I’ve always been too old for FLCL. Or at least I like to tell myself that.
FLCL’s all about being that sort of adolescent who needs that extra push to “swing the bat.” Naoto’s growing up, hitting puberty, and has all sorts of feelings running through his brain, and through all his crazy antics with Vespas, space pirates, and robots coming out of his head, he finds a way to take a few steps along the path to maturity. He doesn’t hit a home run, but he swings and takes the chances he needs to take.
My not connecting with FLCL is twofold. For one thing, when I finally saw it at an anime convention a year or so after its initial release, I was already well into my 20s. I was in that frame of mind where I was trying to get away from those growing pains. I felt I was past all of that, and it wasn’t a sort of vibe I wanted to revisit at the time. I felt I’d gotten over pinning for the girl who would never seem me as her peer, and I felt I had developed some degree of confidence where I didn’t need that sort of encouragement to make those sorts of swings. Those were long gone, fleeting memories that I had no desire to revisit.
I was all sorts of wrong in my thinking there, but I was a dumb 20-something who thought he was too mature for this “kiddie stuff.” I really did think I was “over” those feelings, when all I was really doing was pushing them to the side and trying to ignore them. I was desperate to “mature” and get past certain ways of thinking I was convinced were beneath my consideration.
That brings me to the other reason why I never really connected with FLCL. I’ve always been that “too cool for school” type. When I was younger, I saw myself as more mature than my school peers. I didn’t waste my time with dating, not just because I was a shy loser (but that was a huge factor), but because I was above that sort of thing. Why would I waste my time with relationships and friendships that’ll likely end on a moment’s notice, or at best when we all graduate and go our separate ways? When the kids in middle school were listening to Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer, I scoffed at MTV and listened to classical music like an “adult.” If it was popular or acceptable because it was “youthful,” I deliberately avoided it. I didn’t want to be a kid, despite liking all sorts of “childish” things. I wanted to push all past that temporary nonsense and get to the permanence of adulthood. Or at least what I perceived as said permanence. Yeah, I was into all sorts of geeky things like comics and video games, but my “rationale” allowed it because it wasn’t the “in” thing. Adults do things regardless of trends. Trends are for kids.
The sort of coming of age story we get in FLCL was never really representative of how I felt at that age. It’s one of those things that I get thematically and abstractly– it makes perfect sense, but it isn’t my theme. If anything, I saw more of myself in Naoto’s classmate, Ninamori, but even that wasn’t a great fit, never mind the fact that FLCL is far from her story (although the episode centering around her is easily my favorite). But yeah, my struggle was never framed as “I just need to try to succeed.” It was always “I need to get past all this crap and grow up.”
Continuing with my ongoing nostalgia narrative, thinking back on FLCL now has me questioning a lot of things. Am I just BSing my way into some new rationale here? Am I just sticking to some narrative I’ve created for myself where I have to convince myself of my feelings (or relative lack thereof) towards this series? Am I just annoyed at the fact that I never took those chances as a kid, and therefore never created the chances where I would feel nostalgia for going for the girl or striving for something bigger than my immediate situation?
Is my “I love its craziness, but I don’t love its heart” shrug some sort of defense mechanism I’ve built up to make myself feel better about the denial of the existence bad choices in the past? And is this reflection another wall blocking even deeper stuff?
That’s more me spinning off into conspiracy theory territory than anything else, but these thoughts pop up as I reflect back on a show so popular that just kinda gets a half-hearted thumbs up from me. I really do like FLCL on a superficial level, and I really do feel weird for not liking it on a deeper level the way so many other people do.
Maybe that’s what’s up. Despite my prior rant about wanting to be the relative outsider, that choice still makes me feel uncomfortable when other perceived outsiders all think one way and I think another. Maybe it wouldn’t be such an issue if I outright disliked FLCL. I don’t feel this way about, say, the Monogatari series. I’m in the minority there, and it doesn’t bug me on this sort of existential level.
Indifference has a way of worming into your psyche way easier than outright disgust. And it’s likely more dangerous in the long run because of that.
Anyway. Cool coming of age robots spawning out of your head all Zeus and Athena like battling with guitars and saving the world from aliens and puberty. It’s rad, I guess. It’s definitely cool enough to get me to spin out like this. There’s something it has going for it.