A Guest Article by Eddie Henderson
The first anime I remember watching was Fooly Cooly. I was twelve or thirteen, in the seventh or eighth grade, and if you have seen FLCL, you most likely agree that this was the prime age to first experience all of its sexy, chaotic splendor. Being completely new to anime, and weird Japanese shit in general, I had no idea what was going on, but it captivated me with its fighting robots, selection of best girls, and pseudo-nostalgic soundtrack. Sharing an age with the protagonist, Naota, also made all six episodes relatable on a profound and uncomfortable level to me. Fifteen years and countless watches later, I have only a marginally better understanding of what is going on narratively; but I realized a while back that FLCL was best enjoyed on a thematic and conceptual level, a level that would see Naota placed side-by-side with Holden Caulfield and Oliver Twist, as benchmark protagonists in the coming of age genre.
I’m not going to make some boring analysis of the similarities between FLCL and Catcher, not yet anyway, because I feel that, in doing so, I would be contradicting my opening paragraph’s entire point; that, and I’d probably have to BS a lot of it, and this is my first article, so I lack the amount of Reader Trust necessary to pull it off. Instead, I’m going to discuss how the characters and themes shaped FLCL into the anime that would affect me at the most intimate and personal levels. These six episodes, or rather my perspective on them would grow and mature (I use this word in a very generous manner.) as I did, continuing to resonate on those same, and some different, emotional chords long after I had expected it to lose its sense of wonder when, in actuality, my immense love for the series has considerably deepened over the years.
One thing I’ve always found myself loving while watching FLCL is its tendency for what I’ve termed Profound Nonsense; the scenes, or dialogue within them that seem to hold such weight, yet lack the philosophy or substance to back it up. i.e. The words ‘Never Knows Best’ written on Mamimi’s cigarette during the ‘Panda with a mean face’ scene. Words with only as much symbolism in them to go up in smoke, yet perhaps in a sort of self-aware, super meta kind of way.
If you couldn’t tell before this point , I didn’t exactly have a clear goal or outline for this article, in fact it was originally planned to be about anime in general , not Fooly Cooly specifically, but I think before I could explain what anime is to me, I had to explain the first anime that was something to me., and I feel as though I did so in a very chaotic and unorganized manner, fitting of FLCL now that I think about it. Maybe I can’t put my finger precisely on what it was about FLCL that hooked a 12 year old me, and still has not let go. Maybe it was all the dick jokes and sexual imagery, or that its protagonist was as intolerable as I was. Maybe it was the balls-to-the-wall pacing or action-packed, chaotic plot, robot fights or hot alien girls. Maybe it was a perfect outside example of how confusing life was for me at that age. Maybe it was an amalgamation of these things, and more. I don’t know if it can be put into words just how FLCL made me feel, but it was those short six episode that opened the door to an entire medium for me. Without FLCL, I might never have found interest in anime, and it is through anime that I have experienced my favorite moments in fiction, as well as moments that have stricken me to the core and helped me come to terms with life, and myself, and my sometimes dark thoughts and personal demons. I owe a lot to anime honestly, to my boys Naruto, and Mugen, Edward and Gohan, and even the up and comers like Deku. The complete lineup of best girls, too. (Here’s looking at you Jakuzere and Mako.) But first and foremost, I owe the most to Naota, for sticking with me through that confusing time, and for teaching me how to swing the bat.