FLCL is without a doubt the most well known and still talked about anime of 2000. There’s a convincing argument that perhaps Love Hina is the most significant anime of the year. Hugely popular manga adaptation that exploded the amount of copycat harem anime. First anime TV series to have digitally distributed fansubs. Marked the birth of fully digitally animated TV anime. However, while the reputation of Love Hina declined rapidly, partly due to the numerous copycats wearing down anime fandom in rapid fashion, FLCL is still cited as one of Gainax’s crown jewels. At least, it is in English speaking fandom, largely due to it airing repeatedly on TV in America.
The stories that surround FLCL are pretty great in their own right. The staff at Gainax were apparently so jaded after working on Evangelion that they wanted to work on something more fun and light-hearted. Also that they took the budget usually used for a 26 episode TV anime and pumped that instead into a 6 episode OVA. I’d seen FLCL a couple of years ago and I rather liked it. I was hardly the world’s biggest fan, but I loved the mad energy it had. I was a bit wary returning to it though. You see, for every person who loves FLCL with every fibre of their being, there’s someone else who calls it dumb and nonsensical.
Gainax titles do split opinion, but those who felt they ‘got’ whatever their anime was going for usually love the title in question with all their heart and soul. I should specify here that I’m talking about their own original landmark titles (Evangelion, FLCL, Gurren Lagann), and not those awful other stuff they made they everyone promptly forgets about. Perhaps this speaks to their origins as a studio of superfans, but they seem to be able to tap into the psyche of other anime otaku like no other studio can. For FLCL, I don’t necessarily mean the themes of the show, as that would imply otaku are trapped in the mindsets of young teenagers who are only just entering puberty…or wait, maybe I’m onto something there…
What I was actually trying to get at was the way FLCL embraces glorious cartoon logic with every action and storytelling device. The specifics of what happens in each scene operate on FLCL’s personal brand of logic where everything makes sense in context, but lacks any coherency outside of it. It’s completely and utterly bonkers, but my laughter wasn’t drawn from it solely being crazy but in how this craziness totally made sense for the story it was telling. A giant photorealistic hand grabs the giant factory in the shape of an iron somehow works in the context of that scene. Although if you asked me to explain it now, I’d be at a loss. It made sense at the time man! The eyebrows, the robots bursting out of foreheads, the guitar smash that makes that wonderful broiinnggggggg sound, like a fat man sitting on a grand piano. It’s probably just an allegory for sex. That’s usually a safe bet with FLCL.
As you can probably tell by the fact 75% of this review doesn’t even talk about the anime itself, I’ve been struggling to explain my feelings towards FLCL. I always enjoyed it, but this time I felt I ‘got’ it, at least far more than I did the first time. In many ways, it’s a perfect example of what anime is capable of achieving that no other medium even attempts, let alone could achieve if it did attempt it. The tackling of more mature themes (well, your mileage may vary on whether ‘sex’ counts as a mature theme) through completely bizarre and crazy methods and just running with it the biggest draw anime has for me.
I had to write this review, partly because a recap of 2000 wouldn’t feel complete without covering FLCL, but mainly because I wanted to tell the world about how rewatching FLCL gave me a new appreciation for it. However I’m completely failing to bring across quite why it did. If you somehow haven’t watched FLCL yet, you probably should. If you have watched it and didn’t think much of it, you should probably try watching it again. If you’ve done that and still don’t like it, then you probably like anime for a completely different reason I do.