When I heard that a sequel was being made to one of my favorite anime, FLCL, you can imagine how skeptical I was. A sequel? Now? The original series is almost two decades old. Not to mention, what new ground could they possibly tread? I was really confused about why this was being made, and the trailers for it didn’t help. There was this itching sensation in the back of my mind that it was being made to cash in on nostalgia. Another cash-grab anime. That bothers me. After having finally gotten to see it…fuck this series.
There’s a contention that has been going around the oldtaku community, and it’s one that I firmly agree with – anime will never be as good as it was roughly 10 to 15 years ago. The glory days of this medium are long behind it, and modern anime is desperately trying to reclaim that glory. Back then, there was a real sense of risk, and you had creative people doing things with no idea if they would work or not. There were tons of passion projects from directors who loved this medium. Now, we have glossy, safe, marketable garbage that is either PC to the point of boredom, or deliberately trying to cash in on the perv side of the medium. That’s it. The days of taking risks are long gone.
Another thing about modern anime is that they are now in this place where they want to make sequels to series that have long since passed or have no reason to continue. Did you all know there is a third sequel to Code Geass? I remember seeing that, and my first thought was – why? What more could they possibly do with the plot? It was over. Lelouch had finally seen his plan of bringing about a peaceful world come to pass, and died in the process. There is no good reason why the series would be back with him as a protagonist. Britannia has been destroyed! The knowledge of Geass is gone. Only CC has it now. Lelouch saw to that. Everyone with direct knowledge of Geass has either been killed or brought under Zero’s control. What else can they possibly do?
In all reality, it is going to be another cash-grab sequel, with none of the heart or charm of the original. Much like, as I knew it would be, FLCL: Progressive. This series sucked. It absolutely sucked. I think back to how much I love the original, and why I love it the way I do. I think of how it was a passion project of a man who was the student of Hideyaki Anno, the creator of Evangelion. He wanted to create something that was entirely different, take what he learned, but also let his creative team go buck-wild. The fifth episode was directed by the same director who helmed Kill la Kill, so naturally it is action-packed and crazy. There is a direct homage to South Park in one episode because that was a show the team was watching at the time. The Pillows were featured because it was a band the show’s director liked and so he asked them if they would come and do the score. Everything in the series was done to let the team go nuts and create a show entirely their own. It was a passion project. All the best series are, because a show without passion is a product trying to sell you something.
Meanwhile, what is the new series? Well, it’s six episodes long. Why? Because the original! It has The Pillows doing the music again. Why? Because the original! Neat fact – it’s known in Japan that The Pillows have largely gone downhill, and it REALLY shows here. The songs that are not retreads of stuff from the original series (the saddest thing in the world. I mean, if you aren’t even going to be original, why not just use the original music? With how hard this series banked on nostalgia, it might as well have used nothing but the original music) as mediocre and boring. All the heart I could feel back in the day is gone. There’s spastic animation. Why? Because the original!
What’s missing? The heart. FLCL was a series about growing up. It had themes of youth, love, honesty, and yeah, sex. The story of Naota and what happens when a crazy woman on a Vespa comes into his life is touching. It takes me back to being that age and growing up. Ironically enough, while I did watch this series as a kid, I loved it way more when I saw it as an adult. Being able to watch the series with the hindsight of adulthood and think about my own journey to here makes it hit that much harder. The plot isn’t especially deep, but it didn’t have to be. This was a series about people and their growth over the course of the narrative.
The sequel, on the other hand, is loud, spastic, with mech combat and an animation style that couldn’t be more modern if it tried. It can’t stand on its own. This series works so hard to remind you about the original that it might as well beat you over the fucking head with it. Anyone who wants to just watch this series as its own thing is wasted because it does callback after callback to the original. Just so you know that this is why it’s here. This series has no heart of its own. It practically advertises that it only cares about cashing in on nostalgia.
There are so many terrible sequels to great anime. The second season of both Darker Than Black and Psycho-Pass are great examples. Both of those were just sequels made because they could. All of the creative energy that made the first season great was all gone. These were just coasting on name recognition until you didn’t care anymore. There’s something to be said for knowing where to end a series. Guess nobody told them that. Oh, and they made a sequel to Steins;Gate. It at least has the voices of the original. But also none of the heart.
I’ve talked before about how Hollywood is out of ideas. I’m starting to think that anime is too. It’s gotten into the sequel cash-grab game. Making things not because they want to, but because they think it will make them money on the die-hard audience. That depresses me to no end. FLCL: Progressive isn’t just bad. It’s Disney sequel bad. Hell, I would compare it to the very worst of the Disney sequel garbage. If anything, just like the terrible remakes and reboots in Hollywood, it just makes me love the original so much more. While I can feel the heart and passion that series had, this just is. And that, more than anything, is why it sucks so bad. A story that didn’t need to be told, without a single character you can actually care about, and a plot that is even less engaging than the original. That’s how bad this is.
The lesson here – don’t make a sequel if you don’t fucking care!
Until next time, a quote,
“Let’s be honest – soon all anybody is gonna know about ‘Ghostbusters’ is the original. This will be forgotten.” – Rich Evans