I’m back again, having watched the entire series. I was not disappointed.
Tried to keep the Adult Swim logo on most of the pictures since that is where my screen grabs came from. Please head on over to Adult Swim to watch the entire series. Be sure to take your favorite psychotropic substances and watch on a big screen TV in a dark room. You may not remember anything that happened but it will be fun.
FLCL is short for Fooly Cooly. That is a slang term for sexual fondling, aka “petting”. As in, “Hey babe, let’s do some fooly cooly.”
Does anyone else besides me remember the original FLCL? It is available on Adult Swim if you can’t. It was about a boy’s (Naota’s) entrance to puberty. He gets involved with Mamimi, a girl living under a bridge and class prez, Nimamori. There is a background story about Haruka chasing after a godlike being known at Atomsk and using the things that sprout from Naota’s head to fight with.
Massive spoilage ahead!
FLCL Progressive is a sequel, set perhaps 30 years into the future. This time it is girl-centric, focused on Hidomi Hibajiri. There are a lot of significant characters in it. I’d describe its color as polluted red, apocalyptic grey and moody blue, which clears up by the end.
Hidomi is depressed. And hopelessly bored with life. She has happy nightmares of
destruction and cannibalism every night in which she is ripped up and eaten by classmates. The way she is fondling herself clearly shows sexual pleasure. Dreams are a place where we express our forbidden desires. Flesh ripped off is a metaphor for nakedness and being eaten literally may be a metaphor for being eaten in a more pleasant way. Since she has rejected sexual maturity, she can only dream about it symbolically.
However, there is usually some clue about what to expect later, maybe this episode, maybe far in the future. Her father left a long time ago to go to work for Medical Mechanica, an interplanetary corporation, and never returned. She lives with her mother Hinae Hibajiri and helps out in a cafe they operate, Cafe Hibajiri. They are waiting for the husband/father’s return after many years. In her first dream, Hidomi dreams of turning into a mecha and destroying Medical Mechanica.
The language of anime would say she was kuudere. And that is a problem I have. The term expresses nothing of what it happening with the character. It describes the visible affect but fails to offer real insight into the character. There are a million reasons why one might display a flat aspect and in mediocre anime you never learn why someone is the way they are. This is not a mediocre anime for Hidomi.
Hinae is an upbeat mother, always looking on the bright side and repeatedly trying to get thru to Hidomi. It is so bad she doesn’t really feel like her mother anymore. When she mentions to Hidomi the possibility of “moving on” from her lost husband, Hidomi starts to “overflow”.
Hidomi wears glowie bluish headphones with cat ears that were left to her by her father. It is all she has left of him. These headphones don’t play music but serve to isolate her from the world. The may have been stolen top-secret technology and appear to enable the wearer to manifest things thru their head from a great distance. (Was he a part of the resistance? Did the theft cause him to be “disappeared”?) They also seem to be able to create an alternate personality. This feature can be controlled remotely by Medical Mechanica. They also give her the ability to turn into a super cyborg.
This alternate personality is a parallel to Haruko splitting apart. The alternate is insanely gleeful while her original personality is quiet and reserved. It has been repressed. The alternate is also the one who presents in her dreams. When this gets triggered, everybody loves the new her – except for Ko Ide who recognized that this isn’t the “real” her.
Medical Mechanica’s buildings look like gigantic irons, hundreds of feet tall, just as they did in the original FLCL. Steam belches out of them. I see them as giant forces of social conformity, ready to press unruly wrinkles back in place. At one point Hidomi says that the current building looks just like the last one. This is a nod to the previous FLCL series.
Hidomi is 14 and in middle school. Her teacher (who is constantly muttering about
students “jerking off their animalistic sexual urges”) is not who she says she is. Teach tries to get a reaction from her by having her watch hardcore porn on a laptop in her office. There is no response and Teach comments that Hidomi doesn’t want to delay her entrance into adolescence until she is over the hill or she will rot away. (In Japan a woman is considered “over the hill” at a much younger age than in the US.) In one of her dreams, Hidomi is literally rotting away (even though happily) as a zombie.
