Certainly a sign of advancing years when one starts reminiscing of times past. It’s hard not to be nostalgic when revisiting a series that first began and ended almost 10 years ago but that’s certainly the case when the new Blu-ray disc of FLCL arrived in the mail.
I have fond memories of the show though the exact details as to why eluded me up until the point I pressed play for the entire series. The Pillows soundtrack came on and recollections of that CD being on endless repeat brought a smile to my face.
As the series opens, we are introduced to the slightly off relationship between our main protagonist Naota and Minimani – alluded to be in a relationship with with his elder brother now overseas. A simple, mundane conversation that ends with her hugging him and behaving in this erotic manner explaining that otherwise she might “overflow”. As the camera pans away, Naota’s voiceover complains as nothing nothing of note ever happens around here just as we see a giant iron in the middle of town set off a siren and steam blows out from it whilst Naota calmly explains it as the the Medical Machina factory just releasing the smoke that obscures the vision of the surrounding town.
It’s so strange revisiting this opening scene, knowing what is to come, and recognising how pregnant it is with what the show is about and yet none of the craziness for which the show has a greater renown has even started yet. One doesn’t need to be particularly patient as the next scene introduces Haruko and her (in?)famous Vespa and bass guitar as she crashes her way into Naota’s life. The meta and over the top actions begins at this point that hints at the sexual innuendo of the series like… well like a bass guitar to the head.
And thus launches the 6 episodes of FLCL. Yet to come are the transforming robots and metaphoric monsters climbing out from the heads of children; secret (and yet silly) government organisations looking to maintain the status quo; or even manga sequences that become the bane of its animators. More quietly we see Naota mature emotionally as his head bursts forth more adolescent mutations.
Looking back, I can’t shake the notion that my first experiences of FLCL were defined by those manic action sequences that defied explanation backed by an excellent soundtrack – like a game of basketball, the constant back forth was enough to entertain. I wonder now whether there was a rhythm to the show that appealed to my subconscious as I now recognise, upon the revisit, not just the wonder of something that was new and exciting but themes that are universal and personal. It’s that sense of nostalgia that allows me to smile at Naota’s growing maturity just as much as it makes me giggle seeing the trials he must overcome.
There is so much to FLCL that is visually interesting and is filled with so much cool that it beggars belief. But what makes it cool isn’t just the visual candy but that rhythm of mundane and incomprehensibility that one rarely sees out of Japanese productions. The story is less about robots and aliens than it is about a boy growing up. As Naota himself bookends the series – nothing out of the ordinary ever happens around here.