I didn’t start watching anime on a regular basis until I saw FLCL in 2003 or 2004. The series wasn’t too popular in Japan, but it became a big hit when the Cartoon Nework aired it in its Adult Swim time slot.
The story wouldn’t make too much sense if I tried to explain it. In the beginning, a traveling housekeeper on a motor scooter hits a middle school boy with an electric guitar on a boring day. The boy, Naota, lives through this encounter. He then suffers a series of weird growth spurts, where robots started sprouting out of his head.
Even if the concept is baffling on paper, it carries incredible emotional power through the symbolism of its drawings and garage band music. Almost the entire drama is driven by Naota’s subtle relationships with two girls.
The first is his big brother’s girlfriend, Mamimi. She clings onto Naota to try and bring back her memories of her boyfriend, who is now a star pitcher in America. All her efforts seem like a failed effort though, especially when Naota reveals how his brother has changed.
The second is one of Naota’s friends in middle school, Ninamori. She often tries to ignore her own emotional anguish. However, a family affair in episode three forces her to reassess her own relationships, especially with Naota.
The main catalyst of the problems, though, is Naota’s mysterious new housekeeper, Haruhara Haruko. Oddly enough, she’s the same person who beaned Naota in the head with an electric guitar. Although she acts as Naota’s friend and mentor, she has her own selfish reasons for hanging around him.
All the action surrounds Haruko and her desire to beat up all the robots that spring out of Naota’s head. In a strange way, Haruko’s own eccentric arrogance carries many similarities with Naota’s big brother. In fact, the ending is bound to make people wonder whether the entire show was just a dream.
Was the entire apocalyptic breakup really as horrific as it turned out, or was it just an illusion? FLCL is a strangely fascinating reflection on the dynamics of first love. It’s a visual metaphor that means everything and nothing at the same time. It’s no wonder that so many American anime fans love this series.
Funimation was lucky enough to buy the license from the original publisher, Broccoli. It’s available at the low price of $20, so it’s a wonderful bargain. Although it seems like a rip-off for only six episodes, those three hours are packed with a beautiful mix of hand-drawn animation and computer renderings. FLCL is a priceless series that anyone will want to keep in their collection.
Images courtesy of photobucket.com