The series centers on the misadventures of 17-year-old Kana, a high school junior who spends her days hanging out with her besties, Mossan, Hijiri, and Pets. They live unremarkable lives, until the day a mecha falls out of the sky, along with a strange woman named “Haruko.” Her plans for Kana and her friends involve the force known as “ATOMSK.” Kana will have to risk everything to decide whether or not to help… like she really has a choice!
Source: Adult Swim
It’s a story we’ve all heard before, about a young adult who is at a pivotal point in their life, unsure what is to come next. We of course all heard that before because it was pretty much the premise of the original FLCL. Story - 3/10 Kana is a seventeen year old girl who sees no direction forward for her life. She’s an average student who’s not particularly good at anything, so the choice between a career path or college both seem equally grim. Because of her uncertainty she starts to live vicariously through her three best friends, Pets, Hijiri and Mossan. While at first none of those girls seem like they have much going on for them, they each show a glimmer of adulthood that Kana herself is missing. The first episode is a pretty standard introduction to our cast. We meet the four main friends, and see the normal interactions of a group of high school girls as they goof around, talk about boys and fashion, and just enjoy each others company. We also get the first glimpse of a much calmer Haruko Haruhara, who now appears to be stalking Kana in an attempt to get into her head…literally. While the girls hang out one night a giant “location” pin falls on them, unleashing a Medical Mechanica monster. Thankfully Haruko is there to save the day by pulling a Fender Mustang out of Kana’s head. The girls go back to their lives, acting like nothing interesting even happened to them. The second focuses on Hijiri, one of the four friends who the other three kind of look up to, due to her career as an amateur model, as well as the fact she’s loved by the boys. When the group finds out that she has an older boyfriend they all want the best for her, as to them this is a sign of becoming an adult. When they start to suspect that her boyfriend is cheating on her they confront him, only to learn that Hijiri has let it slide. After a stupid battle that’s supposed to mimic Transformers, Hijiri comes to the realization she’s always played around with the emotions of her male classmates, and that she needs to start treating boys who like her properly, as it’s a sign of growing up. Episode three shows how Mossan is doing the adult thing by working hard to help support her large family, as well as earn money to pay for fashion school. While this episode could have had a good story, it instead went for the lowest common denominator. Despite starting to show how Mossan is a hard worker, they had to double down on the idea she’s just a fat slob who eats all day and is prone to violent outburst, which really just made for an awful episode that again proved these writers are terrible and unfunny. Trying to add more dumb pop culture references manifested itself in Haruko rapping for no reason what so ever. Focus returns to our main character, Kana, in episode four, as she finally decides to pursue the boy she has a crush on. This is mostly caused by Haruko somehow becoming the basketball coach and using that position to sexually assault Sasaki. The one good thing that comes from all of this is that there is finally a few funny moments in the show, mostly surrounding one of the basketball players, Aida, continuously freaking out over the way Haruko acts around Sasaki. Eventually Kana starts to confess her feelings, but then realizes that there really isn’t that spark of romance there. The episode culminates in Haruko having a pointless basketball one on one against a robot (again to prove how hip and cool the writers are) and the unveiling of the signature Medical Mechanica Iron Building. They take a step backwards at the start of episode five to give us a little backstory when it comes to the friendship of Kana and Pets. The two have known each other the longest out of our main group, and it all started when Pets decided to befriend the lonely girl at school who was afraid to talk to the other kids. This makes it all the more harder when Pets’ family decides to use their wealth and connections to escape Earth before it can get destroyed by Medical Mechanica. Unsure of how to deal with the situation Pets first runs away, but when she knows she has to leave with her family, she lashes out at her friend, possibly believing that doing so will make her departure easier for Kana. They also use this episode to begin to wrap things up, and the way they do it is to copy exactly how they wrapped things up in the original. Pets finds a robot back at their little club house, and as it begins to eat some of the electrical wiring it starts to grow, only to reveal that, shockingly, it’s the Terminal Core, and it’s shaped like a hand. Cue “Last Dinosaur” and open up an N.O. stream, and you’ve got almost a carbon copy of the final episode from that great version of the franchise. The