FLCL (or Fooly Cooly, as some refer to it as), is a 6 episode OVA series from 2002. Created by Studio Gainax (which is famous for Neon Genesis Evangelion) and the creative team behind the hit anime series Gurren Lagann and Kill la Kill.
I’m going to have to put a disclaimer here by saying I’m really not sure how this review is going to go. With a show like FLCL, it’s hard to give a good, solid, structured opinion. I may end up rambling quite a bit and if that is the case, I apologize.
Really, what do you say about a show like FLCL? The first time I watched it I was under the impression that it was just complete and utter insanity – which it is, but having seen it through about three or four more times after that, there is intelligence to it underneath all that insanity. It isn’t just randomness with no semblance of a story whatsoever. There is a story, and it does make sense, if you think about it and don’t worry about the finer details. So let’s take a look at the setup.
Naota is an elementary school kid who lives with his father and grandfather (no sign or mention of a mother anywhere), and his older brother is in America playing baseball. His brother’s old girlfriend, Mamimi, keeps hanging around with Naota and is basically acting as if he is his older brother. Well then one day while Naota is walking along, a crazy lady on a Vespa bike runs him over and also hits him with her guitar. Later after that he finds out she also did the same thing to his dad and afterwards he hired her to be their house keeper. Her name is Haruko and she claims to be from outer space. Stranger things happen as horns (and other strange objects) start growing out of Naota’s head and eventually giant robots pop out of it.
With a setup like that, what sort of story could there be, really? It honestly does take several viewings to understand everything that’s going on. This isn’t a plot based story; it’s all about the characters. Furthermore, nothing is directly told to you, a good deal has to be figured out on your own. That’s one of the things I love about it. There are too many shows that enjoy telling us every single detail about it instead of leaving it up for interpretation. A lot of these characters’ actions may not make sense on first viewing because we’re used to being told in a straightforward manner just why people do the things they do. But that’s not how real life works, is it? We may get little hints here and there, but from there you just have to step back and observe them and draw your own conclusions from that.
I guess that’s what it comes down to, why I like this show so much. True, there are a lot of over the top cartoon characters in this show, but most of the main characters feel like real people. They have their faults (they have many, many faults), but despite that, if you take the time to look past them, you can get a sense of why they do what they do, even if at first glance it makes no sense or looks like something bad. There is true character depth and growth in this show, and I love it.
This show truly does take advantage of its medium; it changes animation styles throughout each episode and each scene to produce a different feel and tone, and it often pays homage to other shows while doing so. There’s one scene in episode 5 where it turns into the South Park animation style (complete with South Park voices) and it’s absolutely hilarious. There’s also scenes in episodes 1 and 6 where it turns into like a manga panel, but it then breaks the fourth wall by saying things like “No more manga, this is an anime, we need to stick to animation.”
Then of course there’s the music. The music is excellent and it really makes the show. Listening to it on its own is also a treat. I’d definitely recommend taking a look at the FLCL OST sometime. (I’ve been listening to it while writing this review, in fact). But yes, the music plays a huge part in the show, in fact I would say it’s a central theme of the show. (What with Haruko using a guitar all the time as a weapon and near the end of the show she keeps getting different sorts of guitars for different weapons).
There’s also some parts in it which I believe is extremely subtle satire. There are a lot of times in the show when characters will be monologuing and they sound like they’re saying something deep and intelligent, but if you really listen closely, they’re just spewing nonsense, which I believe is a satire on how a lot of things try to sound deep but they just end up being pretentious. That could just be me, but you never know. There are a lot of scenes like that though that sound like some deep, profound piece of poetry that you just love to listen to, when it really doesn’t mean anything that special. Great voice talent can be applauded for that.
I’m not sure what more to say about this show without rambling more about specific points. If you have any interest in it, I would recommend watching it – and watching it more than once. The six episodes together is about 2 hours and 20 minutes total, so rewatching it isn’t a problem. In fact, I feel I get more and more out of it every time I watch. It’s been enjoyable for me each time and, although it leaves you wanting more, it never feels incomplete.
So really, that’s it. Go watch it and see what you think of it; form your own opinions and ideas. I can safely say it’s one of my favorite anime, though it may be confusing and hard to understand and thus it’s not for everyone. But I would always recommend it no matter what, because it’s worth a watch if for no other reason than to see the insanity.