FLCL Omnibus

By GAINAX and Hajime Ueda. Released in Japan in two separate volumes by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Magazine Z. Released in North America by Dark Horse Comics.

I recall when Tokyopop first released this manga, a number of years ago, my general reaction to it was sort of a flat ‘what’. Of course, I was a much younger reader then, and have since read many experimental manga with weird art, weird plotting and a certain gonzo style to them. So I picked up Dark Horse’s new omnibus, which has a spruced-up translation, color pages, and some extras by the author, wondering if I could now appreciate the deep and beautiful meaning in the series. But as it turned out, most of FLCL still ends up making me say the same thing: what?

To be fair to its authors, this is probably the reaction they were going for anyway. It’s OK to write something that’s surreal, and if FLCL is anything else, it’s that. The plot, for those who may not know, involves a young boy named Naota and his metaphors for puberty, which in this series emerge from his head and turn into giant robots. He has a crush on a girl named Mamimi, a ditzy older girl who’s in love with Naota’s older brother (who is in the US) and using Naota as an emotional crutch. She’s also an arsonist. He also goes to school, where he has the usual two male friends, plus the class president, who is the mayor’s daughter and is tsundere for him. All of this is turned upside down when a woman named Haruko arrives, bringing chaos in her wake and fighting the robots… or using the robots to fight one another… in an intergalactic battle that is never really explained properly.

This manga ran in Magazine Z, which no longer exists but was basically Kodansha’s media tie-in magazine. And it should come as no surprise to you that this was based on an anime by GAINAX, who were trying to deconstruct everything so they could reconstruct themselves after putting out Evangelion. The anime was 6 episodes long, and the manga is sort of a truncated adaptation. However, unlike the manga version of Evaangelion, which sticks to the same plot/events but makes the characters more likeable, FLCL’s author is allowed to shake things up a bit. Certainly I don’t remember Naota killing his father in the original.

Sometimes the author does actually remember that this is supposed to be about Naota growing up. At one point, all three female protagonists are living in his house, and Haruko and Mamami decide to tease him by pretending to be lesbians, something that does actually play off of male teenage sexuality. The ending is also rather interesting, changed slightly from the original – Haruko actually gives Naota her broken Vespa, and challenges him to fly to outer space after her. Of course, now our last shot is of his bruised and bloody fingers trying to fix/fly the thing. One might argue it’s more downbeat than the original.

The art is very stylized, and may possibly be worth a look-see. And I still like Mamimi despite myself. But for the most part, what read as an incoherent mess 8 years ago is *still* an incoherent mess, even if the author would like us to think otherwise. If you’re looking for teenage metaphors for sexuality, there are better manga than this.

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  1. If you’re looking for teenage metaphors for sexuality, there are better manga than this.

    And prey tell what would those titles be if I may ask?

  2. It may be an incoherent mess…but at the very least it is a somewhat entertaining incoherent mess :D

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