beginning of the end of our series may also mark the beginning of the end for Earth, as Medical Mechanica has begun activating its plants. The town becomes nothing but people depressed and just waiting around for the world to end. This goes double for Kana, as not only is she dealing with the impending doom, but also the loss of her best friend. In an attempt to make her feel better, Mossan and Hijiri take Kana to the beachside location where they can watch the rockets take off for Mars. There they shout their love and support for Pets, hoping that they all can once again be together. Their little going away party for Pets is broken up when Haruko arrives to grab Kana and use her head to open an N.O. stream that will swallow the Medical Mechanica irons currently smoothing out the Earth. A pretty pointless battle with multiple reskinned Contis occurs, without ever explaining why (or even how they arrived since they need a head to come out of) All the while Kana screams, moans and has a therapy session until she literally goes “Super Saiyan” For no explained reason what so ever, she gains the sign and power of Atomsk, despite not having interacted with him in a way that would give her that ability. Her outburst causes an N.O. portal to open up and conveniently suck in only things connected to Medical Mechanica. Outside of a few subtle changes things go back to normal in the town, and everyone acts like nothing apparently happened. They end the show just as they started it, with Kana spouting a dumb attempt at sounding profound, but instead making no sense, as her quote comes across more like what you’d here from a moron who took one day of intro philosophy, and then decided they were the most brilliant person on earth, despite still needing to use velcro shoes. While the show slightly was entertaining, each episode just seemed as so little was going on. They’d start with a story about one of the girls, and end with a fight between Haruko and a robot, but in the middle there wasn’t much that added to the actual story. Intertwined with the thin stories about each girl is the FLCL mainstay plot of Medical Mechanica trying to take over the planet and smooth it out. The problem is, unlike the last two series, there wasn’t much indication of this. There would be a robot fight in every episode or so, and the story about humans looking to flee the planet, but this storyline just seemed like an add-on that was there because it was expected to be. Haruko just never really seemed too worried about anything other than dishing out life advice. I think if they stripped everything relating to FLCL out of the show it might have actually been a good story, but instead it just comes across as if the creators took a show they wanted to make, but didn’t have enough ideas and episode for, and tossed a few cliche FLCL items into it, and then sold it off to the studio hoping no one noticed. Animation - 7/10 The one place that this show surpassed the original was in the animation department. The background plates are very detailed and resemble the great style from the series Tanaka-kun is Always Listless. What that series did so well, and I think is similar here, is the use of cinematography in the animation world, where they perfectly use light and shadows to add a depth to the scenes. The characters themselves are somewhat standard looking, but they still are very nicely done. Our series spanning hero Haruko is obviously the standout, being drawn in a way that shows a maturity of the animation designer, and it’s made even better as they give her so many different looks. There are a few negatives though, like the re-use of some of the wacky styles from the original, such as giving the characters a cat face or going to a black and white line drawn style when Kana gets hit in the head. Likewise the monsters are dull and show a lack of imagination. Worse might be how the mouths and faces just don’t line up very well with what is being said or expressed. These items are quite small and rare when it comes to this series, and are far outweighed by the overall beauty of the show. Sound - 7/10 This series really came close to matching the original in the spirit of the music and how it was laid out. Under many of the scenes there was just the perfect amount of background music to help move along the action and emotion. For a majority of the show they didn’t stoop to cheap tricks, like using songs from the original in areas they wanted you to feel emotional about, so that we’re more focused on our memories and the feelings we had for the first series, while ignoring the bad plot in front of us. Though in the last two episodes they did start to incorporate Last Dinosaur and I Think I Can into scenes that closely mimicked their placement in the original. The show didn’t hit the marks of FLCL when it came to tying memorable songs to memorable scenes, but it still was great in it’s own way. As with all the FLCL songs, they did get the themes perfect. Here we unfortunately just get an ending, and thankfully it’s very good. The Pillows always felt a little behind the times, when FLCL came out their music was from that end