This Week in Anime
FLCL Returns in Two New Flavors

by Nicholas Dupree and Steve Jones,

FLCL Progressive and FLCL Alternative have rocked their way onto Toonami to put a new spin on the classic series. This week, Nick and Steve discuss what we know so far about these two very different approaches to the material.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead. Not Safe For Work warning for content and language.


@Lossthief

@Liuwdere

@ANNJakeH

@vestenet


You can read our weekly coverage of FLCL Progressive here!

Steve
Hey Nick, sorry I'm a bit late to the column, but I was walking home and almost got killed by this weird woman riding a vespa. Thankfully I'm fine! Just a slight headache, probably nothing serious.

Nick D
Oh yeah, you should be fine. It's been years since anything bad happened involving a vespa. These days you gotta look out for mysterious women in convertibles.

The times they are a-changing, and now that the original FLCL is old enough to vote, it's getting two sequels courtesy of our friends at Production I.G and Adult Swim. My college freshman self would be freaking out pretty hard right now, and tbh I'm still pretty excited today!

I've been hyped from the get-go on Fooly Twoly just from the basic synopsis. Like basically everyone, I was mesmerized by FLCL in the early 2000s, and even if I didn't totally "get" it at the time, it stuck with me for a good long while. But upon revisiting it as an adult, I ended up with a slightly more distant perspective on it, so I was excited by the idea of new artists and creators putting their own spin on the series' wild aesthetic.

See, I was initially skeptical when these sequels were announced, since FLCL is one of the great short OVA series, very much a product of both the people who made it and the time it was made in. There's basically no way to capture that lightning in a bottle again, which is why I came around when I heard that their approach to these sequels would be handing them to young creators working in the industry and basically letting them do whatever with the core concept. That feels much more in the spirit of "FLCL" to me. And now that we've seen the first episodes of both Progressive (2) and Alternative (3), I'm still kind of skeptical, but I'm also eager to see how both play out. They each feel very distinct from each other, which is good.

Yeah, Alternative's a little harder to talk about, since the only reason we even got to see it was the fine folks at Adult Swim punking us all on April Fools. But I can say with great confidence that I dug the hell out of it, and I'm already impatient to see the whole thing, not just because of that absolutely wonderful ED.

Alternative did pretty effortlessly what I was hoping for from a potential FLCL sequel: offer a totally new point of view for its dive into adolescent angst. Like I love FLCL; it's still just about the best exploration of that weird mixture of emotions and anxieties that comes with becoming a teenage boy, but that's not the only kind of coming-of-age that exists, and Alternative's quirky gang of teenage girls (who actually feel like real teenagers you'd meet in real life) immediately set it apart from Naota's story.

Yeah, probably the thing I was most anticipating about the new FLCLs was the potential to see pubescent frustrations from the perspective of a female protagonist, and Alternative's main cast felt sufficiently fresh and endearing. Kana in particular is very different from Naota, both older and not as angsty, but her teenage ennui still comes across just as vividly as Naota's feelings. But a lot of your teenage years are just spent hanging out with your small group of close friends, doing dumb shit like playing Jenga and building bottle rockets, so it really captures that mood.

It's a much more active atmosphere compared to Naota's life. Like Naota had friends for sure, but he was rarely in the headspace to actually cut loose with them. Kana almost has the opposite problem, where she seems to rarely have introspective conversations with her crew.

That can definitely be its own issue. I definitely remember always tiptoeing around delicate subjects in middle and high school to avoid rocking the boat.

For sure. And if Haruko has specifically singled you out, then that's proof you've got a lot of pent-up thoughts and feelings waiting to overflow.

It's still anybody's guess where exactly this is going, but I'm totally up for a more chill version of FLCL if it's as charming as Alternative's first episode. Now to just wait several months for the rest to come out...

September's a long way off, but that's why we've got Progressive to tide us over! And if Alternative can be considered the more contemplative side of FLCL, then Progressive definitely captures the playful exuberance and often breakneck pacing of FLCL Classic.

It's definitely the entry that screams SEQUEL from the opening moments. With Alt, you could be forgiven for not realizing it was FLCL until Haruko shows up. Prog lets you know loud and proud what it is, and I was on board from the opening notes of that new song from The Pillows.

Like, for as hyperactive as FLCL Classic could be, it never opened an episode with this.

The importance of The Pillows' involvement with these new projects cannot be understated. And yeah, that dream intro with Hidomi and the ED animation are the two things that stand out to me most. The graphic sights and sounds of Hidomi's skin and limbs sloughing off of her body stick with you. There's a lot of obvious reasons why body horror is so often used in conjunction with adolescence, and Progressive hits all the right notes there.

