So funny story; I actually STARTED writing this one up the SAME DAY I posted November's AOTM journal... But then all the things ever started coming up in life and distracting/preventing me from actually being able to just sit down and finish this journal... And then over time I found myself just less and less motivated to ACTUALLY write anything at all.
It might be time to re-think this AOTM thing...
The Anime Of The Month for December, 2017 is...
If you've somehow never seen this series... Just know that shit is about to get weird.
Also I'm going to get a bit spoiler-ey for this one, because honestly the major details are so passively mentioned that you MAY miss them otherwise.
Series Name: FLCL
Creator Name: Written by Yuji Enokido / Directed by Kazuya Tsurumaki
Genre: Comedy/Parody, light Ecchi, light Action
Air Dates: April, 2000 to March, 2001
Number Of Episodes: 6 (With two more 6-episode seasons on the way in 2018)
The ending theme, as well as most of the in-series music, from FLCL is considered to be damn-near iconic... And I'd have to agree.
How I Found This Series: As I'm sure is the case with most people, I heard of watched this series back in 2003 when it aired on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim anime block. It was... Quite strange, to say the least! I had no idea what was going on, no idea what anything meant, no idea that it was only six episodes long... And ESPECIALLY didn't know how much of a big deal it was even at the time.
Summary: While most 12-year-old boys are experiencing the shift to maturity, Naota Nandaba has already gotten a head start on such due to various circumstances leading to him being the only responsible person in his own life... But rather ironically, thanks to some of those same circumstances, Naota is still childish and often makes things harder on himself by refusing to let things go (Among other issues). Living in a boring town, whose claim to fame is being the home of the clothing iron-shaped Medical Mechanica headquarters, where nothing ever happens is the only saving grace he's got... But EVERY aspect of his life is changed when a strange pink-haired woman shows up riding a yellow Vespa scooter and slams him right in the head with her bass guitar for seemingly no reason at all! This sets off a chain of events in Naota's life that will ultimately not only affect him, but quite possibly EVERYONE in his little boring town!
Trust me though, it gets A LOT weirder than you think.
Characters: There's quite a few supporting characters that play decent roles, but I'm only going to name the main four you see in almost every single episode.
Naota is a walking oxymoron, really. He acts as though he's mature and nonchalant, trying to seem like nothing ever bothers him and that he can handle life better than everyone else around him... But he's the first to lose his cool when things go beyond his control, and he has a tendency to ignore or look down on others because they're not living up to his idea of maturity. This is all thanks to the departure of his brother, who moved away from their little town of Mabase in Japan to be a pro baseball star in America; Leaving only his old bat to Naota which in turn has led to Naota resenting his brother and wanting to do everything possible to NOT be like him... A wish that is granted (Sorta) when a pink-haired girl shows up and turns Naota's head into a portal that allows strange mechanical creatures into the world.
The ex-girlfriend of Naota's brother, also left abandoned by the prospective baseball star in his departure from Mabase. She seems to be extremely childish, perhaps even a bit lacking in intelligence, as her relationship with Naota's brother is hinted at being one of dependence on her part... A dependence that, after he left, transferred to Naota. Falling into depression, pyromania and a smoking habit, Mamimi starts treating Naota as a replacement lover of sorts even though he regularly insults her for being immature or dumb. She's even stopped going to school completely, partly due to her depression and partly because the 'friends' she once had now bully her incessantly.
Haruko is... A bit complex to try explaining in a simple manner. An alien woman working as an investigator for the Galactic Space Police Brotherhood, whose motives and personality are FAR from anything police-like. She seems only to care about herself and her own goals, lying or withholding information from her superiors and all but uncaring about anyone EXCEPT those who directly benefit her plans. Her eccentric, sometimes sexual nature may be a true peek at who she is... Or it may be another series of lies that she uses to hide her true nature. Even her driving motives are never FULLY explained, and what she plans to do if she succeeds are as much a mystery as the woman herself.
A strange robot created by Medical Mechanica, and the first thing to come out of the portal in Naota's head. Canti as a TV for a head and, for whatever reason, seems to be a housing agent for a great power that several different parties ALL want to get their hands on! The robot himself, however, seems to just want to make and play with friends, look at risque magazines and in general live as a human might. He even has very human emotions, seeming a bit self-conscious whenever part of himself is broken.
Personal Opinions/Views: FLCL is damn near impossible to explain, an even understanding it oneself is a bit of a tall order!
The director of the series is literally quoted as saying, "Comprehension should not be an important factor in FLCL."
For fuck's sake, even the title itself is meant to be a complete nonsense word that has ZERO meaning (Even in Japanese)!
That said though, in the years since its release the series has been thoroughly analyzed and compared against its manga and light novel counterparts by fans, and SOME semblance of story and purpose has come to light because of it!
The series is effectively an allegory for coming-of-age and/or puberty, hidden within a contrived and little-explained plot about aliens seeking ultimate power and thought-controlling corporations trying take over the world, hidden within an anime that was purpose-made to break the rules of anime and storytelling... And I'm not making ANY of this up.
But without getting TOO much into spoilers, let's just get to the usual things right away.
