October 20, 2000
FLCL S LTS F FN
Welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends! About a month late, but not a dollar short, I promise you. This here review has taken so long to write because FLCL (pronounced "Furi Kuri" after the four kana which go into it's name) is hard to quantify without introducing masses of plot spoilers. Nevertheless I shall endeavor to do so.
First, Furi Kuri is a six-part OVA series brought to you by Gainax. I believe there is also a movie. If that's not enough for you, there are three volumes of manga serializations, and a CD. Since almost all of the staff previously worked on Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou or Neon Genesis Evangelion, there is a strong artistic influence from each of these series.
Furi Kuri takes place, as do so many anime, in a world very like our own, but not quite so. As is often the case, the laws of physics are violated with cartoon impunity, and characters display a certain...robustness...which any of us could only dream of. Folks are flung through space in beauteous arcs, limbs flailing majestically, to perform graceful one-point landings on their faces, heels rapping smartly on their skulls. Do these poor creatures feel pain? Surely, but they pick themselves up and--well, they don't march back into danger, they run away like any sane person, but the point is that they can run.
Another staple of Japanese OVAs is the domination of the cast by high school (or younger) characters. FLCL is squarely in this camp. The "hero" of our story is hard to pick out in the three episodes I've been privileged to watch, but there are a few candidates to choose from:
- Nandaba Naota, a 12-year old student. His brother is off in America, playing baseball. He is nursing a big chip on his shoulder, seeming to feel abandoned.
- Samejima Mamimi, aged 17, is supposedly the girlfriend of Naota's brother, but she acts awfully familiar with Naota. This is yet another source of annoyance to him.
- Haruhara Haruko. Maybe not the hero of the show, but my pick for bestest, most funnest and excitingest character in the show, and indeed in this year's anime. She's got a guitar with a two-stroke engine, a Vespa Scooter with an unknown propulsion system and a cool riding outfit. She's the oldest of the 'kids' in the show (so far), stating that herself that she's 19 (though she's probably older).
Haruko's picture graces the top of this review. Maybe not her most flattering picture, but it does capture some of her tendency to vogue disgracefully. Along with this cast of characters we are introduced to the 'adults' in the series, such as Naota's father Kamon, and his grandfather Shigekuni. Amongst the non-human cast we have Miyu-Miyu, a rather disturbing cat, and Kanchi, a robot, pictured here behind Mamimi and Naota. It is one of those difficulties of plot spoiling which prevent me from explaining how Kanchi first arrives on the scene, though I will go so far as to note that he was given his name by Mamimi, after a destroying angel character in a video game she played.
So what's it about? It's partly about the 'ordinary' life of two kids in the city of Mabase, growing up in the shadow of the mysterious Medical Mechanica plant. That the plant looks like a giant steam iron, and in fact billows forth gouts of steam or smoke at irregular intervals is certainly a source of curiousity for these kids, but it doesn't obscure their more ordinary concerns of alienation and confusion.
All that changes in an instant when Haruko literally races onto the scene, gunning her Vespa toward an unsuspecting Mamimi and Naota. This meeting is a lot like the first meeting between Ataru and Lum, or Tenchi and Ryoko. In other words, it is disastrous, and totally turns Naota's life upside-down. All right, I think I'm entitled to at least one spoiler: Haruko smacks Naota in the head with her guitar! Why does she do it? Well, that's part and parcel of the story, but it is a truly precious scene, as Haruko shifts about the unconscious Naota on her knees, not actually moving her limbs but scooting from spot to spot in some spooky yet hilarious telekinetic dance.
After this painful first encounter, Naota is shocked to find that Haruko has moved into his house, invited there by his father as a live-in maid. It seems that Haruko is not yet done with Naota. Indeed, she is in his face, on his case and pawing other places in a most unseemly manner. Haruko is, in short, every otaku's dream. But Naota is not an otaku.
Furi Kuri is by turns moody and hyperkinetic. Mamimi broods, vamps and may be an arsonist. Haruko has a mission, plainly, and is given to outlandish claims, such as being an alien. Naota probably just wants them all to go away. Kanchi has some of the best scenes in the first three episodes, between battles, heroic posture and angelic tableaux. So I return to the question. What's it about?
In part it is about the mystery of the Medical Mechanica building, and certain phenomena associated with it (at least by some of the characters), such as the appearance of Kanchi. It is also about the growth of the relationships of the characters: Naota and Mamimi, Naota and Haruko, Kanchi and Mamimi. Oh, it's all very complicated. Anybody who tells you they understand this series has either had an advanced preview of the entire thing, read the whole run of manga, or is lying.
On a scale of one to five Shamanic Princesses, I'd have to give this one a three for inscrutability. In the realm of Kare Kano, it is a peer, both for character development and interaction, and for humor and style. The music, by The Pillows is somewhat repetitive on the CD, but is eminently satisfying in the context of the series. I especially like "Little Busters", which makes it's debut during Kanchi's second fight scene.
So without giving away more plot details, that sums it up. Is it worth watching? Yes, if you thought Kare Kano was worth watching, or Mahou Tsukai Tai, or Shamanic Princess. Not because it is like any of those series, though occasionally it holds some kindred relationship. Rather because it tries to do something a little different, and have fun with it. And like Haruko on her Vespa, Furi Kuri tears up the landscape.
Director: Tsurumaki Kazuya
Character Designer: Sadamoto Yoshiyuki
Script: Enomoto Yooji
Manga: Ueda Hajime
Music: The Pillows
Posted by dpwakefield at October 20, 2000 05:21 PM
I've seen the flcl epsisodes up to one where Naoto or whatever has problems with baseball, and Haruko is totally brutal with it. Also, i have read spoilers (I gotta know more!) about it, and t only went up to when naoto absorbed atomsk, ALL of it. I was just wondering, is that the only season? Is there just one season?
Posted by: Alex at August 9, 2003 03:26 PM
I only know about the one series. If there are plans for another, I'm sure we'll all here about it someday.
Posted by: Don Wakefield at August 10, 2003 09:36 PM