FLCL is a must see for anyone and everyone. Not only that, it should be seen more than once.
As far as animation goes, and not just anime, it is arguably one of the best works of all times. There are no weakpoints other than the fact that in order to get half of what is going on you will need to watch it twice. On the surface it may be seen as an ahead of its time "lolrandom" coming of age story, but that is not what it really is. If only for the insane density of it, the sheer amount of details everywhere, and the way that the complete lack of uniformity of art and machine-gun reference speed, this deserves to be called a work of art.
There is a dazzling lack of uniformity when it comes to the animation and story, that is held together by the soundtrack and characters. This makes a distinct sense the more you watch it, as the art and story are carefully crafted to pack more information in every scene than should be possible. In the end, it is a carefully told coming of age story, but beyond that it is a delve into human nature with some philosophical undertones. Most of all, it is funny, it is moving, it is angry, it is beautiful, and most of all, it is anarchy personified.
In the end, it is first and foremost a coming of age story. But saying that is like saying "a spaceship is just a thing that flies" - technically true yet missing the entire point. There are endless tangents, metaphors, references, and so on that cover subjects from personality disorders, broken homes, finding your own place in the world, the definitions of fun... and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Everything is well thought out, and nearly no sentence has no meaning.
How is this managed? Well... the price is consistency. The changes in the tone of the narrative are fast, the changes in meanings are faster, and the amount of details is (for a lack of better description) insane. It manages contrasts such being nonsensical and grim, metaphorical and silly, childish and heavy. Sometimes at the same time.
But as I stated, at the heart of it all is a coming of age story, and while it was quite revolutionary (and definitely the best) at the time, in over a decade since, other people have pulled it off in cleaner and better ways. In 2001, this was an easy 10/10, but in 2014, the fact that it is so packed into under three hours of content makes it a strain for anyone who does not watch the entire thing multiple times. That being said, it is still wonderful and far above the run-of-the-mill average.
There are a few flaws. A lot of them actually. Everything is wildly inconsistent between scenes (and sometimes between shots and even in the same frame). You can see that animation has progressed since then. The character designs are (at least nowadays) run-of-the-mill.
But, and this is the brilliance of it all, this series turns weakness into strength. There are parts where the characters are near featureless, but that fits in with the story. There are parts where the format is just scrolling through a manga book, but that fits the story. There are parts where there are obvious mockeries of other works (The Matrix, South Park, etc), but again, that fits the story.
Ridiculously stupid mechs, featureless faces with an intense zoom putting them in the center, nearly unmoving characters at certain points, static backgrounds, bland features, and so on. But at the same time, a powerful connection between them all, that makes it all work together. This is not a modern super-high-budget animation, but it is proud of being what it is... and that makes up for it. You don't have to be polished in order to be amazing, and since FLCL is all about a feeling of rawness, that is just fine.
This is the go-to of how to make a soundtrack alive. Cartoonish effects, energetic rock music, emotive and distinct voice acting, and all these give a definition to the story and animation that it would otherwise lack. People often criticize and say that musical themes repeat too much in FLCL, but the point is that they have to - because this adds a level of coherency that ties everything together. Without the soundtrack, FLCL's choice of animation and story just wouldn't work.
I usually try to go more in depth, but in a series where everything is greater than the sum of the parts, this is the engine that drives everything. There has never been a better fit of sound to animation. Nothing more needs to be said.
Oh, we've seen them since many times. Anime, like literature, movies, and so on, makes repeated use of archetypes. FLCL is one of the defining pieces of art whose influences last until today. Naota's character has since been copy-pasted into so many works that it is just ridiculous. Haruko is the embodiment of the wild, violent, assertive, selfish, yet ultimately decent-sort-of-person female character. Mamimi is the fragile girl that broke.
We've seen these characters done before, and done again since. But still, for the amount of runtime that this has, they are developed to a wonderful degree. These are not the best characterizations ever. But they are definitely well done. Haruko's nasal voice, gangly physique, and predatory grins match add up to a roguish charm. Naota's inability to show when he is overwhelmed to a near pathological degree is all the more impressive when the lie becomes truth just as much as when the truth becomes lies. Mamimi... well, analyzing this character can go from "future serial killer with traumatic past" to "that odd girl whose coping mechanisms are weird" once you try to put her into context (and attempt to figure out where the metaphor ends and life begins).
