'FLCL Progressive' Review: What a Trip
FLCL Progressive: Where Nothing Strange Ever Happens
Years after she left, Haruko Haruhara returns to Mabase in hopes of finding her true love, the Pirate King Atomsk. Meanwhile, Hidomi Hibajiri (a local high school student), is having a recurring nightmare in which Mabase is destroyed and every person in it has been turned into a zombie. Hidomi wants nothing more than to become a zombie, but sadly that's just a dream and she's stuck with the monotony of everyday life.
Well, I guess one exciting thing happens. One day while walking home from school, Hidomi gets run over by a car driven by a mysterious woman. The woman apologizes, introducing herself as Julia Jinyu, and offers to make it up to Hidomi by working for free at the Hibajiri family café. Hidomi's mother is elated by the news whereas Hidomi is indifferent.
The next day at school, a new teacher introduces herself to the class. Who else could it be but Haruko, ready to continue her search for Atomsk. Haruko immediately identifies Hidomi as an eligible portal, and tries to use her to get to the pirate king. Thus begins another season of hilarious hi-jinks in which monsters bulge out of interdenominational portals found in teenagers' foreheads. Like I said, nothing strange ever happens in Mabase.
Some Old & Some New
Considering how character driven FLCL was, I was surprised to see that the only recurring character from the original series was Haruko. While I was worried by the departure at first, I was happy to see that the new cast of characters easily upheld the tone of the show. One especially welcomed addition to the sequel series was Julia Jinyu, another traveler from space who was once in love with Atomsk. Julia was the closest thing Haruko had to an "equal" in both FLCL and Progressive. Injecting a more straight-edged character to contrast Haruko's wacky spontaneity made the show feel more grounded. For once, there's a rational person in Mabase to question Haruko's insane plots.
Another welcomed addition was Iide and his best friends Mori & Marco. The trio were Hidomi's classmates and together they had plenty of awkward, hormone induced coming of age stories that remind us all too well of why people love this show. Anything that has extra terrestrials fighting punk rockers in one scene and a fake "Canadian" girlfriend in the next is worth watching.
So... Wait What?
Sadly, FLCL Progressive's biggest strength is also its biggest weakness. The sporadic nature of the show makes each episode feel fresh, and watching aliens get bashed over the head by an interstellar guitar never really gets old. The only problem is that the show lacks any payoff. The episodes do hold continuity, but it isn't enough to really warrant much thought or attention. Before fans of the show get up in arms, I know FLCL wasn't meant to be looked at seriously. It's supposed to be a fun break from everything else in the world that takes itself too seriously.
The only issue is that in Progressive, there were too many sensible plot points. By offering a character to challenge Haruko, I thought the show was going to try to develop her character. Maybe, Haruko could have a change of heart. Maybe, Hidomi's dreams were foreshadowing some sort of apocalyptic ending. Nope, the series felt like it abandoned whatever it was building towards in the final episode. While it may have had some noticeable differences, Progressive's ending felt very similar to that of its prequel. That ending might have worked in the original FLCL, but Progressive was a slightly more serious show and it would have benefited from embracing its subtle differences rather than abandoning them to try to emulate the success of the first series.
Music to my Ears
One thing I had to compliment the show on was its soundtrack. The Pillows deliver another stunning performance as they were able shift the emotional tone of any given scene at the drop of a dime. Congratulations FLCL for having one of the best soundtracks in anime.
The Verdict: Fun but not Fulfilling
FLCL Progressive captured a lot of what made the original series great while introducing new themes and plot points to keep the story feeling fresh. Sadly, these themes dissolved in the final act as Progressive's ending felt all too similar to its predecessor.