by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 6 of
FLCL Progressive ?
There was definitely an air of uncertainty back when FLCL Progressive premiered, but I feel the show has become decidedly more comfortable and confident with itself over its run. It would seem this progression is integral to the series, as it finally shows its thematic hand at the end. After always dealing with the feelings that accompany the onset of adolescence, this FLCL ultimately tackles that period when you realize you are your own person, rather than just a vessel to reflect the expectations of society and adults. As such, Hidomi ends up not undergoing any major personality changes or even making any serious decisions, but instead learning to simply accept her own existence as it is. As Jinyu predicted at the beginning of the series, she's going to be fine.
FLCL Progressive started out pretty low-key - especially compared to the original - but the plot becomes a noisy riot of abstract (yet familiar) elements in this finale. Everything still makes sense if you're willing to accept the crazy sci-fi broad strokes, though some elements are dropped in a little later than they needed to be. The biggest example is probably the revelation of Aiko's full story; while amusing, she was barely on the fringes of the plot, so suddenly becoming so instrumental could seem contrived. However, it does tie into that overall theme of the kids in this show finally getting what they want instead of only doing what the adults tell them.
The plot does get a little too overstuffed by the end. Between the revelation of Ide-Canti, the subsequent fight, the vividly vomited energy-expulsion, and everything through Haruko's breakdown toward Atomsk, it comes across as a few denouements too many. Notably, the animation is a bit mushy and rough for this final Progressive outing, not carrying the near-constant craziness with enough flair. There are some nice bits, like most of Haruko's animation and a well-done reveal of the insane scale of Atomsk. The show even leverages its more workmanlike presentation well in places, like a hilarious shot of Haruko and Hidomi simply sliding their way through enemy robots, but it can't match the breakthrough battle of episode four or even what we saw in the previous episode.
So it's a good thing that the thematic elements paying off make this episode so strong anyway. Focus is helpful, as virtually everything keeps looping back to that point of living for yourself and not worrying about pleasing the authorities in your life. Pretty much all the adults end up getting rejected in one way or the other by the kids, with Hidomi even taking her beloved mother to task. But Haruko is of course the main one who finds herself opposed. We finally get some thematic semblance of why her repeated attempts to win Atomsk have failed, as he embodies the youthful ideal of existing only for yourself. Opposite that, Haruko is still the quintessential abusive adult, trying to possess and control him. One of my favorite moments in the series came after her latest failure, with Jinyu reappearing to confirm herself as a symbol of the self-love that Haruko keeps rejecting. It lends an extra layer of meaning to Hidomi, who Jinyu was mentoring all series, learning her own self-love by the end.
All this progress does make it annoying when the show still kowtows to the original series to make its nostalgia effective. Sure, like any fanboy I fist-pumped when Canti finally jumped back into action, but he only returns in that manner because the staff knows that we want to see Canti fighting. Similarly, the last-second reveal that Masurao is apparently the son of original-series G-Man Amurao feels like perfunctory fanservice that the series should have gotten over at this point. Similar issues come from the way the characters backpedal by the end. Particularly Ide, who went through so much in this series and seemed to have really shown growth last episode, but he retreats back to how he was around Haruko at the beginning of the show. It's a funny little scene, but it might not be worth for undermining a character who had impressed me up until now.
But Ide's development was pretty much done anyway, and getting him together with Hidomi at last is a solid note to end the series on. Hidomi's development toward self-acceptance helps make up for this finale's shortcomings. It's powerful what a simple revelation her final acceptance turns out to be. It would have been easy for this show to take the more cliched routes available and have Hidomi decide to live specifically for her newfound love for Ide or settle on some firm direction for her life. Instead she's as aimless and cold as ever, but she's comfortable with that. She no longer seeks her own glamorized destruction, but is content to simply be.
There are probably a whole host of angles that could be explored on Ide (through Canti) being the one to ultimately destroy Hidomi's headphones, or that they were the sole memento of an absent father she's no longer choosing to wait for. But the broad points are at least surprisingly clear for such a dense FLCL finale, and I have to appreciate the healthy way the series presents Hidomi's entry into romance with Ide. Neither one of the kids becomes the other's reason for living, since that sort of codependency would fall into the same issues as the manipulations they suffered at the hands of adults (exemplified by Haruko's desperation to possess a relationship with Atomsk). Rather, the connection they forged through the story was one of mutually learning to care for both each other and themselves. I think I'm glad the new FLCL chose to tell the kids mixed-up in this manipulative, confusing world that it's okay for them to simply exist as they are. Much like this show itself, they are going to turn out fine.
FLCL Progressive is currently streaming on Adult Swim.
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