The FLCL Post

FLCL

(Originally posted on my old blog, One Man’s Obsession(s), a few days before Cartoon Network announced that there would be more Fooly Cooly)

Fooly Cooly is.

Let’s get this out of the way first: Fooly Cooly is something that one has to experience for themselves. It cannot be described in any coherent fashion; to do so would simply make you come off as a rambling madman, his or her mind demented from too much television, comics and possibly controlled substances. Go watch it now. It’s on Hulu for free (at the moment), and is only six episodes long. You have no excuses.

Secondly, Fooly Cooly (or FLCL as it’s commonly abbreviated) is a lying son of a bitch. It tries to distract you with its wild shifts in animation style, seemingly nonsensical actions and characters who act so cartoony that the entire casts of the WB and Disney animated lineup would look at them and say “Damn, son! Switch to decaf and take some Ritalin before you hurt yourself!” Do not be intimidated by all this zany bull$#!%, FLCL is a very simple story of a boy named Naota coming of age and realizing his disaffected teen act isn’t gettn’ him anywhere. Sure, malformed robotic monstrosities from beyond the walls of sleep pop out of his head, a pink haired woman from outer space regularly beats his head in with  bass guitar and a robot with a TV for a head takes up permanent residence in his home, but do not fear. Do not simply walk away and say that this is just some incoherent mess. FLCL is a trying to trick you. FLCL is dishonest.

The cast of FLCL struggle with honesty throughout. Naota is affecting disaffected “adult” attitude simply to get through the day. Mamimi is psychological wreck of a human being convinced of her love for Naota’s older brother Tasuku, an unseen baseball player who probably never noticed or cared about her blatant worship of him. Haruka, our manic pixie destroyer of worlds, is holding her true intentions for being on Earth and around Naota deliberately close to the vest. And Amarao, commander in the MIB-esque Department of Interstellar Immigration, is basically conning everyone into believing he’s actually a mature adult.

This is not my first go-round with FLCL. Like some of you (I presume), I first experienced it on Adult Swim, sometime around the early 2000s. It kicked my ass back then and kicked my ass even harder when I was reintroduced to it during Anime Milwaukee of this year. I walked by a table with both its blu-ray and DVD release, but didn’t go for it. I went for the collection of Turn A Gundam and an S.H. Figuarts Piccolo I had been dying to have for years. I do not regret these purchases. I regret not getting the DVD of FLCL. Thank God that there was a showing for the entire series at the convention that I caught the last half of. Thank God for Hulu who still has the series…for now, anyway.

“Unique” is probably what everyone whose seen FLCL would describe it. Well, no. They’d more than likely describe it as “f#$&*ing mental”, “bat$#*% insane”, “the most surreal mother%$*ing thing you’ll ever see in your entire life” or if their being polite, “nuts”. They would be correct in that assessment. FLCL is madness, the kind you could only find from a poem spoken to you by your rambling, drunken relative at your grandma’s birthday party. It’s a madness that lingers; stays with you for the rest of your days no matter how long it’s been since you’ve seen an episode.

FLCL is madness, but it’s an all too human madness, born of loneliness, hormones and a severe lack of direction. It threatens to overflow into something incomprehensible, but it moves on the fine line of brilliance and jabbering lunacy in a combination of ballet, crunk and possibly pole dancing. In other words, FLCL is Mamimi Saejima, losing her god Tasuku and clinging to whatever she can find, ultimately divorcing herself from the madness to seek her true place in this benighted beautiful/ugly planet we call Earth.

FLCL is also a moment. It is a shooting star that flies in the sky. It’s here, gone in a second and never to be seen again. The memory will remain forever, but you know it will never come again.  And perhaps, secretly, you now it’s for the best. FLCL is Haruka Haruhara, speeding off on her Vespa to galaxies unknown.

FLCL is a time and place; a memory of days gone by. It is the fly frozen in amber, or cave painting from the Paleolithic age. It is that story that’s told in every generation of that one year, one summer or just one night that sets its protagonist’s life on the course that would lead him to true blue adulthood. FLCL is Naota Nandaba, from hanging out with Mamimi at the river to standing in the wreckage of the final episode’s events, watching Haruka fly away forever.

