FLCL Vol. #1 - Mania.com

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Mania Grade: B+

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  • 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

FLCL Vol. #1

    April 08, 2008
Release Date: April 28, 2008

FLCL Vol. #1
© MVM Entertainment

What They Say
This rock 'n'roll anime combines aliens with the pains of adolescence. 12 year-old Naota's brother has just left Japan for the US to play baseball. Before long, two girls are vying for his attention--his brother's girlfriend and Haruhara Haruko, who claims to be an alien. Then he meets 17 year-old Mammimi, who is obsessed with a violent video game and has visions of a black winged deity. But what does this all mean?

The Review!
6 years after it was released in the US, FLCL finally makes it to the UK - and thankfully still as insane after all this time.

For this review, I listened to the Japanese 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 and also when listening to the Japanese commentary. There were no problems either when switching to the English track either and sounded quite well compared to other 2.0 tracks I've listened to - handy when you want to listen to the excellent ending theme song again and again.

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 involving Canti swallowing Naota or a Haruko's driving sequence, 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, using the images of Naota and Haruko and are easy to navigate, combined with background music from the Pillows as you navigate. All the options are easy to select between languages and extras, though I found the commentary track in languages rather than extras which I normally expect them to be - it wasn't a problem though.

There are some nice extras on the first disc. First, there is a music video of the ending theme song Ride On Shooting Star by The Pillows. It's a very amusing video to say the least which brought back memories of certain puppets releasing music in the UK a few years ago, so it seems like a bad flashback to me, but it was quite amusing, and the song itself is fantastic anyway.

There are some character sketches as well, notably whilst the majority are in line style, there are some nice colour sketches as well, mainly of Haruko and Naota - who also get the focus in the character profiles section, which is basically just a short one page summary of their characters.

The big extra found on the languages section though, is the directors' commentary involving Kazuya Tsurumaki. Whilst I'm quite used to American VA/director's commentaries over the years, it seems rare to find a Japanese one, so I was quite intrigued. It's a standard commentary as Tsurumaki explains various things - such as the planning of the show and what changed about the concept, as well as explaining some hidden references in what they were parodying, and what he thinks about how well the show was animated. It goes through both episodes and whilst sometimes it feels like more could have been explained rather than praising the work itself, it was still very interesting and enjoyable to listen to.

FLCL is one of those series that almost everyone has at least heard of to some degree. I've never seen it prior to this review yet have heard on the grapevine of the insanity and how people loved it. My expectations were pretty high so I plopped in the disc with great interest.

Immediately, the fact it's a GAINAX anime hit hard. I had visions of Kare Kano flowing through my head with the unique animation intertwined with live action shots, changing in colour schemes, and of course, the very interesting characters.

We are introduced to a boy, named Naota Nandaba, reflecting on normality as he talks about the normal life led in his hometown, thanks to the Medical Mechanica plant built. He's talking to an older girl, who seems unusually flirtatious with him - later we discover she is his older brother's girlfriend Mamimi Samejima - however, their boring life is quickly interrupted by the literal arrival of a Vespa driver, smashing into Naota. The girl on the Vespa, thinking she's killed him, gives him her version of mouth-to-mouth...and then immediately clonks him on the head with a guitar. Driving off without so much of an apology, the only think Naota gets out of it is an unusual bump on the head, which he has to cover.

Next day at school, quite a few of his classmates are talking about the Vespa driver, all the while hiding his bump as it seems that a mark on the head is a trademark of this woman. As the bump is getting a pain, he goes to the hospital to get it checked out...only to bump into the Vespa woman dressed as a nurse. Following the 'run like hell' mentality, he gets the heck out of there to return home...only to find the woman there, as she's apparently become the family housekeeper. This is where FLCL really shines as we switch the animation to a comic book style setting, where everyone, his father Kamon, his grandfather, Shigekuni, Naota himself, and the girl herself, introduced as Haruko Haruhara, begin speaking quickly in time with the changes of drawings. It's very unique and most of all entertaining. Also, the rumours of the parody references are true, as jokes about Gundam and Evangelion are quickly noted in this OVA episode, which concludes strangely, as Naota runs off and meets Mamimi, where suddenly a robot, followed by a detached robot hand, emerges from the horn on his head, and begin to fight.

Yep, a robot and a hand come out of a 12 year old boy's head. Definitely strange.

Anyway, the confusion of Haruko now staying at the house, along with the robot who won the battle (and subsequently Haruko smacked with her guitar) is not as much as the confusion of another horn growing on Naota's head. In the meantime, Haruko introduces herself as a Galaxy Patrol Officer, and after another few Eva/Initial D references, the relationship between the two starts to gel, as Naota meets her at the plant and saves her from some inquisitive police officers - in return, Haruko takes him to the beach...scaring him to death on her Vespa. We are also introduced to the robot, Canti, who has become the true housekeeper of the home (Haruko doing pretty much nothing) from cleaning and cooking, to supplying Naota's grandfather with porn (I kid you not). Canti is named that by Mamimi, due to the name of a character in a game she plays called Firestarter, a.k.a. the Dark Lord of Flames. It seems Mamimi has an affliction for arson, which coincidentally there have been a range of arson attacks on the city. We get a little information about her relationship with Naota's brother and what has happened whilst he has been away, leading Naota to go find her near a vigil of candles. She had dropped her game prior to this which Naota hands her back, the emotional Nanami seems to try and kiss him, and from this, the horn on Naota's head grows again as another robot tries to attack them. Canti and Haruko come to save the day, and thanks to a little merging between Canti and Naota, they emerge victorious.

It was at that point I realised that was it. I didn't realise there was only 2 episodes on the discl. Granted they were OVA length (30 minutes each) and there are only 6 episodes of the series, but it certainly gave me the impression of wanting more, and was a bit disappointed that the disc ended like that. However, the fact I wanted more was a good sign. Haruko is a character that has to be seen to be believed - a crazy young woman swinging a guitar around, the ability to create giant lumps to create robots from young boy's heads, driving a Vespa around like a maniac - she's brash, colourful, lazy, driven for a reason - we need to know more about her. In contrast, Naota is quite a sensible person who is as confused about this change as much as he's beginning to enjoy it - if it wasn't for Haruko and Canti, most of the cast maybe considered 'normal' but thanks to them, it becomes a very manic yet fun experience to watch. There is still plenty to find out, like what Haruko really is and what she is doing here, the relationship between Naota and Mamimi, along with some other characters that briefly get screen time, particularly one of Naota's classmates, a girl named Ninamori, who seems to have an interest in Naota and his relationship with Mamimi, though for what reasons we don't know yet.

In summary:
FLCL is one of those series that I wasn't sure would live up to the hype - despite being an older series it still has a very strong fanbase, and now I begin to see why. It's very fun and packed with insanity in a normal town with normal people. It's a wake up call for the town when guitar wielding Vespa women and robots are easily mingling in with the general public, and pasts and futures still need to be discovered. I wanted more and disappointed only in that respect because the series is off to a very good start with some intriguing background combined with the insanity of Haruko and Naota's family. A fellow reviewer told me that it was the only GAINAX series that deserves the hype - if this is an indication of the series I'm beginning to agree. Very enjoyable.

Japanese Language,English language,Image Gallery,Directors Commentary with Kazuya Tsurumaki,Ride On Shooting Star Music Video (The Pillows),Cast Profiles (Naota/Haruko)

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.


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