originally posted at https://canmom.tumblr.com/post/651706...
Hey friends! Perhaps surprisingly with the amount of Gainax we’ve covered here, I’ve never actually watched FLCL! But tonight? We’re going to fix that…
- “huh, what’s this one, Eff Ell Cee Ell?”
- “baka! it’s pronounced Fooly Cooly!”
- “uh, sure, ok? do i know you?”
(more or less how I imagine anime conventions went in the mid 2000s)
FLCL is a six-episode OVA from THE YEAR 2000, a high point in the Gainax’s arc between their other most famous works like Eva and Gurren Lagann. (Previously on Animation Night: Rebuild of Eva, early Gainax, Hiroyuki Imaishi, Gurren Lagann). Hot on the tail of the incredible but harrowing film End of Evangelion, it was the studio’s chance to pour their built up energy into something much lighter, a portrayal of a different side of adolescence in all its confusion that gleefully blends metaphor and sci-fi, all set to the music of indie band The Pillows.
For the director of this one, we need to introduce another member of the Gainax cast. FLCL was the creation - and directorial debut! - of Anno’s protégé Kazuya Tsurumaki (whose The Dragon Dentist opened the Animator Expo making him one of the first people we ever watched on Animation Night), and what a statement it is, consciously an attempt to experiment with the ‘rules’ of TV animation from soundtrack to pacing. Tsurumaki would go on to direct Diebuster, a stylistically distinct (but cool as hell) sequel to Gunbuster about a girl who is the mecha; then, in the late 2000s, he’d follow Anno to Studio Khara to work on the Eva Rebuilds.
But he’s certainly not the only person to make FLCL: it is also an absolute sakuga feast, giving its key animators a lot of space to express their particular styles. By this point, renowned animators like Yoh Yoshinari and Tetsuya Nishio had been pushing themselves to create some of Eva’s most brutal scenes, and were ready to cut loose and drop some of the most insanely cool sequences of their careers. It was a milestone for Hiroyuki Imaishi too, the first time he directed an episode (episode 5) as well as a chance to bring some of that relentlessly chaotic, visual-gag-heavy directing style to his key animation… All that energy and charm extends very much to the character acting oriented scenes as well, with some really delightfully exaggerated poses and emotions giving it a particular charm, but also the ability to convey subtler and quieter scenes like the many atmospheric canalside shots.
It also… struggling to find the right words for this, but looking at the animation and character designs really seems like a fascinating transitional point from the kinds of slightly angular, character designs and animation styles of the 80s-90s OVA era, like we saw last week in Down Load, into the particular kinds of stylisation and exaggeration that would later become the Imaishi/Trigger signature…
So what’s it about? In terms of literal plot details: 12-year-old kid Naoto Nandaba gets whacked on the head by a vespa-riding girl with a bass guitar named Haruko, which like most head injuries, results in robots periodically emerging from his forehead. Fortunately, Haruko - claiming to be a space cop - is able to subvert one of the robots and give Naoko a way to defend himself, but her presence draws the attention of legions of suited goons from the
Yet even before this happens, things seem a little strange: the town in which he lives is dominated by a looming corporate building that looks exactly like a clothing iron. Which feels like a way of saying, don’t try to interpret this too literally!
Over the course of those six episodes, it sounds like things go some pretty wild places! One sequence both @lyravelocity and @mogsk were keen to mention was the episode designed to take after a manga, with the motion edited into black and white panel borders and physical sound effects. Apparently this was accomplished by drawing an enormous manga page as a background, and moving the multiplane camera over it along with the cels, in one of the most technically complex anime shots ever filmed at the time. I can’t wait to see it!
(I also can’t deny FLCL has some troubling elements, or at least ones worth flagging up in advance. F’r example, there’s apparently one episode where the main character’s dad chases him around in a nazi uniform repeatedly seig heiling, which I believe is in context a crass way to signify his authoritarian attitude with a visual gag. I haven’t heard about anything in it that I would consider outright evil; a spirit of irreverence and experimentation is sometimes going to go some misguided places as much as it succeeds in creating something brilliant and new, but you know, don’t let your psychic armour down entirely, this is a Gainax show!)
Unfortunately for such a renowned work of animation, the existing prints of FLCL are not fantastic. We’re left with the choice of either the Japanese DVD release in interlaced NTSC which is of course low resolution and poorly suited to computer playback, or a blu-ray release which applies a detail-removing, over-filtered digital upscale, and also messes with the crop and colours. It’s kind of a case of pick your poison, and some nyaa uploaders prefer the DVD, while others use the bluray. I’m going to test out both on my system and make a decision on the night; of course, given I’m streaming to you over Twitch, it’s kind of moot on your end ><
There are, at least, extensive production materials available: storyboards, commentary tracks, and interviews with the creators which I would like to show if time permits! (Which it probably will, because the total runtime of the OVA is only about 3 hours.)
And then, the sequels. FLCL received a pair of sequel series airing in 2018 titled FLCL Alternative and FLCL Progressive. The circumstances of their creation are a little weird: at first, Gainax (now a shell of a company, with all its big names departing to Khara and Trigger) was set to sell the rights to Studio Khara, with whom it was also fighting a lawsuit over refusal to pay Evangelion royalties; according to Anno, Gainax jacked up the price at the last minute and the deal fell through.
Instead, the main animation work on the sequels was handled by Production I.G. (who had been part of the original show’s production committee) with support from several young studios like Signal.MD, Revoroot and NUT. Several of the staff returned, including the original character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, and while Tsurumaki apparently supervised (but did not direct) the project… the general feeling I’ve gotten towards these series is lukewarm at best, certainly not as well regarded as the original. Is that fair? I can’t say, but I’m not gonna consider screening them til I’ve watched them myself.
Animation Night 54: FLCL will begin at 7pm UK time at twitch.tv/canmom - and, gosh, I’m incredibly excited to see this at last, it sounds like such a fantastic time. Hope to see you there :)