FLCL

A long review pt. 3

Last April marked 20 years since the first broadcast of FLCL (short for “Fooly Cooly,” a term which itself doesn’t really mean anything).

It’s a classic, and still an essential gem 🖤

Basically, a coming of age story of a young boy going through puberty and experiencing his first heart ache set in a surreal comedy/drama sci fi world with a unique pastel color palette and a Japanese rock band that wrote a whole two albums of material solely for the anime. Lots of symbolism and metaphors but balanced with good drama.

After season one the series followed up with FLCL: Progressive and FLCL: Alternative, both released in 2018 – an entire decade and then some after the original debut. FLCL Progressive was supposed to have a corresponding manga, but this never came to fruition.

Naota acts as an allegory for a lot of the shows symbolism on growing up. The guitars featured each symbolize certain maturity. Haruku and her guitar, a blue Rickenbacker left-handed bass, symbolizes the stage of adolescence. She uses her bass to smash Naota in the head and with that he changes. She is literally the force of puberty colliding with Naota’s childhood, starting him on his adventure. Also, there is the relation to the left-handedness, and how the left is associated with recklessness and rebellion. Naota’s guitar is a white V guitar; meaning peace, purity, and childhood. It is the only actual guitar the rest are basses, showing that Naota is the protagonist. The bass of Atomsk is red – war, violence, power, royalty and adulthood. Atomsk and his guitar are what Haruku desires, adulthood. Haruku wants Atomsk’s power, but in the end it is Naota who experiences it momentarily. Amarao’s bass is small and black, the color of death, infertility, lies, lost hopes. Amarao is physically a man, but mentally less mature than Naota. He puts up a front saying he has done many grown-up things like taxes and wears ostentatious eyebrows to cover his weakness. Although he talks about adulthood and maturity, he acts like a narcissist and an egotistical child. His bass reflects this; he never really grew up, so his guitar is diminished in size compared to Naota’s. Over the course of the show, Naoto realizes Amarao is a future version of himself, displaying what will happen if he does not mature.

Towards the end of the last episode the last guitar appears, a combination of Atomsk’s bass and Naota’s guitar symbolizing the struggle between life stages.

Mamimi, the high school girl who latches on to Naota, is naïve with a ditsy disposition. FLCL finds balance with Mamimi and does not go overboard in that facet of the show. Beneath her nature lies a more complex character, wracked with fear of loneliness and the incessant want to have something in her life. Mamimi even resorts to obsessive religious behavior to mask the pain she feels inside by creating a ‘god’ for herself from one robot that came from Naota’s head. It is this kind of vulnerability that makes Mamimi a sympathetic character. There is no way around it. She lives a sad, delusional life, one that makes us feel sorry for her. She doesn’t seem very smart and when one takes her obsession with fire and video games into consideration it doesn’t look like she will ever have much of a future. That said, one dream she has is becoming a photographer. They show her throughout the series taking random photos of the scenery, one of which made the front page of the local newspaper. Mamimi fell in love with Naota’s brother Tasuku after he saved her from a fire at her school that she presumably started herself. Ever since their first encounter, she has been madly in love with him. Her unhealthy obsession with Naota stems from her delusion that Tasuku is still in love with her, and it is only when she realizes he isn’t that she moves on.

Canti is not just some robot that comes out of Naota’s head! They have theorized that Canti is Naota’s brother, Tasuku, who Naota looks up to and aspires to be. He doesn’t let Haruku sleep in Tasuku’s bunk because it is his. He doesn’t want to “swing the bat” in a series rife with sexual metaphors, this example stands out and we can interpret its relation to maturity. Tesuku is in America for the sole purpose to play baseball, so if Naota never swings the bat, he can’t disprove that he will never be as proficient as him. Naota emulates his brother by sticking around Mimi. She loved Naota’s brother, just as she loves ‘Lord Canti’, her god and her savior. His brother is exactly what he wants to become. Though, Canti’s character may just be another symbolic relation – maybe he is a reminder to Naota of what his brother is.

If FLCL can be approached with an open mind, then viewers will be pleasantly surprised that it is about more than just robots, aliens, anime references and slapstick humor.