Fooly Cooly is”. That’s how this all began; those words popping into my head. It will end with those words too. There’s really no other way this can end, can it? It’s inevitable; as inevitable as someone watching the first episode and dismissing it as a confusing, perverted mess that should be ignored for more “mature”, “rational” storytelling. That, my friends, is okay with me. Sad and disappointing, sure, but not anymore sad or disappointing than “mainstream” American culture’s belief in animation as little more than a babysitting tool.  Not everyone is going to get FLCL. That is because FLCL does not belong to a single genre.

I’ve seen both Wikipedia and Crunchyroll list the types of genre that FLCL is. I almost laughed out loud at the sight. Then I realized that wasn’t what the genre listings were about for FLCL. They were listing all the things all the elements that helped make FLCL what it is. It’s not a genre mash-up so much as it is a genre purèe, taking elements from absurdist comedy, science fiction, teen drama, slice of life stories, the DSM 5 and surrealist fantasy and somehow making them all fit into on damn perfect show, “complete and of its type” as Peter David would say.

FLCL is. It exists. It is out there, waiting for you to either discover it or reconnect with it after years apart. There is no other way to describe or inform you, the reader, of it outside of “You must see it for yourself.” It will fight you, yes, but do not let its surrealism beat you. Simply take the hit, stand up and say “Thank you, sir! May I have another?!” Fooly Cooly is Fooly Cooly, and there is no other thing like, nor should there ever be.

Fooly Cooly is.

LEARN TO DETACH: A Call For Cooler Heads On The Internet

CapHydra

And here I thought DC Universe Rebirth #1 would cause the most fanboy bitching this week

 

 

One of the many, many, many things that geeks have a problem with is coming to terms with the fact that, save for unlikely possibility of becoming a writer on something you love or becoming one of your favorite franchises corporate heads, we have little to no control over what happens to characters that we love. Pitch a bitch all you like, but at the end of the day, YOU do not have as much control as you think you do. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but swallow you must, and no amount of internet whining, protests or death threats are gonna change any of that.

Which is why I find the whole “Cap’s been an agent of Hydra all this time!” controversy to be both enormously hilarious an incredibly sad.

For the record, no, I haven’t read Steve Rogers: Captain America #1. I’m protesting it not on the grounds of the twist but because I will be damned if I spend five bucks to read a single issue of a comic book. Seriously, you wanna talk bad ideas in comics? Screw the definition of the all-American good guy becoming part of a supervillain organization; let’s talk about the ballooning of prices over the last couple of years. I mean, really, if it’s gonna cost me more to buy all the issues of something than it would to get the trade, why the hell shouldn’t I wait for the trade? Times are tough, man, and I’m not made of money.

No, Jordan, no. Stay focused. Get back to the point at hand.

Okay, first of all, why are all so pissed? I may have a lack of knowledge of the details, but this all looks like a Gotcha moment waiting to happen. I mean, we all know Steve isn’t really an agent of Hydra, right? It’s going to be revealed that is a clone or mind control or something like that, because that’s just how these things go (or it will, given the world class s#!*storm that coming down on Nick Spencer now). At best it’ll all be revealed to be a deep cover ploy or something. Stuff like this has been part of the superhero comics playbook since there’ve been superhero comics! What the f#%& is with all the anger?

But no, this isn’t about just the twist at the end, is it? It never is with these situations. It wasn’t that way when Mass Effect 3 was bitched at for its ending by whiner sets of internet fandom, either. It’s not about what happened; it’s about the attachment that so many people have to a franchise.

Given that, I’m going to give out this gem of advice:

 

LEARN TO DETACH

We geeks have a tendency to really get attached to franchises and stories we love. Sometimes our attachment can reach unholy and psychotic territories. Doing that also puts us in dangerous situations like using bullying and scare tactics to get what we want. This isn’t healthy, to say the least. So we all must just breathe, detach and get a little more rational on the situation.