Several of Hidomi’s classmates are
of interest here. Ko Ide is her romantic interest. She has been casting longing glances in his direction. He is also interested in her – and a bit shy – but she makes herself unapproachable. The image of her in a condom is an unmistakable reference to being sexually unavailable and uninterested. Ko, on the other hand is very much interested.
As his friend Goro commented on, he no longer has the smooth and undifferentiated body of a child. Teach has already shown a significant non-student-teacher interest in him due to his ability to manifest. Seeing that body brings a significant reaction from Hidomi and she starts to overflow but then faints.
Ko is very poor and does manual work in a junkyard while trying to sell his inventions on the side. The yard itself is like a scene from hell and he lives in the poorest part of the city. The extent of his admiration becomes apparent when he risks his life to protect her early on. He becomes the primary male protagonist. Ko and his immediate friends are all 14.
One of Ko’s friends is Gorō Mori. Gorō is an individual. He is heavyset to the point of being
significantly overweight. He wears a skirt, a feminine T-shirt and carries a purse. When his legs are spread his penis is visible thru his panties. Ko does not find this amusing.
Goro is not gay but cannot get a date as a cross dresser so he rents a girl when the need arises. The girl’s name is Aika.
Aika accepts money for dates. She plays whatever role is requested but nothing more, refusing to get emotionally involved. She realizes this makes her into a low-level prostitute of some sort so when she receives payment, she gives the boy some household item she found. This creates a fig leaf of a normal financial transaction for her. Aika becomes very important later on.
Maruko Nogata is tall, good looking and has some “Latin blood in him”. Despite being a
bit effeminate in his behavior, he doesn’t appear to be gay as he develops a crush on Hidome. (Bi might be interesting… He is pretty cute! 😉 )
There are a few other important characters. I’m amazed they managed so many in such a short anime without it getting cluttered. There is Eye Patch, Tonkici, and Murano who all appear to be in some kind of anti- Medical Mechanica resistance.
Murano is Aika’s “owner”. We don’t realize it at the time but Aika is a lifelike android who is saving up money to buy her freedom. In reality she is a secret weapon to be used on the Medical Mechanica building.
Tonkici owns an amusement park that is really a weapon to attack Medical Mechanical. He often dresses as a dodo. I think this symbolizes the obsolescence of his ideas in the contemporary world.
Haruko Haruhara appeared in the original FLCL. It is apparent that at some time after FLCL, Haruko literally split into Haruha and Julia Jinyu. The two of them fight continually. Haruha is wildly pursuing her great love Atomsk a multidimensional space pirate. In the original FLCL, he was being kept prisoner by Medical Mechanica and the original Haruko liberated him only to find he wasn’t interested in being tied down by her.
Haruha in this episode is the emotional side of the original while Julia is the logical side. She has entered the school under the guise of a teacher to check out the kids and their potential for “overflowing”. She makes a comment as she reveals herself about not needing a 4 wheeled vehicle with wings. No adult should want that. All you need are two wheels. This is a clear reference to her and Julia’s vehicles. Those vehicles in turn symbolize stability and safety verses exhilaration and risk taking.
Haruha keeps her Vespa from her FLCL days and wields a 1967 Model Mustang while Julia has a gorgeous 1957 Chevy Bel Air Convertible and swings a Fender Jazzmaster bass guitar. Eventually, a B.C. Rich Bich pops out of Hidomi’s head near the end.
Also recurring from the original FLCL are Canti the robot and Atomsk the space pirate. Canti is somewhat of a Christ figure having been crucified, dismantled, and used to create Aika. There is a last part she needs to be complete and that is a flower in a pot she gave to Goro. Eye Patch and Murano need it to complete the weapon design and cannot find it..
