A quick visit to Warren E.’s blog saw a link to a full-length, English-dubbed fave anime of mine called FLCL. I’ve been a fan of many anime in the past (Cowboy Bebop, Trigun, early versions of Macross and the handful of films that have broken into the mainstream and garnered positive critical reaction from American film-writers), but, even so, my interest in the form has been one of a toe-dipper, the glancing passer-by. So, I was pleasantly surprised to be reminded of FLCL’s existence. Despite numerous runs on Adult Swim, this six-part mini-series has never garnered critical or mass acclaim and the reason is that the damn thing is just so dense and hard to decipher.
The mini is the creation of GAINAX, the production company responsible for the immensely popular Evangelion, and is so far removed from the realm of that other show, that if it weren’t for the extraordinary visuals, any self-respecting anime fan would argue against any creative connection between the two. FLCL is a coming of age story; about a young boy growing up in the shadow of his successful, handsome older brother, about the transcendental nature of rock and roll, aliens and rebellion against forces for conformity, about the strangeness of sex and the confusion that boys undergo when first trying to decipher their long-ignored, now seemingly more-necessary-than-life gender opposites.
I first saw this, as I said on Adult Swim, mid-way through the story. I was utterly baffled, something that I’m not used to being when confronted with new media. But the animation, the story and characters, the music (a terrific Japanese band called The Pillows that fuses the styles of the Beatles and 90’s era-grunge) really grabbed me and though I didn’t understand anything that followed on the remaining episode (and still don’t after multiple viewings), I’m pulled by the sentiment of the work. It’s strange. It feels smart, it feels honest and true, but I can’t tell you why. I can’t tell you what half of the metaphors mean. There is, however, a vibe that I totally get and reminds me of how I felt when I was sixteen. FLCL is the product of a wholly different culture than my own (though the anime is Very Western) and though I’ve little insight into what it means, I know exactly how it feels. I nod at the television and smile.
You can buy FLCL if you look hard enough. I was able to buy one of the two-episode discs from a Tower Records, one from Amazon and had to wait two months for the first disc to ship from a seller in Japan. And then I had to go and buy a English-language translation of the GAINAX conceptual art book (which, ah, takes me back to that particular boyhood dream), which took even longer to get stateside. I haven’t taken out my copies in a long while and should, but– I don’t know– this isn’t exactly a love letter to the show. It’s a reminder for the things that are still able to touch that sixteen-year-old nerd in me.