FLCL, aka FOOLY COOL (2001-2002)

 

Format: 6 24-minute OVA episodes on 3 DVDs

 

Rating: PG-13 (AC, AL, V)

 

American Production:  Synch Point

 

Japanese Production:  GAINAX (writing)/Production I.G. (animation)

 

Grading

 

Premise:

A-

Story:

C+

Writing:

B-

Character Design:

B

Mecha Design:

B

Animation:

C+

Artistic Merits:

C+

English Dub:

A-

Musical Score:

C+

Songs:

C+

Opener:

n/a

Closer:

B

 

 

Humor Content:

B-

Action Content:

B+

Drama Content:

C

 

 

DVD Presentation:

C

DVD Extras:

B+

 

 

OVERALL:

B-

 

Synopsis                                                                                                                          

      Nothing unusual ever happens in 12-year-old Naota’s town – except for the fact that the major new manufacturing plant in town looks and behaves like a giant iron, the 17-year-old girlfriend of his older brother (a pro baseball player) keeps hitting on him, his father and grandfather both act like adolescents, a young woman on a Vespa scooter who claims to be an alien goes around hitting things (including Naota) with a Rickenbacker bass guitar, and oh, yes, giant robots pop out of his head from time to time. Haruko, the loony purported alien, ultimately becomes a live-in housekeeper for Naota and his elders, which leads to no small amount of trouble as Naota tries to sort out her motives. And then there’s Canti, the TV-faced robot who comes to live with Naota as well and can gobble him up to transform itself into a gun capable of dealing with other mecha that pop up. And let’s not forget the government/military figure with the strange eyebrows who seems to be investigating Haruko or his sexy assistant.

 

Quotes

            “Nothing special happens here.” (Naota)

 

            “What is Fooly Cooly?” (more than one character)

 

The Long View     

      In Japanese the name of this series is “Furi Kuri,” but the syllable “ri” is commonly used in place of an “l” sound when English words are transliterated into Japanese, so it would be natural to assume that the correct English version would be “Fooly Cooly,” which is commonly abbreviated FLCL. As to what furi kuri actually means, I’ll leave that to you to figure out. I am not clear myself as to whether it’s a slang term or a nonsense phrase, as any translation of it comes out sounding awkward and the series as a whole is notorious for playing word games.

      The name aside, FLCL is, in a word, bizarre. It is easily one of the most creative anime I have ever seen, but also one of the strangest. It is a product unto itself, not readily fitting into any normal anime classification. Much of it is nonsensical (although I don’t think it’s supposed to make complete sense) and what little there is for actual plot is only partially explained. In addition, most episodes have a theme of some sort; one is centered around baseball and the “swinging the bat” euphemism, for instance, while another is a parody of John Woo movies. Two of the episodes also temporarily turn into manga! Whether the free-form blending of story elements and frenetic artistic style are inspired or simply ridiculous depends heavily on personal POV. Being intimately familiar with anime helps a bit, as numerous anime references are briskly tossed off. Understanding the vagaries of the Japanese language – such as the frequency of homophones – also helps, since FLCL gets considerable mileage out of humor based on homophone-based wordplay. These jokes do not translate well, either in the English dub or the subtitles, but explanations are (thankfully!) given in the booklets accompanying the DVDs for those who don’t know Japanese.

      Despite its oddness, there is some depth to FLCL, and that mostly comes from the characters. At the center of the series is Naota, a fairly typical apathetic preteen who’s eager to set aside childish-seeming things but isn’t quite yet ready for the transition to adulthood. Surrounding him are Haruko, the guitar-wielding housekeeper/nurse/alien who seems to have some ulterior motive beyond just messing with Naota’s head (in some cases literally); Mamimi, the delinquent and rather muddled-in-the-head former girlfriend of Naota’s brother, who’s addicted to cameras and video games; Kamon, the father who looks and behaves like a beatnik adolescent; Shigekuni, the offbeat grandfather; Eri Ninamori, the classmate/class president with problems of her own who gets deeply involved in Naota’s own problems in one episode; and Amarao, the Special Space Immigration Officer who seems to have some past connection to Haruko but is more characterized by his massive and disturbing eyebrows. There’s also, of course, the robot Canti, who never speaks but is always around and plays an integral part in nearly all the action in the series. His name is a reference to both a popular Japanese TV drama series in real life and to a character in a video games within the series. And of course we can’t forget the varied and truly oddball mecha that must be defeated throughout the various episodes, including one which looks like a hand and wrist dressed in Wild West garb and the spiderlike one which is defeated partly by feeding it bad curry.

      FLCL uses so many inventively parodied visual tricks that its technical merits are hard to define; look for a distinct South Park parody at one point, for instance. Some will like the style, while others (particularly those not used to anime) may find it distracting. Overall, I wasn’t especially impressed by the artistry, but as with the story reactions will vary widely. I can say with certainty the neither the soundtrack nor the English vocals will disappoint; all of the performances are excellent, with Haruko being a particular standout. The closing number, which features a snappy tune set to a combination of animated and real-life images of a Vespa scooter, is worth checking out. The rating given for the series is primarily for suggestive content, as the violence in it never ascends beyond a cartoonish level. Although there’s little or no swearing in the series, do be aware that expletives are fairly common in the outtakes.

      FLCL is not a series well-suited to anime newcomers. For more veteran viewers, I recommend that you at least give the series a look. You may find yourself really getting into it, or the strangeness of it all could turn you off.

 

DVD Extras

·       Company Trailers

·       Director Commentary

·       Image Gallery (limited)

·       Outtakes (from the English dub)

·       Clean opener/closer

·       reversible DVD covers

·       booklet including reprints of manga scenes, letters from characters, interviews, character profiles, equipment details, invaluable translation notes, and assorted other tidbits; some of this content is as nonsensical as the series itself!

 

 

 

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