*Warning This Review May Contain Spoilers. You Have Been Warned*
I’ve been pretty clear that I wasn’t too keen on “FLCL Progressive”. I found the second season of FLCL to be lackluster. It’s whole execution had ideas that weren’t fully realized, not to mention the painfully average characters that at best, are okay but nothing past that, and a lot of Progressive relied on callbacks to the original FLCL without carving it’s own identity first. So, with that being said I wasn’t particularly thrilled for “FLCL Alternative”, given if it followed the same path as Progressive. However, I am happy to report that isn’t the case. Alternative truly feels like it’s own beast that doesn’t try to hold on to the nostalgic baggage Progressive had, while also having a likable cast of main characters, as well as tackling the themes of friendship and the growing pains of being seventeen.
Alternative follows a collective cast of high school girls which includes Kana, Mossan, Hijiri, and Pets dealing with their final year of high school. With that comes all the problems of what to do after high school is finished. What’ll happen to our friendship once high school is over? How do we tackle dating? While it is unclear how Alternative will answer these questions, it’s pretty clear that the first episode is a strong start. A lot of that has to do with it’s tone, the show starts off feeling more like a slice of life series; since the majority of the episode is focused on the heroines. It’s basically their everyday school life, which entails class, work and hanging out. About sometime into the first half of the episode they decide to build a bottle rocket. Once completed, an alien crashes in, destroys their hard work, and tries to kill them. Before that could happen Haruko shows up and destroys the thing. It’s a well done beginning that manages to leave a good first impression. Not just because of it’s different tone, but also it’s delightful characters. The heroines feel like close friends and the chemistry between all of them are wonderfully done. They all bounce off one another greatly and have a nice comradery with each other. None of it feels contrived or forced. One scene that reflects this the best is them on top of the roof of the school, kind of discussing the future and where they may go. Not only that, but they also like to joke with one another which is very relatable.
Past the narrative and characters, the art in Alternative is just beautiful. A lot of the colors pop and manages to make the world feel very lively. I adore how in the beginning we kind of see how Kana views the world while she’s monologuing and it’s cute. The white outlines on particular people and objects while also having other sketches fill the screen is incredibly unique and paints a vivid image of what goes through her mind. The animation is also top notch, there is a lot of movement happening within the episode and I’m not specifically talking action scenes. It felt like there was something interesting happening every minute. Comparatively, Progressive felt very static and when it did have a lot of motion it was normally saved for the end. Alternative, within its first episode still evoked the feeling of FLCL’s without it needing callbacks to the original. For example, there’s a scene where all the girls are talking in a club room when building the bottle rocket and there’s a cut in the line for who’s talking in the scene which once it comes to an end has Mossan breaking the line. That’s one example and there’s probably a lot of little things that I’ll probably notice the more times I watch.
The dub is also fantastic, the chosen main female cast seem to fit the voices they are portraying, with Kari Wahlgren continuing to do an excellent job as Haruko. I won’t say it’s perfect since I do feel like they changed some things from the Japanese sub, but given that I haven’t watched the subbed episode I can not fully comment on it. On the term of negatives, not many come to mind. I do wish there were more solid answers like why did an alien come or why is Haruko looking for this Atomisk? It’s possible that these will likely be answered later, but as for now they are lingering in my head. But these aren’t detracting to the overall enjoyment of the episode, they’re more nitpicks than anything else. If anything “FLCL Alternative” surprised me.
Progressive lowered my expectations tremendously and there were some immediate concerns on if Alternative was going to follow in the same path as Progressive. But thankfully they managed to create something fresh that feels completely unique. Alternative feels like the new blood FLCL’s been needing. It doesn’t have the derivative aspects that dragged down Progressive. Instead, it not only improves upon the original “FLCL”, but manages to capture a spirit of youth not many shows have managed to do before. Personally, Flying Memory did a lot of things right and has caused me to get excited to watch more on Adult Swim. I can’t wait to see where the series goes from here.
Final Verdict: 9/10
FLCL Alternative currently airs Saturdays on Adult Swim’s Toonami block at 11:30pm EST