of the millennium, but it sounded as if it belonged on the radio in the early Nineties. Likewise their song Star Overhead sounds like music from a generation before, as if it could have actually been written around the time of the original series. It’s easy to be the standout song when you’re an opening or closing theme, but I think even if it was in the show it would easily be considered the best song of these two new shows. The V.O. work is also done very well, with Kari Wahlgren once again leading the way with her great version of Haruko. The rest of the crew is well above par, but there are a few times they miss their mark a bit, such as how they try to make each girl, at some point, have that blasé tone that Mamimi perfected, but none here ever got it right. Characters - 3/10 While the characters were all very likable, they were also shockingly weak, with pretty much nothing going on with any of them. They tried to tie at least an episode to each of our four main females, but we got little out of it besides silly side stories that had almost no connection to the show itself. One of the major disappointments of the series was Haruko. Unlike the first two version of the series, here she had absolutely no direction. It never felt as if she was searching for Atomsk, fighting Medical Mechanica, or doing anything besides trying to molest random guys and give inspirational speeches. They’d throw her into a battle, have her pull items out of people’s heads and act like lech, but there wasn’t any real reason for her to be around. Her character in FLCL was to be likable on the outside, but evil and manipulative on the inside, here she was just dull and annoying. They also sent things a little too far out on the spectrum when it came to her now being nothing but a self help coach. She first helped Naota because she was using him, but over time she eventually started to care for him and support him just a little bit under her devious scheme, here she just runs in and starts to spout out random life advice that was more often than not unhelpful, and even worse it was unfunny. Kana is the main non-reoccurring character in the series, as she is the only one whose head actually works. Much like the other major teenager with the power to harness NO, she’s decided that despite her young age that life is essentially over and it’s time to give in to a mundane future. As she struggles to see where life will take her after high school, she watches her friends successfully navigate their own paths, so she tries to live vicariously through them. She’s a good hearted character, but her need to see her friends succeed, so that she can feel fulfilled, often manifests in her sticking her nose where it may not belong, and almost ruining those friendships. She’s the perfect Gen Z type character, because she ends up being an indecisive and whiney character, whose major super power is screaming and crying. The first of her friends to get the spotlight is Hijiri, a classmate who has done some local modeling work, which her friends think is like hitting the big time. Of all the characters she might be the only one who shows any real growth, as the outcome of her relationship with an older boy causes her to realize that she has spent most of her life using others, especially the guys who fawn over her. This entire story fails to have any real impact on the show and mostly flies in the face of her character, who is often shown as very caring and supportive of her friends. Another of Kana’s friends is Motoyama, a girl who is used throughout the show to basically make fat jokes about and have her be an animated Chris Farley. Even when they write an episode around her ability to create great new fashions, as well as being a hard worker, it breaks down into her being not much more than a comically dressed whale with anger issues. They really made her one of the worst characters, as there was a good story there to be told, but they instead went for juvenile jokes for the low IQ viewer. The final member of Kana’s crew is Pets, a girl that Kana has been friends with the longest, but seems to know little about. She has a tendency to want what her friends have, often offering to trade her much more expensive version of something for theirs. She tries to hide her family’s higher class status, along with problems that her parents are having, but it all comes to a head when she has the chance to flee the Earth before its flattened. Unlike Kana’s other two friends, Pets’ story doesn’t resolve itself, as when she leaves you aren’t sure if she acted out as a way to protect Kana from her departure, or if she is actually a terrible and selfish person. Just to make sure things were even more like the original they threw in Amarao-Light, who goes by the name Tsukata Kanda. Like Amarao he works for the immigration department, had a past affair with Haruko, and also can only pull the smallest of items through his head. But they make sure to let you know he’s completely different because he likes spicy things…… In the FLCL universe keeping the main cast small is a good, as it’s a short series, but you still need to take the time to build