The movie reminded me at times of Roger’s famous quote about empathy, about how film has a gift to put us in someone else’s shoes in ways that nothing else does. Mitsuha and Taki would likely never interact in the real world, but they start to become supportive of each other, and essential to each other’s happiness. The idea that someone you’ve never met and would never otherwise interact with has the same needs, joys, and fears as you is something worth remembering in 2017.
Album: FLCL Original Soundtrack
Last month, the news broke that FLCL, an anime that found cult fame in the United States during its lone 6-episode season in 2003, was getting two more seasons. This was a good time for me to sit down and watch the entire series, because FLCL (pronounced in English “Fooly Cooly”) is, like The Sopranos or The Wire, a show you talk about more than you watch. Upon my first full viewing and following another binge watch through the series, I could confirm that the show’s zany animation and surprisingly thoughtful plot lived up to its own growing hype.
FLCL is a coming of age story following 12-year-old Naota Nandaba living peacefully in a quiet Japanese suburb until an alien, riding a yellow vespa, crashes down to earth and hits Naota on the head with a bass guitar that opens up a magical portal in which giant robots come out and try to destroy the town. But of course it’s all an analogy for growing up and dealing with the awkward stages of puberty while juggling friends, family, and romance. Duh.
Like Neon Genesis Evangelion, the point of watching is not to understand the plot but to watch the interactions between all these characters, all of whom reveal plenty of emotional baggage that isn’t too far off from real life. It’s a lively and often surreal trip that may be too much for someone not familiar with anime (Cowboy Bebop might be more your speed), but the gonzo humor blended with a compelling and relatable plot makes FLCL a rewarding viewing. The fighting robots are fun to watch too.
Most of the show’s music, including its closing theme “Ride on Shooting Star,” was recorded by Japanese rock band The Pillows, and their guitar-driven J-Pop is a lot of fun to listen to, and it perfectly matches the animation. Now that Grimes has made J-Pop, or at least her interpretation of it, somewhat more popular among the hipsters, it’d be a good idea to get on top of FLCL now before it blows up in America.
Yoko Takahashi’s “残酷な天使のテーゼ (A Cruel Angel’s Thesis)” is the theme song to Neon Genesis Evangelion, the greatest anime of all time. You might not believe me, but this show is more complex and emotionally engaging than The Wire or The Sopranos. It’s an anime that uses the popular mecha theme to deconstruct the idea of popular anime (why do we care so much about teenagers fighting monsters in giant robots?) while tackling themes of depression, faith, and parent-child relationships. It’s not for everyone – the show’s enigmatic writing refuses to spoon-feed all the answers – but this show is the best proof for anime being among the best television in the world. And like The Sopranos, NGE has one of the greatest WTF endings of any TV series (show creator Hideaki Anno received so many death threats for his absurd ending that Gainax studios pressured him to directed a companion film to give fans a “normal” ending, though the film is just as crazy as the show).
One day J-Pop is going to make it big in the states, so it might as well be now (hello Grimes).
“The Internet and dreams are similar. They’re areas where the repressed conscious mind escapes.”
Paprika (2006) is one of the great Japanese anime movies that became popular in the United States. It’s about a group of scientists that have created a device in which therapists can enter a patient’s dream to determine the source of their pain. Obviously something goes wrong, but it’s such a cool concept. The movie is about dreams, but it’s equally about the Internet and how we become different people behind the screen.