FLCL (Fooly Cooly) Anime Review
FLCL (Furi Kuri)
US Release By
A Little Bit of Everything in Anime
6 25-minute episodes
2000-04-26 - 2001-03-16
Naota is a sixth grader whose older brother is a star baseball player. His brother also has a girlfriend who seems to like him better, even though she always refers to him by his brother's name. On the day his brother flies off to America, Naota is run over by a mysterious woman on a scooter and gets a weird bump on his head. Later, the woman (Haruhara Haruko) becomes his "housekeeper." Eventually, the bump on his head sprouts into a giant robot and a hand. The robot and the hand do deadly battle until Haruko shows up and deals the hand a devastating blow with her special guitar. But none of that matters.
I liked Excel Saga a lot, but after episode four it started to get a little repetitive. I'd heard FLCL (also known as Furi Kuri or Fooly Cooly) was sort of like it, so I was elated when I heard it was coming to Adult Swim (by the way, for you TV haters, let me say something right now: if this show was edited, it was done by people who need an adjustment in their standards). The Adult Swim people said right on the show that there would be an edit in episode six, but that it would be the only one, and I'm inclined to believe them. See the content section for further details. Anyway, it was amazing that something like this was coming on TV, because it's neither like Dragon Ball Z (Steroid Brawl Z) or Cowboy Bebop, which pretty much everything on Cartoon Network is. I may overhype this show because it was such a breath of fresh air from all the other bilge on TV, but I think the review is still likely to be accurate enough.
The first thing to say is that this show is weird. Not weird, like kind of odd, weird like Excel Saga weird. Unlike Excel Saga, though, it does actually have a plot; it's just a very weird plot. Some people are turned off by weirdness that isn't done in the most pretentious way possible, with darkness and mysteriousness around every corner (like The Soul Taker, Betterman, etc.) and some people are turned off by weirdness period. For all those people who hate weirdness at all, there is no other quality in the show that will make it worth your while. For you dark and mysterious weirdness people, you might actually like FLCL. It may seem like another senseless parody show, but knowing myself how difficult it can be to think of a plot that's worth anything, I'm in awe of how creative and original the plot is. This originality was like a light from heaven after sitting through The Soul Taker, Kikaider, Gatekeepers Full Throttle (21), and the worthwhile but still unoriginal Cyborg 009. Like you would expect from any normal anime, there is a reason why a robot popped out of Naota's head, as well as a secret behind just who Haruko is. They're just very weird reasons.
Since FLCL is a six-episode OAV, there isn't a lot of time for character development, but the show does an excellent job at what I like to call "surface characterization" (characterization done more through appearance, speech pattern, attitude towards certain events, etc. than through a long explanation of their past or any kind of exposition). Naota is a kind of precocious, world-weary sixth-grader (I was confused as to what age he was supposed to be until they actually said in the show). He kind of looks like a younger Shinji Ikari (well, this was made by Gainax. Glad to see THEY'RE not trying to make the next Eva!). Haruko is insane enough to be in Excel Saga and kind of represents a fanboy's dream girl. She also has a very unique look. She can look cute in some scenes, but in others her eyes swell up to an enormous size, leaving the pupils behind them, and she looks almost capable of murder. This is partially due to her lamp-like yellow eyes and salmon pink hair. The other characters don't have a whole lot of personality. Naota's older brother's girlfriend, Mamimi; the robot that pops from his head, which becomes like the domestic wench-in-training character from a romantic comedy (Sasami, Shinobu, etc.); and Naota's father work well enough in their capacities. Naota's class president, Ninomori, was a cold and calculating politician's daughter and, despite the fact that she only had a big part in one episode, had a well-done personality.
The sound is all good; the music is done by some Japanese group called "The Pillows" that all the other reviewers seem to have heard of. Not only did it all fit the show, I also liked to listen to it (unlike Excel Saga, where the music is only funny for a while and then you just end up skipping the opening and ending of every episode). The dub voices were all excellent, especially Haruko. She had a weird, creaky voice with a slight edge of dementia, and she could talk normally (as normally as she ever would) or yell hysterically like Excel. The only problem I had with the dub was that the actors did that L/R thing with the names that I find annoying. You're not Japanese, people, so don't try to sound like it! How would it be if I went ar/lound saying things with an L/R thing all the time in Engl/rish? But that's a minor complaint, and most people will probably either not care or actually like the attention to that detail.
