Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this blog post. The opinions I share are my own.
The original FLCL (pronounced “fooly cooly”… just go with it) was a completely batshit insane coming of age tale featuring a young dude named Naota just trying to get by in the city of Mabase… too bad an alien named Haruko runs his ass over with her vespa, smacks him with her super charged guitar, and discovers a portal in Naota’s head can unleash robots created by Medical Mechanica. See what I mean by “batshit”? But under it all this was the story of a kid who was forced to grow up too fast coming to terms with his lost youth in order to become a well-adjusted adult.
Flash forward twenty years, and we now have not one, but two sequel series, Progressive and Alternative by name (both available on one handy-dandy Blu-ray release from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment), that further the universe of FLCL. Let’s see how they stack up to the original recipe!
Disc one features Progressive. Many years have passed but Medical Mechanica is still going strong… which Hidomi, a teen girl disillusioned with her drab existence is about to painfully become aware. Good for her (well good is a relative term) Haruko is back and has become a teacher at Hidomi’s school.
Medical Mechanica soon begins unleashing their creations on the town once again (primarily via the N.O. head portal of Hidomi’s classmate Ide) but our heroine has some powers of her own that may just save the town… if Haruko actually gets the chance to give her a helping hand while dealing with a fragment of her personality made flesh named Jinyu.
Once again, FLCL presents us with a youth trying to deal with what life throws at her the best she can… mainly by internalizing her emotions, especially those towards her mother who runs a local eatery while keeping the belief that her estranged husband may some day return. Hidomi hopes this will occur as well as her youth is passing and adulthood looms.
It’s just as heady as the material present in the first go-around, and Production I.G. (this time flying solo without Gainax being involved), chose wisely by hiring a younger, more raw staff to bring this iteration (which serves as a series re-boot without actually being one) as the hardships of being a teen in today’s often confusing society is handled well by folks closer in age to the series characters.
While it doesn’t reinvent the FLCL formula, Progressive does offer plenty of heart and frantic action, along with lunatic comedy to satisfy fans of the series, while offering new surprises, and a great intro the the series to neophytes.
Along with all six episodes of Progressive, disc one also has a few extra features as well which include: a chat with the series creators (many returning from the first FLCL… as does Kari Wahlgren who provided Haruko’s distinctive voice in the English language version of the first series), an interview with power-pop band The Pillows who return to provide even more excellent music for Progressive and Alternative, and a look behind the scenes of the show’s production.
Moving on to disc two it’s time for Alternative!
The story goes as follows: Haruko enters the lives of high school student Kana Koumoto and her friends as they deal with the trials n’ tribulations of becoming young women… which results in giant robots, guitars to the head, bizarre protuberances, and learning the value of true friendship; all while Medical Mechanica prepares to make their next move!
This is a vastly different take on the FLCL formula, though the basics are still in place.
To wit; once again we get the off-kilter, often sexually charged antics of Haruko, the focus on the transition from child to young adult, and of course the giant robot action set-pieces… but this time we also are presented a rather sweet tale of youthful romance, bonding, climate change, and a surprisingly more restrained narrative experience… even if it does feature a Minotaur robot in a Basketball uniform battling a horny alien agent on the courts.
This is a story about not wanting the joy and comforting familiarity of youth to never fade, no matter how inevitable that change may be… and the lengths one girl will go to to delay life’s planned course, and it’s beautifully told, even with all of the surreal accouterments.
As for bonus features on disc two, we get a look behind the scenes at the animation for Alternative being produced, and a piece on the English language voice actors involved in both Progressive and Alternative.
To sum it up, Progressive and Alternative are both incredibly worthy additions to the FLCL legacy, and while neither can top the original (which now has twenty years of rosy nostalgia attached to it), they definitely add their own mark on the overall tale!