FLCL Progressive – Episode 1 [RE: Start] [First Impression]


Ladies and gentlemen, here is a review almost twenty years in the making. Never did I ever think that there would be a sequel to FLCL. Yet here we are!

I was first introduced to the original FLCL (pronounced “furi kuri”) back in high school within a year or two of the show’s release, and it was one of the first anime I really got into. Ok maybe not the first-first… more like the top 10. But still! When asked to describe FLCL I used the term “anime on crack”.  FLCL was only six episodes long, there was a lot of action and many things didn’t make much sense – but it was a lot of fun to watch.

I got wind last year that we were going to get not one but TWO new seasons (FLCL Progressive and FLCL Alternative) and was both hesitant yet excited. I know I’m not the only person who feels that FLCL works perfect as a standalone series; no sequels, no prequels, nothing. It just is what it is, and that’s the beauty of FLCL. However seeing as how the new seasons were going to be released regardless of what anyone on the internet said, I was determined to watch the new seasons and see for myself if they held up to the awesomeness of the original series.

If you haven’t watched FLCL Progressive, the first thing you must know is that the series (and its sequel, FLCL Alternative, which will air in September) is presently only airing dubbed. I have very high standards for dubbed anime (hell even some of my favourites like Escaflowne have cringe-inducing moments), and FLCL Progressive doesn’t do much to change those standards. I feel like my issue with dubbed anime is a combination of seeing the same names repeatedly across several titles (in FLCL Progressive it’s Kari Wahlgren and Yuri Lowenthal playing Haruha and Marco, respectively), and seeing/hearing some of the original Japanese nuance and subtlety lost in translation. Both FLCL Progressive and Alternative are set to be released subbed in November of this year, and you can bet your last dollar that I will be marathoning them both and loving it.

Anyways, onto the actual review. * clears throat *  In this first episode we learn that our lead is a young junior high-aged girl named Hidomi Hibajiri. She has a pair of cat earphones seemingly glued to her head permanently, and she’s extremely apathetic to everyone around her. Even her own mother.

At school Hidomi’s class has a weird new blonde substitute teacher who has a blank expression and asks her students odd questions. Plus she, errr, shows her class porn on a laptop. Hidomi’s classmate Ide brags to his friends Marco and Goro about how he had their teacher over at his house and implies that they had sex, but there’s a bandage on his forehead so…

The guys’ conversation devolves into a discussion about guys wearing skirts because Goro is wearing one, and Ide tells Goro to stop flashing him (good ol’ manspreading). Hidomi stays silent in class and scrolls through message conversations on her phone to pass the time.

After school Hidomi helps her mother at their family’s cafe, and we learn that Hidomi’s father is “missing” and that Hidomi’s mother Hinae is thinking of “moving on.”  Hinae also implies that their family came to their current town from somewhere else, a town that also had a Medical Mechanica factory.  OMG could Hidomi’s father be Naota??!  O_O

Then from out of nowhere the white-haired woman shown at the beginning of the episode (she was watching Hidomi through binoculars) slams her classic Chevy Bel-Air car into Hidomi, sending her flying. The mysterious woman seems disappointed that Hidomi survived the crash, and comments on Hidomi’s habit of wearing her (silent) headphones everywhere. Needless to say Hidomi is not impressed.

Later that night Hidomi thinks about her lack of feelings towards anything worthwhile in life, and she flashes back to her dream which opened the episode: Hidomi as a zombie wandering a devastated wasteland. Remembering the dream makes Hidomi’s headphones change color again, and she begins to “overflow”.

Suddenly a creature with a tentacle for an arm attacks Hidomi in her bedroom and chases her out of her home. Hidomi runs down the street and the monster spits out Ide. As the two run away together in an attempt to lose the monster, Ide shares that the monster came from his head (hence the bandage on his forehead earlier in the episode).

The two teens make it to the dump but the monster catches up to them and corners them. Ide attempts to defend Hidomi from the monster’s tentacle arm but is hurt as a result. Just when it looks like the monster will catch Hidomi, she remembers her zombie dream again and she starts to “overflow” once more. Her headphones go crazy and a bright light starts to shine on Hidomi’s forehead.

Once more coming from out of nowhere, the white-haired lady saves Hidomi in the nick of time, slamming her guitar into the monster’s tentacle and killing it. She picks up Ide and drives off with him in her car, saying she’ll take care of his wounds as best she can. But just before she leaves she tells Hidomi that her “new look” suits her. Looking into a large piece of broken glass, Hidomi sees that she has a large red horn sprouted from her forehead.

The next morning Hinae introduces the white-haired woman to Hidomi as their family’s new housekeeper Jinyu. She’s making amends for hitting Hidomi with her car the day before, so she’s washing dishes. Or trying to, rather – she seems to like breaking them once they’re clean. Poor Hinae will have to replace all her dishes at this rate. >.<   Oh and as for Hidomi’s forehead? She’s wearing a bandage over the spot where the horn was emerging from her forehead the night before. ;P

Once at school the blonde teacher launches into another weird spiel, except this time she seems to brainwash the class into behaving like wild children. Both Ide and Hidomi seem to be unaffected. The substitute then pulls off her mask and reveals herself to be Haruko Haruhara! (real name Haruha Raharu)


So how does FLCL Progressive stack up against the original FLCL?

There are a lot of similarities between the two titles. For example, Hidomi and Naota can both sprout robots from their foreheads, and they both use a bandage to cover the portal through which said robots emerge. The art style in FLCL Progressive is also somewhat close to the original (although I feel like the original FLCL has brighter colors?), and Japanese rock group The Pillows have returned to once again create FLCL‘s soundtrack. Which I’m super psyched about as I got to enjoy their music in the original series! ^_^v  What else? Umm… Naota and Ide both have two goofy friends. Haruha makes a reappearance right at the very end of this episode. I’m sure there’s more but I don’t want to bore anyone.  ^^;;   Let’s just say there were lots of easter eggs for old fans, but enough new material that it really does feel like its own series without being a total ripoff of the original.

As for things I didn’t like in FLCL Progressive‘s premiere episode, I’m not sold on Hidomi as a character. I know there’s likely a good reason for her shitty attitude towards everyone around her (her father’s absence?), but it makes for a poor first impression and (for me) it definitely makes her a lot less likeable. I also didn’t understand what the point of the substitute teacher showing porn to all her students was; that scene just seemed rather excessive to me.  Maybe she was looking for a certain reaction from her students?

There’s a lot of nostalgia factoring into my decision to cover FLCL Progressive, but I enjoyed the original enough that I want more no matter what it looks like. Plus I have a lot of questions I want answers to.  ;D

FLCL song of the week: Little Buster


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