FLCL Vol. #2 (of 3) (Mania.com)

By:Christopher Homer
Review Date: Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Release Date: Monday, June 09, 2008

What They Say
Episode 3 - Marquis de Carabas

Naota is tired of being harassed to star in the school play, Puss and Boots, by that obnoxious class president Ninamori, but when she gets hurt in an accident with that violent alien Haruko, Ninamori is stranded at Naota's house for the night. Soon, Naota finds out that Ninamori has more personal reasons for wanting him in the play....

Episode 4 - Full Swing

Naota feels bad enough that he can't live up to his brother's reputation as a star baseball player, but when Haruko - who's been shamelessly flirting with his father - presumes to take him under her wing and teach him a thing or two about baseball...well, it's the last straw.

But things take a strange turn after Naota confronts his Dad about Haruko: Who is that weird guy with the eyebrows searching for Haruko, anyway? And if Haruko doesn't stop a runaway satellite from hitting the town, who will?

The Review!
A combination of character development, baseball, weird relationships, and more aliens popping out of people's heads - that's right, time for more FLCL.

For this review, I listened to the English track compared to the Japanese track last time (partly due to Haruko's VA being a guest for Amecon). Set up in the standard 2.0 mix there was no problems via my speakers to any distortions or drop outs in the sounds, fitting in time with the subtitles both in the show itself - there were no problems with the Japanese track during the brief listen I had as well - it's a shame it doesn't have a 5.1 track as it was a good mix - one has to wonder how good it would have been in Dolby.

Whilst this show came out in 2000 and released originally in the US in 2002, there hasn't been any changes through the transition to the UK 6 years later - the mixture of colours, live action, fluid movements and switches from colour to black and white in some surreal instances are shown beautifully, whether in it's own unique art style and colouring or switching to the live action Vespa riding sequence in the ending song. A true masterpiece of visual style even in today's market whether it's a high impact battle sequence or just Naota panicking at a 'corpse' he has found, it's great to view and no noticeable distortions through the two episodes.

No packaging was supplied with this test disc.

The menus are basic pieces but with nice background animation, this time on a pink background with shadows leaping - it's all combined with background music from the Pillows as you navigate. All the options are easy to select between languages and extras, each set on a different background using characters like Naota and Haruko, though again the commentary track was found on the languages section rather than extras which again briefly confused me.

Again, there are a decent amount of extras on this disc - we get a Poster Art Gallery using artwork from the Japanese DVDS 1-4, posters packaged with the discs and in Japanese work Magazine Z - it's a mixture of all of the characters in poses ranging to cool, to battle, to comic book style to FLCL-esque fanservice. There is also oddly, an Australian Trailer to the show that showcases clips of the episodes to the whole Ride On Shooting Star song. And speaking of that song, there is also the clean ending as well, and trailers for upcoming shows Trinity Blood and Black Cat.

There are profiles of Mamimi and Eri which are brief characterisations of them, but the big extra again is the directors' commentary involving Kazuya Tsurumaki. Again, it's nice that we get these Japanese commentaries as in particular for a show like FLCL, explaining a lot of in-jokes are a big help. Aside from that, it's a standard commentary as Tsurumaki explains various things - though whilst there was a lot of focus on how the show was made last time out, here he talks mostly about what's in these two episodes and the concepts of them and the characters. They focus on Eri in episode 3 and the structure of the three main females and the simple explanation of why Episode 4 focused on baseball...because Tsurumaki likes baseball.

A show like FLCL which is 6 OVA episodes - normally at this point you need a strong plot point as we come to the end - however whilst there are hints of it in episode 4, it just seems happy to continue on it's merry, and insane, pace.

