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.
I’m dreadfully behind on my anime and was completely out of the loop when FLCL became a huge cult hit on The Cartoon Network. I was intrigued at the synopsis of its long-awaited sequel series FLCL: Progressive and FLCL: Alternative.
I had no idea what to expect with this 12 episode set, which was clearly for the best as no mere write-up could explain the zaniness, goofball and highly entertaining continuing chapters of the FLCL saga. Just don’t ask me to try and make any sense of any of it.
FLCL: Progressive focuses on Hidomi and her high school classmate, Ko Ide, who find themselves caught in the war between Medical Mechanica and Fraternity. Their world gets unraveled by the arrival of their eccentric new teacher Haruko Haruhara, who becomes increasingly erratic as the episodes play out. It’s hard to adequately break down how the series plays out as it’s going to sound somewhat absurd for newcomers.
Progressive is a standalone chapter, but it’s going to come off very bizarre for those unfamiliar with the FLCL storytelling style. Given its renowned status as a major anime influencer, if anything these two sequels should direct more eyeballs to the series that kicked things off in the first place.
Characters will randomly sprout biological weapons out of their foreheads, duels are played out in the air with guitars, a classmate is thriving off a rent-a-date scheme and a potted plant could be the key to ending the war. It’s crazy and there’s so many opportunities for overwhelmed viewers to tap out and abandon ship. For those that stick around, Progressive will eventually (or quickly) win you over with the unexpected humor, dazzling animation and ridiculously catchy soundtrack from The Pillows.
FLCL: Alternative largely follows the same formula with Haruko imposing her will on four high school girls — Kana, Mossan, Hijiri and Pets. The foursome are a tight knit group trying to figure out where the future will take them. Haruko is more of an ally this time creating a very different dynamic. This makes for a less chaotic story that’s able to develop the characters stronger.
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One of the highlights of the series is easily the English dub as the performers, led by Kari Wahlgren as Haruko, do a tremendous job capturing the emotion and spirit of the story. That’s not always the case with anime and this is a superior effort here.
Despite the short six-episode seasons, binging probably isn’t the best way to view it especially for first-timers. Haruko’s antics become less shocking on extended viewings and she’s an interesting enough character that it’s best to appreciate in smaller doses.
Progressive features a more elaborate and frenetic animation style while Alternative is more reserved. What it lacks in urgency and incredible visuals of its sister story, Alternative’s art works for the tone of the series.
If you’re looking for something new or very different, give Progressive a shot and if you’re looking for a strong coming-of-age story, Alternative should prove rewarding even if you’re not ready to write a thesis on FLCL’s overall themes and story.
The Making of FLCL: Progressive and Alternative (14:24)
This is your standard behind the scenes look at the creative process, which is far more engaging than the norm thanks to the challenge of continuing FLCL and tapping a new generation of directors to lead the sequels. There’s helpful pop-up guides with some of the terms and an overall playful style to the interviews with some visual gags about mispronunciations. This was a lot better than what these featurettes offer and worth checking out if you’re into the series.
Meet the Creators (11:39)
An extended look at the creative team including the voice actors and English voice director. Again, it’s a worthwhile feature thanks to the likable and enthusiastic behind the scenes player eager to discuss their excitement on the project.
The Pillows (5:14)
In this conversation, the popular band discusses their initial involvement in the series and how their attitudes changed as they worked on it. This is a brief feature, but a refreshingly candid look at a vital component of the series.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Photo Credit: Adult Swim