FLCL is a beautifully f*cked up show. The series gained a certain notoriety when it aired on Cartoon Network, and in many ways it reinvigorated the anime industry here in the States. It brought new life to the medium and really put Japanese animation on the map. Unfortunately for many fans the series has been inaccessible due to Geneon biting the dust. It's been about five years since the show was in circulation, but thankfully FUNimation came to the rescue.
FLCL (Or Fooly Cooly, if you will) was a 2000 OVA production from Gainax and Production I.G. It was an off-the-wall effort written by Youji Enokido, who had his hand in Neon Genesis Evangelion, Utena and Star Driver. With a pen like that at the helm it's only natural that FLCL was instantly bizarre and wonderfully fascinating. The series lasted for six episodes, and FUNimation has decided to release them on DVD and Blu-ray.
So, what exactly is FLCL about? Well...it's kind of hard to put into words. There's so much going on in the series and things are revealed throughout that skirting spoilers is going to be tricky.
Basically it focuses on the adventures of a young boy named Naoto, who seems like your average run-of-the-mill kid. He's a bit of a wimp though, and he carries around a baseball bat that he never swings. One day he's hanging out with his brother's ex-girlfriend and has the misfortune of getting run over by a crazed woman on a moped. Making matters worse is the fact that she gets off her bike and resuscitates Naoto only to club him in the head with her guitar. She rides of into the sunset and Naoto is left bruised, insulted, and confused.
The guitar wielding maniac is Haruko, and much to Naoto's chagrin she takes up residence in his household after ingratiating herself to his father. Things only get worse. She's abusive in a sexy kind of way and winds up sharing Naoto's room, so I'm sure you can guess some of what goes on here. That's right, Naoto grows a horn which sprouts into a giant robot, and then spits out another robot to fight that robot. Make sense? It doesn't have to. Naoto's head miraculously grows things. At least after getting hit by Haruko's guitar it does.
The show soon features Canti, the robot that emerged from Naoto's head, joining up with Haruko and our unfortunate teen. Together the three do battle with a corporation called Medical Mechanica, which is supplying the near endless supply of crap springing from Naoto's cranium. It's truly crazy no matter which way you slice it, but the show does a "decent" job of explaining what's going on by the end. It makes sense within the confines and rules the series creates for itself, which is to say there are no rules or confines.
Contrasting all this is a burgeoning relationship between Naoto and Haruko. Though she's abusive and mysterious, Naoto finds himself inexplicably attracted to her. This catches the eye of his brother's girlfriend, and even gets the attention of a classmate who happens to be the daughter of a politician. This is all merely a side story with the action and main goofy sci-fi plot taking center stage.
What really struck me most about FLCL was the message of the series. It's a show about growing up and a boy becoming a young man. Maturity plays a heavy part in the dialogue and characters constantly talk down to Naoto for this very reason. Granted most guys don't mature by having an electric guitar pulled out of their head, but to each their own.
FLCL is a genre defining kind of anime. It's a blast to watch and there's never a dull moment. Each episode throws new concepts and animation styles at you and it's constantly fresh from episode one to six. If you haven't seen the series before, it's a classic that's not to be missed. Now that it's back in print, there's no reason not to add it to your collection!
FLCL is being released by FUNimation in DVD and Blu-ray formats. While the DVD was unavailable for comparison, this Blu-ray is a mostly worthy upconversion. The standard definition remaster is presented with a full 1080p HD with an AVC codec and original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio. The transfer looks decent, but it's quite far from perfect with flaws that stand out from start to finish. Without the original DVD transfer, I can't really compare the two, but this Blu-ray does suffer some haloing and line shimmer. Both can be rather distracting at times, but it's hard to pinpoint whether it was a byproduct of the upconversion, or stemmed from the original production. Either way the show still looks solid with dynamic designs and animation, and plenty going for it.
Dolby TrueHD 2.0 stereo tracks are included for English and Japanese. As one might expect the sense of immersion isn't as solid as it could have been. Dialog is entirely front-centric, sound effects don't pack quite a punch as they should, and the soundtrack is occasionally drowned out in the mix. That's really a shame because music is a big part of the show and it should have stood out more. As it is the quality of the audio is sharp and clean enough and leaves an overall positive impression, though there are lingering annoyances.
For bonus features FLCL offers up the usual mix of clean animations and trailers. There's also a selection of music videos, outtakes, and a commentary with Director Kazuya Tsurumaki for each of the six episodes.
FLCL is dated in terms of production time, but the creativity, energy, and impact of the show are long lasting. There's so much going on here it's not even funny and the quality of the show hits home in volumes. If you haven't seen FLCL yet then you're missing out on an epic. It's the kind of anime that makes you wish there was more of it, but as it stands it's perfectly self-contained. Highly Recommended
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