It's a strong start and a good way to differentiate Hidomi from either of our other protagonists. While she's more on the moody side of adolescence than Kana, she's also decidedly more isolated than Naota. She barely speaks to anyone in the entire premiere, and she purposefully dulls her own senses to avoid dealing with anything around her.

i mean, that's a lot easier to do when your headphones are this cute

And while it's a simple-as-hell visual, featureless lump Hidomi snailing her way through life is a Big Mood.

Cat blob is always a good aesthetic choice. But I like Hidomi a lot, and her self-imposed isolation definitely brings to mind Mamimi's situation, which is made doubly amusing when throughout the episode we also get glimpses of the show's Naota stand-in, as we realize that his own escapades with Haruko have been happening off-screen.

All this meta-information really hammers home that Progressive is going to be FLCL from a new perspective, and I really like that.

NGL, seeing Progressive's Naota equivalent try to play hero and immediately eat dirt was pretty satisfying.

Yeah! I like the reaffirmation that this is going to be Hidomi's story, and I hope the rest of the show follows up on that.

Although Ide's friends are cute and I don't mind if they stick around.

They're pretty great, definitely not the typical Anime Protagonist's Two Friends that you usually get.
You do you, Mori.

The other notable addition to the cast is Jinyu, aka Sunglasses Haruko.

Jinyu is perhaps the most immediately on-the-nose design in the whole show. The girl's got A Look for sure.

Lore-wise, if the ED is any indication, she seems to be a part of Haruko that split from her when she finally merged with Atomsk and yadda yadda yadda. Lore is the least important part of FLCL.

The most important part is that she's cool, she's going to make Hidomi's life miserable, and also she's a maid.


Of the new cast members, Jinyu definitely has me the most worried. The greater worldbuilding of FLCL always struck me as a purposeful afterthought. I don't need a character devoted entirely to explaining what Medical Mechanica is trying to accomplish or whatever. That said, there's plenty of potential to explore cool ideas with her, especially since she's got a totally different attitude from Haruko.

The plot of FLCL is only interesting insofar as it relates to feelings of adolescent frustration. Hopefully Progressive realizes that. I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.

For now it's all a big ole ball of potential, but at least I can agree with Hidomi's mom on Jinyu.


On the subject of plot and writing, Progressive's script (and Alternative's for that matter), while they have their moments, really don't compare to the original's yet. FLCL Classic was written by veteran screenwriter Yoji Enokido at the top of his game. His recent work has been, frankly, not as good, but when I recently rewatched FLCL Classic, it was his writing that struck me the most. Manic, full of double and triple entendres, but also earnest and passionate.

Personally upon a revisit, I found FLCL's writing indulgent in a way that was frankly exhausting. For every solid line, there's three or four stray references to Lupin or EVA or just frivolous untranslatable puns. While Progressive is decidedly more subdued by comparison, I'll gladly take the focus and coherency that comes with it.

It's super indulgent, but I think it fit both the style and animation of the original to a T. Consequently, it makes sense that these newer series, with new directors and writers and artists, would also read differently. But I also think that Haruko's long-winded monologues to her classroom, while pointed and amusing in their own way, also feel far less subtle than the original. Then again, "subtle" is probably a strange word to attach to FLCL in the first place, and forgoing subtlety in artistic expression is understandable on its own merits.

In general, Haruko seems less subtle than ever. Like sure, running somebody over with a scooter will draw some attention, but showing porn to your middle school students is gonna raise even more eyebrows. My former school anime club president can attest to that.

I think this image sums up Progressive's first episode better than anything else. If nothing else, it is very consciously being FLCL.

It's absolutely aware that it's following up a tough act, but for my money I'm more interested in seeing what it can do on its own. There's a whole wide world of pubescent angst and fury to delve into, and if her dream self is anything to go by, Hidomi is holding back a lot that I can't wait to see overflow.

For sure! I also wanted to mention that my favorite creative choice for both new series is that Kiyotaka Oshiyama is in charge of the mecha designs. That's the guy who directed Flip Flappers, and he recently worked on DEVILMAN crybaby as a designer as well. His style is a perfect match for the weird organic nature of the FLCL machines, and I can't wait to see what he comes up with for future episodes.

Honestly, I think FLCL Progressive has the chance to set itself apart and become something unique from its namesake. It just needs to take what Gainax did with dick jokes and do that for periods.

Progressive definitely feels different from the grungy, counter-culture aesthetic of FLCL Classic, but I'm glad it doesn't try to replicate what we already have. Its priority should be doing its own thing for a new generation, not for old fogeys like me. I already had FLCL to help me get through my teenage angst and beyond. I hope Progressive and Alternative can provide that for a whole new audience.

And for old fans skeptical of these new whippersnappers and their fancy new growing pains, take solace in the fact that no matter what, one thing about FLCL will always stay the same.

The Pillows?

That everyone is always horny.

Horny is eternal.


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