FLCL Progressive Reaction: An Interesting Return to Form
Rarely does a show so old get a chance at sequels, but the insane popularity of the original six episode OVA series manage to bring not one, but two new seasons back on the air, and premeiring in English first no less. Last Saturday, the first episode of the FLCL Progressive aired on Toonami, and after getting a chance to watch it on the Adult Swim website, which you can do for free if you have not, I have some thoughts.
Progressive as a Second Season
Almost everyone who has seen the original FLCL can tell you that the show does not have the most straightforward plot. On the surface, the show’s first season tells the story of Naota, a elementary school kid who lives in a town where nothing happens. His brother’s Ex is always hanging out with him, clinging to him for emotional support, and the rest of his family, his dad and grandpa, are not exactly super helpful either. One day, a women proclaiming to be an alien from another world comes in on a vespa and hits Naota on the head with her blue guitar. Before he knows it, things start poping out of his head, and his life changes forever.
But, of course, there is a lot more going on in the original show than you might think. The show is for sure about puberty and growing up, but it is a lot more than that. It focused specifically on Naota’s strange affinity for Haruko, and how, as a kid, Naoto not only did not have the ability to be honest with himself about his feelings for Haruko, but also how he did not know how to repsond to Mamiya, and eventually drove her away. Of course, and the end of the show it gets revealed that Haruko was very much manipulating Naoto for her own personal gain, but that love for Haruko is still very much real.
Progressive had a lot to live up to, in this regard, and in a lot of ways it did. The original FLCL was a product of its time, and spoke to the specific conditions of Japanese youth in the 2000’s. Progressive needed to and definitely manages to hit that same mark for the mid to late 2010’s.
Characters and their Reflection of a New Era
Hidomi certainly comes across as a female Naota of the 2010’s. This is not to say she is unoriginal, but that she does well in her role of portraying the problems in today’s youth culture. Hidomi is a junior high student living in a somewhat smaller city, presumably the same one as Naota based on the context clues givin in the first episode. She seems insular and very unfocused. Hidomi says herself that she feels like she does not even have an idea of what she wants to be.
This seems like a pretty accurate reflection of what younger people, and especially Japanese younger people are feeling. Now, I am no expert on Japan, but based on what I do know about Japanese culture, her character makes a lot of sense. During the 90’s, Japan experienced what modern historians have called “The Lost Decade.” Economic stagnation caused many to see a decline in there standard of living, and instead of in other countries where economic decline usually leads to scapegoating and racial and economic resentment, most of the youth during that decade just sort of carried on, wondering whether or not the situation can get better. Nearly two decades later, with a shrinking population and workforce, increasingly long hours in overly coporate offices has left many with the same sense of destitution and hopelessness that prevailed over many in the 90’s.
Now, this is not me saying that Fooly Cooly is about economics, although you could certainly argue that is the case indirectly. However, a lot of that background certainly plays into Hidomi’s own disullusionment. The lack of a sense of identity is very much a problem of young Japanese people, and having that background knowledge makes Hidomi’s identity crisis all the more relatable.
There is also one other important character, and that would be… well, this girl:
I don’t actually know her name, but it appears as though she was sent by Fraternity to protect Hidomi from Haruko, or at least that what I could gather from the context of the first episode. Similar to Haruko, she rocks a guitar and is trying to unlock the secrets that supposedly lay dorment in Hidomi. Unlike Haruko, though, she seems to be very out of tune with the rest of the world, not exactly knowing what to do in a given social situation. Not that it is much of a prediction considerign how obvious it looks already, but I think this girl will end up being a foil Haruko in a lot of ways, both in the literary and literal sense.
Other Random Thoughts
FLCL Progressive’s first episode, while not being as outright deranged as its first season parallel, it definitely brought back the show in a pretty bold way. It also looks the like the season that might answer some major questions about the plot, like what exactly are the details of this war between Medical Mechanica and Fraternity? and what do these weird robots coming out of people’s heads actually mean?
It would also be cool to see these newer themes explored from a female perspective, and how some of the themes of the first season tie into this one. I can tell that the writers have a lot planned for Hidomi in this season.
Also, where did the hand go?
What did you guys think of the first episode of Progressive? Let me know in the comments below. Also, if you want to support the Aniwriter through donations or are just feeling generous, consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi. Otherwise, thanks for reading and bye for now, Friendos!