A huge complaint that I and many other people have for our media these days are the ridiculous number of reboots, extensions and/or sequels, or reimagining’s that have been coming out for a while now. I don’t mean just remake of movies, I also am including who knows how many tv shows are made from movies that came out a while ago. With some exceptions, our society has been creatively bankrupt for a while. All of that without even mentioning how the landscape of our media is being controlled by super hero things. Then again, this isn’t just are media that is going through this problem. If you’ve noticed, anime is suffering the same kind of problems. From our perspective, I don’t think that is as much of a problem.
Considering the fact that anime is Japanese in origin, not a lot of their media is as strong in our cultural consciousness. There are anime fans that have around for a long time, but the knowledge they have of older series that doesn’t exactly fall into their country’s cultural consciousness as much because it’s not our media. That’s why I don’t mind seeing reboots of things like Space Battleship Yamato, Tiger Mask, Legend of the Galactic Heroes, who knows how many alternate universe Gundam series, and who knows what else series appear in my seasonal watch list. They open the door for fans to dig into some older series or at least understanding the basic premises and characters of another anime series can be quite helpful. That is not exactly the case for all anime series like Dragon Ball, Evangelion, and this post’s central topic, FLCL.
FLCL is a series that is very in with early 2000’s anime culture. It’s a series that is well known around the anime fandom for being that “LOL, WTF Japan” series that has was considered the benchmark of craziness in anime. There is a very “Oh you have a crazy series, but is it as crazy as FLCL? No? Then it’s not crazy is it?” kind of mentality. That always comes from people who don’t understand what FLCL is about. To me and many other people who have dug into the series a little more, the show is about puberty or male adolescence. Naota is a young elementary school student whose brain is finally going from “girls are icky” to “girls are kind of hot” if you catch my drift. At the end of the series, Naota finally accepts that he is growing up and yet still has a long way to go before becoming an adult. It’s also Gainax being Gainax by adding in giant robots, monster fights, space stuff, and whatever references they feel like adding in from Japanese and western media. That’s what FLCL is about. Because of one side of this anime or another’s attraction to the FLCL property, two series with the FLCL brand name have aired on Toonami recently with mixed results quality and audience wise.
I know that I mentioned that FLCL was a Gainax product in the previous paragraph, but it was a collaboration between Gainax and Production I.G. I can tell you this, because that’s what the logos are on my FLCL box set. All of this is worth noting, because Production I.G. bought the rights for FLCL directly from a dying Gainax to produce the sequels by the name of FLCL Progressive and FLCL Alternative. Both of their dubs premiered on Toonami. A massive win for people like me who have access to watching dubbed anime on a weekly basis. Yes, I do watch dubbed anime from time to time. How I watch anime is weird, so I won’t go over that here. That might be post for another time. For now, I should stop bragging to people that don’t have this sort of thing and continue talking about FLCL and its sequels. Maybe I should talk about those two-sequel series before I continue.
I know I’ve talked about at least FLCL Progressive before. I have a post about it right here if you want to read my thoughts about it in more detail. For purposes here, I am just going to say that it was average and/or ok. It heavily borrowed from the original FLCL for one of the protagonist’s stories while the female protagonist’s story was more original and had its own sense of scape. The visuals were strongly lacking when they tried to borrow from the original series shot to shot and weren’t that exceptional otherwise. But the sense of the show taking place in middle school did give this series some since of progression. Also, Progressive’s message about not being held back by your past came in clear in the end. So now, I don’t think it’s a waste of time. I just think that it suffered from sticking too close to the box and lack of direction.
FLCL Alternative is a different case because it was doing something different. It was more modern slice of life focused and was centered around a cast of likeable young high school girls. The plot was an exploration of this group’s friendship, the character’s ideals, where they were adulthood wise, and what they wanted to do after high school. It was a series more inline with A Place Further then the Universe then FLCL. Though, I don’t think anything like Universe would ever explore teenage sexuality so there is that. Having Haruko and other elements attached to that series didn’t work as well for me. Still enjoyed it for what it was though. I do like that Haruko was is more in character in this series then she ever was in Progressive. That’s always a good thing. I just wish this could’ve been something else then a FLCL series though. The show’s message of high school seniors learning to accept that things are not going to be the same after that bench mark in their life didn’t need an FLCL interpretation of it if it wasn’t going to make the whole thing jaw droppingly different.
So what does this all mean or what doe this do to the FLCL franchise as a whole? Well, I did use the word franchise. It means that FLCL is no longer just a moment in anime where geniuses came together to create something interesting and original. Instead, FLCL is now a product that needs certain things to be called an FLCL product. Not that the original FLCL or anime in general isn’t a product in the first place because it needs an audience for it to be successful, but the difference is what kind of reference frame that the audience and the studio producing the anime series are looking for. There are now expectations and things that each FLCL show needs in them to be considered one. At least that’s what Production I.G. seemed to consider when producing these shows. Those things being Haruko Haruhara had to show in some capacity, each series had to be a tale about a youngster growing up, the Pillows are the show’s soundtrack, and the story had to be whatever group we saw against the oh so mysterious Medical Mechanica. The result is a little disappointing in some ways.
Some people always bring up the idea that the original of something is never hurt by what things or additions you add to the original. On a quality level, I think that’s true. On some other levels, that is completely wrong. Looking at Star Wars as an example, I don’t like the new anthology films that have been created recently. Rogue One is supposed to be a story that shows how the Death Star plans were stolen, but it ruins just minor plot point of A New Hope for me. Now I have the baggage of remembering these vaguely defined new characters that I never got attached to at all when it comes to mentioning the death star plans. Or how about Solo where all of the iconic things attached to Han where given to him by an older man. It ruins the mystery of Han by making all of it incredibly bland in execution. While I think the newer FLCL series are at least average in what they are trying to do, it means the original series is no longer just a flame that appeared one day in the early 2000’s. You guys get it, right?
In the end, it’s hard to reignite or recreate a flame that went out a while ago. Especially when you only give new creators a limited amount of resources and restrict their creativity within certain guidelines that I mentioned before two paragraphs ago. Considering that the original FLCL had no restraints at all in both areas, you can say that both newer series were doomed in the first place. The ideas behind their creation and their limits went against what FLCL stood for in the first. Not that any of them are a waste of time to watch in my eyes, I wish that these sequels did something else if you have to create an FLCL sequel. What about something that talked about the problems with adulthood instead? It has been eighteen years since the original came out, so this wouldn’t be wrong to do. Then again, maybe me coming up with a sequel is wrong because the nature of predictability is against what FLCL is going for. Adding any sort of formula to FLCL, which is what the sequels did, is wrong. Let it be free, baby.