Anime for beginners, Case File 1 – FLCL

I had stated earlier that I want to assist those who are new to anime fandom. To that extent, I will give primers to certain titles that I believe are vital viewership. It’s time I started on this feature, and my first entry is the first series I mention to anyone who is interested in anime – Studio Gainax‘s six episode OVA from 2000, FLCL.

Image via Wikipedia

The best quality FLCL has is its re-watchability, which complements its second best quality – it’s brevity. And with its re-release from Funimation, it is probably the most cost-effiecient anime title to buy.

How does one summarize FLCL? You could try the straight-forward approach, which is what The Anime Encyclopedia did for its entry:

“Left alone in the house with his older brother’s 17-year-old girlfriend, Mamimi, Naota Nandaba is concerned that her flirting ways will place him in a difficult situation. The arrival of the scooter-riding, guitar swinging tomboy Haruko Haruhara swaps one set of problems for another, as Naota is forced to share his life with an alien, a grumpy robot, and the uncontrollable Mamimi….”  (p 200)

There are several problems with this description. First of all, this only applies to the first two episodes. Second, Mamimi is never alone in the house with Naota. She drops by to buy some day-old bread. The time they spend together is always somewhere outdoors. Third, that summary mis-characterizes Mamimi. If anyone is uncontrollable, it is Haruko. Fourth, it also fails to mention that Naota is only 12 years old, and his brother is somewhere is his mid-to-late twenties – since he is a Japanese baseball player playing in the United States.

How would I describe FLCL? To me, it is the ultimate Rorschach test. If taken on a surface level, it can be seen as a simple hot-blooded, action adventure (i.e.: shōnen) anime about a boy, a robot, and a free-spirited young woman. It can also be seen as a coming of age story of a 12-year-old who learns what it means to be a grown up. On another hand, it can be seen as the anime industry de-constructing and spoofing itself. (Contrast with Perfect Hair Forever, a six-episode series from Williams Street, which is nothing but a string of anime clichés strung together with no attempts of symbolism, or a plot.) Taken from a cynical point of view, FLCL can be seen as the end product of some talented people from studio Gainax doing something completely off-the-wall to counter the emotionally draining magnum opus, End of Evangelion, with or without the benefit of outside mind-altering influences. (that one is courtesy of tv tropes.) That it is all of the above, with the added bonus of having a kick-ass soundtrack courtesy of the j-rock band, The Pillows, plus one of the best English dubs ever produced, and the end result is a show so unique that it is of one of the rare works of art that has no peer, no rival, and no derivatives.

Love it or hate it, FLCL is unforgettable. I have six categories of judging a show or movie: plot; characters; visuals; acting (in anime’s case, the dub); music; and re-watchability. FLCL is the only title I’ve seen that has earned an A+ in five of them. So I’m clearly in the “love it camp.” But even if you don’t end up loving it as much as me, or the folks at adult swim, who love it so much they air the series two or three times a year, (They have stated on their bumps that FLCL is their favorite anime of all-time,) I dare you; nay I challenge you to name a series like FLCL, or does it better.


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