FLCL Series

Anime Hajime Review: FLCL Alternative

Original Run: September 8, 2018 - October 13, 2018
Number of Episodes: 6
Genre: Action, Comedy, Science Fiction

***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for FLCL Alternative. Reader discretion is advised. The following series was watched with the English dubbing.***

Series Synopsis

Kana Koumoto (voiced in Japanese by Karen Miyama and voiced in English by Megan Harvey) isn’t particularly extraordinary. She just lives her life one day at a time. While that could turn boring and lonesome, Kana knows she can always go to her friends if she needs to.

And Kana thinks the best way to return her gratitude is to always be there for her friends as well. Even if that means being a bit pushy.

Then one day, Kana crosses paths with Haruko Haruhara (voiced in Japanese by Mayumi Shintani and voiced in English by Kari Wahlgren), and her once peaceful, no-thrills existence ends.

All around Kana, the world appears to be crumbling. People are leaving in droves, and Kana believes her friends are maturing at a much faster rate than her. It’s almost as if everything is ending. And either not helping in the slightest or helping immensely – it’s hard to tell which – the spirited Haruko ensures that nothing will ever turn boring.

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Series Positives

Part 2 of 2

First off, from the previous review, it turns out it was unnecessary for me to wonder if FLCL Alternative (Alternative/FLCL 3) would pick up from where the FLCL Progressive (Progressive/FLCL 2) storyline left off. These two installments were their own separate entities, and whichever order you choose to watch them in is inconsequential.

Nevertheless, if you want to catch yourself up on the events of FLCL 2, please read my review on it by clicking HERE.

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Secondly, on principle, I am not happy I had to do what I did with this show. I was not going to ignore the sequels to FLCL when preparing for my first ever Highlights week, and to have them be eligible for any category (the rules to which I set myself), I had no choice but to watch Alternative with its English dubbing.

If any of you know where I can find the Japanese version of this series, please let me know.

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For some of you, this may sound like a silly thing to fret over. That’s because, in the grand scheme of it all, it is. Watch anime whatever way you want to watch it; you do you. However, speaking for myself, I normally despise dubbing. I held this review off for months because I was hoping to come across a subtitled version. Since I didn’t, when I finally gave in and sat down to watch Alternative, “thrilled” wasn’t my mood.

Fortunately, there are exceptions to most rules, and it would be petty of me to classify all dubbing as bad. Case in point: FLCL 3.

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Coming from someone who is not a fan of dubbing (in any language), the English voice cast of Alternative was nothing less than fantastic. In particular, I want to say Ms. Kari Wahlgren is as much Haruko Haruhara as Ms. Mayumi Shintani.

I’m sorry for the drawn-out introduction, but like I said last time:

This is FLCL.

Although I fully stand by the praise and admiration I gave FLCL 2, I want to slightly amend something I wrote in its review. Instead of saying Progressive was THE rightful successor, it should have been: Progressive is A rightful successor.

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That distinction is crucial because FLCL Alternative was out-f@#$ing-standing. This was phenomenally good, and I challenge anyone who wants to fight me on the matter.

When I go into any sequel, I’m not basing my entire enjoyment of it on whether it is better than the original. If that happens then brilliant; a job well done. Since that usually doesn’t happen, what I care about is if the next chapter retains the spirit of its predecessor.

What does that mean?

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Unfortunately, this isn’t an exact science, and I recognize how much of a cop-out that sounds like. Therefore, the best way I can think to describe it is:

If I am watching the follow up to [insert title here] as a matter of fact and nothing more, something was lost in the continuation. But, if it feels like I am still watching what made the first great (even if it’s technically not as good), then that’s a win in my book.

Yes, the original FLCL was far and away superior. It is a masterpiece, and I will not dispute that. Even so, like Progressive before it, Alternative was FLCL through and through, and then some. An impressive feat given how FLCL 3 had a very different atmosphere to its story.

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Looking at the two sequels side by side, it was Progressive which focused more on FLCL’s signature wildness. It was big, loud, and over-the-top. And for the record, it was also the more visually impressive of the pair. Alternative, on the other hand, was more thoughtful.

