Genre(s): Action, Slice-of-life
Anime Director: Kazuya Tsurumaki
Number of Episodes: 6
Licensed? Yes (Synch-Point)
FLCL? Furi Kuri? Fooly Cooly? What is this strange phenomenon? Well it, happens to be one of the most popular and talked-about anime ever made. This is what we have come to expect from studio Gainax, creators of such controversial anime as Evangelion. Fooly Cooly (as is its official English translation) is, at its heart, a simple coming-of-age story. The main character Naota begins as a bored (and boring) 12-year-old living in a uninteresting town. Through the plot's absolutely bizarre twists, we watch this boy realize how pointless his life is right now, and how all he needs to do is step up and put a little energy into his life to make it exciting.
Naota Nandaba is a 12-year-old living in Mabase, a fairly average Japanese town except for the huge Medical Mechanica plant in the middle. The factory mysteriously spews out smoke and steam all the time, and the people never seem to wonder why this plant exists. Naota, however generic in personality, has a life that is far from normal. His brother went to America a few years ago to play baseball, and his brother's high school girlfriend Mamimi Samejima is, for all intents and purposes, going out with the 12-year-old Naota. The boy feels bored with his uneventful life, until one day, a mysterious girl appears on a motorcycle. She drives right into Naota, and proceeds to hit him in the forehead with a guitar. We later find out that this 19-year-old girl is named Haruhara Haruko, and she is now the housekeeper at Naota's house. As the series progresses, robots and other strange objects begin to appear out of the growing "horn" or lump on Naota's head. (formed by getting hit with the guitar) The show gets crazier and crazier as Haruko helps Naota to mature and see himself in a new way.
The writing in FLCL is a strange type that walks the line between drama and comedy. At times, it will seem like the story is getting very serious and really trying to get across a moral. As quick as this scene appears, Haruko will come by to hit Naota with a guitar, or his dad will pop up with some sexual wisecrack about Naota. The viewer has to be ready to change tones over and over during the course of each episode; to get sense (and sometimes even a lesson) from seemingly random insanity, and to suspend all reality to watch these events unfold. Believe me, this show does not follow any boundaries of reality or genre. Science fiction will be mixed with comedy, romance, and drama. Meanwhile, you will be introduced to secret organizations, giant eyebrows and unexplained problems. (like a giant satellite bomb headed for Mabase) The story is chock-full of metaphors about growing up and making your own choices. Another interesting inclusion is all of the subtle references to anime and popular culture, such as Evangelion, Gundam, and South Park. It is easy to watch FLCL with a shallow eye, only picking up the loud and violent humor. However, if you look closer, you will find a really meaningful story about one boy's quest to grow up and become a man.
Animation is, just like plot, another confusing aspect of FLCL. More tone changes abound, as Gainax and Production I.G. switch us between normal, chibi, manga, and even South Park styles of animation. Each of these represents a change in plot tone, but they are not as effective as the changes in writing. The difference here is that your eyes often cannot react fast enough to pick up and interpret all of the flashing images in front of you. Though confusing, the action scenes are very entertaining. There are hybrid organic-robotic cretures such as Canti, a robot that comes out of Naota's head, and when they fight, they move with a beautiful fluditity of motion. In general, FLCL uses very good animation for its time period, but can sometimes be too confusing for its own good.
Music is the absolute best aspect of FLCL. All of the music, from backgrounds to the closing song, were performed by "The Pillows," a Japanese rock band. The band has a distinctive British sound, and infuse a very contemporary, fun sound to the series. Not only is the music well-performed and very catchy, but it is flawlessly integrated. During action scenes, Gainax actually animated based on the music, as opposed to dubbing music based on the animation. This results in a really synchronized feeling in which the music really enhances the action. Also, slower, more uplifting songs are used during key emotional scenes in each episode. (Most notably the song "Little Busters" in the conclusion of each episode) These cap off each episode with a powerful, emotional mood.
The dub is surprisingly good, and is actually better than the sub. There are many plays on words that only Japanese people would get in the sub, while the dub changes these to jokes that American audiences will understand and laugh at. Also, the actors are both believable and funny when they need to be.
FLCL rightly deserves the title of classic, and it does not shy away from the uniqueness that many anime lack. The plot is twisty and interesting, but manages to tell a profound, very personal story in only six episodes. Those looking for a straight comedy will be disappointed. Deep down, Fooly Cooly is an uplifting, powerful story that can make you laugh, think, or even cry.