That’s pronounced “fooly cooly”, by the way. Yeah.
I’m going to attempt to review something I had a hard time following, let alone fully understand. And apparently that seems to be the consensus amongst viewers: FLCL isn’t your run-of-the-mill straight-forward animation series. It’s more of an experimental experience, in more ways than one. Let’s take the plot, for starters. Kind of hard to spoil it since it’s vague and all over the place, and somehow not significant to the series anyway. Yeah.
Our protagonist is the twelve-year-old Naota, and FLCL’s six episodes can be best summarized as forming his coming of age story. In his town, where “nothing ever happens”, a supposed alien shows up and hits him in the head with a guitar. Naota proceeds to struggle with the situations this causes, his feelings for a couple of female cast-members, and the impending destruction of the planet. Yeah.
If you think that’s an odd plot, you’re right. It’s amplified by the series’ high pacing and implied narrative. Yes, it has some continues themes going on, and yes, there’s definitely “things happening”, but the insanity of the setting surrounding those things only rarely amplifies their impact. Luckily for FLCL, the plot is secondary. It’s a tool for grabbing and holding the viewer (which it does to great effect, if only through absurdity), and provides a stage for the characters to play on. Characters whose development may or may not even matter. Yeah.
What can be so great about a series that might as well not have its plot, you ask? It’s genuinely fun to watch. The animation, though nothing really special, shows a lot of freedom, constantly mixing and matching artistic styles to set the right tone, if only to switch it up again five seconds later. The style they frequently use for joke-making is rather similar to what you see in lots of other series’ comedy scenarios, and it’s something I’m personally not a fan of, but it serves its purpose well enough.
But yeah, the jokes. FLCL is full of sexual innuendos, as expected from a young boy’s coming of age story. It remains largely tasteful though, only rarely have I felt the theming got gratuitous. And when it did, it actually impacted the characters involved in a serious manner, balancing things out a bit. There’s also a whole lot of references to popular Japanese culture. Some you’ll easily catch, like mentions of popular animation. Others are more obscure, and I feel like they’re wasted on non-Japanese viewers. That’s unavoidable when utilizing popular culture though.
Every episode of the series is backed by some good ol’ punk rock, a soundtrack I can find myself getting into. It’s no musical masterpiece (though I’m not a punk rock expert), but provides a nice backdrop even for the calmer scenes. Though you’d expect it from a soundtrack with only a single type of music, it doesn’t ever feel truly out of place.
All in all, FLCL is a unique experience. Something to watch for fun, but also something to appreciate for the things it tries to do. For all we know it isn’t even trying to do anything. You can try and find meaning in it, but you’ll never know if what you find is actually there.
Judging from other reviews I’ve skimmed though, FLCL belongs in the “love it or hate it” category. Your mileage may vary.