While there was plenty of craziness in the third installment, FLCL 3 was willing to slow down for a second to develop its world and its characters. If there is a FLCL series that can be considered subdued in nature, it’s this one. And that’s not a bad thing.

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Alternative was the most dramatic of the three series, and I say that because it had the bleakest narrative of the trio. This entire franchise has always straddled the line of apocalypse, but it was in FLCL 3 where that became less suggestive and more reality.

Accompanying this story’s brand of gloom was the FLCL’s style of strangeness we have come to expect.  Thus, it’s difficult for me to put my finger on what exactly this series did that was unlike the others. There was something different, there was some kind of change, there was something al…Huh?

Me thinks the titles of the FLCL sequels might have had a bit more thought put into them than I realized.

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Whatever FLCL 3 meant to imply or not, one thing is for sure – it was its own beast. That could have gone horribly wrong if it weren’t for a single factor. The characters of Alternative were terrific.

I loved Kana Koumoto and her group of friends. They were hilarious, as well as insanely fun to follow. But what made them stand out was when they confronted each other. Control over Kana’s powers rested on her state of mind, and her state of mind was heavily connected to her relationship with her friends. When there was a disagreement, a misunderstanding, or a falling out, what Kana was capable of doing ranged from destructive to annihilation.

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Imagine what could have happened if a bumbling ball of unapologetic energy actively toyed with Kana’s emotions.

Enter Haruko.

She was what surprised me the most about FLCL 3. This version of Haruko was not like any of the other versions we have seen of her. Although she remained an unpredictable, sarcastic, random-button-pressing troublemaker, there was another layer to her personality. What’s weird is the word that keeps popping into my head when thinking about this Haruko.

Oddly enough, Alternative Haruko was a lot more mature. For those of you who know the FLCL series, let that sink in for a moment. For everyone else, maturity has never been a part of Haruko’s personality.

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Still, this was not an unwelcome change. In Progressive, Haruko was more dangerous. In Alternative, there was a sense Haruko has been doing what she has been doing for a long time. Or to put it another way, this was the growth of FLCL’s quintessential character.

Let me finish this section by saying:

If you want to relive what made the first FLCL great, then rewatch the first FLCL. Nothing will ever match that. However, the same is true with Alternative, and on its own, this was a pretty damn awesome series.

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Series Negatives

This will not be a long section.

There was something at the end of Alternative I wish was explained better. I will admit, this could have been the series trying to tug on our nostalgia and nothing else. If that was the case, shame on this show because it would have irresponsibly opened a rather fascinating door. By including this one specific detail, the very nature of this installment was put into question.

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A thought first popped into my head in episode five when I finally noticed Haruko didn’t have something, and it wasn’t a small something either. Once I saw that, I then remembered another thing Haruko said back in episode one. Her reaction to a particular item suddenly seemed a lot more telling all of a sudden.

And then there was the finale that appeared to confirm my suspicions.

I know I’m beating around the bush, and the answer is no. I am not going to say what it was that got my attention. This series was too good for me to deprive you of your own realizations.

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I thought this could be the case back in the Progressive review, and sure enough, FLCL’s lack of straightforwardness struck again. Granted, Alternative was perhaps the clearest of the trio, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself scratching your head from time to time.

After all, this is FLCL.

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Final Thoughts

I would say I don’t expect there to be more, but then again, I never expected this either, and yet, here we are.

The legacy of FLCL is alive and well even after all these years. To finally have another chapter to this series remains hard to believe; never mind the fact that, for some reason, we now have two.

If your only question is, “How did the sequels do against the original,” then by that single determinate, they weren’t as good. But, if you’re wondering how these new installments did on their own (which I always think is the more proper question), then I can tell you something more useful.

Progressive was a fun follow up to its predecessor, but it was FLCL 3 that really made me remember what it was like to watch the first series way back when. With a more thoughtful story and a strong cast of characters, it’s almost as if the twenty-year gap never existed.

FLCL Alternative is one I absolutely recommend.

But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this show? What would be your advice concerning FLCL Alternative? 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.

Post Edited By: Onions

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