Manga Mondays: FLCL

Title: FLCL (Fooly Cooly / フリクリ )
Author: Gainax (Story) and Hajime Ueda (Art)
Genres: Comedy, Sci-Fi, Surrealist, Slice of Life
Rating: Teen
Published: 2000 – 2001 (light novels); 2001 (manga – Japanese); 2003 (manga – English) 
Volumes: 2 [Complete; an omnibus version is also available)
Japanese Publisher: Magazine Z (…magazine); Kodansha (tankōbon)
English Publisher: Tokyopop (original); Dark Horse Comics (2012 omnibus)
Available to Purchase in English?: Yes (Indigo / Amazon / Barnes & Noble)
This Review is Based On: The entire series  

Synopsis: Naota is a normal Japanese 6th grade boy but when his older brother leaves for America to play baseball, his brother leaves his 17-year-old girlfriend Mamimi behind. Mamimi is sending mixed signals and advances to Naota, and he doesn’t know what to do about her. But to make matters worse, Naota’s world is totally turned upside down when he is run over by a woman on a Vespa. During their first encounter, she hits him over the head with her guitar, which then causes a horn to grow out of his forehead. She calls herself “Haruko” and her presence changes Naota’s life to even further insanity. (ANN via MAL)

 

If the original FLCL anime is anime on crack, then its two volume manga adaption is anime on acid. Ho-boy.

In high school one of my friends handed me a bootleg anime DVD of a title called FLCL. It was short, only 6 episodes long, but he thought I’d like it and suggested I give it a try. The anime was released over the span of almost 1 year in Japan between 2000 and 2001, so this gift was given to me in the early 2000s sometime when DVDs were still a thing. I still have that DVD today.

And oh man, I’d never seen anything else like FLCL. It was crazy, wacky, episodic but with a loose overarching plot. Nothing made sense in Naota’s world once the alien Haruko walked into his family’s life.

I learned later that FLCL also has three novels which were released almost concurrently with the OVA’s release schedule. The light novels covered basically everything in the anime and add a few extra things the OVA didn’t cover. The first volume of the FLCL manga was released while the OVA was still ongoing, with the second and last volume being released a few months after the OVA had finished airing.

The first thing that’s very easily noticeable about the FLCL manga is that its art style is very, very different. I feel comfortable saying it’s unlike most other titles in the market, even. It’s got bold, brash lines, huge chunks of text, sound effects all over the place. It feels like… someone standing in the middle of an empty room and then someone comes into the room and starts yelling and gesturing at them. Moments later someone else enters the room and starts yelling at Shouty #1. Someone else enters the room and shoves Shouty #2. Then someone breaks through the ceiling and swings a baseball bat at the first person’s head. There’s lots going on, sometimes it doesn’t always make sense, but it’s always wild and crazy.

I can’t speak for everyone of course, but I found FLCL ‘s art style very hard to read. Sometimes I had to backtrack to re-read some dialogue or see if I missed something when scenes changed abruptly. I wouldn’t be interested in reading another manga in this style again, now that I’ve read FLCL.

Secondary to manga’s “reductive” art style is its very short length. If the series was still ongoing at the time the OVAs and light novels were being released, why not make the manga at least 3 or 4 volumes? Because perhaps of its short length, the manga actually doesn’t cover everything in the OVAs and light novels. I didn’t realize this going into the manga and only realized it once I started mentally noting the changes in the manga as compared to the anime.

The manga might be a better introduction to FLCL for someone who knows nothing about the series. If they read the manga and then watch the anime, they could be pleasantly surprised by what’s been “added” in the OVAs. Instead, as someone who’s watched the original anime first, the manga came across as a somewhat sad read. There are major events which have been removed or severely edited down to just a couple of scenes or panels, and I was continually disappointed to read all of the changes between the anime and the manga.  

The manga is definitely full of action and is fairly fast-paced during the fight scenes, but the bold art style and distilled content made the FLCL manga an overall lackluster read.

 

Do I Recommend This Title To Others?: Only if you’re a diehard FLCL fan and want to read it out of curiousity. I feel like if you decide to not read FLCL, you’re not missing much. 
Final Score: 6.5/10

 

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