[Comedy Fall 2016] Like FLCL? Watch This!

Comedy anime has been going through something of a revolution this past year. While the slower paced, slice-of-life school-based comedies still remain a stalwart of the industry, we’re seeing more anime moving away from that type of character driven humor and experimenting more with faster cuts between scenes and bizarre visual styles. It harkens back to the days when FLCL took the world by storm with its relentless barrage of experimental sight gags. So, with a new season of FLCL finally hitting in 2017, we thought it might be good to look at some series from this fall anime season to get you in the proper mindset.

About FLCL

  • Episodes: 6
  • Aired: April 2000 to March 2001

Naota is a preteen living a boring life in the suburbs of an unspecified Japanese city. He lives in the shadow of his older brother, who managed to get signed onto an American baseball team and lives it up as a foreign celebrity in the United States. Naota’s life changes one day, though, when a strange pink-haired girl by the name of Haruka accidentally crashes into him with her Vespa and, somehow, bestows the power to grow a superpowered magical guitar from his head. Upon discovering this, Haruka joins him at the hip and hopes to use his powers in order to fight against an encroaching alien force.

Liked FLCL? Watch To Be Hero!

  • Episodes: Ongoing
  • Aired: October 2016 to current
  • Read More

Poor Ossan. He just wants to spend his days drinking in seedy taverns and flirting with glamorous women, but his sixteen-year-old daughter, Min-chan, just won’t let him. She just storms in, beats him down, and reminds him that his lecherous ways are why her mother left him. All he has going for him is that he at least has a stable job as a toilet seat designer. But things just get worse for him when he falls into his own toilet and is bestowed superpowers by a certain high-voiced, copyrighted video game plumber and is tasked with defending the earth from an invading alien force. Unfortunately, these super powers come at a cost: Ossan suddenly becomes fat and old. Even worse, he can’t even tell Min-chan that he’s her father, as every time he tries, for some reason he instead verbally harasses her! Watch as Ossan struggles to accidentally protect the Earth when he’s actually keeping guys from dating his daughter.

Three Major Similarities Between FLCL and To Be Hero

1. Parody of Media Familiar to Western Culture

A lot of FLCL’s appeal came from how it poked fun of several elements of Western culture and its influence on Japan. It struck a chord with a lot of fans in the US and Europe, as most comedy anime series at the time (and still do, to an extent) required the audience to have an understanding of various elements of Japanese culture. But FLCL was different: it was referencing shows like South Park and characters discussed pervy magazines with Anna Nicole centerfolds. For people who were just discovering anime, it served as a bit of a gateway because it felt more inclusive since they didn’t have to cross-reference it with what little there was written at the time about Japanese culture or have to brush up on their Japanese history lessons. It spoke to what people knew.

While To Be Hero doesn’t exclusively reference the Western canon, most of what it parodies is going to be familiar to anyone to follows global pop culture. Ossan gets his powers from a character that is all but explicitly stated to be Super Mario. An early villain is a giant, burly, hairy man with Adamantium claws in a clear parody of Wolverine. A major recurring villain summons a spirit bomb made of snot. You don’t worry about not getting references in To Be Hero.

2. Bizarre Visual Metaphors

FLCL or To Be Hero both make use of their visuals to tell their story. For example, underlying FLCL’s cartoony energy and general refusal to take itself seriously, is a theme of how Japan is losing its own cultural identity in an attempt to gain acceptance from the Western world. No better image exists of this than a famous scene from the series where a giant comet sized baseball plummets towards the city and Naota must stand up and bat it away himself.

To Be Hero, on the other hand, makes a gag about how Ossan finds his powers by falling through his own toilet, but in reality this is commentary on the character himself. Ossan is a man who, through his delusions of a more lavish lifestyle, has found himself quite literally “in the crapper”, and discovers himself, after this realization, to actually be much fatter and older than he really believed himself to be. It uses such metaphor to hide from the viewer that this is closer to what Ossan is really like than what he wants to believe.

3. Frenetic Pacing

“Snappy” would probably be the best way to describe how both FLCL and To Be Hero pace their episodes. In FLCL, for example, characters are almost always in motion when on screen, generally zipping along at insane speeds and rarely giving the viewer a moment to collect themselves during their big action sequences. It gives the series a manic feel, where literally anything can happen at any time, almost like putting the viewer into a sugar rush. To Be Hero captures the same feel with its editing and performances. Characters speak in a hurried manner in order to rush along to the next scene and don’t let the viewer linger on a gag, with barely any pause in between different shots. Part of the fun in To Be Hero is just trying to keep up with the rush.