Are they the best characters ever? No. Are they great? Yes. Are they unique? No. Are they interesting? Absolutely.
Perfection... upon multiple vieweings. The first viewing you just strap on and ride the episodes out. The second, things start coming together and details you haven't picked up on suddenly start making sense. The third, and you've already admitted that this is one of the most pleasurable things ever and you want to see it a fourth time at a later point.
I have never had more fun watching anime then when I discovered this series, and since it is not a category listed, right here I will state: 10/10, would watch again and so should you.
One of the greatest pieces of animation ever. Brace yourself for the insanity and wonder that is FLCL. Watch it now.
Full list of the review series can be found on this page, 3rd post from bottom:
Many things have been said about this anime yet down to it, it is very easy to understand where its fame came from. It was made by GAINAX a company famous for its psychedelic imagery and stories, it was heavy on symbolisms which is what makes anime so cool, it had something to do with coming-of-age and sex which always sell no matter the context… and it was insane which has no explanation because it would then be sane. Those who like FLCL belong to the group of people who like the unorthodox, the artsy, the mysterious, the sensational, the WTF type of presentation. Those who don’t, prefer more mainstream, straightforward, reasoned, explained, logical.
I see very little point in describing the story or the artwork, as they are all made to be completely symbolic and irrelevant to the initial premise of the setting. So ok, it’s about a female alien beating an earth boy with a guitar so stuff will sprout out of his head in an attempt to find her lover king or something like that. Does that make any sense? No, it is just a lame excuse to shoehorn as much sexual innuendo as possible, leave it all as blurry as possible, and leave the viewer to give his own interpretation of the whole mess.
Let me admit that the story is boinkers; just a poor excuse to have something happening to some people that has something to do with sexuality and growing up and something-something erections, something-something I-don’t-know-figure-it-out-yourself. Although every individual can give his own interpretation of what is going on, down to it the story is as important as in FPS games. Meaning, you don’t need it but does help if it exists. Although it does exist, it is underplayed heavily in favour of weird stuff happening to the point it doesn’t matter at all. By the time you finish it, your brain will be jammed because of the weird information surging though it.
Let me also admit that the characters are all eccentric caricatures, based on stereotypes. You just get to see what makes them tick… and snap… and go wild with your common sense. It’s the unorthodox plot that makes them look like they are different or special and in a way that helps to make them memorable. They do develop in some way or the other but like the rest of the anime, it happens in a completely erratic and chaotic way without a clear line of thought. All that are accomplished thanks to the whacky animation, made to inflict the viewer with the chaotic mentality of adolescence, as hormones take over and the world is now a crazy place. One could say that the entire setting is made specifically to look like we see it through the eyes of an insecured boy, scary, bizarre, sexual, and illogical. That is after all what goes through the minds of every teenager and thus that is what the imagery helps us visualize. The effect is of course tenfold if you actually still ARE a teenager. You might even find a sort of identification amongst all this chaos. You might scream THIS MAKES NO SENSE, JUST LIKE MY LIFE, THIS ANIME IS AWESOME!
For that reason, I say the production values are quality art. They are made specifically as such to transmit the mentality of the main characters. They are completely relevant to the mood of the show and not irrelevant random images thrown in to dress an otherwise simple and boring premise. Thus they fulfil their prime directive; to affect the viewer with emotions and notions relevant to the mood of the show. They are also not static panels like SHAFT loves to do; they are full of motion and vividness, it’s as if the entire world is alive, fluent, ever-changing in a seemingly chaotic manner… just like the thoughts of teenagers. It is the real notion of animation and artwork at work and they get full scores.
FLCL managed to repeat the success of Neon Genesis in the sense that it is full of mentally unstable characters doing seemingly illogical actions. Any standard series would demand from the characters to be reasonable; if not all that would feel like plot holes and the cast being out of character. Yet in this case, the cast is MEANT to be chaotic and random, thus excusing anything one may not like as simply “the craziness of being young”. You can’t blame it for anything, just like you can’t blame a kid for not understanding something. That is just brilliant and something more companies should pay more attention to instead of wasting their funds of mediocre shows that follow the formulas and get forgotten in a few years. This anime is practically sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. It is exciting and excused to be chaotic, it talks to its audience directly, it makes you think and feel stuff even if you don’t like them. This is art at its finest.
