The show ends as it starts – with nonsense, complete weirdness, insane characters and everything else we love about FLCL.
What They Say
Adolescence, expectations, and alien intrigue!
Get ready for this shocking and funny digital animation about adolescence, expectations, and alien intrigue! Naota is tired of being harassed to star in the school play, Puss and Boots, by obnoxious class president Ninamori, who seems to have more personal reasons for wanting him in the play. Then, tempers flare as Haruko presumes to take Naota under her wing and teach him a thing or two about baseball.
For this review, I stuck to the English track. 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 – again, you have to wonder how the quality could have been on a 5.1 considering how well this sounded.
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 – however it seems to go one step further for the final volume, combining various forms of animation – ranging from manga format, to CGI which looks so fluid, vibrant scenes involving Atomsk…and even South Park. Yes, you read that right. It flows so wonderfully despite the many techniques that it has to set a standard for video format and animation for years to come. Wonderful.
No packaging was supplied with this test disc.
The menus are basic pieces but with nice background animation, this time on a beige 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 Eri, though again the commentary track was found on the languages section rather than extras which again briefly confused me.
A nice, if similar selection of extras is on offer again – as per the previous volume, we have an art gallery which contains a lot of promotional poster work (including the infamous bunny-girl Haruko) for the Japanese DVD Releases, as well as work from the FLCL art book and the Australian Box Set. There are some cast profiles, although the ones for Canti and Kitsurubami are very brief and you only get some real information on Amarao. There’s also a couple of trailers from MVM for Ergo Proxy and Shana.
The big extra once more is the director’s commentary with Tsurumaki. With there being a commentary on every episode it’s a nice mixture of random thoughts, show production and just plain fun. The commentary for episodes 5 and 6 includes, but is not limited to, the reasons why a South Park parody/tribute was used in one part of episode 5, the influence of Lupin III on the show, how they feel sorry for translators who wish to dub the show, little bits in the show they have to explain to the viewers (like the reason for putting an obsolete three wheeled truck in the show), and the character relationships between Haruko and Atomsk/Naota. Overall, it’s a nice mixture as per the previous volumes and a definite pleasant extra to have for the show in whole.
With the shortness of the series always questioned in how they were going to finish it, they do it as you’d expect – with a bang…albeit slightly anti-climatic.
The show starts with a paintball like battle between Kamon and Naota, which seems to indicate a duel between the two for Haruko’s affections. Haruko seems to take Naota’s side which gets Kamon a bit mad so he enlist the help of Canti on his side. However, Amarao and Kitsurubami are both still concerned about them, so Kitsurubami attempts to attack Canti. As the humorous duel begins, we get a welcome return to the show for Mamimi as she is getting more and more concerned with Naota’s relationship with Haruko. A theme of the show is Naota, despite his young age, is considered the most mature character on the show, and here he’s trying to show he’s an adult, yet holds that childlike innocence as Mamimi questions that he’s actually in love with Haruko. The embarrassment and attempted ways to prove she’s wrong leads to a combination of a battle between Amarao and Haruko, and another N.O channel emerge from his head, a giant robot. It leads to Mamimi being captured, Naota fusing with Canti to try and save her, and Amarao losing his eyebrows whilst Haruko also goes to stop it. We get the infamous Haruko bunny-girl outfit here but this time the robot seems too much for them. Suddenly, Naota/Canti use the power of the mysterious ‘Atomsk’ via the use of a Gibson guitar (I swear all of this is true) – it appears this is what Haruko has been searching for since she arrived on the planet, as the giant robot is defeated by Canti and it transforms into a giant hand, petrified, and over the Medical Mechanica plant.
As predicted, the last two episodes finally showcase the plot – Haruko’s reasoning for coming to the planet means she’s now a fugitive under the watchful eye of Amarao, so she’s left the household, making Naota surprisingly depressed. The hand has caused the plant to spit out smoke and shroud the city in mist. Meanwhile, Mamimi finds a small dog like robot, who she lets eat her phone and it grows in size. She seems to get an idea…but in one great sequence later, Naota returns to find the fugitive Haruko back at the house – we see a return to the manga style animation from the first episode and even some ‘breaking the fourth wall’ moments from Kamon and Haruko which had me in stitches. There’s even a surprising bit of tenderness between Naota and Haruko, who is always considered a 100 miles per hour self character. However, it leads to Amarou and Kitsurubami searching for a ‘terminal core’ which was in fact the robot that Mamimi has been feeding. It grows to an enormous size, and runs berserk in the city. Canti (in disguise) tries to stop it, but it feeds on part of it as well to grow into what appears to be a final boss robot – Haruko throws Naota into the beast and then reveals that the Mechanica has Atomsk and that’s why she’s going to get it. The giant hand is smashed down by the monster, nearly killing Amarao, but in a final twist, the power of Atomsk is absorbed by Canti/Naota to stop the hand. Haruko, raged, shows no mercy against Naota to try and extract the power from him, but just as Atomsk is about to strike her, it reverts to Naota, and he says ‘I love you.’ He kisses Haruko, allowing Atomsk to escape from him and into space. In the finale, Haruko intends to follow Atomsk as that was the reason for coming to the planet, and the city returns to normal…but not before Haruko leaves one parting gift for Naota…
FLCL was way too short for me – each disc I wanted more as it was so funny and whilst lack of plot may hurt a series, the way it finished was just near perfect. The animation has to be applauded first with a hybrid of styles (come on, South Park?!) and a great battle sequence when Atomsk is unleashed. The variety of characters designs from Amarao’s eyebrows to Canti’s transformations to the N.O’s was so weird and wonderful, and the characters themselves were fun. Haruko in particular was a selfish, prima donna, high on crack main lead, yet she was still extremely likeable and fun, and Naota was always the underdog normal kid in an adult’s world where he’s the only sane person around. I did have a couple of niggles though at the end – whilst I knew it was a short series, poor Eri got very little screen time in the end and considering I loved her episode it was a bit disappointing. Aside from Haruko and Naota (and possibly Amarao), none of the other characters really made a big impact on the show either comedy or plot wise – they integrated Mamimi in at the end but she was just a catalyst for the destruction , and Kamon has his fun moments as Naota’s father but in reality, that’s all he was there for – granted, the length of the series has to compensate but after Eri in episode 3, I wanted to see her involved in the end somehow. The ending was also strangely quiet and with a real ‘that’s it?’ mentality, which was a tad disappointing for a series as wacky as FLCL. Also, the Naota/Haruko relationship could be seen as a little creepy (same with Mamimi) – Naota is a kid (as Haruko says many times) no matter how mature he is so it’s a tad strange. However, I guess in a show like FLCL you can suspend all disbelief and just go with the flow. Indeed, the comedy nature of the relationships didn’t make the elder woman with Naota seem so strange.
FLCL took its sweet time to come to the UK – was it worth the wait? I think it was – a real front-runner of the crack/parody animes that have seen shows like Pani Poni Dash, Excel Saga and fellow Gainax work Abenobashi, with superb animation and comedy, some strong leads and laughs a minute. A lot of work was done to keep the release as top-notch as it is and MVM have to be recommended on that. If you’re looking for a show with a deep plot, forget it, and the finale was rather anti-climatic, however it’s just a fun show. There’s nothing you need to make sense of, just suspend reality for a moment and get sucked into Haruko’s world. Definitely a priority show.
Japanese Language, English language, Art Gallery, Australian Trailer, Trailers, Cast Profiles (Amarao/Kitsurubami/Canti), Director’s Commentary
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.