Oct 14, 2018
hiltonhead (All reviews)
This latest incarnation in the FLCL franchise is a significant improvement over its immediate predecessor, Progressive, in virtually all aspects, with vastly superior writing, art, animation, editing and even sound mixing. It also manages to deliver on its "Alternative" namesake, taking a significant departure from the stylistic choices hitherto established by the franchise. Make no mistake, this is not "Furi Kuri", and fans expecting to see more of the wildly experimental animation and frenetic pacing of the legendary Gainax OVA are bound to be disappointed. Instead, Uemura Yutaka and his team at Production IG have created a solid, slow-burn, slice-of-life melodrama featuring four female leads, which is only occasionally intruded upon by the irreverent chaos and destruction that accompanies Huruhara Haruko.

The choice to try something different within the established tropes and parameters of the franchise was a smart move, and allows the story to focus on substantive characterization and thematic development, which is what was really at the core of the original story to begin with. In contrast, Progressive's choice to double down on the lore of the series' universe felt pastiche and uninspired, and resulted in something of an aping fanfiction that wasn't quite sure what it wanted to say. The relationship between the four friends is interesting enough to watch, if a bit tedious, the humor and pop-culture references are funny enough to laugh at, and Kana, the lead, is a surprisingly compelling protagonist with a highly satisfying character arc. The thematic elements of the show, with an emphasis on the uncertainty and change that accompanies late adolescence, aren't handled with quite as much nuance as the original but are still presented very well, in a sometimes moralistic way that remains resonant nevertheless.

The art direction stands out as one of the show's high points. Sadamoto Yoshiyuki's character designs shine here, and the backgrounds display strong composition and color choices that are immersive and serve to recreate an aesthetic of magic realism that FLCL is known for. The ED, animated by Uekusa Wataru, and set to The Pillow's "Star Overhead" stands out in particular for its fun and dynamism. The Pillows' soundtrack is used to much greater effect in this season, though it remains perhaps a bit too sparse and subdued.

Without spoiling anything, the ending to this season is something that has to be mentioned, and will undoubtedly divide fans of the series for years to come as a point of contention. The finale resolves itself in the last few minutes of runtime in an out-of-left-field, bizarre fashion that is sure to leave heads scratching. It is a classic Gainax ending that outdoes the original FLCL in both scope and absurdity, that plot-wise, it is incredibly open ended and leaves room for a variety of theories.

In short, Alternative is an entertaining show and a solid entry in the FLCL franchise that deserves at least one viewing. It will make you laugh, it will make you think, it will make you feel things, and most importantly it will leave you confused, which is pretty much anyone could ask from FLCL.