those characters and tie them into the overall story. While we know these four young ladies are friends, the stories do almost nothing to reaffirm their friendship outside of them hanging out together, and if anything it shows that they know little about each other. Likewise their individual stories are completely superfluous to the show, which itself seems to have no meaning. Overall - 3/10 The first four episodes of the series were promising, and although a bit disjointed, you thought they could actually go some place interesting. Unfortunately when they got to the last two that all fell apart, with a majority of the time being spent having scenes that were almost exact copies of the original, with useless action being chosen in place of actual plot, which leads to an ending that just made no sense in the grand scheme of FLCL. Unlike the that first series, or even Progressive, there was almost no story at all to the show. It just felt like they took FLCL and had a computer AI write a retelling of the series, as it hit on points needed but didn’t actually link them or contain a human element. The first series succeeded because there were still amazing themes about youth, growing up and love, underneath the wackiness. This story hinted at many of those themes, but never really got into them, with most of that being ignored except for during the voice overs, and what we did get was mostly selfishness, whining, and crying. You can have characters that have no direction in life if you have a story around them, but if a show is lacking both of those things then why even make the show? If it wasn’t for the iconic images from FLCL you can easily think this was just some other slice of life show with no actual connection to the original. Where as Progressive went over the top in trying to copy FLCL every chance it got, from repeated catch phrase usage, carbon copy battles and scenes, the exact same music cues, Alternative went a little too far in the opposite direction, almost losing the major overall plot of the series. Both series did do a great job of completely screwing up the lore of FLCL and inserting their own bad takes into the series, which is later explained in an interview with the producers, as it seems the people in charge of the shows had little to no knowledge of the original show, so they did what creators of this generation do best, ruin things by adding their awful ideas into something already properly thought out. And despite the claims of executives who works on the series, I think their attempts to say this was a prequel to the original is just damage control and excuse as to why there is no direction to the series and Haruko in particular. Everything said and seen points to this being much later than the first series, and their hook to try and justify this trashfest isn’t going to change that. If anything what would make sense is just what the title implies, that this is an alternative universe where Haruko isn’t a fugitive from the Interstellar Immigration Agency, but rather an officer who works for them, tracking down the monster Medical Mechanica is unleashing on the world. While I found this series the better of the two newer attempts at FLCL, thanks mostly to the fact they at least tried to make something original and didn’t try to keep you invested by hinting at a connection to the original, it wasn’t that much better in execution, though like the other I think they could have made a great series if they didn’t staff the show with complete imbeciles. The FLCL series seems to be broken up into what generations they could be. The original series is Gen X, it’s irreverent and wacky, but it still stands for something. Progressive is for millennials, it’s mopey and a bit self centered, while also trying too hard to be like those before them. Finally there’s Alternative, which is perfect for Gen Z, it’s a lot of crying and feeling sorry for yourself, getting bored with things easily and ending with having to see a therapist because you didn’t get the newest model phone on day one. Positive Reasons for Score: * It had the feel of the original, where there was a legitimate story of a confused child not sure how to take that next step in life. * Giving each of the girls an episode to show how they are growing up was a good decision, as they were well thought out characters who had interesting back stories. * They did a good job of once again connecting music to scenes. Negative Reasons for Score: * They never built on a great story, where each episode felt detached from the rest. * Like Progressive they went too heavy on just being overtly sexual and vulgar, eschewing thought out jokes for trying to get people to laugh because someone said “Penis.” * Overall the show felt pointless, nothing got resolved and there was almost no useful attachment to the FLCL franchise. Ways to make the show better: * Have an actual direction. The stories about the girls was nice, but there wasn’t a bigger picture. * Do away with the crude and cheap jokes, it added nothing to the show and made it look amateur. * Get rid of the pop culture references and the many callbacks to the original series.
