dangerous; but she's fun.

But yeah, Naota is along for her ride, not the other way around.

If anyone is actually on the fence about seeing FLCL, just do so. Having special familiarity with anime will not make the meta sequences that are basically just ribbing you and going, "Right? Right?" any more comprehensible and enjoyable. And you shouldn't, as medium nerds always seem to think, have to sit through a bunch of garbage to be able to "properly" enjoy the best works. Just go right into it on a warm, sunny spring/summer day and be ready to remember what it felt like to be in love for the first time.

And ignore the godawful meta humor, please.
posted by byanyothername at 9:47 AM on March 16 [2 favorites]


I've found it's surprising how often you can infer from context roughly what terrible/weird/omnipresent trends a particular show is satirising or referencing, without having watched every anime for the last few years. And if you can't, there's always a post-watch skim through the TV Tropes shoutouts page to enjoy.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:00 AM on March 16


FLCL struck me as incredibly meta; I'd already seen NGE and RahXephon and enough other series to be familiar with recurring anime themes, so recognized that FLCL was really about other anime. Without this in mind I think its trivial plot and all the design craziness would come off as shallow and kind of stupid? (It looks and sounds fantastic regardless)
posted by unmake at 10:14 AM on March 16


My personal experience is that you don't have to have any kind of familiarity with anime to enjoy FLCL. I had pretty much only seen Cowboy Bebop and parts of Trigun on Adult Swim before I watched FLCL and I enjoyed every minute of it.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:54 PM on March 16 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I think you're able appreciate anime like FLCL more from being familiar with the medium the same way you might be able to appreciate, like, Ulysses more from being familiar with literature or Steve Reich's music more from being familiar with classical music, but at the same time you can still enjoy any of those without the context. If you decide to become more familiar with a medium, it's always fun to return to something like that that leans on the context of its medium a little and notice all the little things you missed.

I think with Kill la Kill in particular it's cathartic because a lot of times you get let down when something that looks promising takes a turn toward all the lazy tropes and formulas you hate the most (sort of looking at you, Attack on Titan), and Kill la Kill had a way early on of making you think "Oh Jesus, here we go again" and subverting those expectations either by taking things so far that they become parody or by doing something else entirely. The references are fun, too. I dunno. I'm still kind of digesting Kill la Kill, so those thoughts are a little half-formed.

Madoka Magica is another good example of this sort of thing.
posted by Gymnopedist at 12:57 PM on March 16


Yeah, the idea that you have to wade through a bunch of rubbish to be able to "fully appreciate" how good a good thing is is, well, rubbish. Sturgeon's Law is preventive, not prescriptive. Just go for what seems interesting and meaningful to you, not what other people insist on. FLCL has a bunch of meta anime noise; it's not "about" meta anime noise.
posted by byanyothername at 3:49 PM on March 16


I think that viewing FLCL is indeed helped by a decent background in anime (understanding the whole dialogue about the red vs. green jacket for example), but the basic concept of a kid on the cusp of adolescence is one that can be broadly grasped.

But I also think that viewers either have the gene to get series like FLCL, Lain and the like, or not. One of my friend, who has incredible taste in anime (introduced me to Puella Magi Madoka fr instance), simply can't get FLCL and Lain- I haven't even tried him on shows like Witch Hunter Robin yet.

And yeah, there's a lot of interesting stuff gong on in anime now,well worth an FPP: series like Attack on Titan or Log Horizon could give plenty of material to work with.
posted by happyroach at 6:59 PM on March 16


I honestly don't think having background experience makes it more enjoyable or makes you get it on some deeper level that actually matters.

As i said, i watched it when i was pretty green and again when i was deep into the nerd cave and got all the wink-wink nudge-nudge jokes and references i could notice. A lot of them fall into the backslappy, nerdy inside joke category and don't make the experience that much deeper or anything, at least IMO.

This isn't full of turbo-nerd shibboleth stuff the way like, ready player one is. Getting the jokes is more like eating good pizza with red pepper flakes and parmesan, vs just eating good pizza. You're not going to have a shitty time either way.

I also don't really get people saying evangelion is easier to grok either. Saying it's about angsty teens smashing stuff in robots is like saying star trek is about some guys flying around in a spaceship. It's technically correct, but skims it as such a surface level that it's almost a worthless descriptor. That show gets really fucked up/weird/deep/thoughtpiecey in a way that FLCL never gets, or at least only vaguely hints at here and there and then shrugs off.

FLCL made perfect sense to me when i was in my early teens, evangelion just confused me. Looking back i hadn't missed much when it came to FLCL, but evangelion was a big "ohhhhhh".

It's like comparing super mario 64 to majoras mask, to make another late 90s/early 2000s nerdy teenage item reference. One is a lot easier to jump into and understand, they're both brilliant, but describing the second one as somehow simpler is bizarre.
posted by emptythought at 4:12 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


AAAAAAAAH! I have been trying to remember the name of this show for YEARS. A friend showed it to me in college and I thought it was great, but when I wanted to find it again, I couldn't remember what it was called.

Yessssss.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:24 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Recently from io9:
If you were in the UK during the late 1990s, chances are that you're already familiar with the one-minute short film "Last Orders," an anime commercial for Murphy's Irish Stout. For the rest of us, this gem is what happens when the anime studio Production I.G gets into the business of advertising. A British ad agency approached the Ghost in the Shell and Patlabor studio about creating a commercial for Murphy's Irish Stout. Ghost in the Shell had just been released in the UK, and the agency was hoping to cash in on the rising popularity of Japanese animation.

The talent behind the commercial is impressive: Blood: The Last Vampire's Hiroyuki Kitakubo served as director; animation and character design were helmed by Kazuchika Kise of Ghost in the Shell, Blood, and Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust; and Hiromasa Ogura of Ghost in the Shell and FLCL handled art direction. The result is these future-dwelling samurai enjoying an Irish beer.
A fun video, and a very loose tangent to FLCL.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:16 PM on March 29


That ad is something else. I like the bit at the end. Normal bloke, just trying to get his pint, but these samurai pubs have unpredictable hours, don't they?
posted by ocherdraco at 10:43 AM on March 30


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