Alright, let me explain something: when I say detach, I’m not talkin’ about giving up on Cap, Marvel Comics or anything like that. I’m definitely not talking about giving up on comics completely or becoming that guy who hates the Big Two and only buys indies because that’s how you feel cool. Instead, I’m talking about stepping back and repeating the MST3K mantra: It’s just an X, I should really just relax. I’ll give you a personal example. Oh, also, SPOILER WARNING.

In the same week all this has gone down, DC Comics releases DC Universe Rebirth #1 onto the stands. It’s a starting point for a sort of pseudo-reboot for the now five year old New 52 continuity. On the last page of that, we see Batman head down to investigate a gleam in the Batcave only to discover the gleam was from the Comedian’s smiley face badge. The issue ends on lines taken directly from Watchmen itself, heavily implying that Dr. Manhattan has been tampering with the DC universe for quite some time.

When I read that particular section of the book, I was filled with various emotions. Feelings like shocked disbelief, dread, and anger. Plus a mild laughing fit at the whole Meta text of the DC universe darker and more depressing ever since Watchmen ended it run in the mid 80’s.

Now, I love Watchmen. Who doesn’t love Watchmen? It’s called the Citizen Kane of comics for a reason, people. It’s possibly the most well written and well constructed story ever in the medium of comics, the characters are incredibly memorable and well developed, its twists and turns are all great, and it came to a satisfying conclusion. I’ve loved the book ever since I discovered it in my high school library and I’ve been a lifelong Alan Moore fan ever since. Hell, I ignored the whole Before Watchmen thing simply because I knew it wasn’t going to be as good, because nothing can.

So when I saw that full page spread of Batman holding the Comedian’s badge, I felt like I was staring into the abyss. Were they really doing this? What were they going to do? Would whatever big event that goes on ruin one the best comics of all time?!
Then I remembered to calm down. There was nothing that Geoff Johns (who I do like as a writer, don’t get me wrong) or anybody else could dampen that feeling I had for a book that was the best friggin’ thing ever when I discovered it in 2005 and still holds up to this day. My paperback copy of Watchmen was always gonna be there, and nothing is ever gonna replace it. Besides, as far as terrible thing with the Watchmen brand on it, it’s at least not the toaster.

Listen, my friends, and listen carefully: it is not healthy to get this pissed off with such a frequency. You got to learn to properly deal with this stuff. Put a little distance between you and the franchises you love. You can follow it when it’s good and ignore it when it’s bad. There’s no need for all this vitriol of a plot point you don’t like. Especially when it’s a plot point that you know is going to get revealed as a something else.

 

 

 

REVIEW: DC Universe Rebirth #1

 

 

DC_REBIRTH

Sistine Chapel reference #3,452,382

 

Let’s start this thing off with a little personal history:

I was starting to get off the DC Comics train even before the “New 52” launched. They weren’t publishing anything I was seriously interested in picking up, and I used the 2011 reboot as an excuse to drop the line. I’ve come back here and there, but not in any sort of big way.

Now here, in May of this benighted year of our Lord 2016, I find that the powers that have decided to yet again breathe new life into the old whale we call the DC universe. This has caused no small amount of annoyance among the comic reading public, leading to, (and this is a story I heard from a comic book store owner and not something I heard anyone say myself) of men saying they were dropping DC and heading towards Valiant.

Me? I’m gonna try and come back to that wonderful/terrible beast. From what I’ve read, at the very least some interesting things are gonna go on. Plus, the line-wide price drop to $2.99 per issue is something that’s appealing to my cash-strapped self.

But here I go, stalling. Let’s talk about DC Universe Rebirth #1 and see what Geoff Johns has either given us a treat or a sixty-plus page threat?

In all honesty, it’s fine. It’s not the greatest thing ever or even the greatest thing this week (that would be, for me at least, Ms. Marvel #7) but it’s a damn fine book that does its job of introducing readers to the current status quo of the DC universe.

