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Introduction
FLCL, or ‘Fooly Cooly’, is a six part OAV series created by Gainax (Neon Genesis Evangelion) with animation by Production I.G (Ghost in the Shell). I’ve been lucky enough to get a hold of the first Region 4 disc, which contains episodes 1 & 2.

The Episodes
What we have here is the bizarre story of a young lad who finds himself in several rather peculiar situations. Naota, the unsuspecting young lad I am referring to, is 12 years old and lives with his father and grandfather in the family bakery. Mamimi, 17 years, is Naota’s overtly affectionate friend and the ex-girlfriend of Naota’s brother, Tasuku, who hopped over to the US to play baseball (the fact that Naota carries around a baseball bat is evidence of a fairly strong connection between himself and his brother, although we don’t see this relationship on screen). Naota’s world changes when Haruko, an attractive though brash alien, armed with a scooter and motorised bass guitar, appears out of the blue and pays him a visit. She runs Naota over in her scooter and gives him a solid whack on the head with her trusty guitar (ouch). The resulting lump on Naota’s forehead is in fact the protruding limb of a robot which eventually escapes, yes, through Naota’s head. Oops, don’t forget the other robot which popped out too, the one in the shape of a giant gloved hand. In a strange twist of circumstances, both the robot (not the hand shaped one!) and Haruko come to live as part of Naota’s household. Are you still with me? If you’re not the slightest bit confused, go read over that again - you most definitely should be.

FLCL: Volume One

FLCL is a case of love it or hate it; I think it would be difficult to find yourself somewhere in between. FLCL is for those looking for an innovative anime. It’s a refreshing blast of fragmented narrative and bogus visuals. I can assure you that you will not be bored - there’s just so much here to absorb, so many obscure situations to digest and tie-together, that repeat viewings are both essential and rewarding. Each time I decide to treat myself to another viewing (I’ve seen it many, many times), I manage to pick up new details that I previously missed, details that really highlight the depth of the show. References to at times obscure Japanese popular culture will certainly pass overhead most of the time, but these really don’t affect an appreciation of the story.

FLCL’s funky rock soundtrack, featuring Japanese rock band ‘The Pillows’, reinforces superb, inventive visuals, which at times offer a sprinkle of ever-so-sweet 3D-ish compositions and interesting manga focus shots. It’s this sort of visual diversity that really sets a standard for anime. Even without the great audio and visual aspects, I think the intricate story would hold its own. Naota and his buddies have caught my attention, and I just can’t wait for the next installments.

FLCL is undoubtedly something special. I find myself smiling, both in delight with appreciation. Appreciation towards director Kazuya Tsurumaki, who has created a series that’s just so polished and creatively constructed that you can’t help but sit back and tingle.

FLCL: Volume One

Video
The visuals of FLCL are something to behold; Production I.G have impressed once again. Beautifully warm colours complement crisp characters and settings throughout, with no hint of artefacts or abnormalities. You’ll appreciate the combination of perspective shots, motion blurs, and 3D-ish action scenes (like when Haruko performs CPR on the unsuspecting Naoto!). If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself watching it over simply to marvel at the innovative shot compositions. The content is presented in 1.33:1 fullscreen, after being screened on television sets around the world.

Audio
Both Japanese and English audio tracks are included, of the Dolby 2.0 variety. I tend to watch anime through with the Japanese audio & English subtitles, and then flip over to the English dub. You’ll find it particularly useful to listen to both tracks with this series, as the English dub will let you concentrate on the furious progression of the visuals. The soundtrack, including rock tunes from ‘The Pillows’, is a great complement to the surreal story, and truly serves to enhance the telling of this strange tale.

Extras
The disc includes a music video from ‘The Pillows’ (check out those trendy glasses!), a nice collection of character sketches, the Japanese promo and closing sequence, and short character profiles of Naota and Haruko. You’ll also find a nice collection of Madman previews, including Arjuna, Excel Saga, .hack//SIGN, Niea 7, Real Bout High School, Spirited Away, Steel Angel Kurumi, Tenchi Muyo!, Transformers: The Movie, Trigun, and DragonBall Z: Super Android 13!

A director’s commentary track (Japanese audio with English subtitles) is also included, however the standout surprise is the included FLCL booklet. It includes the manga sequence which we see in the first episode, as well as translation notes, explanations for obscure Japanese puns & jokes, a few paragraphs from script writer Yoji Enokido and director Kazuya Tsurumaki, music track listings, and various other handy bits and pieces. I don’t often encounter booklets like this - its a nice little extra which enhances an excellent package.

FLCL: Volume One

Overall
I’m still smiling. A factory the shape of a clothes iron, robots sprouting from people’s foreheads, a scooter-riding alien with a motorised bass guitar, and a poor young lad who just can’t seem to stay out of trouble. Sit down, buckle up, and prepare for a marvelous blend of baffling narrative, gorgeous visuals, and a rockin’ soundtrack. This one comes highly recommended.


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