FLCL: Progressive starts perfectly. There’s an ancient clock in a desert wasteland, then the pillows start jamming out, and then a character’s hands pop right off. That’s fooly cooly, baby.
Spoilers for FLCL: Progressive episode 1 follow.
This sequel, 15 years after the original FLCL, features a mostly new set of characters. Our protagonist, Hidomi, is a schoolgirl with cat ear headphones that will probably look vaguely familiar to anybody in this corner of the internet. She starts off strong, too. Her first line is a callback to one of my favorite FLCL quotes. “Nothing amazing happens here. Everything is ordinary.” Follow this quote with some amazing, mind-bending, physics-abusing things, and you have FLCL.
Unfortunately, FLCL: Progressive can’t keep up with the pace it sets for itself in the episode’s opening. The original FLCL, for comparison, has its incredible manga sequence right in the first episode. It’s peak fooly cooly, and arguably the best moment in the whole series. Seriously, go watch that clip, 240p or not. It holds up.
Progressive’s best try at capturing the manic, comedic energy of the original comes in one of the first scenes after the opening. Three male characters talk before class about relationships and, more importantly, male skirts. It’s a good start, but it doesn’t quite hit the heights of its predecessor. Hopefully, that will change. The quick cuts and irreverent dialogue in the skirt sequence were, at least, taking a whack at fooly cooly. The rest of the episode is more hesitant.
The next scene, for example, is a schoolteacher forcing her students to watch pornography in class. Wild, right? But, Progressive acts as if this is hardly out of the ordinary. In the original FLCL, Naota, the protagonist, would have screamed at such lewdness. The music would have immediately picked up as snappy quips started to fly. Inevitably, somebody would get hit by a guitar.
FLCL: Progessive’s protagonist is decidedly not Naota. She watches the pornography (shown to her by a teacher in class!!!!) with no reaction at all. I understand that she’s a stoic character, but no reaction at all? We’ll see if that changes.
With such a tepid protagonist, Progressive needs other characters to pick up the slack. In the first episode, it doesn’t quite happen. The skirt boys are amusing, but only mildly funny so far. Hidomi’s mother also has her moments, mirroring Naota’s crazy dad in the original. There’s promise here!
More than anything, however, this episode feels scared. Rewatching it while writing this, I kept wishing they would just GO FOR IT. Get crazy! It does a lot of what the original does, but with less energy.
One thing I hope for in the future is dialogue between more than two characters. There’s a bit of this in the aforementioned skirt sequence, but, at the risk of repeating myself, it was slow. FLCL was at its absolute best when dialogue reached a fever pitch. When words were flying so fast they went right over your head. FLCL is a whirlwind. FLCL is an adrenaline rush.
“Comprehension should not be an important factor in FLCL.”
That’s straight from the mouth of the original’s director, Kazuya Tsuramaki. Is it weird to say that I comprehended too much of Progressive? Because I did.
While a lot of the episode lacks energy, it ends with hope for the future. Haruko, who always brings it, appears triumphantly after spending the whole episode incognito. Progressive definitely needs her to do her thing, as the last few minutes of the episode were the most amped I felt the whole time.
More than anything, I hope Progressive isn’t afraid to get crazy and fail. After all, nothing can happen till you swing the bat.