- FLCL: Grunge has sparked controversy among fans due to its divisive 3D animated art style, which many feel doesn’t capture the feel of the original series.
- The introduction of Shin, the protagonist of Grunge, has been criticized as weaker compared to previous seasons, with his lack of personality and resemblance to past characters.
- Despite its animation and character flaws, Grunge has potential in its greater narrative and exploration of a dying Earth, but whether it can overcome the animation style remains uncertain.
The third FLCL sequel series, FLCL: Grunge, began airing on Adult Swim’s Toonami block, but the series premiere has many fans questioning the creative decisions behind the series.
FLCL was an OVA series originally released in the 1990s which found success as a cult classic on Adult Swim’s late night anime in the mid-2000s. It was originally created by Gainax, and was the immediate follow-up to Neon Genesis Evangelion, which goes a long way towards explaining the series’ overall weirdness. Primarily a comedy, the six-episode series is also a coming-of-age story, showcasing how Naota and the other characters adapt to the changes that life brings. FLCL came back to life after almost 20 years when Adult Swim announced two new sequel series, FLCL: Progressive and FLCL: Alternative would debut in 2018.
FLCL‘s Sequel Series Are Contentious Among Fans
Progressive and Alternative stayed relatively close to the original stylistically, but the series were sometimes criticized as being “unnecessary,” with the only returning character being Haruko, the alien manic pixie dream girl from the original. The two sequels tread similar ground, revisiting the coming-of-age plot with new characters dealing with new situations. While controversial among fans of the original, the two sequels were fairly successful, so two more were ordered, Grunge and Shoegaze, with Grunge being the first to see release. FLCL: Grunge, however, surprised fans with a new and divisive style.
Grunge was revealed earlier in 2023 to have a 3D animated art style, which was met with some very negative reactions by fans. The animation of FLCL was a big part of its original success, as it often used gags about art style and tended not to shy away from cartoony physics if it served a joke. The original’s animation style is quite fluid as a result, and for many fans, there was no way that a 3D animation could ever capture the feel of the original.
FLCL: Grunge Is Off to A Rocky Start
The first episode of Grunge begins with Shin, a young boy left on a dying Earth with a handful of friends and little guidance from anyone. What was once a background element in Alternative, the abandonment of Earth in favor of Mars, has now become a major focal point of the story, as Shin and his friends can never even dream of being able to afford tickets to Mars. Shin of course encounters Haruko, who is as provocative as ever, causing a protrusion to develop from Shin’s head, proving he’s capable of opening N.O. passageways. Haruko steals a number of passes for the last flight to Mars and distributes them to some friends of hers, triggering the anger of the Mayor she stole them from. Shin gets wrapped up in Haruko’s big action scene, and finds himself invigorated for the first time.
Compared to previous seasons of FLCL, Shin’s introduction is one of the weaker ones; he’s not established with much personality, likely due to the pervasive hopelessness that seems to have grasped what remains of Earth society. His friends also don’t stand out much, aside from the “Rockian,” some sort of alien species that has come to live on Earth, but wasn’t present in any of the other FLCL series. Haruko is very much still herself, at least, going against impossible odds just for the fun of it. She also seems to have maintained her original goal: to be reunited with the Pirate King Atomsk.
While it’s only one episode in, Grunge is already feeling a bit too familiar. Shin is working at a sushi shop, just like how Alternative‘s protagonist Kana was working at a ramen shop. Shin’s apathetic attitude is also reminiscent of Naota at times. The series’ biggest problem, however, is definitely its art style. The 3D models feel stilted in their movements, and often don’t seem to fit in well with the backgrounds they’re placed against. It makes the kind of fluid, madcap action that FLCL was known for very difficult to pull off, and the first episode didn’t impress in that regard. Grunge also continues to use 2D animation at times, which can be a rather jarring shift when it changes from one to the other.
All Is Not Lost for FLCL: Grunge
What Grunge has going for it at the moment is mostly the greater narrative that’s been told across these sequel series. Alternative also featured this “leaving Earth for Mars” plot, although it was very much relegated to the background and didn’t involve the protagonists very much, at least until the end. Picking up from that point and stepping into a world where Earth is basically dead, and everyone left there knows it, is a very interesting proposal, and Grunge could do some very cool things with that. The series has potential, but the question is whether it will be able to live up to that in spite of the animation style.
The change in animation is definitely the biggest hurdle that FLCL: Grunge faces, but animation style doesn’t dictate the narrative, and it’s entirely possible that Grunge will have an interesting story to tell. Whether fans will be willing to tolerate the new animation to enjoy that story is the big question, and it’s what leaves FLCL: Grunge, like its characters, with such an uncertain future.
FLCL: Grunge airs Saturdays at Midnight on Adult Swim, and is available to stream the next day on MAX.