FLCL, or “Fooly Cooly” is an action and symbolism packed “coming of age” story that you’ll never quite forget.
By: Eric Porco
(Image Credit: Gainax)
“Nothing happens here. Everything is ordinary.” is one of the first lines said by the main character of FLCL, Naota Nandaba, and no statement about any aspect of the 2000s Gainax classic could be further from the truth.
FLCL follows the story of the protagonist Naota Nandaba and the events that occur when Haruhara Haruko, a Vespa riding bass guitar-wielding alien crashes into and hits him over the head with her bass guitar, prompting Naota to periodically spawn giant robots from his head. If the premise of the plot sounds confusing, that’s because it is. FLCL is a series that knows how absurd it is and was pretty much made to intentionally be confusing. This is not the case for no reason, however, as this confusing nature adds to the themes and ideas the show presents, specifically relating to adolescence and early adulthood.
Speaking of which, Fooly Cooly delivers some strong themes ever-present throughout the show’s six-episode runtime. While it is a show that can be difficult to parse, FLCL has a lot to say about maturity, which is displayed through Naota’s journey to individuality and self-expression. Naota, 12 years old, acts in a way that many people around his age act, like an adult, or rather, his perception of what an adult is. Naota acts in accordance with an idealized version of what adulthood is, an uncaring removed stoicism. Naota’s subscription to this altered version of adulthood however is all a sham, as the show demonstrates multiple times how he despite all of his posturing is in reality just a somewhat immature kid, content to shove away his problems instead of confronting them.
Throughout the show, however, through various happenings and interactions with the interesting and multi-layered cast of characters that surround him, Naota begins to understand maturity and himself more, learning to express his emotions and to stay true to himself. Adolescence is a very confusing thing, and this factors into the direction of the anime and the choice to make it as hard to parse as it is. Aside from Naota’s own journey, the show has other characters just as interesting as Naota. Naota’s older brother’s tragic ex-girlfriend Mamimi Samejima, the previously mentioned alien Haruko Haruhara, Naota’s classmate Eri Ninamori, all come to mind.
The show is very well written, having many very memorable characters, and standout lines and quotes. Aside from this, however, the show is also masterfully animated. The show has a very frenetic pace and energy to it, being wildly entertaining to watch from just a visual standpoint alone. Gainax, the animation studio behind Fooly Cooly and much other classic anime, did this series absolute justice, perfectly bringing together scriptwriter Youji Enokido’s work to fruition. Soundwise, FLCL also was masterfully done. The Anime’s soundtrack was done by the Japanese alternative rock band, “the pillows”, who perfectly accent the show’s presentation with their energetic and sometimes melancholic vibes. The Anime’s dub also deserves to be mentioned, as the English voice actors who adapted this Anime for an American audience brought the characters to life and went above and beyond the usual expectations of English voice actors, even tastefully changing some of the cultural references to evoke the nostalgic feeling the show is known for from a different audience.
All in all, FLCL is a classic Anime, being one of my favorites of the medium and one of animation studio Gainax’s best works. Praised by dumb nerds everywhere, FLCL for many is a formative piece, and something I and many others will likely come back to periodically for the rest of our natural lives. Some things should be known to a potential viewer, however, which is that the show while never having overt nudity does have themes of sexuality and puberty that manifest in various ways throughout the show’s six-episode runtime. The show is available for streaming on Hulu and Funimation.com, and for purchase on Youtube and Amazon Prime Video, as well as on the Toonami programming block on Adult Swim.