FLCL Alternative is an interesting show. Accidentally brought early for April Fool’s day, FLCL’s most lax cousin was forced to bear the burden Progressive was supposed to have, that being the weight of being the sequel to a legendary piece of animated passion. Sadly, it was stuck with it anyway after Progressive turned out the way it did and paid the piper for it in terms of reception. For such a Herculean task, this show was oddly calm, even nostalgic in some ways. It’s a miracle it worked at all given its approach. One obvious point in this show’s favor is that it actually tries to tackle something different from the original. Progressive focused more on adding intrusive lore elements to Haruko while providing unnecessary and flawed critique for the sake of a character arc. It sidelined its own protagonist’s role, leaving its core messages and delivery half-baked. Alternative takes a new angle entirely, focusing on a group of four teenage girls on the verge of adulthood rather than the beginning of adolescence. From there, it begins studying our main leads one by one in the first half, while sandwiching them with Haruko, and the style and structure of FLCL. What makes this work is the sense of chemistry our main leads have. Each interaction feels as lovey and genuine as these girls’ distinct personalities. This makes studying them individually and what makes them a part of this group so rewarding. It shows off all their jobs, passions, and struggles to make each girl feel almost real. Adding onto this genuine feeling is how organically the show taps into teenage culture. These girls hang out at restaurants and malls, text each other, and visit each other’s houses to learn about each other and hang out more. Kana, Hijiri, and Mossan are particularly fun to watch and explore, and even Tomomi -the character who often just blends in while making humorous jabs- gets her time to feel like a true member of this lively cast. Seeing Mossan’s little siblings draw food to “pretend feed” her, and how tired she is while she works, tells us more about her than the exposition her mom gives to Kana. Kana’s bookbag charms and cracked phone screen tell us about her character better than any thankfully non-existent exposition dump does. Hijiri’s forlorn sigh after her break up tells more than any exposition dump does. Most refreshingly, some of the scenes of characters talking about each other reveal more about themselves and their dynamic than the people they’re referring to. It all melds together to forge this small community of girls to get attached to. The fact that even with this, Haruko trumps all, is easily the most astounding part. She is what ties everything together in the nicest of bows. Her absurd occupations are as glorious as the fact that as long as she gets her job done, she legally has jurisdiction -in universe- to do whatever the fuck she wants. As such, she can go from being a nurse and a food truck vendor to someone slaying Bumblebee while shouting “Michael Bay” in a 3D action sequence! She’s every bit the force of nature she once was, now with an entirely different purpose and even more insight. The monumental performance by Kari Wahlgren truly exemplifies what a joy this incarnation of Haruko is to watch. Her main redesign also reflects this wonderfully while being as wonderful as her original design. Not every appearance feels necessary, but they are generally some of the highlights of any given episode. This isn’t to say Alternative’s writing is perfect, even in terms of living up to its predecessor. The writing can be a bit too blunt, even if it doesn’t always spell out each episode’s message. It doesn’t have this sense of subtlety the original had. At times, some dramatic scenes can feel boilerplate, as if they did it just to have one. The same also applies to some of their attempts at incredibly weird and visually varied sequences that really drag on and feel more awkward than bombastic. Another, more important issue is that that for ⅔ of the show, there’s no real sense of escalation or reason to care about the grander narrative. What makes matters worse is that the middle section feels more undercooked and wasteful than anything else, especially since a short 6-episode series should have no reason to buy time. Thankfully most of these writing issues aren’t generally deal breakers, especially compared to the more damning flaws commonly presented about Progressive. It’s mainly a problem in the middle of the show, so the first and final 1/3s of the show can still be enjoyed to the fullest. On the subjects of improving, let’s address the visuals. The animation feels livelier, more fluid than the often stiff and awkward-feeling animation presented in Progressive’s action sequences. It isn’t as fluid as the original, and there are some rough moments -both in the animation and CGI department- but the visuals are far more vibrant