So far FLCL Alternative has been a much more even ride than Progressive was. Last week’s episode was a bit of a rough spot with a meandering plot that didn’t really give us much in terms of payoff. For episode 4, things are corrected slightly.
The first half of the series gave each of the four friends time to shine, with Pets being the only character so far without an episode devoted to her. I had predicted last week that this episode would focus on her, but it instead shifts back to Kana and her love interest, Sasaki.
Haruko sets her sights on him in an attempt to draw out more power from Kana’s N.O. portal. This, like many of Haruko’s plans, backfires. Since Haruko is attempting to elicit some kind of emotional reaction from Kana, she goes all out in her advances toward Sasaki. This is where the sexual content goes beyond innuendo to full on raunchy humor.
There were moments of more pointed sexual tension in the original show, but it always had a degree of tact to it. In Progressive things went way too far with no subtlety to speak of, and now Alternative is treading similar water. At least, there’s a nice epiphany that Kana reaches at the end of the episode that makes things a bit easier to swallow.
However, the other problem with this plot line is that Haruko is once again transitioning into the antagonist of the series. Her character arc in these two sequel series has become way too predictable. I had hoped Alternative would take things in a more interesting direction, since she seemed to be attempting to befriend the girls in the opening episodes, but that doesn’t seem to be the case, at least not as far as this episode’s plot is concerned.
The giant robot segments also continue to feel forced and out of place. They pop in out of nowhere most of the time and are usually dealt with swiftly and in the same fashion (Haruko just ends up smacking them down with ease). They really seem to just be a formality at this point, which is disappointing.
One thing I do appreciate is the way Alternative is digging more heavily into the underlying Medical Mechanica plot. Mysterious pins — we’re talking like Google Maps pins — have fallen to earth and several factions are investigating what it all means. Haruko gives the hint that they are coordinates feeding into the ultimate goal of flattening out the surface of the planet. Fans will immediately be familiar with that concept, as it was the goal of Medical Mechanica in the original series.
There aren’t any clear answers yet, but the cliffhanger ending of this episode is enticing. Hopefully, Alternative manages to pull these hints and threads together more successfully than Progressive did.
Also, did they run out of Pillows songs to use? There are a bunch of generic background tracks used throughout this episode. The only Pillows song is thrown in at the end and it’s “Little Busters,” which was heard extensively throughout the original series. Alternative had been doing a good job utilizing the Pillows tunes. What gives?
Despite the weaknesses in this installment, I’m still looking forward to seeing how things develop in the next episode. There are some interesting hooks that hint toward the larger plot developing further as we get into the last two parts of the season.