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FLCL volume two

director: Kazuya Tsurumaki

48 minutes (12) 2000
MVM DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Alasdair Stuart
Naota is playing Puss In Boots in the school play, whether he wants to or not. As the town becomes gripped by a scandal involving the mayor, Naota finds himself playing literal second fiddle to his daughter, Eri in the second volume of this remarkable and remarkably odd anime series.

It's easy, sometimes too easy to write FLCL off as an attention-deficit powered explosion of random scenes. Certainly the bullet-time sequence in the first episode on this disc, which sees Haruko pound Naota in the head with her guitar, sending him hurtling towards Eri's lips bears that out. Likewise, the fight scene that closes the first episode here is easily the weakest in the series to date, with no reason given for it other than an excuse for a spectacularly poor curry joke. But despite that there's real emotional weight to FLCL. Eri's complex relationship with her parents and the scandal is explored elegantly, as is her need to control everything. Likewise, there's a bleak undertone to all the scenes with Naota's family as they continue to fail to pay him any attention.

The second episode presented here puts the series into a little more context. A satellite is falling on the city of Mabase at the same time as Naota is becoming infuriated by Haruko's effortless skill at baseball. As the city is evacuated and we find out the true nature of the bomb we also get some major hints about Haruko, a moment of pure, absolute triumph for Naota and a scene that brings the series' three loves of character, spectacle and comedy together. It also, unlike the previous episode, places every event in context and does so, in the case of a plot involving Naota's father with a staggeringly dark sequence that is amongst the series' best. Suddenly, the blank, featureless landscape of adolescence is combined with the alien, the other in a moment of violence that is horrific as it is briefly cathartic. There's suddenly a very real sense of a boy out of his depth and with none of the answers and the tension that creates is amongst the series' best moments.

FLCL is a very difficult series to like. It's loud, it's shrill, it's wilfully odd and some of the jokes fall completely flat. Despite that though there's a sense of threads starting to cohere, of the surreal elements beginning to fall into place and a growing feeling of tragedy attaching to the manic Haruko. Superficially this looks like anime's worst excesses but look deeper and you'll see one of its most unusual successes. Highly recommended.

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