and less awkwardly restrained as they were previously for the most part. Additionally, the character expressions are far more lively here to boot. Combine this with the generally fun character designs and fashion, and you have a fun jumping off point. Combine this with Haruko’s numerous hairstyles and designs this time around, and some more interesting designs for the one-off enemies of each episode, and it’s not hard to see how this was a step above the previous entry. Finally, we arrive at the audio improvements. The dubbing here was more excellent than before, not just with the main and/or returning characters, but with the glorious additions of Steve Blum and Patrick Seitz as secondary characters. However, the biggest step up is in the music. Where Progressive only really had one track of note -that being “Thank You, My Twilight” by The Pillows- Alternative doubles that with two of the best tracks in the franchise. “White Summer and Green Bicycle, Red Hair and Black Guitar” is easily my favorite insert song in the franchise, with a wonderfully nostalgic feeling to it that makes reflecting on a walk or bus ride a marvelous experience. None of the other tracks match up, but they are at least serviceable. The absolute splendor of these two tracks by The Pillows is already enough to show how much more effective this show was than its predecessor. FLCL Alternative may not match the original’s sheer passion, subtlety, skill, or visual splendor, but it keeps the spirit moving in a new direction. It switches gears organically, embracing itself as its own justified identity while keeping true to its roots, even if it isn’t always successful at that. This laidback alternative is as unnecessary as it is welcome, and that’s all it ever needed to be. Written and edited by: CodeBlazeFate Proofread by: Peregrine
This 2018 surreal science fiction adventure was brought to the English-speaking world by Adult Swim which gives us a quick clue as to the territory this is ploughing. This “Season Three” was released the same year as “Season Two”. This bizarre comedy-adventure was the output of three studios: Production I.G., NUT and Revoroot, and comes some 18 years after the original cult-classic Season One hit our screens. The show is more about presenting a strange avant garde reality of aliens, supernatural events and flying robots than organising itself into any kind of story. The whole package is very much a victim of style over content with its director Kazuya Tsurumaki admitting that "comprehension should not be an important factor in FLCL". In other words, if you don’t understand FLCL then that is cool. You probably aren’t meant to. Still, this is precisely the kind of stuff critics love and obscurists adore. The rest of us are left a little bewildered. It is a piece of art – a frame into which rides the main protagonist, an alien called Haruko Haruhara who manifests herself as a yellow-Vespa-riding 19-year-old girl. Unlike in “FLCL Progressive” Haruko’s purpose on Earth seems less clear this time around. She is just hanging around in an attempt to mess things around. She encounters yet another “ordinary” high school girl called Kana Koumoto and her friends. This time around there is more of an actual story surrounding the school-girls and at times it comes over as a real little anime slice-of-life. You could almost imagine yourself watching “K-On” at times. Inevitably it isn’t long before Haruko is pulling guitars our of poor Kana’s head and doing battle with the “Medical Mechanica” who appear on Earth as enormous steam irons. In the background the doom of the planet establishes itself as a theme as the rich appear ready to abandon the planet in favour of Mars. Covering them are lying politicians. Meanwhile some Earth bureaucrat attempts to stand in the way of the Medical Mechanica’s intentions. Although Hauko’s motivations are unclear she drives Kana into an inevitable showdown with the Medical Mechanica where the young girl’s “ON” power can be used to save mankind. It is baffling from beginning to end but the audience really should not be too concerned with making any sense from this nonsense. It isn’t there. The whole things bundles along at a million miles an hour all to the thrumming rock guitar soundtrack supplied by the band “The Pillows” alongside a score by RON. The lack of any explanation for what is going on in the story is actually its major drawbacks. It may be extremely “cool” to some people but to the rest of us the lack of rhyme or reason limits the show’s appeal immensely. The whole thing is one big self-indulgent joy-ride for the makers. And YOU are not invited. Arguably it remains one of the coolest things on the planet. Doe to the normalistic nature of some of the story-telling this is a much more enjoyable show than “FLCL Progressive” yet still as weird as they come.
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