FLCL and Me – A Prologue.

This ones going to be a little bit more “From the heart” to be completely honest with you. I was intending on making this a video, I wrote it literally in the early hours of this morning with the full intent to record it this afternoon and have it live before the night was out. but having edited it a little bit and re-read it a couple of times I just dont feel it fits in with my usual video stuff. As a result I’ve decided to make it a spur of the moment blog post instead, though I will properly review FLCL at some point in the future but in order to make this work the way I want it to I kind of have to rely on my memories because otherwise it would be pretty meaningless for what im About to get into into.

In 2008 I was at a relative low point in my life, I was in the midst of some of the most difficult examinations I’d have to go through to date as a knock on to that I realised that even if I finished the exams with a good grade I had no plans for what to do once I’d passed, Id also found out that a good chunk of my friends from that time were basically only being my friend because they thought they could get something from me. And I was trapped in a situation where I was forced to be in close contact with someone who I had feelings for who didn’t feel the same way with no real means of escape from that situation for at least another 18 months. In short 2008 was a pretty shitty year. I felt trapped, alone and stressed out in a way that I’ve never been before or since.

As a result I pretty much spent that year desperately trying to escape from the real world because It was all a bit too much and I didn’t want to tip myself over the edge. There are moments in your life where things will perfectly align. I don’t particularly believe in a god or an afterlife but there are some moments that are so well timed as if to suggest that the world surely cant be a random mish mash of happenings. And in 2008 two of those moments happened that saved my life and fundamentally altered the way I look at the world.

(This was the other lifechanging thing, but thats another story for another time…)

One of those moments was in the middle of summer and I was asked to do some research for a business report. And like any good student with access to the internet that meant I spent a good chunk of my time on youtube watching videos. It was while I was there at my computer on that humid summer afternoon that I first discovered FLCL, or Fooly cooly, or Furi kuri depending on your preference. I’d briefly had a fling with anime and manga a couple of years prior to this and I thought I was on the way out from it by this point. But there was something in that 140p resolution video, that animation style, that vibe that just kept me watching. Back then youtube would only let you upload 15 minute chunks and the 6 parts that made up this series were all split up into there various pieces, all with varying quality and all with varying stopping and starting times. But at the time that didn’t matter. I was captivated.

I’d never seen anything like it, the tone, the animation, the music, the philosophy. The whole thing was just totally unique. It wasn’t ashamed to be what it wanted to be and it looked damn fine doing it. I Devoured as much of it as I could get my hands on. I remember that finding a complete version of the 5th episode (Brittle bullet) was particularly difficult due to the fact it dealt predominantly with guns which at the time Youtube  didn’t really tolerate. But eventually I saw the whole thing and it was absolutely beautiful.

(I mean, Just look at it! This was made in 1999!. its astounding!)

I don’t fully understand the philosophy of the show at this point anymore. I last watched it in full nearly 7 years ago, but at the time it was this radical stand out piece of art that spoke to me directly, it told me it was okay to be different. It was fine to do your own thing, that you didn’t need to rely on what other people thought of you or saw in you because someone out there will accept you for who you are regardless of what you do or don’t do in life. That it was okay to be childish sometimes but equally that responsibility for your actions and life choices are absolutely of equal importance.

At the time I was just beginning to get into film making, I’d started about a year and a half prior to this and I was in the midst of making my first feature film. I had no idea what I was doing and it was genuinely a terrible movie. But that’s because at the time I didn’t really know what art house was, I didn’t know what experimental cinema was. I grew up in a small backwater town where we had 2 cinemas and neither of them played anything other than mainstream fodder. So here I am producing an experimental drama channeling my feelings visually into the piece with no idea what an experimental film was. And im showing these rushes and scripts to people who had no idea what experimental cinema was and they just didn’t get it…and at the time I don’t think I fully understood it either…I’d later realise that experimental cinema was really quite a niche genre and that it wasn’t about making sure as many people saw it as possible more that it was making sure the right people saw it. watching it back now I can pick apart the whole thing. Its incredibly literal and im very embarrassed by the whole thing. But I digress.

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(It was about as bad as this…and that’s pretty bad…Still you gotta start somewhere…thats what I tell myself at least…)

FLCL hit me at just the right time because while I was working on this film in my spare time I’d be marathoning the anime pretty much non stop in my down time. And everytime I would come up against someone who would attack me personally for the way I dressed, or spoke or anyone who just didn’t like my films. FLCL would be the thing I would tune into to tell me that it was alright to be me. And that the people out there who thought it was okay to try and bring me down either just wernt accepting of people like me or they were just trying to make themselves feel better.

There was just something about these 6 episodes that really connected with me. I think the varying animation was definitely a factor. It’s a very different experience to watching any other kind of anime. The plotline was bittersweet as well, its to this day one of the only series I’ve ever seen that mixed hardend robot fighting anime with slapstick comedy, Hardened experimentation with the format and also a pent up will they/wont they romance angle. They got the balance right between mixing well written and very human characters with crazy off the wall extremism. The soundtrack, almost entirely composed by the pillows and was revolutionary to my ears, the direction was near pristine, the editing and styalisation was almost unmatched. And for a year or so I was as ingrained into it as it was into the counter culture.

