Fooly Cooly vs. FLCL: What went wrong?

  “Nothing amazing happens here. Everything is ordinary.”

  Fooly Cooly on release was an instant cult classic, and it deserved it. The show was heavy with themes of growing up and had lots of metaphors for puberty and things you may not be familiar with. The original 2001 Fooly Cooly is by far better than the newer seasons. Even with so many good things going for it, where did it go wrong?

The show follows middle-schooler Naota in his hometown where “Nothing amazing happens.” One day, spending time with his brother’s presumed ex-girlfriend, a strange woman on a yellow Vespa hits him which causes him to grow a lump out of his head. This sets a series of events in motion that are most definitely amazing.

 This left a huge impact on many people and helped many of them to be okay with growing up. 

With all of the differing viewpoints and the different types of people the show can appeal to, the community can have discussions ranging from “character pretty” to “His actions during this scene are meant to represent his growth and the acceptance of his situation.”

With the popularity the show garnered, it would get more seasons, right? In the end, it did get more seasons. Three of them, actually, and a movie at the time of writing.

After the first season, the show was only ever referred to as “FLCL.” FLCL: Progressive and FLCL: Alternative felt a lot more generic than the original like someone had pumped it full of tranquilizers. Alternative and Progressive always felt like they were trying to chase or recapture the energy of the original Fooly Cooly, with lackluster results.

The main antagonist of the original Fooly Cooly was Haruhara Haruko. She served as an excellent device to push the story Naota was in. The downside of this was that she was specially built for his story. Every season, with the exception of FLCL: Shoegaze, used her as a main character. 

She always felt estranged or misplaced. The biggest offender was FLCL: Grunge. This season showed a glimmer of hope with its sporadic behavior and random art style changes, but it was weak with the message and was constantly shifting from character to character.

FLCL: Shoegaze was the strongest of the newest seasons due to having a strong message, good pacing, and relatable characters. The show’s biggest problem may not be that it’s a direct sequel to FLCL: Alternative, but that it is an implied prequel, which muddies the story and confuses the audience.

Despite all of the new seasons’ negatives and the original’s positives, the music accompanying the show is still going strong. The Pillows had their music licensed and even created a few new tracks for both Fooly Cooly and all of the FLCL seasons. The music always lands the way it should and always gives the viewer the feeling of high energy, high action, teenage rebellion. 

But with all of this, where exactly did the show go wrong? I think it started to falter due to a lot of issues including the long hiatus between Fooly Cooly (2000) and FLCL: Progressive (2018) as well as the original creator not being involved in any of the new projects and the landscape of anime as a whole changing between the two times. 

The biggest reason is the loss of vision. The show felt misguided almost as if it was stumbling around in the dark trying to flip a switch. 

Going forward, the series still shows some promise with FLCL: Shoegaze being the best out of the bunch. The best option for a new season would be a crossover between FLCL: Grunge and FLCL: Shoegaze. Grunge had sporadic behavior and random art style changes which was typical for the original season. With the good pacing and strong message that Shoegaze brought to the table, a real successor to FOOLY COOLY could be a reality.

In the end, the new seasons may not be as good as the original but they have their fans, and the future of the FOOLY COOLY franchise looks… better than it did a year ago, at least.


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