32 CommentsFavourite and Forgotten / By Scamp /

2000 Favourite Anime: FLCL

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.

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32 Comments

  1. Posted July 19, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    You see, for every 100 people who love FLCL with every fibre of their being, there’s one person who doesn’t get it.

    Fixed.

    But really, in all my time trawling the web, I’ve never seen any fair-minded review pundit or animation aficionado make a substantial criticism of FLCL. It’s always something like, “I don’t get it,” or “I don’t like the Pillows.” Does that make FLCL perfect? Quite possibly.

    • Scamp
      Posted July 19, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

      “I don’t get it” is legitimate criticism

    • Posted July 20, 2012 at 4:55 am | Permalink

      I don’t like it. I do get it, but I don’t get why people love it so much. I could spend my time trying to formulate a convincing argument about why it sucks, but I really don’t want to watch it again to refresh my memory (aka self-torture).

    • Posted July 20, 2012 at 8:57 am | Permalink

      I But it’s boring, lazy, and obtuse criticism. Much more interesting and constructive is why or how one doesn’t get it.

      • Scamp
        Posted July 20, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

        Well yes, I was talking from a basic standpoint that there is merit in the “I don’t get it” critique. But it’s also a difficult point to expand on. You can expand on what you perceive to be nothing

  2. Taka
    Posted July 19, 2012 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    Yeah it’s pretty clear that you aren’t able to articulate as well as you like in this post. I read a lot of your posts both before and a few after I stopped following your blog and I never had a complaint about the writing. This…on the other hand.

    I’m not usually one to harangue people about grammar as long as the flow and message is preserved but this:

    “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.”

    Just screamed fragment at me in a very jarring way.

    • Scamp
      Posted July 20, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

      I usually write used fragments though. That’s how I speak, and I tend to write as I speak. It’s also meant to give off a more informal tone.

      [shrug] writing theory

      • Erif
        Posted July 21, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

        If he used a colon/semi-colon preceding those clauses, it would have been fine. I don’t have much a problem with it.

  3. luffyluffy
    Posted July 19, 2012 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    FLCL is really good and I love it, but holy shit is it overrated.

    • Scamp
      Posted July 20, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

      The word overrated is overrated

    • Click
      Posted July 20, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

      I wouldn’t say that FLCL is overrated as much as it is well-known. Hell, it’s probably one of the most polarizing anime series in existence (up there with Code Geass and K-ON!!). For every one person who loves it, there’s a person who hates it. It’s a real audience splitter.

      • luffyluffy
        Posted July 21, 2012 at 2:18 am | Permalink

        No, I just hate how people cream themselves everytime it’s mentioned and go all Gundam-Wing-Esque nostalgia on me

      • langer
        Posted July 21, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

        I know what you mean, my motto is that I like KyotoAni animes, just not KyotoAni fans

  4. diz1776
    Posted July 19, 2012 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

    Nobody is honestly going to debate on how they don’t like it. For the most part it was and is the greatest work of it’s era. It’s influence was far-reaching even beyond it’s own genre.

    • Scamp
      Posted July 20, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

      Evangelion and Gurren Lagann are better

      :P

  5. Posted July 19, 2012 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    I’ve certainly never seen FLCL and enjoyed it beyond the ability for words to express.

    No sir. Not one bit. Never.

  6. Click
    Posted July 19, 2012 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

    Rather recently, after years of airing this show and quoting it as the greatest series they’ve ever aired, Adult Swim finally took FLCL’s place off the block. For Deadman Wonderland.

    I lost my god damn mind.

    • luffyluffy
      Posted July 20, 2012 at 1:26 am | Permalink

      Sshhh, no, pretend they removed FLCL for Casshern Sins and it hurts a lot less.

    • Mr.RR
      Posted July 20, 2012 at 9:07 am | Permalink

      Or wait until they air something else better in place of DMW and pretend that FLCL replaced that.

      Oddly enough I always managed to catch it on the last ep on adult swim and when I finally saw ep1 I was like “Yeah I’m gonna finish this” only to learn that I saw the last ep about 5 times before any others (not that I didn’t like it though).

  7. Thrashy
    Posted July 20, 2012 at 1:13 am | Permalink

    Gas-powered guitars, fake eyebrows, robots, the pillows…

    Glorious.

  8. Posted July 20, 2012 at 1:59 am | Permalink

    FLCL marked the end of the OAV series in Japan.

    Really, can anyone name a good short direct-to-video series since FLCL?

    • Thrashy
      Posted July 20, 2012 at 3:22 am | Permalink

      Gundam Unicorn?

      Seriously though, that’s all I’m coming up with, though I’m sure there were some things I missed between FLCL and my entry into the fandom circa 2006. Maybe Time of Eve should count?

      • Chipp
        Posted July 20, 2012 at 7:06 am | Permalink

        It was ONA (web-series).

      • Scamp
        Posted July 20, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

        Eh, ONA/OVA, they’re basically the same thing. So yes, Time of Eve would be the last great one, along with Pale Cocoon by the same guy. For the most part though, the late night 12 episode anime has replaced the OVA market. Stuff like Madoka might have just been an OVA 20 years ago

  9. Posted July 20, 2012 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    FLCL was always hard to put in words, which may be why anyone who tries usually requires thousands of them. This was one of the first shows I watched when I started to really get into anime, and while I haven’t seen it again in some time, it’s getting harder and harder to figure out why not.

  10. Posted July 20, 2012 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    FLCL is one of those that keeps giving each time you watch it. It’s not that it’s layered, but rather the attention to detail in its almost singular focus on telling a male coming of age story. Really a magnificent series. A real high tech showcase for its time, too. Shame that we’ll likely never get a true HD release.

  11. Mike
    Posted July 20, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    Your second to last paragraph is a great encapsulation as to why this series is so enjoyable, why the medium is perfect for something like this and why the show has staying power. This show is probably the one I turn back for re-watches more than most, and I think this post just prompted another. To me, this show belongs with perma-recommendations like Eva, Bebop, LoGH and so on, but I’m probably in the minority.

  12. Anca
    Posted July 20, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    I don’t care much about male coming of age stories unless there’s also some other stuff going on since I’m, well, not male. FLCL didn’t impress me much when I saw it and I’m hesitant to try it again. Absurdist humor also doesn’t really do much for me.

    • Scamp
      Posted July 21, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

      Eh, what’s the difference? It involves a female coming-of-age story as well anyway, and it runs basically the same as the male’s story

  13. Mr. Anon
    Posted July 20, 2012 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    You see, for every person who loves FLCL with every fibre of their being, there’s someone else who calls it dumb and nonsensical.

    Well it is. It’s also awesome though.

  14. gw_kimmy
    Posted July 21, 2012 at 5:37 am | Permalink

    hmm…i thought it was alright. so much freud and euphemisms everywhere that i was like “whoah FLCL, calm down.” also i didn’t feel like the soundtrack was dynamic enough to match the wacky pace of the show. otherwise, decent and solid.

  15. Posted July 22, 2012 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    “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.”

    This. Watched FLCL growing up on Adult Swim. Loved it to death. Every time they’d bring back re-runs of the show, I’d go and watch it. It was utterly nonsensical, but the right kind for my liking. It was such an enjoyable series.

    “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.”

    One more addition: you’ve watched FLCL so many times that after leaving it alone for a few years then re-watching it leaves a taste of ordinary in your mouth. That’s where I sadly stand with FLCL after I watched it last year on DVD :/

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