Original Run: June 2, 2018 - July 7, 2018 Number of Episodes: 6 Genre: Action, Comedy, Science Fiction
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for FLCL Progressive. Reader discretion is advised.***
Hidomi Hibajiri (voiced by Inori Minase) has chosen to close herself off from the world. However, in her dreams, Hidomi sees visions of horrific death and destruction. When she wakes, Hidomi thinks nothing of her restless nights. Still, a part of her mind tells her she can’t go anywhere without her beloved pair of headphones for protection.
What Hidomi doesn’t know is what her headphones are protecting her from; mainly: Herself.
Should her thoughts turn drastic, Hidomi will fall into a state known as overflow; the properties of which are shrouded in mystery. One day, Hidomi discovers her classmate, Ko Ide (voiced by Jun Fukuyama), can also activate overflow. Therefore, how many more can as well?
Although hoping to block out the madness residing in her head, Hidomi has attracted the attention of many questionable people. Among the most unusual – and probably the most dangerous – is an energetic woman who rides a yellow vesper: Haruko Haruhara (voiced by Mayumi Shintani).
Part 1 of 2
It does feel necessary to consider this a split review. Granted, I have no idea what is in store with FLCL Alternative (Alternative/FLCL 3). It may not have anything to do with what occurred in FLCL Progressive (Progressive/FLCL 2). After all – at the time of me writing this post – I have not yet seen Alternative. Nevertheless, something is compelling me to hold my judgment to some degree until after the third installment is watched. I mean, come on:
This is FLCL.
For those of you who do not know, FLCL (pronounced Fooly Cooly) was a 2000 series which has since built a unique reputation. The show was strange, wild, unpredictable, and if I do say so myself, a landmark moment within the entire anime medium. It is a true classic in every sense of the word.
Then 2018 comes along – nearly two decades later – and we suddenly got not just one but TWO FLCL sequels. I don’t think I can sufficiently express the amount of excitement and worry I felt upon hearing that news.
Here we have a continuation that was neither promised nor needed twenty years after the fact. How can a person not doubt the motivations of such a move? Nostalgia is big money, and it really is hard to find anything more nostalgic than FLCL.
However, why should I lie? There was finally going to be more FLCL. Surely some anticipation should be expected.
Having now said all that, what’s the verdict? Well…
Progressive was not its predecessor. The legendary wow-factor simply wasn’t in this installment. Something was missing, and I can’t claim I am surprised. Luckily, it doesn’t matter. The series was still pretty damn fun. At its core, this was FLCL, and what could be more crucial?
To start, the series was, once again, beautifully animated. Please keep in mind, the first FLCL was as gorgeous as it was ahead of its time; there remain CGI segments in the original that continue to outshine many shows coming out now. Yes, that kind of special punch was not present in Progressive, but to its credit, the attempt was wisely not made.
Instead of changing the game, FLCL 2 went with stunning visual brilliance. Every style attempted – and trust me, there was a lot – was outstanding and gorgeous.
Let me fill you in on a little secret. The original FLCL didn’t blow me away because of its animation. FLCL knew how to do weird and mesmerizing at the same time. Much of it had to do with its characters. And that was the area where Progressive was at its best.
Minus a few returning faces (we will get to her in a moment), this was an entirely new cast of characters. They didn’t rely on what made the first group work because they brought their own dynamic to the table. Nowhere was this more prominent than with Hidomi Hibajiri and Julia Jinyu (voiced by Miyuki Sawashiro).
Hidomi was great specifically because she was NOT Naota Nandaba (the first series’ protagonist). Unlike Naota who was trying to find a place in the world, Hidomi had shut herself off from it. As a result, her journey and interactions with certain characters took vastly different paths. And it was her interpretation of the purpose behind her “powers” that made her a fresh and exciting lead.
Then there was Julia who was someone FLCL has never had before: a counter-force. She was the new piece to the puzzle that gave Progressive its identity. She was what helped prevent FLCL 2 from becoming a cheap carbon copy of its predecessor. To make a long story short, Julia was an amazing foil to Haruko Haruhara.
And with that: It was Haruko, this version of Haruko, who made Progressive into a satisfying continuation. Like before, Haruko was a walking question mark. It was impossible to tell what was going through her mind. She was sometimes an ally. She was sometimes the villain. Sometimes she was both simultaneously.
Even after all this time, Haruko is still a massive part of what makes FLCL, FLCL.
In Progressive, though, there was something else. There was more to Haruko’s personality. There was more desperation to her actions; there was more anger. She appeared more willing to let loose her rage rather than her sarcastic attitude. The latter was there in full force, don’t get me wrong, but the Haruko seen in FLCL 2 was also a bit more dangerous.
Progressive found ways to hold your attention. The only thing I can ask you to do is:
Don’t expect the original. You will not get it.
But from my standpoint, that was the best outcome this series could have produced.
This is the section where I will reserve the most judgment. Why is that? Simple:
What good would come from criticizing a story I’m not sure is over (and I can’t believe I am saying that about FLCL)?
However, in the event Alternative does not finish off some of the plotlines started in Progressive, let it be known there were a handful of characters who largely felt forced in and who had arbitrary impacts on the events of FLCL 2. In particular, I am referring to Aiko (voiced by Tomoyo Kurosawa), as well as Ko Ide’s friends whose names I can’t be bothered to remember. They may play some role in the next installment, but part of me thinks it is very unlikely.
With that out of the way, I do have something to add. Also, don’t be shocked if I mention the following point again in the next review because:
The most glaring problem with Progressive was the SAME problem that was with the original FLCL. There were segments in this story which made absolutely no sense. If you come at me and say you understood everything within FLCL the first time you watched it, then frankly I do not believe you.
FLCL – by its nature – is, and has always been, odd. Some parts don’t fit snuggly together. Confusion, for this show, is a tool. Progressive was no different. The reason it appeared to affect this installment more is because Progressive doesn’t have a twenty-year legacy which has been deconstructed and analyzed every which way.
Will people come to discover more meaning in the Progressive storyline in time? Unfortunately, that is impossible to know at the moment.
Let’s not kid ourselves. FLCL is a series that emphasizes its visuals. It creates thrilling action, over-the-top explosions, trippy dream sequences, and it relishes in the strange and the crazy. If we accept that, then we can also accept Progressive as the rightful successor.
Both FLCL and Progressive worked because they kept the madness in check by ensuring they had strong characters, a grounded enough narrative, and a remarkable blend of comedy and darkness. Also, FLCL, the series as a whole (thus far), has always remained fun.
I have no issues admitting I did not understand the last two episodes of Progressive in the slightest. I also still won’t pretend I fully get what the original series did. But regardless, I enjoyed the hell out of what I watched.
Come back this Friday, February 15th, 2019, for Anime Hajime Review: FLCL Alternative.
I had my doubts if FLCL could pull off a sequel. The worry wasn’t so much that too much time had passed. No, instead, it was hard to imagine FLCL ever needing a continuation. Nevertheless, here we are.
Given all that, things could have gone to hell in a handbasket fast. The fact that they didn’t is remarkable on its own. What’s even more unbelievable, I would argue you could not have asked for a better chapter two from one of the most beloved anime there is.
The same great animation, the same great characters, the same great what-the-hell-is-happening sense of wonder and excitement. What else can I say? This was FLCL through and through.
FLCL Progressive has earned a recommendation.
But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this show? What would be your advice concerning FLCL Progressive? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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For Anime Hajime, I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.
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