25 Days of Anime - #9: FLCL

A short but incredibly wacky series, FLCL chronicles Naota's encounters with Haruko and the crazy results of his head being used as a portal to try and find the powers of the pirate king Atomsk. FLCL throws viewers right into the thick of its off-the-wall comedy minutes into its first episode, with Naota's forehead on the receiving end of Haruko's bass guitar. And if scenes including giant robot fights on top of bridges and an overly-intense airsoft gunfight weren't enough, the writing ensures you'll be in stitches every step of the way, with Naota's dad dressing the part of Lupin as well as having written an entire book on the mysteries of Evangelion, his grandpa getting upset over the fact that robot servant Kanti didn't buy him the "Hustler with the Anna Nicole centerfold", and a temporary shift to manga presentation in the debut episode.

Beneath this comedy exterior is a story of growing up. With his brother living in the U.S. and his father less-than-responsible, Naota lives out a dualism of being a teen and practicing self-parenting. His feelings toward hyper-active and bizarre Haruko are initially negative, as he views her as simply another hassle to his daily schedule. And in an interesting twist on the familiar and expected formula, Naota becomes less concerned with keeping things on a strict and regimented schedule and learns to open up, live life a little more loosely, and in the process discovers just what being a teenager is all about.

For its original 2000 release, FLCL looks downright beautiful. For such an experimental release, the anime looks good even by today's standards. The world is bright and colorful, and the soundtrack kickin' thanks to the talents of J-Rock band the Pillows. FLCL is a rare gem - a series that flawlessly combines hilarious characters with a genuine coming-of-age story.

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