The original FLCL was an influential project by Gainax that not only showed a new kind of animated and narrative ambition within the anime industry but was one of the pioneering series on Toonami that helped launch a new generation of Western otaku. It was a series beloved for its nuanced characters, melancholic soundtrack, frenetic pace, and sense of grandiose, sensual spectacle.
Such a legacy meant that when not one but two sequel series were announced, there were plenty of high expectations coming from fans for projects that were not only unique in themes and ideas but grand in surreal imagery and good, ol' sakuga. What the fans got, however, were bits of that and few mixed messages here and there.
In an effort to capture the original series' more subconscious attack of the senses, the sequels make quite a few questionable design choices here and there. This list will be looking at some of the less explained critiques, as it runs down 10 things between Progressive and Alternative that made no sense.
10 Haruko Becomes a Teacher
The season premiere of FLCL Progressive ended with the reveal that the new, monotone teacher in class was actually just Haruko in disguise. While certainly a delightful twist to send viewers off happy, it does spark quite a few questions, such as: What happened to the old teacher? Did Haruko tie her up? How was she hired?
Why was she never fired after showing kids pornos and literally setting the school on fire? And, the most pensive of all, why was she in disguise in the first place? No one in the class knew who she was or posed any immediate threat to her. While certainly a wink to the fans, this doesn't really make narrative or character sense within the world.
9 Language Shift Scene
The second episode of Progressive provided an intimate look at Ko Ide's personal life. As it turns out, to help his impoverished family, Ide often does manual labor at the construction sites, as well as a vendor selling pebble guns (a bit of a nod to the original series). During the showcase of the latter, there was an odd scene when a group of hoodlums approaches Ide, takes one of his pebble guns, and shoots it at him.
All throughout, there's this weird language shift where (in the Dub) the group and Ide speak Japanese, with the language shifted back to English in the Japanese dub. While interesting in the simuldub's consistency, it is an odd and even distracting gag that doesn't really add or say anything in the story.
8 Haruko Takes Jinyu's Shades
As Progressive reaches its conclusion, the ongoing conflict between Haruko and Jinyu reaches its end in episode three, when Haruko literally consumes Jinyu, reverting back to her original form, i.e. her hair grew a couple of inches and got some color back. After she does this, there's this bit where she takes Jinyu's visor shades and puts them in, signaling her conquest.
This is odd considering that one would think the shades would've been consumed, too. All of Jinyu, clothes and all, separated from Haruko at the beginning of the series. When they reformed together, why did Jinyu's shades not also disappear? It was a cool gesture but not one consistent with what the world has established.
7 Haruko Gets Pregnant
To make matters a little more strange between Haruko and Jinyu, during episode five of Progressive, it was revealed that consuming Jinyu has left Haruko with a bit of a baby belly, confessing to the class that she must leave after becoming impregnated.
As a whole, this was an entire out-of-left-field gesture. It doesn't really build from any previous ideas and was played off more as a gag than an actual metaphor or symbol for the main cast to react to. Haruko herself was just trying to play off the fact that she was full after eating Jinyu. However, she didn't have that belly at the end of the previous episode, suggesting that she just has it here for the gag.
6 Amusement Park Battle
Towards the end of the season, the duo acting for this season's version of the Bureau of Interstellar Immigration launches their final attack against Medical Mechanica. That plan involved inviting various teenagers to their amusement park throughout the season which turned out to be a front for their N.O. experiments and a secret stockade of weapons to use in the finale.
It's a bit of a convoluted plan that inevitably fails. What was the series trying to say about the Bureau and their relationship with kids? Why did they use an amusement park? How did they go from secret agent bureau trying to fight Haruko...to this?
5 Attack of the Mochi
As grand of a plan as the Immigration Bureau had, Medical Mechanica had an even better counterattack. Spinning around in an angry storm, Medical Mechanica's giant, bronze iron would fire back...with mochi.
This mochi would rain from the sky. As they fell to the ground and hit people, it would start infecting and petrifying its victims. It's a really strange visual. If there's a metaphor here, it's going to take some time to unpack.
4 Aiko: The Plant, Satellite, Jack-o-Lantern, Rent-a-Girl
Characters in the original FLCL will typically represent a single idea with some visual metaphor appearing once per episode to clash and start a conversation with them. Aiko, for whatever reason, breaks that mold by wearing a few too many hats. She's a rent-a-girlfriend who's nice and innocent while on payroll yet distant when off, using her secret job to raise funds to one day leave town.
Using her father's potted plant, she can also summon and become a wave of vines and roots that can fight back against Medical Mechanica; and when she's revived later in the series, she comes back nude, out of a jack-o-lantern resembling her ceramic, coin bank. There is simultaneously too few things to describe her and too many things to say about her.
3 Haruko Can Freely and Precisely Use N.O. Portals
In the original FLCL, Haruko had to consistently hit people in the head in a gamble to get the right Medical Mechanica robot. However, in the sequels, she can apparently just summon exactly what she needs, whether it's a robot that she exactly needs in a fight or even her own food truck.
Her use and control of N.O. portals in the sequel and prequel is not only more frivolous but somehow more precise. What happened to this in the original? Why does she even need to travel? She can apparently just teleport via people's heads.
2 Haruko Fighting a Canti-like Robot
The final episode of Alternative starts things off with Haruko fighting off another Medical Mechanica robot that suspiciously looks like an edgy version of Canti. After she defeats it, she nostalgically declares, "High school girls can be so complicated." The question remaining being: What happened here?!
Robots are typically summoned in response to one of the characters going through incredible stress and act more-or-less like a visual metaphor of their problem of the week. As such, Haruko, in this fight, is at the latter end of an entire character arc that was apparently offscreen. This scene is suggesting that something else interesting was happening in this episode, yet they didn't show it.
1 Kana's N.O. Creates a Time Portal, Sending Haruko Back in Time
N.O. portals in the sequels haven't exactly been some of the most consistent sci-fi or metaphorical writing. Throughout Alternative, Kana's has summoned a variety of robots, teleported Haruko's own food truck, and even sucked in an island sized piece of metaphorical metal trying to take Pets.
At the end of episode six, her N.O. portal manages to summon an entire wormhole through time and space, apparently sending Haruko back in time to the events of the original FLCL. What exactly are Kana's powers in this case?
Why does she summon small, inconsequential robots when she apparently has a latent ability to time travel? Or maybe she has the ability to control or freeze time? Much like the N.O.'s entire purpose and all the off details in the sequels, that point wasn't made clear.