Given the quality of the animation in most TV series today, saying something has "OAV quality" animation isn't the compliment it used to be. However, FLCL's animation keeps the gap open between a TV series and an OAV, surpassing even The Soul Taker and Gatekeepers Full Throttle. Computers were almost certainly used, but unlike those two shows it was practically impossible to tell the difference (I think it was digitized, like Love Hina). The normal animation is amazing, but another very impressive thing about it is how well it morphs. Like Excel Saga, the animation morphs on practically an episodic basis into a different style. Sometimes it looks like a drama, sometimes it looks like a Dick Tracey comic, and sometimes its just a camera panning over manga boxes with an English voiceover reading the Japanese text for you.
One question that has to be asked about this show is: What is it? Is it a comedy? When you're talking about things like a robot popping out of someone's head, you think that's an obvious question. But actually, FLCL encompasses almost everything in anime that its fans enjoy (the variety is another reason I liked this show a lot). Mecha, love triangles, weirdness, voluptuous women, societal taboos, supernatural battles, cosplay fetish costumes, it's all in there. The battles especially were one of the best parts of the show, which surprised the hell out of someone expecting a show like Excel Saga (where the main character's preferred battle strategy is to run and hide). They involve no repeated animation, unlike almost every shounen anime out there (even good ones like Yuu Yuu Hakusho and Rurouni Kenshin have way too much repeated animation, as well as pointless talking; just shut up and fight!), they're done very fast (not fast like Dragon Ball Z, where the character's arms turn into lines so they can save more money), and since they're usually waged against creatures five times the size of the characters, they actually look difficult. There's also none of that old standby of giant exploding beams as weapons; the powers and weapons are some of the weirdest ever seen (that includes One Piece, the manga about a rubber pirate and his friends with a slingshot and a sword in his mouth). Haruko uses her guitar, which has a lot of weird powers (flying like the Silver Surfer, shooting bullets and bombs, and a revving engine like a chain saw for powerful whacks), and Naota can pilot the robot, but he gets inside it by being eaten by a giant mouth on its stomach. There's a long fight in the end of every episode, so none of that Jubei-chan stuff of waiting through five episodes of one-hit fights to see a single three minute-long duel.
Please, use your head and watch this on TV if you want to see it! Show that unedited, original anime can find a place on TV. Obviously Cartoon Network thought something weird and different could be successful on TV, and the more people watch FLCL, the more they'll be proven right. Maybe then they'll stop saddling us with Dragon Ball Z ripoff #1836, Cowboy Bebop ripoff #3648, and Gundam ripoff #7849. Oh yeah, and watch it in the first place. It's good! It's really good! If you liked Excel Saga, it's even better than that!
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Notes and Trivia
The series is the product of Gainax, exceedingly famous for Evangelion among other things, and the animation studio Production IG, responsible for Blue Submarine No. 6, the new Ghost in the Shell TV series, and other popular shows.
US DVD Review
The bilingual DVDs feature translation notes, character sketches, a director's commentary track, a "production booklet", and reversible covers (the series was released on 6 DVDs in Japan and the US package art is more or less the same, so you get all six covers while spending half as much buying the things).
Not really for young kids, although liberal minded can allow thirteen and up.
Violence: 2 - Humans, for the most part, aren't killed
Nudity: 2 - he fetish costumes aren't actually that revealing.
Sex/Mature Themes: 3 - Quite a bit of sexual metaphors using really weird SD expressions.
Language: 1 - Nothing notable.
Available in North America from Synch-Point as a bilingual DVD "Ultimate Edition" with the whole series. Was also available as three individual hybrid DVD volumes (two episodes each). (Buy from RightStuf: Ultimate Edition; or while supplies last: Vol 1, Vol 2, Vol 3.)