In a bizarre opener, Jinyo attempts to kill Hidomi by running her over with her Chevy. Failing that she apologizes to Hinae for having failed to kill her daughter. No further attempt on Hidomi’s life takes place. By the time she has driven off, Hanae and Hidomi go from wanting to call the police to being amazed at how cool Jinyo was. Eventually Jinyo gets hired as a dishwaher/cook/waitress in the cafe and attempts to protect Hidomi from the machinations of Haruha.
There is nothing in this world that interests Hidomi. There is nothing she wants to do, nowhere she wants to go, nothing she dreams of being. Hidomi is putting the world on pause by pretending not to hear it. This is her way of rejecting the changes she is going through.
This anime is entirely about sexual coming of age. Puberty. Love. Eros. Physical and psychological changes. Girl to adolescence. Giving up on the hopes of a child for the reality that is now.
Overflowing. It is a central theme of the show. It is symbolic of powerful emotional responses one is not in control of. It can be fear, anger and very commonly sexual desire.
The headphones are a controller of overflow, causing it to manifest in an extremely repressed girl. It is also a dimensional portal thru which desired things can be drawn. Haruha wants the power such devices could give her. Hidomi and Ko both seem to have this power, even though Ko lacks a headset and Hidomi’s power is greater. The original battle scene was with a manifestation from Ko’s brain that was only interested in going after Hidomi.
Maybe she wouldn’t have the ability to manifest without that headset? If so, Father has given her a brilliant gift. Without release she might have psychologically self destructed. Everyone needs an emotional outlet when feelings overwhelm them.
Hidomi’s horn is bright red when it shows. It features in her zombie dream and in a couple other scenes. Devices or even people can be pushed (or pulled) out of her head. Maruko is also capable of manifesting, as is Aiko. She needs her flower pot and plant while he needs some uh, rhythmic rubbing on a carnival ride for him to to get a horn to come out and then overflow.
It turns out that all pubescent children have some of this potential and Tonkici is not above draining this from his young amusement park customers to power his battle station.
There is minimal fan service in this show. There’s a beach scene where Haruha tries to tempt the boys into rubbing oil on her. No doubt she is trying to see if anything “interesting” manifests. That’s about it.
Most of the nudity is of Ko, which is reasonable since Hidomi is interested in him and the show is about what she sees. He literally jumps out of his clothes when Hidomi agrees to a date. Haruha knocks him silly and his shorts get dropped. He is recovered nude after he is sucked out of his clothes into another space. There is another where Aika gets reborn as a human girl and Goro catches her as she is falling. Very sweet! (Aren’t all creatures nude when they are born?) I don’t consider any of it fan service. I like the respectful way it was handled, without blushing and shock and pretending to look away.
Plenty of nose bleeds but they seem to be mostly restricted to when peoples faces get smashed. The trope of nose bleed = aroused is a little more complex here. (Unless you think that smashed in the face = arousing.)
If I gave the original FLCL a 10, I’d give this a 9.5. Like the original it is entirely about learning to embrace the sexual and emotional maturity arising from puberty. There are more characters and each has a decent arc for a mere 6 episode show. There is nonsexual nudity. (Tho many 14 year old boys of any age would consider any hint of it to be sexually arousing.) Goro and Marco provide diversity regarding what “normal” boys are like and the political implications of a state corporation whose very design is to flatten everything is ominous. The importance of unifying sadness with happiness and emotion with logic is clear from the start.
OTOH too many messages can stretch such a short series too far. I wanted everything to have more time. When I have a lot of characters I care about – and I cared about everyone to one degree or another – I’d like more depth. The original had fewer characters for its run. The music was still by The Pillows and that was good but the art style seemed like it suffered a bit, possibly due to the greater complexity.
Definitely 2 kitten scratched thumbs up. Can’t wait for Alternative to come out. The TV version will no doubt be censored but the movie version has some interesting advance art!