… I would still like some more plot though.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 10/10
General Artwork 1/2 (artsy)
Character Figures 1/2 (crazy-looking)
Backgrounds 2/2 (bizarre)
Animation 1/2 (fluent)
Visual Effects 1/2 (artsy)
SOUND SECTION: 10/10
Voice Acting 3/3 (fine)
Music Themes 4/4 (funky)
Sound Effects 3/3 (cartoonaly funny)
STORY SECTION: 7/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 2/2 (fine)
Complexity 2/2 (rich context)
Plausibility 0/2 (none)
Conclusion 1/2 (cheesy)
CHARACTER SECTION: 7/10
Presence 2/2 (funny/sexy)
Personality 2/2 (well founded)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
Catharsis 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
VALUE SECTION: 9/10
Historical Value 3/3 (all-known)
Rewatchability 2/3 (high if you dig the style)
Memorability 4/4 (extremely funky to the point of forever remembering it)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 8/10
Bizarre and confusing but quite funny and artsy.
I started watching FLCL knowing of all the hype surrounding it and after seeing it, I know why it has such a strong fan base. Unfortunately it just didn't work for me.
FLCL is highly abstract anime. I personally love shows, which make you think. The problem with such level of symbolism as FLCL has starts when you are unable to grasp what it tries to say. I have to admit, that I have probably missed 50% of the points FLCL tried to make and regarded them just as a visual try at originality.
In fact FLCL's visuals are really original. It ranges from simplicity to diversity and animation is smooth. And it is quick, quick as hell. It is a complete opposite of slow-paced shows. That worked both ways for me, it made it presentation quite original, but hard to follow at times.
Having read sothis' review, I must say that FLCL's repetitive soundtrack wasn't as much of a problem for me. That is probably because I watched it slowly for a few weeks, those songs were not in my mind when I started next ep. I enjoyed the guitar and think it suited the animation style.
I am sure a lot of people will love this show, but I am not one of them. Without understanding it completely, it is below average.
Furi Kuri certainly is 6 episodes of an Seinen, Sci-Fi, random WTF-just-happened kind of anime. While it is highly praised, I'll say it now, this anime won't be to everyone's tastes. It can also be difficult to understand and there is no obvious coherency to the story. Most would find it too boring. It's a refined taste like Whiskey, hence why it is a Seinen. It's like Marmite, you either love it or you hate it. Despite being part of the target audience, I didn't enjoy it initially. Did it get any better?
Animation is top notch. Not only is the quality amazing for an anime made at the turn of the century, but the style is also rather unique. The use of colours is unlike an anime I've seen before. The animation style also varies, with them doing a comic books style in one episode (which I didn't appreciate), cel-shaded in another and even go as far as to reference South Park in another episode. Well done for making the animation style stand out, it does better than some of the more recent animes, despite the obvious age. It has a wacky cartoony style for the most part, going very psychedelic and crazy at times. There is not any ecchi (HOORAY!), though a lot of mature themes are referred to or suggested. "...my what a large guitar you have..."
The sound is another thing that a lot of people love about this anime. Or more precisely the music, which is of the ever awesome rock genre. It's really good rock music and it even made me get the soundtrack. But that's it. It seems they got a rock band to do all the music and while rock is my favourite genre, having one type of music, especially rock in this case, is not good enough to have perfect sound. More precisely, it was the sound design. The awesome rock music was in the background of most scenes, even when it might have been inappropriate or made no sense for it to be there, given the atmosphere the scene was trying to convey. If there was any other type of music, I don't remember hearing any so there wasn't enough and it wasn't played at the appropriate moments. Too much of something good can end up making things go sour. As for the voice acting, there is an English dub and even a French dub, in addition to the usual Japanese audio. I honestly didn't like the voice of the main character, who was obviously voiced by a woman. And boy did it show. The voice just didn't suit at all, no offence to gals who do VO for male characters.
