In the new season of FLCL, many years have passed since Naota and Haruhara Haruko shared their adventure together. Meanwhile, the war between the two entities known as Medical Mechanica and Fraternity rages across the galaxy. Enter Hidomi, a young teenaged girl who believes there is nothing amazing to expect from her average life, until one day when a new teacher named Haruko arrives at her school. Soon enough, Medical Mechanica is attacking her town and Hidomi discovers a secret within her that could save everyone, a secret that only Haruko can unlock. But why did Haruko return to Earth? What happened to her Rickenbacker 4001 she left with Naota? And where did the human-type robot ‘Canti’ go?
Source: Adult Swim
Ah, the tragedy as old as time. A popular piece of media comes out and proves to be a hit, both critically, and financially. Some odd years later, a sequel is made that exists solely because the first one was popular, rather than because there was something to add. It gets panned, financial success or no. FLCL Progressive is yet another example of this tale. It’s what would happen if they tried to make FLCL in the current day -as of writing, of course- without any of the charm or passion that went into the original. Love it or hate it, FLCL is a distinct piece of work, one filled with little references and neat, temporary art-style shake-ups to add flavor to an already eccentric and visually stunning take on the coming of age story. Progressive is milquetoast at the best of times and downright broken at the worst of times. There’s no flavor outside of moments that already take cues from its predecessor, and perhaps a few bits in the latter half. It doesn’t have anything worth covering, let alone worth bringing to the table. It would be one thing if, in spite of this, this sequel worked as a functioning tale with the audiovisual mastery that exemplifies the best of the current age. It would simply be an unnecessary addition, but a harmless one at best. However, we instead get a mess that decides to pander. Think about it. Why else does the main character wear headphones that have cat ears? Why else do we have a loli and a beach episode? Why else do they just randomly include smartphones without having anything be done with them? Why else does this show’s equivalent to Haruko wear a sexy maid outfit? Simply because it’s hip with the current otaku crowd. The real origins of Haruko and her Progressive counterpart, Jinyu, are not only stupid, but also somewhat contradictory to FLCL 1 and raise some questions the original was never equipped to answer. The things they try to add about the universe of the franchise are absurd and even inconsistent, even by the conventions of the franchise as well. It’s already aggravating that it’s all in service to a show that has nothing new or interesting to comment on in any meaningful way, and that the finale is this dumb mess that abruptly wraps itself up. The characters make it even worse. Hidomi is a nothing character. There is nothing consistent to her other than having a secret want to reset the world for particularly incongruous and asinine reasons. The show even claims she is going for a tsundere angle, as god awful as that observation is, and it’s as inaccurate as a blind man shooting in the dark. Even Haruko largely just an adult brat rather than the quirky, ambitious, and amoral vixen from the original. Her counterpart, Jinyu, is bland like Hidomi, but at least she is the least obnoxious character of the entire cast. The male students in the show are also nothing characters with no chemistry, even though the main guy of that trio, Lide, acts infinitely more like an active protagonist than Hidomi ever does. The loli character also isn’t any better; she’s as unremarkable and annoying as the rest. No one has any chemistry to speak of, adding insult to injury. Outside of the ending credits and the 5th episode, the show’s visuals are rather dull and even a tad unappealing to look at. Production I.G honestly did a poor job outside of the hit and miss new character designs, as the animation was incredibly stilted and choppy --even in the more kinetic action scenes-- and the color pallet was not to my taste at all Some scenes look downright terrible, even if that's counterbalanced by a few scenes looking pretty evocative. Even in the art style shift in the 5th episode that actually made Haruko look more similar to how she was in FLCL than in the episodes preceding it, it’s arguable if the more purposely rough visuals worked. The music is as much to my uninterest as ever, with several songs by The Pillows, both new and old, and largely forgettable background music outside of that, which is barely any more memorable than the original. The only song of any note here is "Thank You, my Twilight", which is one of my favorites in the franchise, believe it or not. That's not enough to save anything though. At least the dub was nice given the awful material, I suppose. In essence, FLCL 2 is your typical underwhelming sequel. I’ve seen worse in this regard, even in terms of sequels to Gainax shows, but damning with faint praise doesn’t excuse how pointless, shallow, and lifeless this installment really is. Sadly, its existence also slightly nullifies some of the uniqueness of the original, so doing nothing substantial to help make up for that is arguably one of the biggest crimes this sequel could have committed under these circumstances. At least it doesn’t use that show as a crutch, but again, it does that anime and several of its fans no favors, either. FLCL 3, please be a proper alternative to this mess?
FLCL Progressive is a rare sequel that uses many of the same elements as the original FLCL and makes for a fun, different experience. Any sequel has the challenge of living up to the original anime and FLCL may have been one of the most challenging anime to follow up. FLCL is a work that: came out at the right time, 2000; made by the right studios, Gainax and Production I.G.; has an unforgettable mix of visuals, social parody and characters. The story of FLCL is simple once broken down, but the journey is much more important than the destination in FLCL. I was skeptical once Progressive was announced. How could any sequel to FLCL be good? FLCL is an anime that could not exist outside of a particular time period and the crazy adrenaline of Gainax. I came in with skepticism once I heard that people were reacting negatively to Progressive. I’m glad that I’ve watched Progressive because I think that Progressive is a fun and wild ride. One of the most important elements of FLCL is the simple story of teenagers growing up through unusual events and characters. This story grounds FLCL, because the silly tangents and strange events need a solid foundation for these elements to work. Progressive’s story follows Hidomi, a lonely and isolated middle school girl who feels that her mother does not care for. Hidomi is pursued by Haruko for her energy and protected by Jinyu, the maid for Hidomi’s mother’s café. Hidomi learns to shed her isolation and grows attracted to Ide, another student affected by Haruko. Hidomi learns to accept her mother and accept that her father is gone. I prefer this story over FLCL’s Naota and Mamimi. Mamimi was abusing Naota by treating Naota as a substitute for his older brother, while Hidomi and Ide grow to like each other mutually. Naota could be irritating in his gloomy attitude. Hidomi has more of a character arc as she blocks the world from her mind and has to learn to see the world for what it is. FLCL is famous for its strange moments, endless energy and visuals. Progressive handles itself well with many strange moments and ever shifting visuals. The energy is not as propulsive, but this more relaxed pacing fits Progressive’s characters better. One major complaint is that Haruko is not as reckless and crazy as she was in FLCL. I agree, Haruko is calmer in Progressive. I feel that is because more time is spent on Haruko’s backstory as she fruitlessly fights to gain the affection of Atomsk. Haruko is less a force of nature and more a character in Progressive and I appreciate this change. Haruko is silly and fearsome, but this makes sense with the direction of the story. I recommend Progressive for fans of FLCL and fans of anime with extreme stylistic tastes. Some fans will call Progressive a pointless sequel, but I believe that there is enough variety in Progressive to make for a fun experience.
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