The plot, for those of you who haven’t been spoiled already, goes a little somethin’ like this:

Wally West (the pre-Flashpoint version, not the one stomping around the current continuity) is trapped in the Speed Force and has been both de-aged and put back in his old Kid Flash duds because reasons and is now trying to get into contact with anyone to warn them of a vague impending threat. Problem is, it’s the New52 universe and no one remembers this version of Wally. After failing to get into contact with Batman, a geriatric Johnny Thunder, and even his wife Linda (plus touring the rest of the Earth-bound DCU to see what shake ups and new stories we’ve got coming for the foreseeable future) he goes to Barry Allen, the current Flash, to say goodbye and thank him for all the wonderful things that had come from becoming a superhero. Barry then remembers his old sidekick and nephew and becomes Wally’s new lightning rod. Ant then….

SPOILERS

…we cut back to the Batcave where Bruce investigates a strange gleam discovering the Comedian’s smiley face badge, implying the Dr. Manhattan of Watchmen has been secretly manipulating the DC universe for some time.

Watched

This page is causing me more terror than anything Dr. Crane could cook up.

 

That last part is really the only part of the comic I wasn’t able to get behind and filled me with a combination of anger and quiet dread when I first read it. I mean, I actually like Geoff Johns and all, but invoking Watchmen?! You might as well walk naked down the street  wearing a sign that says “I’m not as good a writer as Alan Moore”. But, as time passed, the anger subsided and the dread…well, the dread’s still there, but that’s because I really, really like Watchmen.

As for everything else set up here? I’m basically interested in how it’s all gonna play out. Ryan Choi and Ted Kord are back in the land of the living and looking like they’re going to be active heroes alongside their mentor and successor respectively, so that’s cool. Also excited to see what goes on with Superman Now that the New52 version is presumed dead and the pre-2011 Supes is going to be handling things along with his kid. And the possible reemergence of the classic Justice Society is something I’m behind one hundred percent.

As for the story itself, it’s fine. I do really like Geoff Johns, but even I’ll admit the man has his faults. The story starts with Wally trying to get into contact with Batman first which just raises the question of why he would go to him first and not, you know, the other Speed Force user who could help get the word out that something is wrong with the universe? The dialogue also can come off as cheesy in some respects (Ray Palmer saying he’s in “big, big trouble” via prerecorded message being the king of ‘em all). I dare say he’s been hanging around the CW writers too much, with Wally’s narration seeming to be that level of corny (He even says “My name is Wally West. I am the fastest man alive.”, like the opening narration of every episode of The Flash*). And he leans on exposition a little too much, especially in explaining Wally’s back story early in the book. But it works more often than it doesn’t, especially in Wally’s meeting with Barry.

Do I even need to say that the art is good in this? No, no I do not. Suffice it to say, when Gary Frank can be said to be the weakest of the artists involved, you’re working with some top tier talent.

Going back to the large blue elephant in the room, while I’m still feeling The Fear that bringing the Watchmen universe into this isn’t going to work, I am fairly interested in the meta-narrative of “Ever since Watchmen, DC has been getting darker and darker”, but I remember Johns trying something similar to that with Kingdom Come during his second run on Justice Society of America. Can anyone tell me of it had any sort of impact or if it went anywhere?

To wrap this up, I’m going to say this: back in 2005 or 2006, I pick up the trade collection of Green Lantern: Rebirth. It made me a Green Lantern fan and got me interested in the history and legacy of the character. I can say that Geoff, while not delivering something as good as that, has gotten me interested (and slightly fearful) of where the DC universe is headed. In that, the books don it’s job.

I give DC Universe Rebirth #1 a 7 out of a possible 10.

FlashHug

“I know this might nor be the best time, Barry, but you’re costume is hideous. get rid of those Tron lines and you’ll look better.”

* P.S. I’ve been informed by a guy called chris-lang on Manic Expression that Mark Waid originated the “I’m (insert current Flash here), and I’m the fastest man alive” during his run on Flash in the 90s, so Johns is most likely cribbing that line from there.