FLCL, which is pronounced “Fooly Cooly” in English or “Furi Kuri” in Japanese, is a very strange frenetic anime series of which I am exceedingly fond. It takes place in the city of Mabase, in the shadow of a giant clothes-iron-shaped building, one of the plants run by the mysterious Medical Mechanica company. The story centers around Naota “Ta-kun” Nandoba and is largely about his coming of age and coming to terms with his own emotions.
At the beginning of the first episode, Naota says that nothing ever happens in Mabase. But things do start to happen when, as he is walking along with Mamimmi, the high school girl who he believes was the girl friend of his older brother, who is away in America playing baseball, and who seems to have quite an interest in Ta-kun himself, a bizarre woman runs him over with her Vespa. She proceeds to give him CPR, then when he comes to, smacks him upside the head with her limited edition, pull-cord-powered, left handed Rickenbacker bass guitar. When he gets home, he discovers this woman, Haruko, has become his families maid. He also finds out, over time, that the blow to the head has opened a portal in his brain-case, causing various things, mostly giant robots, to come bursting out of his forehead.
Sounds weird? It is. Many aspects of the storyline are never fully explained, such as Haruko’s exact origins, though we learn she is using Naota to try and capture the powers of a being known as Atomsk, the Pirate King. The show is chocked full of references, innuendos and in-jokes, covering both American and Japanese popular culture, especially anime and manga. The show certainly makes a little more sense if you’ve seen a few anime and have at least a passing knowledge of Japanese culture. But at the root of the story are themes of coming of age emotionally and coming to terms with ones feelings. There is a degree of sexual awakening innuendo as well-Mamimi and Haruko both flirt shamelessly with Naota and one of his classmates clearly has a crush on him…plus which, several of the protrusions that grow from his head have a vaguely phallic appearance and implications, but it’s all handled in a very humorous way. There are also themes like juvenile delinquency, the breakup of the family unit and various concepts of self-determination explored.
For reasons I myself don’t really understand, many of the images and themes of the show put me in a strangely nostalgic frame of mind; the series seems to me at once very Japanese and yet also very American in a peculiar way. Though not the first suggestion for anime newbies, FLCL is a very enjoyable series with more depth than is obvious from it’s surface that I think any fan of Japanese culture will enjoy. It is currently available on Netflix Instant Viewing, and Hulu as well I believe.