This is another series that MOST people will know primarily in its English dub... Which is hard to say whether or not it's the preferable version for English speaking people. While the dub is well done and the actors/actresses do a very good job of capturing the characters' personalities, the problem is the intense amount of localization that had to be done. FLCL is very culture-referential, and having been made in Japan ALL the references are to Japan and Japanese products. This all had to be changed when the dub was being created, and as a result there were several instances where jokes had to be rewritten to fit such. Furthermore is the rest of the comedy in the series, much of which is heavy wordplay OR total nonsense Japanese words that mean nothing at all. There's next to no way to translate wordplay, and nonsense words likewise only work in a native language where one KNOWS the word is nonsense... So the English translation team had to write new jokes entirely, at times even having to change entire conversations with story elements in them JUST to make sense of things!
On the other side of the coin though, as good as the voicework is and as much as I prefer it, because the Japanese version is so heavily built around understanding the language it can be VERY hard to follow. The English DVDs are of course useless, since the subtitles are built to match the English dub, and fansubs of the series are likely to give even the most experienced sub-lovers a hard time keeping up just from all the translators notes alone. This isn't something as simple as a line of txt at the top of the screen explaining a joke or word, nor is it nearly covered by a before-episode bump explaining the meaning of nakama or other words that are best left untranslated. Either the screen is filled with an explanation at the moment OR there's an extra two minutes at the start or end that attempt to explain the jokes/words in passing to the best of translation ability. Knowing ANYTHING about the language helps a little though, my limited knowledge of such being plenty to warrant a chuckle at the wordplay and such... But there are still moments where ACTUALLY knowing the language is key, because it's all going by so damn quickly that you can ONLY keep up if you're fluent!
The animation, especially for its time, is absolutely gorgeous and has become rather iconic in its own right... At least when it's being used, that is! FLCL being a sort of parody series, there are multiple times when the animation suddenly takes a drastic turn purely for the sake of a comedy bit! From a 3D parody version of the iconic scene from The Matrix to a blatant mimickry of South Park's animation style... Hell, even turning itself into a manga at one point isn't beyond this series! But the CORE animation, which most of the series contains, is a simplistic-but-detailed thing of beauty that is instantly recognizable. Very crisp lines, defined characters, amazing scenery, awesome mechanical designs, etc. It's just very pretty to look at from start to finish, even if you don't know exactly what you're looking at sometimes.
Which brings us right back to the main point; Plot. There's not much that can be said that isn't a full-on spoiler, but at the same time the series is moving so fast and is so nonsensical (By design, remember) that the plot is almost impossible to comprehend on a proper level! To summarize it quickly though, Haruko comes to Earth seeking to free Atmosk, a space pirate who wields the greatest power in the galaxy, from the clutches of Medical Mechanica, a seemingly benevolent corporation who builds medical equipment, whom is seeking to use Atomsk's power to rid the world of free thought. By hitting Naota in the head with her bass guitar, Haruko awakens the boy's ability to function as an N.O. portal through which Atomsk can escape... But Haruko's motives are unclear; Whether she wants Atomsk's power for herself OR wants to be loved by him, nevermind what she plans to do should either become reality! Atomsk himself, meanwhile, is said to be capable of pulling entire solar systems through his N.O. portal.. Though what he does with this power is also left fully unexplored, the very CHARACTER of Atomsk almost purely existing in dialogue about hearsay!
All we can really do is HOPE that the two new seasons in 2018 will give more insight to the story and/or all these details we don't even really have to begin with!
Oh, and The Pillows who made the original music for FLCL are coming back for FLCL 2 and 3, so we'll at least have that going for us~
Okay, I'll admit this 'Personal Views/Opinions' section kind of... Isn't this time around. Truth be told I just don't have the time or patience to get into all of it right now, because I have so much I need to get done today if I want to have ANY free time to myself... That and my feelings on the series are as hard to explain as the series itself! To put it concisely though I LOVE FLCL dearly, both for what it is AND the message it tries to give... But the characters are so damn annoying or depressing, and the plot is so lacking in detail when there IS detail to be explored that it's sort of frustrating.The messages within are wonderfully positive, but they're hidden so deeply that they're barely notable unless you're looking for them. This isn't a case of typical hidden meaning either, it's outright obscurity via total nonsense and purposeful absurdity!
... Also it largely depends on my feelings at the given moment as to how well I receive this series, and right now I suppose I'm just not in the mindset or it, so... I can't quite give an accurate representation of how I feel anyways :P
What I CAN say though is this; FLCL is REQUIRED viewing for any and all anime fans, no argument and no excuses.
What this series did for anime as a whole, and what it taught others they COULD do in terms of anime creation, is something that anyone who has ever enjoyed anime HAS to witness and see for themselves. Even if you don't like it, even if you don't understand it, even if you're not going to watch the upcoming sequel series... You NEED to see FLCL at least once, probably 2-3 times. The staff that worked on Avatar The Last Airbender were INSTRUCTED to watch FLCL by the producers; THAT should tell you something.
Sorry again it's so short this month, but... I guess me and deadlines are just a complete fucking disaster waiting to happen.
Until next time, my fellow Nippon nakama!
Hint for next month: Okay, look... I had picked out a series for January, and was EXTREMELY excited about it; To the point that I'd thrown $30 at making sure I got the full experience, even! But with my life constantly being busy, me trying to make plans to relocate and get a new job AND my own lack of motivation... I think it's high time I change things up a little for this series of journals. Stay tuned for more info in a separate post that will hopefully come in the next few weeks. Rest assured though, I'm NOT going to stop completely! I'm just changing the structure and scheduling around to better fit my... Well, everything.