The original FLCL is a wild sleigh ride of a show, dazzling in construction and dazzling in pace. I have said before and I will say again that the animator in me is thrilled watching it. It’s a deliberate mish-mash of styles that gives the series and energy that drives it past your eyes at a hundred miles an hour. (That’s about 160 kph for those of you in civilized nations.)
It’s only six episodes long, somewhere around 140 minutes of screen time, so from one perspective that means it has to move quickly. If it doesn’t keep moving, it can’t resolve the meta-plot by the end of the series.
Well, I think that’s what they want you to think.
You see, they throw all kinds of wildass stuff out there, about giant irons looming over the city and Medical Mechanica and N.O. portals and where the hell does Haruko come from and who the hell is she anyway? Oh, man, who can figure all that crap out? Did they even finish the meta-plot? Yeah, Haruko rode off into the sunset (on a Vespa, not a horse, but still, it’s the same idea), so the show must be over, right?
Well, yeah, it is. It’s just not the show you thought it was.
Deep down FLCL is not an Overcoming the Monster story. Right? That’s what it looks like, with all those faceless monoliths looking over the city, and giant girders and communication dishes sprouting from Naota’s head and all that. Monsters, right? That’s what it’s got to be about, right?
And we never figure out what’s going on with that, so by definition the series must be too short, right?
All that crap is classic stealth storytelling. “Look at me! Look at me!” it screams, and when you look at it you miss the fact that FLCL is a straightforward tragedy.
Tragedy: Boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl.
Now, in a tragedy the “boy” and the “girl” can be anything. The point is that two entities come together in a way that makes at least one of them happy and then loses the other, which is sad. That’s what a tragedy meta-plot is.
The reason all that stuff about N.O. never makes any sense is that it’s not meant to. It’s there to keep you from noticing that the show is really about Naota growing up. Our boy is becoming a young man.
So we have him creeped out when poor, emotionally damaged Mamimi, the girl his brother left behind when he went to America to play baseball, hits on him. (She’s 17 or 18, he’s 12. Yeah, that IS creepy.) We have him playing out his ambivalent feelings about his classmate Ninamori, him putting his head on her shoulder affectionately and then levitating in panic when he realizes what he’s done, her toying mercilessly with his feelings by wearing her glasses (Oh, she’s not perfect! Maybe she’s opening up!) without lenses (Psych!).
Note the progress he’s made as a sexual being between the first two women in his life – he is repulsed by Mamimi, attracted to but confused about Ninamori – and then project the trend to the third, Haruko.
Haruko is something he’s never seen before and he’s ultimately unable to resist whatever it is she’s got (a strong personality, good looks (but it’s an anime so they all look good), a sense of mystery, fat knockers, and a Rickenbacker bass). (Trust me on this, bass players do not get laid. This may be why I have such perspective on this topic. Or maybe I should have gotten a Rickenbacker.) His attraction to her is so strong that he assaults his father for making love to her (in the manga he kills his father), and by episode six he buries his twelve year old nose in her bosom and swears his love for her, and she doesn’t smack him into the next county.
Yeah, that’s the scene. Haruko (left) and Naota. Boy gets girl.
Boy gets girl.
Well, you know the rest. There’s a fight scene with Haruko and MM, and then she sails off on her Vespa, leaving Naota to put his broken heart back together with spit, scotch tape, and nude selfies Mamimi sexted him. (I made that last part up.)
Boy loses girl. Boom. Tragedy. Lucky for him he has six more years of school with Ninamori.
And when you realize that that’s the basic plot, and look back at how the relationship between Naota and Haruko developed, you can see that the show could have been sixty minutes long.
The rest of it? It’s cool, I love it. I really do like FLCL, and the sequels, flawed as they were in comparison, were pretty good as well. But most of FLCL, including my single favorite scene (Haloed Canti ascending to the heavens as an open-mouthed Mamimi watches. My god, what were they smoking when they dreamed that up?), is sheer, raw, naked filler. It’s a really simple story with fog-cutting headlights that dazzle you so you don’t notice that the story is really simple.
How long is this series? To tell its basic story, too long. Isn’t that a scary thought? It’s great a series so far as I’m concerned, but it’s a really simple story.
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.