Episode 3 focuses on a character that had a brief introduction in the previous disc, Eri Ninamori, the daughter of the mayor of Mabase - who is currently involved in some sort of scandal. Eri is a very stand off-ish character, who doesn't seem to be too effected by this, and is in fact more concerned about the upcoming play of Puss and Boots which features her and Naota as leads. She complains to Naota who is definitely less than interested in the play, as he was cast as the cat. In usual fashion though, Naota's new problem on his head is ironically a pair of cat ears, which Haruko of course enjoys in her evil glee. Eri is upset at the media swarming her household so she runs away from her secretary and her home and bumps into Naota. This leads to a hilarious sequence where Haruko, as per usual, seems to have a habit of slamming into Naota in her Vespa (ironically whilst swerving to avoid a cat), which leads into an accidental near-kiss moment between Naota and Eri and reveals his cat-ears to her. To keep her quiet, Naota invites her to his house to avoid the hubbub of the media circus. It leads to an amusing dinner conversation where Naota's family have to try and explain Haruko the housemaid and the robot Canti calmly eating curry. However, whilst in Naota's room, it seems the apple doesn't fall far from the tree as Eri reveals she rigged the votes for the play for her to play the lead and Naota to play the cat. There is obviously some interest in Eri for Naota which seems a lot more natural than when Naota is conversing with Mamimi or Haruko due to their similar ages (though Haruko amusingly overheard on the top bunk with neither of them realising it) - it ends up in an argument back at school where Eri removes Naota's hat to reveal his cat ears, but Naota counters by announcing to the class of the rigged votes. This triggers a creature coming out of Eri's head surprisingly, but Haruko and Canti are there to save the day as despite all of this, they go ahead with the play.

The episode was probably my favourite up until now due to the natural chemistry Naota and Eri played off each other, and with Haruko being Haruko, it just added to the effect. However, FLCL being as it is, the next episode goes into a completely different direction. With a baseball focus, Haruko destroys Naota's grandfather's baseball team single-handedly and a little history between Naota and his brother Tasuku, as Tasuku was a star player whilst Naota isn't interested at all. Later, Naota returns home and see a very odd scene between Haruko and Kamon, Naota's father, which seems a weird sexual nature, which Naota gets annoyed by, though he doesn't know why. The plot begins to finally focus though as we are introduced to Commander Amarao, who works for the Interstellar Immigration unit and has legendary eyebrows. He warns Naota about Haruko as one of Haruko's baseballs hit a satellite and homes in on Naota - his weird things coming out of his head are called an N.O channel which apparently Haruko is trying to control - however Naota is simply angry at his father at his relationship with Haruko and looks to attack him with a baseball bat, but finds his father has been replaced by a robot...before finding his corpse. Though in FLCL, corpses are revived with water and he explains what Haruko was truly wanting and why Naota is 'special' to her. The Agency sends an alert to evacuate everyone due to the satellite but a combination of Haruko, Naota and lots of baseball references manages to save the day. However, Amarao believes Haruko's plans are soon to be revealed...

These two episodes could easily be showing as stand-alone, though the introduction of Amarao suggests the final disc will definitely become the true plot of Haruko's appearance on Earth and Naota's role in this. It was definitely amusing with some typically insane elements such as the robot father and corpse reviving with hot water, but personally I really enjoyed episode 3 as it showcased how similar Naota and Eri are - both living in worlds which are not normal and both are forced to grow up faster because of it. Naota and Eri have a great chemistry which is much different compared to the older women in Naota's life which is why episode 4, showing the anger Naota had with his father in response to his relationship with Haruko was a little weird. How this will work out in the final volume I'm not sure but I just hope that they at least give Eri a few moments in the end. Mamimi was pretty much non-existent in this two episodes though considering the focus she got in episode 2 so I'm not that confident. I guess with only 6 episodes the character focus is going to be limited but it's still a shame. Otherwise though, these two episodes were a great mix of comedy, the plot starting to come and the introduction of some new characters. Canti being interested in pornography though...even robots get influenced by perverted old men nowadays...

In summary:
FLCL hasn't missed a step - after all these years it's still insane, hilarious and in Haruko, one of the most unique characters ever. Two very different episodes with one focusing on one particular character and the other on the plot (and baseball) means it's a different change of pace from one episode to the other, but that doesn't mean it suffers because of this. With only 2 more episodes to go, FLCL needs to wrap up everything in a hurry, but I get the feeling it will do so in it's own way, and it's something to look forward to. Eri's episode was a great piece of characterisation and her relationship with Naota was intriguing whilst Amarao (and his eyebrows) will certainly play a more focal point as the series draws to the end. A combination of very different characters, hilarity, great music and a good dub/Japanese track means it's still a winning series in the present day. Recommended.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 language,Poster Art Gallery,Australian Trailer,Japanese Closing,Cast Profiles (Mamimi/Eri),Director's Commentary

Review Equipment
Toshiba 37C3030 - 37" Widescreen HD Ready LCD TV - Tangent Ht-50 Home Theatre System Multi-Regional DVD Players/Speakers - Tangent Subwoofer 50-150 Hz, Impedenced 8 OHM

Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: MVM Entertainment
MSRP: £15.99
Running time: 60
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: FLCL