Over the following 18 months I’d collect as much FLCL merch as it was possible to get my hands on, I bought the manga, the novelisations, plushies, T-shirts, I managed to import 2 out of 3 of the original soundtracks from Japan, I had a beanie with Haruko’s P! symbol on it, a wall scroll that’s still on display in my house to this day, my computer was decked out with stickers from the show and both my wallpaper and my screensaver were images from the show and my most prized possession is the limited editon US DVD boxset. Which is not only the most expensive DVD boxset I’ve ever bought, but It’s now also the most expensive DVD boxset in my collection. In 2009 I spent £210 shipping that set from America to England (It cost £80 up front, followed by another £80 to release it from German customs, followed by a further £50 to release it from English customs) now if you’re a nerd for your media history then you’ll know that just over 12 months after I spent this frankly ludicrous amount of money for 3 dvds and a free t-shirt coupon. That an official UK release of the series came out for £20 and I very nearly cried…but y’know what? In 2014 I sank another £25 into rebuying the UK set on Bluray which is still sealed on my shelf to this day.

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(This is my ACTUAL boxset in all its beautifulness…I dont think I’ll ever part with it…but its painful to even touch just for the price alone…it also took nearly 3 months to get to me…)

I have incredibly fond memories of FLCL, it was a series that changed my life in ways that I really struggle to put into words.it came in at just the right time and carried me through a very dark period. But like all dark periods they’re bound to pass eventually and at some point in the late 2010’s or early 2011 I just kind of…drifted from it. I went from at the peak a 3 month period where it would be the only thing I’d watch to in the end pretty much forgetting about it. By 2011 I had bigger fish to fry really, I’d recently started a new stint in education, I’d met a beautiful woman who’d go on to become my current long suffering partner and I was mixing and mingling with a new crowd of people who were genuinely interested in me for who I was, not for who they wanted me to be.

Looking back these days I feel like FLCL is an echo to a completely different time so far removed from my current life that it might as well be alien to me. It is to me this ghost of a 6 parter that came crashing into my world, changed my life and then left without a trace…in many ways echoing one of the shows main protagonists Haruko. And life moved on really…I grew older, built a meaningful relationship and several meaningful friendships, these friends and my partner grew older with me. And I forgot about that awful year that quite literally was nearly the death of me. Things were looking up…

(For anyone interested this is the wallscroll I own as well…it cost £30 and unlike the DVD boxset it cost me nothing in customs charges to ship it in from Japan.)

Then 2016 happened. 2016 for many people would at best be described as a difficult year. What with Brexit, Trump, rising tensions towards the possibility of nuclear apocalypse, rising food prices and half of the people you loved from your childhood dying randomly it was a difficult one to get through in one piece. There were also some personal troubles in my own life. My partner was going through some very messy health issues that I wont get into here but it put a lot of stress on both of us, I’d recently started to have a few tensions build up at work and most of my friends moved away for better job opportunities or were generally out of action…2016 was a pretty shitty year. And then there was an announcement that filled me both with dread and total excitement. FLCL was coming back. At the time there wasn’t a whole lot of information available all I knew was that it would be coming soon and there’d be 12 new episodes set in the modern day split over 2 seasons. It was like an old friend had just called me up after years.. and the reason it filled me with dread and excitement? Well. Because in my mind the show was perfect just the way it was. Why run the risk of pissing on a near pefect legacy by bringing it back for 12 more episodes? Equally I was very concerned that it personally might reopen old wounds  I’d not seen the show for years at this point and the only thing that would make it worse than it not being very good was revisiting the show I loved to find that it was garbage or that id built it up in my semi adolescent mind into something that it simply wasn’t. Obviously I was excited at the idea of it. If you’d have told my teenage self that FLCL would be coming back for a full 2 seasons I think he’d have cried. But there was just something sat in my mind that didn’t feel right about this. That was concerned about it.

(I got a bad feeling about this…)

Over the incoming 2 years that would follow a trailer or 2 would see the light of day that only further worry me. Mainly because it seems like they’ve jettisoned the strange and wonderful animation style that drew me to the series initially. It also seemed really quite overly angsty. Which I seem to remember the original series having a level of Angst about it but nothing quite like what this trailer was giving off…it also seemed like they’d gone all in on the comedy elements with strange and goofy characters littered throughout…bearing in mind that in the original series there was maybe 3 or 3 goofy characters and even they were tinged with a certain level of darkness.

Then last week, they announced the official launch of the series as the 2nd of June 2018 at midnight. And as of this recording I haven’t watched it. I don’t know much about the new series. I know it has the pillows in it and I know they got the original writers back in. But I don’t necessarily feel comfortable with the way this series has been resurrected…it feels like a nostalgia grab rather than a meaningful continuation… I think I might eventually watch it but I just don’t want it to ruin a show I loved. For my own sakes. At some point I will rewatch the original series again…and I’ll share my findings on here as and when that happens. It may be awful, it may be better than I remembered it. But with the new series im not so sure… for now I feel comfortable with those vivid memories of hot summer evenings plonked infront of a laptop discovering a show that no one In my country I knew had heard of.

(The mangas pretty bloody awesome too…I should really re-read it sometime…)

As is the custom occasionally I like to end these blogs with some music and I cant really think of anything more fitting than the end credits to the show, but in a resolution that I’d have killed for about 10 years ago. Enjoy.

(Part 2 of “A new career in a new town will be coming soon…but this literally kind of forced its way out of me in the last 24 hours so I thought it best to share…)

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