The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, No. 7 – FLCL


As well as there being many notable anime series, there are also plenty of notable anime production companies. One of the most respected is Gainax, who have made a whole range of shows, from apocalyptic mecha to gross-out comedies. It has also made many different-looking anime. Some very Japanese-looking, others very Western in appearance.

This week we are covering one of their most well-known hits, the surreal comedy FLCL (pronounced “Fooly Cooly”) made between 2000 and 2001. There is plenty that is worthy of note. There is the humour, the art and the music, plus the fact it made such a big impact despite being so short-lived. This makes it useful when dealing with people who praise sitcoms like Fawlty Towers and The Office for only lasting two series. If you know your anime you can hit back by telling them that FLCL only made six episodes. Not only that, but FLCL is an “Original Video Animation” (OVA) – a straight-to-video release, never meant to be televised.

The series follows 12-year-old schoolboy Naota Nandaba, who lives in the rather dull suburb of Mabase, a town entirely dominated by a steam-iron shaped factory which bellows out white smoke. He spends most of his time with Mamimi, a chain-smoking pyromaniac truant who is the ex-girlfriend of Naota’s big brother, who now plays baseball in the USA.

Nothing much happens to Naota, until the day he encounters a girl called Haruko Haruhara. who gives Naota a very bumpy welcome – by running him over on her Vespa scooter. Not only that, but after giving Naota CPR, Haruko then decides to hit him hard on the head with her chainsaw-like left-handed Rickenbacker 4001 bass guitar, resulting in a large bump on Naota’s noggin.

This is no ordinary bump however. It turns out it is actually an “N.O.” portal, out of which huge robots emerge from Naota’s head, created by the Medical Mechanica company, some helpful, others much more dangerous. Haruko reveals herself to be an alien working for the Galactic Space Force Brotherhood, who is fighting against Medical Mechanica and trying to find a space pirate. She therefore becomes a maid at Naota’s house to help her investigation.

Having read this description you mind is probably already a messed-up jumble. There is already plenty of oddity. Indeed Haruko probably has one of the most memorable entrances of any anime character. It is hard to forget someone running over a kid on a scooter and then hitting them over the head with a bass. It also looks cool, with plenty of images and odd animation sequences to keep the viewer interested.

There is also the music used in the show. Oddly for an anime, which usually uses music from a wide range of different bands, most of FLCL‘s music comes from just one band called The Pillows. What is more, each episode has a different opening theme tune, although they do all use the same ending tune, a short track called “Ride on Shooting Star”.

Perhaps the most notable thing about it the overall impact that this short series has made. Nearly every review of it has been positive. In 2007, the now no-longer-running American magazine Anime Insider ranked it as the 4th best anime to be licenced in English. It is also reported that the people behind the anime-inspired American TV show Avatar: The Last Airbender were all ordered to watch the entire series as a source of inspiration.

FLCL is certainly worth a look. If you do not like it, it is not as if you have wasted much time, what with it being only six episodes long.

The entire series is available on Region 2 DVD from MVM Films.