Like FLCL? Watch Flip Flappers!

  • Episodes: Ongoing
  • Aired: October 2016 – present
  • Read More

Cocona was just a normal junior high girl living a normal life with her grandmother… that is, until one day she witnesses a strange orange-haired girl surfing in the air who almost crashes into an oncoming train. For some reason, though, this new girl who goes by the name Papika seems fascinated with Cocona, and shows her an entirely new world called the Pure Illusion. Papika reveals to Cocona that she needs help searching for an item called the Shard of Mimi. With it, she can have any wish she wants granted, but in order to even enter the Pure Illusion, she needs someone who holds the same desire. Can the two eventually learn to work together to have their wishes come true?

Three Major Similarities Between FLCL and Flip Flappers

1. Imaginative Imagery

Anyone who’s seen FLCL can easily tell you about the wildly creative visuals that are loaded into every episode. Whether it’s pure imagery, like a giant, robotic hand looming over the cityscape; specific scenes, like Naota sprouting a horn and Haruka pulling a guitar out of it for the first time; or just even character designs like Canti, their bipedal robot friend with a computer monitor for a head. FLCL drives its viewers along just by their interest in seeing what new, bizarre scene comes next. Meanwhile, Flip Flappers gives the viewers scenes of vast arctic wastelands with giant, four-legged whale-like creatures that trudge along into the ocean and a pastel-colored world of mushrooms where the main characters transform into rabbits in just its initial two episodes. Much like FLCL, there are just so many rich and beautiful visuals in Flip Flappers, that it’s hard to not get absorbed into its world.

2. Gorgeous Action Scenes

Of course, no discussion of either series would be complete without mentioning their heart-racing action sequences. We alluded to this a bit in the To Be Hero section, but FLCL has some of the craziest, frenzied action sequences in all of anime. It’s not so much about just looking good or being well-animated; it’s about looking as cool as possible while doing it. Just watch scenes like Canti blocking a monster about to attack Mamimi, where he knocks the monster’s hand away, elbows it in the face, and throws in an extra flip as he leaps up to kick it away, all while not even looking at the creature; or when Haruka races up the side of a kaiju-sized monster and asruns, grinds, and flips her way up. No action can be completed without being as showy as possible.

Flip Flappers keeps the pacing a little more restrained while still being a spectacle in its own right. The series is introduced to us, for example, with Papika escaping from a secret agency, but it’s not a simple running away sequence. She’s shown surfing through the air, and the animation stays fluid throughout to give the viewer the sense of how she’s actually gliding through the air. Or, watch later in the episode where Papika selflessly tries to recover Cocona’s glasses, which have landed on a giant snow beast, and notice how the camera rarely breaks away from Papika when she runs along the side of the creature as a showcase of its smooth animation even in these more intense moments. It’s a series that’s very confident in its animation.

3. The Plot Beats

Both series are, at their heart, coming-of-age tales that are brought about by an outside force entering the main characters’ lives and turning them upside down. In FLCL, for example, Naota is just a young boring boy living in a small town and living in the shadow of his far more successful older brother, until Haruka accidentally bestows him with magical powers. That serves as a catalyst for his growth as a character, as he is forced to take responsibility with his new powers to stand up to evil and invading forces, as well as give him confidence to assert himself more in his personal life.

On Flip Flappers’ side, Cocona lives a very similar life to Naota in that there’s very little that seems to be going on until she meets Papika, who keeps hounding her to go on adventures with her until Cocona finally gives in. From there, Cocona still has trouble letting Papika into her everyday life, becoming rather annoyed that Papika transfers to Cocona’s school, and is kind of freaked out by how completely matter-of-fact Papika treats the world. However, it’s through Papika’s influence that Cocona slowly learns to open herself up more and gains a true friend and someone to depend on.

Final Thoughts

With both To Be Hero and Flip Flappers coming to an end soon, there may be even more hidden similarities we may have missed! Please, if we did, mention it in the comments below! We’d love for our readers to keep looking closer at all three series. Thanks for reading!
Matt Knodle

Writer

Author: Matt Knodle

I come from Indiana, where I grew up near a video rental shop that proudly stated “The widest selection of anime in the state”, setting me on a course to enjoy as much anime as possible. I’ve devoted myself to over-analyzing various sports anime and video games probably more than they were ever intended. I currently co-host a weekly sports anime fan podcast called KoshienCast with my good friend, Matt.

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