What the F*** Did I Just Watch? FLCL

In honor of the reincarnated FLCL franchise – the first episode of the new-born FLCL Progressive aired last night – I think I can take time out from regularly scheduled posts to sneak in a special event.

I like the original FLCL. I’ve seen it four times already, and since it’s a shorty…less than three hours total air time…I’ll watch it again and again. (I also like the music, so I can use it as background noise while writing.)

As a writer and animator, I always come to these with some kind of insider perspective, and those two identities are fighting me internally about FLCL.

The animator absolutely loves it. FLCL is an animator’s dream show: fast, dynamic pose-to-pose action, bright colors and broad actions (which they break up with black and white segments and still images), fast and slow moments that change the pace just enough. The section in episode 2, where Canti is ascending into the darkened sky with his coat-hanger halo and tiny wings, being watched in awe by poor, damaged Mamimi…oh, man, I don’t know what the director was smoking the day he dreamed that up, but I want a barrel full of it.

The other exciting element of FLCL from an animation standpoint is that they were willing to use whatever animation style they wanted to make things interesting and drive the action forward. In the first and last episodes they use a technique called animatic, where camera pans around a series of still images. Usually it’s used with storyboards, but appropriate to the medium they used manga pages instead, and – and this is really clever – instead of just using the still pages they animated the images on them. Damn that am cute!

You know who used to do stuff like that? Fleischer Brothers, the Betty Boop studio.

In episode five they deliberately steal the South Park look for one scene. South Park was originally paper-cutout animation, very crude but very active; they later duplicated the look (to a degree) on the computer. Why the scene uses that style I have no idea…but dang, it looks cool and it’s a funny sight gag that works every time.

The other thing they did was take advantage of the state of the art for the day. Computer animation was getting pretty good, so in episode one they needed something to indicate the emotional suffering Mamimi feels when Haruko kisses Nauta.

My buddy kingdylbag13 has the animation they did of Mamimi in one of his recent posts. I stole it with no shame whatsoever:


Congratulations to kingdylbag13 on 400 followers and 200 posts!

I mean, what’s happening is that Haruko’s giving Nauta the kiss of life, but still, Mamimi had fixated on Nauta as a substitute for her real boyfriend, Nauta’s brother, so her heart…ANYWAY (that might have been TMI). Her “take” is computer animated by putting three things together. As with a lot of anime and manga, to indicate the depth of her response she is drawn in a stylized and child-like manner. To indicate her confusion she spins in a circle. (That’s an old cinematic code.) Then they tell the computer to spin the camera around her as she spins. They took two old techniques and put them together with a new one to create a memorable image.

Dang, that’s clever.

The writer in me wants to tell you this: Throw out the machines. Throw them out! Forget the NO stuff and the Medical Mechanica…they are sound and fury signifying nothing. They are there to distract you from the real plot. They are stealth storytelling.

The story is about Nauta, and his discovery of love, romance, and sex. At the beginning of the series he’s confused and naive; he doesn’t understand what Mamimi wants from him when she starts kissing him. (That’s kind of creepy, by the way, but whatever.) In the third episode he finds himself both attracted to and repulsed by Ninamori. They are sitting together on his bed and her leans over to put his head on her shoulder…and then jumps three feet in the air when he realizes what he’s done. (“I love her/I love her not.”)

And then Haruko. Talk about “I love her/I love her not!” He’s constantly screaming at her. But when his father has an affair with her, Nauta is confused/torn/jealous. He has emotions that he can’t understand and so he kills his father, gets him upside the head with a bottle bop bop hop on pop. When Nauta sees Haruko in episode six, he throws his arms around her and buries his head in her breasts. He tells her he loves her. But at the end of the episode she rides off without him.


From left: Mamimi (still in reaction mode), Nauta, Haruko.

Did you see that? Does that sound familiar?

Boy meets girl. Boy gets girl. Boy loses girl. It’s one of the Seven Basic Plots.

And you know which one. For all the jokes, for all the action, for all the excitement, FLCL is a tragedy.

Who could have possibly seen that coming?

Oh, the new season, FLCL Progressive. I liked the first episode, and I’ll keep watching….and that’s one of the functions of the beginning of a story. The beginning is supposed to introduce the characters and setting, and “hook” the user, and that worked for me.

FLCL Progressive, even though they tried to keep things moving, lacks the manic energy of the first series, and I was annoyed that one of the things they did was tease for the whole half hour us with something we already knew SPOILER DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT that the teacher was actually Haruko. I mean, like, that was like the worst-kept secret in the history of storytelling and the animation was practically saying, “Look how clever I am,” at the reveal, which they made a big deal over. No, you’re not all that clever.

But I like Hidomi, the newly-introduced main character. I think she’s interesting, with more than a hint of Mamimi in her, and I think it will be fun seeing what they have in mind for her. Plus this is one I can watch from week to week like a normal person and not binge watch. How shall I wait unto Saturday? Let me count the ways.

FLCL Hidomi

Hidomi, channeling her inner Kanna

SPOILING CONJECTURE: Think she’s Nauta’s kid? I do.

I always look at comments and feedback, and I’m sure I’m not the first to see what I’ve seen, so have at it. Just keep it clean and keep it on target…no personal attacks, okay? Thanks.

5 thoughts on “What the F*** Did I Just Watch? FLCL

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