The main character is arguably Naota Nandaba, who is a child. Yes, a child who goes to elementary school, not even a high-school student. Now I have nothing against kids being main characters, but in this case it really didn't make sense having the main character as a kid. And that partially contributed to my non-enjoyment of the start. Naota lives with his single dad (ahem) and grandfather, while his older brother has gone off to the US to play baseball. Apparently he's that good. Unfortunately the older brother is never seen. As for Naota, he acts somewhat mature, sometimes. He also gets a lot of unnecessary physical abuse, which is worse since he's also a kid. Violence against children? This results in him growing strange horns out of his head, leading to more dire consequences (I won't spoil it). Of course being a kid, he doesn't understand everything and is confused. He reminded me of Shinji Ikari from NGE, one of my all-time favourite animes. Not only that, but he seems to be weak-willed, letting others do what they will, even if he complains initially. I'm sorry but I didn't like this character too much (and I hated the VO).
The other main character Haruho Haruhara is a crackpot crazy alien who rides around on her yellow Vespa without any consideration for others. Poor Naota gets run over so many times. And it doesn't stop when she's not on her bike. Speaking of the bike, it seems to have a mind of its own. 'Normal Vespa' my ass. Anyhow Haruho's reasons for staying with Naota and his family are unknown, but it may have something to do with the fact that Naota started growing horns after he was run over by her. She tends to use her guitar wrecklessly as a baseball bat, though thankfully the guitar seems to be tougher than diamond. She is very energetic, does what she wants and is random, could be infected with rabies? Reminds me a lot of Excel from Excel Saga, another anime I've previously enjoyed.
Mamimi Samejima, is a highschool girl, who is... very odd. She smokes, is a delinquent, appears to be homeless and has a heavy infatuation with Naota's never-present older brother. She even goes so far as to try and make Naota himself replace his brother, going so far as to even call him Takkun, which is what she used to call his brother. Mentally disturbed? Definitely. An interesting character? Probably. A good character? Maybe.
The other characters feature less and aren't essential enough to be a main character. Bar one blue robot. Canti is a medical robot who SPOILER< appears from Naota's head >SPOILER and is, in my book, the best character in this anime. Yes he never talks, but he is very considerate, doing the housework and being the maid. Even though he isn't meant for fighting, when he first appears, he saves Naota. A gentle machine, who looks badass and is a very peaceful, gentle character, even helping those who had previously attacked him. Even the characters (well, some) in the anime agree and they all (well, some) love him to bits. He even becomes a badass butt-kicking red robot when SPOILER< he eats Naota >SPOILER. It maybe cliche to say this, but this robot has a heart of gold.
Among the other characters is Naota's dad who also seems to be constantly high, though there is a reason for it, a rather grim and morbid one. The dude with the oversized eyebrows is funny, in that people keep on mentioning his eyebrows and they sometimes come off. There's another girl from Naota's class and she's pretty normal for the most part. Though I did wish they got together or something, could have been cool.
The story, believe it or not, is actually a good comprehendable story. It felt simple afterwards and there weren't too many big twists or turns of the story, but that's a good thing for this anime. It actually all fits together nicely, for the most part. Now of course it might not make any sense if one hasn't watched all 6 episodes but, boy it does at the end. And despite what may appear to be, there is no romance. Again, that makes sense and the ending, while some may not like it, I did. It was a solid conclusion IMO and explains what happens to all of the characters. It seems to be all over the place and there is a lot of sci-fi involved, but its okay, just watch it through to the end if you don't want your brain to explode. And if you still don't get it, then this anime isn't for you. Clearly a niche (?) audience of Seinen.
Overall, a competent seinen anime and one that may make you laugh, though it couldn't make me laugh (as far as I can recall). If you like the crazy, wacky, random mindfuck stuff and something altogether more unique, then this is for you. I have heard of people naming it their favourite anime of all time, but I wouldn't put it that high myself. The ending saved it for me, helping make sense of the story and the like. Definitely not for everyone, if you can't handle a complicated story that is actually simple (make sense of that!), then don't watch it. Since you may even find it boring Otherwise, if you've experience and maturity under your belt, then sit back and enjoy the ride. And the awesome rock music of course.
Family-friendliness Rating: 5*/5 Err, no perverted stuff, but young people may melt their minds with confusion when watching this (lower is better) <-maybe this is the exception?
Overall Rating: 8/10