(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.