Toonami’s bringing us more Fooly Cooly

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Toonami recently announced that they would be co-producing several sequel seasons of the cult classic anime FLCL (Fooly Cooly).

A lot of people are really excited because they remember that zany, off-the-wall, knows no boundaries comedy from the early 2000s with really good animation and a killer soundtrack.

I, however, have extremely mixed feelings for Fooly Cooly sequels, and several reasons for them.

The first is who is supposedly involved in this new production and to what capacity. Keep in mind that we’re still about a year out from when this series is supposed to premiere and staff may change drastically in that time, but the names dropped so far do not instill confidence. According to Turner, Kazuya Tsurumaki, the director of the original FLCL, will only be serving as a supervisor for this new series, while Katsuyuki Motohiro has taken over the director’s chair. In fairness to Motohiro, it should be noted that he was also the chief director for the first season of Psycho-Pass alongside Naoyoshi Shiotani. While this is a nice addition to his repertoire, he still has almost zero anime experience outside of this, making me question his direct involvement with the series. While he does have notable experience as a live action director, that doesn’t always transfer over well to the animated sphere, especially with a story as bizarre and unhinged as FLCL.

Next on the bill is Hideto Iwai listed as the lead writer.

Other anime that Iwai is known for include, oh, he’s never done anime before. While he does have notable experience with live action shows like Last Dinner, not having a single piece of anime media under his belt is unnerving to say the least.

On the animation front, I am relieved that acclaimed character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto will return once again, and while the original series was a joint project between Gainax and Production I.G., the barren landscape that is Gainax has sold the property rights to I.G. and given them sole production control, which, while disappointing, is entirely understandable.

However, what’s most notable here is who might not be returning, that being Hiroyuki Imaishi as animation director.

Imaishi has a work history as one of the greatest anime creators of all time as the director of Gurren Lagann, Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, and Kill la Kill, as well as his animation work on other Gainax shows like Neon Genesis Evangelion. His unique brand of psychosis and creative madness is immediately recognizable, especially with animation, and not bringing him back would essentially be equivalent to removing FLCL‘s visual identity. While they haven’t officially stated that Imaishi is not part of the new project, he already has his hands full with Studio Trigger, and pulling him away from that would be extremely difficult. Additionally, there has been no mention of The Pillows, the alt rock band that composed the iconic FLCL soundtrack, creating a pseudo music video feel that defined the FLCL sound.

The imagery and varying style of animation in FLCL are just as integral to the anime's identity as its insane plot. Image provided by flcl.wikia.com
The imagery and varying styles of animation in FLCL are just as integral to the anime’s identity as its insane plot.
Image provided by flcl.wikia.com

To be fair, all of this can be corrected before production officially begins, but that’s not the only possible problem with this series. Next, we’ll turn to the official description that’s been released:

“In the new season of FLCL, many years have passed since Naota and Haruhara Haruko shared their adventure together. Meanwhile, the war between the two entities known as Medical Mechanica and Fraternity rages across the galaxy. Enter Hidomi, a young teenaged girl who believes there is nothing amazing to expect from her average life, until one day when a new teacher named Haruko arrives at her school. Soon enough, Medical Mechanica is attacking her town and Hidomi discovers a secret within her that could save everyone, a secret that only Haruko can unlock.

But why did Haruko return to Earth? What happened to her Rickenbacker 4001 she left with Naota? And where did the human-type robot ‘Canti’ go?”

Again, in fairness, this does seem more open to new ideas than what I initially thought it would be like if Naota was still the main character, but with this we see yet another problem: it’s already been done. If we’re just going to tread over the same character arc of an apathetic teenager figuring out that life doesn’t suck again, then what’s the point? FLCL isn’t just a bizarre slapstick freak show with quirky animation. That’s only how it appears on the first viewing. Then, when you watch it a second, third, and fourth time, you see just how far the genius of FLCL actually goes, and it becomes what is, in my opinion, the greatest coming of age story that anime has ever written (until I finally get around to watching Eureka Seven that is), with metaphorical writing and imagery that compounds on itself the more times you watch it.

I'm pretty sure the symbolism speaks for itself here. Image provided by aminoapps.com
I’m pretty sure the symbolism speaks for itself here.
Image provided by aminoapps.com

The excitement, anxiety, fear, anger, depression, and sexual confusion of early adolescence all blend together perfectly in FLCL‘s frantic cluster of crazy characters and strange, often haunting imagery.

This is a theme and style that is distinctly belonging to classic Gainax, from an era when Neon Genesis Evangelion was almost universally considered one of the greatest anime ever made, and His and Her Circumstances gave us a surprisingly complex and well-developed rom-com. I’m not saying that Production I.G. is a bad studio; Ghost in the Shell, Psycho-Pass, Usagi Drop, and their myriad of sports and cyberpunk series are all fantastic, but they’re not Gainax. The closest thing to Gainax that still exists in the anime world is Shaft, but even veterans like director Akiyuki Shinbo wouldn’t be able to capture the Gainax magic. Perhaps it’s the genius of Imaishi and the even more famous Hideaki Anno that gave these shows so much depth, but there’s really nothing quite like an old Gainax anime.

I know I shouldn’t judge an anime so early in its production, just like I shouldn’t be freaking out over the staff for the new Berserk anime being far less powerful than expected, but we’ve long since moved past an era where we can say that everything from a given studio will have a certain level of quality, as freelancing rather than in-house work is the name of the game in the current anime climate.

What’s more, there’s something kind of unsettling about Toonami, an American company, being a co-producer.

When I think back to IGPX, another show that Toonami had their hands in making (and Production I.G. also animated), I cringe a little bit at just how un-anime this new FLCL series could get.

I want to believe that a new addition to the FLCL universe will turn out just as great as the first series, but experience has taught me that there’s too many things that can go wrong for it to work the same way. We live in a time where more anime sequels are coming out than ever before, not because they’re in higher demand, but because they’re safer. You already have a starting audience when you’re making a sequel, so you don’t have to try as hard, and that often leads anime-original sequels to be severely lacking in comparison to their predecessors. I would much rather see Production I.G. make an original series that could turn out to be the next Psycho-Pass, rather than a sequel that could turn out to be the next Psycho-Pass 2.

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