FLCL Progressive, Ep 2: Never mind.


This was painful to watch.

Yesterday leading up to the premier of FLCL Progressive‘s second episode, I sat down and watched the original FLCL with some friends. Now that I’ve had a fresh rewatch of the original, the shortcomings of FLCL Progressive are much more obvious to me. I still stand by what I said about the first episode capturing the “feel” of FLCL, but it’s definitely a far-cry from the zany and experimental nature of the first series. By and large, the animation just isn’t as cartoony, dynamic, or experimental. It has its moments, but it feels much more like a normal, “modern anime” take on FLCL. And that’s okay.

But this episode was just bizarre to watch after the original FLCL.

As the episode opens, we are treated to an extended zombie parody. At first, I thought this scene was pretty cool. It is shocking, since it is nothing like what we’d expect from FLCL. Which could be pretty interesting, since maybe they’re trying to do something totally unique now. But then the zombie sequence just keeps going. Until eventually two minutes pass and it turns out to be some weird wet dream of Hidomi’s. By the end of this scene I just wondered, “What exactly does this add to the narrative?” I could see it’s importance in introducing Hidomi’s seemingly erotic interest in pain and suffering. But then why dedicate two whole minutes to this dream sequence?

Later, Hidomi and her friends visit a slum with a lot of poverty-stricken people, and witness Ide basically working as a slave. Which could be interesting, except five whole minutes are dedicated to this relatively slow-paced sequence, with little animation of interest. It’s also weird just how over-the-top the scene is in depicting poverty, with all the totally run-down buildings and Ide working the worst job ever. When you consider the town of the original FLCL, it’s actually supposed to be pretty normal and boring. It’s a normal town that just happens to have a giant ironer. It’s all the stuff that happens to the town that makes the story of FLCL so out-there. There are certainly poverty-stricken areas in any town, no matter how “normal” it is, it’s just how this slum in the show is presented that really makes it feel markedly different from what we saw in the original.


And so for this second episode, we’re given a FLCL which is much bleaker and slower-paced than the original. Which doesn’t really feel like FLCL at all. It was neat how the opening of the first episode introduced “darker” material, as Hidomi literally rotting away is pretty powerful imagery. But the way it tries to mix a darker tone with a goofy and cartoony atmosphere is much more jarring in episode 2. We’re given a much darker FLCL with this episode, but not really one that uses the darker edge to say anything meaningful.

This may sound nitpicky, but it just feels odd to watch these slower-paced scenes right after the original FLCL. The original is a pretty  “dense” anime all-around, which plenty of plot, character developments, and other details packed into each scene–alongside plenty of cool animation. And overall, each episode has its own narrative that tells a full story, while contributing to the larger series. So it’s odd to see long stretches of time spent on stuff that does comparatively little. Especially when there’s not much going on with the animation either. If you compare this second episode to the second episode of the original, “Firestarter,” it becomes pretty clear just how little it really accomplishes. The pacing might be fine for a normal anime, but this is FLCL we’re talking about.

Notably, the key animation for this episode was handled by just three people, with the bulk of the work going towards just one of them, Hideki Takahashi. And on top of that, many of the inbetweens were outsourced. For comparison, the first episode had nearly twenty key animators working on it. So that more or less explains why the animation and the episode in general took such a major nosedive. There are some highlights here and there, but it’s pretty mediocre all-around. The fact that “mediocre” is the worst I have to say about it could probably be called impressive in itself.


So it’s clear that production issues have more to do with the mediocrity than anything else. I won’t question the enthusiasm of the staff, since I know they’re a bunch of young talent who grew up with FLCL. It makes me sad to write a scathing review of this second episode, when it certainly wasn’t from lack of trying that it turned out as mediocre as it did.

I can only hope this second episode is just some weird fluke, and that later episodes will be better produced. The first episode of Progressive was very good after all, so it’s not unreasonable to think it could pick itself back up at some point. But this does make me much less optimistic.

(Note: There are no guarantees that I’ll keep blogging about FLCL Progressive as it airs, since I don’t have much time to spare for blogging. If the third episode is as underwhelming as this, I won’t bother.)

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1 Response to FLCL Progressive, Ep 2: Never mind.

  1. alesandj says:

    I have no faith in this series. The original is definitely a tough act to follow, but Progressive has been anything but progressive. It feels like a step backwards into generic animation of fewer frame rates, less physical movement, more focus on mundane side characters and boring protagonists, less of the Pillows ost, and has the wild nature subdued with an immediate focus on plot instead of developing the characters.

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