Friday, March 1, 2013

Anime Review: FLCL

Title:  FLCL (フリクリ)
Alternative Title: Fooly Cooly, Furi Kuri
Seiyū: Shintani Mayumi, Mizuki Jun, Kasagi Izumi, Itou Mika
Genre: Action, Comedy, Sci-Fi, Mecha
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Episode Count: 6
Synopsis: Naota is a somewhat normal 6th grade boy. His world is full of change. His brother has left for America to play baseball which leaves a void in Naota's life. In the wake of that, Naota has been confronted with his brother's former girlfriend, Mamimi. Things have been made more complicated once Naota is run over by a mysterious woman on a Vespa....

To start off this review, I want to say that FLCL is a series that you're either going to love or hate. There is no middle ground with this one. You either embrace the insanity that it brings and grasp the underlying metaphor of the plot or you simply don't. In all honesty, I'm quite certain that the creator of the manga (as well as the anime's creators) want it this way.

The storyline will seem insane and disjointed to most viewers. Of course, if you take it at face value, this is an insane series about a boy, robots and a crazy alien set in a town where everything is grey due to a factory called Medical Mechanica. Once you add in the shifts in the style of art (from traditional anime to manga, etc) and characters breaking the fourth wall, it's a wonder how anyone would see past all of that. I'm sure that some never made it past the first episode.

Naota frequently remarks that his life and the town he lives in as very 'ordinary'. The theme that he feels nothing ever happens in his life places out through the series. However, this isn't exactly true. Things are happening in Naota's world. His brother has left Japan to play baseball in America. This void in Naota's life is further complicated by the brother's former girlfriend, Mamimi. Things get even more difficult  by the time that Haruko runs him over with her Vespa and whacks him in the head with a bass guitar. Before long, Haruko is living in Naota's house after getting herself hired as the family's maid. To give away anything else here would be exposing too much of what happens.

Beneath the robots and the craziness, this is a story about a boy coming to terms with his world changing. Naota can no longer be just an innocent child. The brother that he idolizes is gone. In Naota's mind, those are very big shoes to fill. He's thrust into a complicated relationship with Mamimi where she's very....affectionate. He's determined to be more mature than the adults around him because in some ways they've failed him. His father seems to be a sex starved slacker. He needs guidance and to step out of the box he's created by feeling he has to live up to the ideal of his brother. That guidance isn't being provided by the adults in any way.

Eventually, he begins to idolize Haruko in the same ways he did his brother. She's the catalyst in this series. It's through Haruko's arrival that Naota is able to find the strength to accept the changes in his life. He has to be able to stand on his own two feet against the changes the future will bring. Can he do this without losing himself along the way?

I've focued more on Naoto during this review because he is the main character. There are others in the series who stand out. Mamimi has been cast aside by her family. She's homeless. It's unclear whether that's by choice or by necessity to escape a bad home. She's been bullied at school, so she simply quit going. She frequently drawn to things she feels are more desperate than she is whether it's Naota or a kitten. She calls Naota and the kitten, 'Takkun', which can be a nickname for the boyfriend (Tasuku) who abandoned and forgot her. It's made clear by Naota that his brother has found a new girlfriend in America. Once these adopted causes begin to become independent from her care, Mamimi abandons them before they can leave her. She's stuck out of her own fear of facing what's ahead of her and being left behind. In her own ways, Mamimi needs to move forward in her life.

The other characters are just as flawed as Naota and Mamimi. Haruko can be seen as  having a few ulterior motives where her involvement with Naota is concerned. Ninamori, Naota's classmate, is obsessive with keeping personal information secret to the point where no one knows she wears corrective lenses. Each has their own set of issues.  Whether any of those issues are resolved within six episodes isn't important. It's ultimately a story hinged on Naota and his growth.

The soundtrack is perfect for the series. It's provided by almost exclusively by The Pillows. This decision to use one band rather than several works in the favor of FLCL. With only six episodes, the bands music works to anchor each episode to the next. In some ways, it's a stabilizing component that's very needed in the midst of the visual chaos the series brings.

Overall, the question will be how much you can immerse yourself in the story without getting lost by the insanity of the visuals. That can be the difficult part of this one. You'll be bombarded by color, sound, robots and innuendo. Hang in there. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Rating: 4/5

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