I figured I’d mix things up a little for this column and stick with a series for a review instead of watchin’ and reviewin’ the pilot only. I deem FLCL was the most appropriate choice since the series is only six episodes long and, as Gia recently informed, its tenth anniversary’s coming up next month. I’ve actually been meaning to watch this for about ten years, anyway, because my friend, the cartoonist Lars Brown, was really pushing his recommendation of the show around then. I skipped out of the chance to watch it when Adult Swim was airing the episodes since I heard their versions were heavily cut.
This series certainly has a lot to live up, given all the hype I’ve encountered over the years. Lars described the whole thing as a verging on a life changing experience and, among other thing, watching it was “what it’s like to fall in love for the first time.” That’s a tall order to fill, to be sure.
Having just watched the first episode, I can safely say that I’m seriously digging the start this anime is off to. It has that kind of exuberant surrealism I’ve gravitated to in Western stories and have tried consciously to capture in my own work. The best description I can give of FLCL is that the whole thing plays like an adolescent boy’s sugar-induced fever dream. You’ve got this frenetic mash-up of rock ‘n roll and manga rolling out with some intriguing Freudian symbolism. Sometimes a pipe is just a pipe, to be sure, but there’s no doubting what that stiff, upright horn of flesh sticking out of Naota after his first meeting with spunky older girl, Haruko, is supposed to symbolize.
Hormones are definitely running thick throughout this and I can’t help but smirk about the description of the series I found in Anime Vice’s database while researching this. “[Naota] spends time with his brother's girlfriend Mamimi, who he has a slight crush on…” A SLIGHT crush one? Sheesh… there really aren’t too many ways that girl could be much more blatant about coming on to him. Forget factory-sized steam irons and vespa-driving girls from outerspace, the fact that this kid (even at his age) could be that oblivious to such obvious advances and still have a “slight crush” has to be the biggest suspension of disbelief, here.
Looking back over this, I realize that I didn't bring up the mecha that spontaneously erupt from Noata’s head. Perhaps I’ve been desensitized to such phenomena by one “What the F@#$ Did I Just Watch?” pilot too many. Or perhaps it’s so natural to the show's dreamy atmosphere that I just take it for granted. Either way, I’m definitely eager to see what happens next now that mech’s moving in for episode two. Sit tight for my take, tomorrow.
-- Tom Pinchuk is the writer of UNIMAGINABLE for Arcana Comics and HYBRID BASTARDS! for Archaia. Watch out for the HYBRID BASTARDS! hardcover collection this April - - available for pre-order now on Amazon.com.