December 12, 2004 on 5:22 pm | In FLCL | Comments Off on FLCL

Nowadays an OVA has to either be whacked out or part of an established franchise to make it in the world.

The seminal digital work of GAiNAX, FLCL is director Tsurumaki Kazuya’s disturbed brain child. Naota lives in the small town of Mabase, where nothing ever happens. One quiet day Haruko, an alien on a vespa, hits him with a bass guitar, causing robots to spring forth from his head.
Despite Haruko moving in as his housekeeper, despite living with a robot named for the god of fire and destruction, despite having to destroy those loathsome robots … Naota is still convinced that nothing ever happens in his town.

FLCL is guaranteed to make its audiences either cackle with glee or scream “Argh! My brain!”
Naota’s family life is taken up largely by obscure cultural references, dialogue obtuse even for anime. Compared to the manic dining room sequences the rest of the series seems remarkably placid by comparison. That’s really saying something.
Over six episodes, Naota plays baseball, cracks an arson mystery and resists portraying Puss in Boots while helping the class president come to terms with her parent’s impending divorce. All the while, he grows up, and everything proceeds to wrap quickly in the last ten minutes.

Being as the stories could be said to not make a lot of sense on the whole, Tsurumaki has placed a lot of importance on character. The four leads are excellent characters, although Canti never speaks. Most of the other characters simply spout whatever comes to mind – with one of Naota’s friends immortalised by his inane “chuu!” chatter – but the four leads are linked perfectly to one another.

Naota is about twelve years old, and underneath his blue parka it is revealed that his cynicism masks his insecurity: no mother; his brother gone to America – which may as well be another planet; and a weird as all get out father. Naota professes to be bored by all that befalls him, and annoyed by Haruko.
That’s the thing about Haruko; behind that nasal voice she is immensely likeable. Detective Amarao warns that she is intensely selfish, but it is hard to hold this against her. The only real problem Haruko brings to Naota’s life is her displacement of Mamimi.
Mamimi, allegedly the girlfriend of Naota’s brother before his departure, turns to Naota because she has no one else. Mamimi is a drifter, a fire starter who worships the dark gods made popular by modern culture. She is what society might dub a “trouble teen”. Mamimi is always looking for a way to fill the void in her life. More than Naota, more than the cat Takkun, she relies on Canti.
Canti is silent for the duration of FLCL, yet he has an incredible amount of character. Adding to this craftiness is the fact that he doesn’t even have a face. The question is, is Cantido-sama a doll for the characters to project their desires onto or a compassionate, caring, understanding being? One needs only see the second episode to understand the Christ-like imagery he is endowed with – yet “real” religions never get a say in this series.

So, behind the artifice (of which there is quite a lot), FLCL is about human nature and the desire not to be left alone. The changes undergone by Naota are an excellent selling point for the series; the character he has become by episode five is particularly compelling: he has become more human, more caring, but he is still twelve years old and has some wrong ideas about what is right. Yet, despite all of Naota’s development, very little seems to change around him. With the possible exception of Mamimi, everyone else retains character for a full six episodes.
People are fundamentally people (or aliens, who are the same as people but dress a little differently), and so they shall remain in FLCL.

The animation in FLCL is noteworthy because it takes the hallmarks of bad digital animation – inconsistent character models, dull and flat colours – and wears them as a badge of pride. Tsurumaki sometimes sees to it that he doesn’t so uch animate as he creates a series of furiously moving scribbles.
The colour design matches Naota’s mood: Mabase is rendered in muted shades of yellow by daylight, creating the illusion of a quiet town untouched by interesting events. The giant metal on the hill blends in perfectly, as if it would not be an unusual or unwelcome sight.
The characters are similarly designed. By rights Haruko really should have blazing pink hair, but she has a much softer shade than one might expect. Her pale yellow eyes are also quite reserved. Combine this with the very soft lines used to render the characters and you get something ethereal and not near as vibrant as should be the case.
The only vibrancy comes from the transformed Canti – it seems counter intuitive, but the washed out pallet of FLCL somehow works perfectly.

The music is another stand out aspect of the FLCL experience. All of it is taken from the band the pillows, who sing excellent songs about grungy hamsters. While some of their songs are overplayed (“Little Busters” springs immediately to mind), there are some true J-rock classics here. The “Hybrid Rainbow” sequence is good enough to send a shiver down anyone’s spine.
The actors are almost uniformly from stage backgrounds, and are really quite subversive for anime. Mamimi and Haruko both boast incredibly nasal voices that you would never normally associate with Japanese animation. However, they do quite a good job of it. The cast may not be “classically trained” for voice acting, but they succeed in bringing their characters to life – especially with the speeds they sometimes have to accomplish these feats in.

FLCL is hard work, and one could not be blamed for expecting more drama, but it’s well worth it.

Powered by WordPress with Pool theme design by Borja Fernandez.
Entries and comments feeds. Valid XHTML and CSS. ^Top^