The Fourth Day of Crossmas: Don’t F*** Up FLCL!
In this seasonal series, the good people of Crossfader detail what they want pop culture to get them for Crossmas this year. This time around, it’s…
For Adult Swim to Not F*** Up the FLCL Reboot
Let’s face it, Adult Swim has done a lot recently to raise concern. From executives barring women from writing rooms, to dubious policies on who can (and can’t) have a show on the network, and diluting content to create more mainstream appeal, it’s easy for even the most dedicated fans of the channel’s unique brand to be gripped by the fear of God. But what worries this writer most of all is something that Adult Swim hasn’t unleashed yet: the upcoming reboot of beloved anime series FLCL.
FLCL (pronounced Furi Kuri or “Fooly Cooly” depending on your region) is a lot to take in for such a small package. Clocking in at only six 30-minute installments, FLCL feels more like a music video than a television series, arguably better watched straight through like a film than on an episode-by-episode basis. The story revolves around middle-schooler Naota, a boy who feels trapped in the sleepy rural town of Mabase. Naota’s nihilistic dilemma is exacerbated by a lack of role models: his juvenile father spends his days obsessing over otaku culture, his mother, never mentioned, is completely out of the picture, and his older brother, a famous baseball player who Naota idolized, abandoned his family to go play in the US.
It’s no coincidence that FLCL is a lynchpin of S A D B O Y culture
Enter Haruko, a mysterious older girl who rides into town on her iconic Vespa. Haruko quickly ingratiates herself into Naota’s life, filling each of Naota’s neglected familial roles. But this is an anime, so of course there’s a lot more at play here than those essential arcs. Haruko is introduced as she slams Naota on the head with her bass guitar during a drive-by on her scooter, awakening a robot named Canti that periodically grows out of Naota’s frontal lobe in order to fight the machines that emerge from the nearby Medical Mechanica plant, an evil corporation based out of a giant clothing iron that wants to steam the Earth flat. Also, Haruko may or may not be an alien, and Canti is most definitely a legendary space pirate that is on the run from both Haruko and a government agent with fake eyebrows.
Oh, and this happens
But all of these zany details are necessary in contextualizing the main coming of age story. The crazy set pieces, convoluted backstories, and copious SOUTH PARK references all feel out of place at first, serving only to disorient the viewer. But puberty is a confusing period of life, filled with all kinds of conflicting thoughts and emotions. FLCL’s bonkers sci-fi background elements do a better job than almost any other teen series of putting the audience inside the head of a kid caught on the edge of adolescence.
This brand of zaniness walks a fine line between augmenting central themes and devolving into a spastic mess. FLCL got it right, but only within the context of its original premise. If FLCL were any longer than three hours, the silliness would become overwhelming. And the silliness must be there: along with the original soundtrack by the Japanese alt-rock band The Pillows, the off-the-wall nature of the show is the defining aspect of FLCL. Without it, you’d have just another slice-of-life anime.
You know, the boring kind
Here’s the rub: Adult Swim announced in March that to reboot the series, they will be co-producing 12 new episodes of the show with Production I.G., the anime studio best known for GHOST IN THE SHELL, who recently acquired the rights to FLCL. This is double the amount of FLCL than what already exists, which makes me really worried as to how coherent the end product will be.
It’s not that I think the new seasons of FLCL are in bad hands, far from it actually. Even though original creator Studio Gainax is no longer attached to the property, Production I.G. is a legendary team in its own right, and director Katsuyuki Motohiro, along with much of the design staff, are Gainax alumni themselves. This is a group of artists who have the common sense to tell a new story with a new protagonist (Naota did come of age, after all), focusing instead on a similarly disenchanted teenage girl named Hitomi. And yes, The Pillows are confirmed to be returning.
Still the best credits sequence out there
Despite all of this, however, there are plenty of risks that come with resurrecting a 15-year-old television series. The action will still revolve around Haruko’s battle with Medical Mechanica, promising plenty of absurd battle sequences featuring bunny suits, guitar swords, and giant cowboy robots. That’s cool, the sideshow elements and trademark aesthetic are all still there, but what about the story? Will our new adolescent hero in Hitomi have an arc that is as engaging as Naota’s? And how will the ludicrous action be able to support itself for twice the length of the original series without devolving into triviality? Managing to create a solid, stand alone work that still manages to be what made FLCL, well, FLCL will be a Herculean task, if it’s even possible.
More than anything, news of FLCL’s revival reminds me of another time a beloved animated series was dragged back out years after its conclusion, and (in my opinion) butchered. AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER is similar to FLCL in a lot of ways. Outside of the obvious inspirations drawn from FLCL’s animation style, AVATAR was also about a 12-year-old boy defined by a strange mark on his head, whose own special powers are only fully awakened after he ceases to act like a child and discovers true maturity. It should come as no surprise then that the entire staff working on AVATAR was ordered to watch FLCL during production for inspiration.
When Nick signed off on THE LEGEND OF KORRA, it sounded like a great idea: the same iconic setting, but with an older female protagonist grappling with her own issues growing up. But even though TLOK did a lot of important things for Western animation (including that LGBT relationship), most of the show felt like a series of afterthoughts than a well-conceived arc (including that LGBT relationship). Nickelodeon simply wasn’t prepared to bring back a series of AVATAR’s magnitude, and it ultimately hurt the final product in the end.
Believe me, I love this idea, but you can’t just tack on one hint and call it a day!
Knowing full well what havoc network ambition is capable of wreaking upon some of my favorite series, my wish for this Crossmas is simple: Adult Swim, please don’t fuck up FLCL. As the real money men behind the operation, it’s up to you to ensure that Production I.G. is able to exercise the creative freedom needed to stay faithful to the original work. It’s going to be hard enough to make this work as it is, but it will be downright impossible with too little (or too much) effort on your end. My poor heart can’t bear another failed attempt at tapping into my nostalgia. If this new FLCL causes me to slip from this mortal coil, it will be your souls that my spirit will eternally haunt.
As if pissing THIS GUY off wasn’t a big enough mistake already