FLCL Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: A+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: A+
  • Packaging Rating: C
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: All
  • Region: 2 - Japan
  • Released By: Starchild/King Records
  • MSRP: 2700
  • Running time: 25
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: FLCL

FLCL Vol. #1

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FLCL Vol. #1
© Starchild/King Records


What They Say
Best Tuning!? Ready steady go! FLCL the digital animation by GAINAX.

The Review!
The phrase that came to mind while watching the beginning of this new OVA series, was that this had to be the first truly 21st Century anime. But then checking at the Gainax web site revealed that the show's creators were already calling it that themselves....

Volume 1 of this 6 part series begins with a relatively familiar anime situation: young Naota Nandaba is hanging out with Mamimi, his brother's girlfriend. Naota's brother has flown to America to play baseball. Mamimi seems inclined to project her affections on to Naota, who stoically endures her attentions, even when she offers him an "indirect kiss" from a soda can she's drank from. Naota's inner feelings are further complicated by what he's seen in a letter from his brother, a letter that spends most of the episode sitting on the dresser back in the room the brothers used to share....

This uneasy triangle is disrupted by the appearance of a new player on the field: the maniacal Haruko Haruhara. Now we've seen applecart turning anime gals drop from the sky, walk through walls, and step out of everything from TVs to carpets, but none have quite made the entrance that Haruko, driving her Vespa motorscooter and swinging her Rickenbacker guitar like a battle-axe does. She plows Naota over with her Vespa, resuscitates him mouth-to-mouth, and then inexplicably bashes him in the forehead with her base.... Haruko is more than just "another woman" dropping into Naota's
life. She definitely has an agenda of her own, and the surreal consequences of the blow she gave Naota are likely the only beginning.

As one might expect from a Gainax work, FLCL (the title written in kana characters is "Furi Kuri" and is pronounced, more or less, by saying "fuliculi" very quickly) runs rampant over genre categories, from schoolboy romance to intense robot combat. Yes, I didn't mention the battling robots -- and it's really impossible to say more without major spoilers. There's no telling where this series is going, but it should be as wild a ride as sitting on Haruko's handlebars.

Though Hideaki Anno is not involved, many of the talents behind Gainax's "Evangelion" and, even more so, "Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou" are the creators of FLCL. Indeed, in visuals and overall design, FLCL is the next logical step from KareKano. It's an extraordinarily beautiful work, which takes advantage of the color and crisp image of DVD. An early scene shows a giant factory shrouded in steam and smoke, with all the different clouds and consistencies of the rising vapors distinct but subtly layered together. Soft browns and golds make the main color palette of FLCL, but great care is taken to show how light, color, and shadow shift over the course of a day.

Haruko is appealing if alarmingly played by Mayumi Shintani, who brings to the character a more mature version of the endearing nasal purr she used when playing Tsubasa-chan in "Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou". Haruko has the potentially to be major anime star, though I suppose it remains to be seen how well her aggressive manner and lean physique will go over with fans who prefer their animated ladies bouncy and bubbly. I gather though that the real star may be her Vespa, which gets a live action sequence to itself for most of the closing credits. There appears to be quite cult around this motorscooter, but I'm afraid I'm not well informed on that aspect of popular culture.

My only complaint about the disc is that it comes in a cardboard box with a plastic jewel case. The box, with a excellent picture in gold and metallic gray of Haruko by character designer Sadamoto Yoshiyuki, is already showing wear. Part of that comes from my being unable to keep the box on the shelf -- I keep taking it out to watch and watch -- but I wish something more sturdy had been provided. A nice booklet with character profiles and background notes is provided, but again, just fitting it in the box is a problem.

2700 yen for a single 25 minute episode? Very much worth it. FLCL may be too quirky to be an "Evangelion" scale hit for Gainax, but I hope it will stand as an example of what anime might be maturing into, artistically and technically, in the years to come.

Features
Japanese Language

Review Equipment
Toshiba SD-3109 DVD player. RCA cables. Commodore 1084S stereo video monitor.

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