When we think of what makes a great anime, music and animation are not the first things that come to mind. Usually, we think of character development, plot, and what the story tells us. According to Bob Tremblay, “originality tops the list”. However, in addition to having all of the typical characteristics, all of the “great” animes such as Grave of the Fireflies, Spirited Away, and Akira, have all had amazing soundtracks and artistic expression. In television, however, it is less common. Due to things likes production values are more important then producing something artistic. Despite being a rare occurrence, it is still possible. The anime FLCL, produced by Studio Gainax, features both. FLCL is a very active six episode anime. So much goes on during it’s six episodes that without some form of aid, the viewer would be left completely lost with no idea of was going on. Luckily for us, Studio Gainax knew this and provided an aid. Two, in fact. FLCL uses music and visual effects to allow the viewer to understand what’s going on.
FLCL, an abbreviation for Fooly Cooly, is a six episode anime produced by Gainax about a young boy named Naoto Nandaba and his brother’s girlfriend Mamimi Samejima, who live in a town where, in his words, “nothing ever happens”. In the first episode, he is ran over by a girl named Haruko HaruHara, but brought back to life by her through CPR. He is then hit by her over the head with a bass guitar. The episode ends with a robot emerging from Naoto’s head where he was hit. The story then bounces from high energy scene to high energy scene, with everything from robots to guitars emerging from Naoto’s head. The show ends with a final battle between Haruko and a fusion of Naoto and the Pirate King (the reason Haruko is in Naoto’s town), which ends with Naoto telling Haruko that he loves her. As Haruko flies her vespa into the distance, Naoto reiterates that in his town, “nothing ever happens”.
The Pillows are a Japanese rock band which formed in 1989. They have released over ten full length albums. The studio which produced FLCL, Gainax, also produced Gurren Lagann and Neon Genesis Evangelion.
FLCL is very high energy. So much, in fact, that without auditory cues, the viewer probably wouldn’t understand what was going on as it was happening, and instead they would have to think back on it after watching it to sort out what happened. Luckily, the Pillows’ music clarifies every scene. We know when the climax ends because the music shifts from high energy to a more relaxed rock song. We know that the scene where Mamimi wanders around the city having her pet robot take revenge isn’t funny because of the haunting guitar track in the background – though with a different musical backing the scene could be quite different.
Music has always been a powerful tool and is put to great use in FLCL. There’s a reason I have the soundtrack on my iPod. The music is good, but when put to the show it’s even better.
Studio Gainax also uses visual effects to help translate what is going on. Throughout the show, FLCL uses many different art styles, although “normal” art is used for most of the show. For example, in episode five, FLCL has a scene where one of the characters, Amarao, is drawn in the style of South Park. In episode two, Naoto almost kisses his friend Eri. This scene is shown in slow motion where the viewpoint spins 360 degrees around the failed kiss. However, the most iconic example is in both episode one and episode six where the show turns into a moving manga. Instead of the characters moving, the camera moves from panel to panel. Instead of making the viewer more confused, it actually explains things. In the first scene, Naoto is not happy with his father’s hiring of Haruko as their family’s maid. He’s angry and confused as earlier in the episode she hit him in the head with a bass guitar. The manga scene conveys this to the viewer better then a traditional anime would for a few reasons. One, the still shots of Naoto clearly show his emotions. We can see that he is angry as his expression remains in a state of anger. His confusion is shown in the scene itself – the viewer is not expecting the transfer from anime to manga as abruptly as it has so we are left confused until after the scene. As the scene ends as abruptly as it starts, we see that Naoto is downtrodden and accepts that Haruko will be living with him.
Without the music and visual effects, we would have been left confused at the end of that scene. It is like that for most of the show. Due to Studio Gainax’s use of visual effects and music, viewers of FLCL are able to understand what is going on during the show much easier and allows Gainax to experiment greatly without losing viewers. So while both plot and character development are things that FLCL does incredibly well, it’s true stars are it’s music and visuals. FLCL is an amazing anime, and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes either good music or good shows.
Tremblay, Bob. “Get Reel: What makes a great movie”. Evening Tribune. Gatehouse. News Service. N.d. Web. 13 November 2010.
FLCL. Dir. Kazuya Tsurumaki. Gainax. Web. 7 October 2010.
October 7th: First draft submission.
November 14th 4:44 am: Final version submission
November 14th 4:45 am: Changed title to reflect previous edit, fixed date to reflect the early-morning submission.