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FLCL volume one

director: Kazuya Tsurumaki

60 minutes (12) 2000
MVM DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Alasdair Stuart
Naota Nandaba lives in a town where nothing ever happens. His older brother is playing baseball in the US, and Naota, despite being 12, already feels trapped by his life at the bakery owned by his father and grandfather. Even the massive, steam iron-shaped robot factory on the hill doesn't liven up his life. Until Haruhara Haruko arrives on her vespa and hits him in the face with a bass guitar... And a robot pulls itself out of his head. And he begins to suspect that his best friend Samejima may have a far, far less pleasant life than he first thought. This is FLCL, and it is not the standard anime series.

A cult classic already, this long overdue release is brimming over with charm and the sort of frantic, demented energy that Ade Edmondson and Rik Mayall are best known for in this country. From the moment Haruhara first arrives, all barely contained evil glee, the series rarely slows down and is frequently both hugely inventive and massively funny. Whether it's the robot factory or the glorious moment where Haruhara delivers her own unique brand of medicine, sending the entire hospital careening around like a chew toy in a dog's mouth, the series is crammed full of visual invention and sheer creative energy.

For all that though, it's the quiet moments that are far and away the most effective. There's a real sense of poignancy to Samejima's scenes, and a sequence where the robot - that came from Naota's head - first takes flight is genuinely astonishing to watch. This is a series where wonder and mundanity sit side by side, and it communicates that relationship supremely well. There's a bevy of visual styles on display here from CGI to ink work, and the end result is frequently beautiful at the most unexpected moments. A scene where Naota and Samejima buy soda becomes a still life; the robot taking flight becomes something almost classically beautiful. It really is a technically exceptional piece of work.

If there's a problem here, and unfortunately there is, it's the amount of material on the disc. You get a grand total of two episodes and whilst the extras are impressive, including a great gallery and a video for the theme song it's difficult not to feel short-changed even with such a great series. Put on a single disc, this would be phenomenal. Put on two, it feels, frankly, like cashing in.

That being said, FLCL (pronounced 'foorie coorie', by the way) is an exceptional piece of work. If you like anime then this is for you and if you don't, then this might just change your mind.
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