Blood, guts, and zombies? Is this FLCL? Yes, it is. And the shock of this opening scene is what gives this series hope.
Where the first episode of FLCL Progressive played things safe and basically followed the outline of the first episode of the original, episode 2, “Freebie Honey,” brushes most of that aside to create something more original.
Things open with a dream of a zombie apocalypse featuring some horror-anime levels of gore. While the exact meaning of the dream remains obscure, it is a change of mood that signals the series isn’t afraid to defy expectations.
Welcome to the real world
This episode also further expands on the world. Progressive is set in the town of Mabase, but we get to see environments that were not explored in the original. Apparently, there’s a old amusement park that no one really goes to, and robots exist alongside other humans. We also see that Mabase has a darker side.
The suburban environment where Hidomi lives and where the school is situated comprises only one half of Mabase. There is also a rundown part of town where Iide lives. By following Hidomi here, we also learn more about Iide and his lifestyle.
The scenes of Hidomi wandering through the dilapidated part of town and seeing the junkyard where Iide supposedly works (or is enslaved, it’s hard to tell) offer some of the most interesting tidbits the series has presented so far. These character and world-building moments breathe life into the series and give it an identity of its own.
Iide is jacked!
Progressive hasn’t completely redeemed itself, though. There are still elements that are slightly off-putting and seem to exist only to fill a checkbox on the FLCL-formula list.
The reintroduction of Haruko is poorly executed. Especially grating is when the students in the classroom cheer at her entrance. This gag was already used at the end of episode 1. We get it, we’re supposed to be overjoyed that Haruko is back. Yes, yes, fine.
One thing that is interesting about her this time around is how Progressive casts her in more of a villain role, or antagonist at the very least. You could never be sure where her true intentions lay in the original, but now her motives are even more obfuscated, and the mystery of it is intriguing.
Good to see that Haruko hasn’t given up using young boys as weapons
The robot fights are also not as intrinsically tied to the story as in the original series. They seem to be in Progressive only because FLCL was about robots popping out of kids’ heads and fighting, so the creators felt like they just had to keep doing that.
Also, Jinyu remains rather one-dimensional even after this episode. So far, she exists only as a counterpoint to Haruko and has not really developed beyond that. There are still four more episodes to go. Hopefully, she’ll become more nuanced within the next episode or so.
There are still elements that are slightly off-putting and seem to exist only to fill a checkbox on the FLCL-formula list.
The animation is also a disappointment. The original series was so vibrant and full of movement with a team of animation directors taking the helm during different episodes and even scenes within episodes. It created variety and added to the madcap atmosphere.
Progressive remains largely stagnant and could easily be mistaken for any other anime that is produced nowadays. It’s not that the animation is particularly bad. It’s just so ordinary, which is the exact opposite of what FLCL should be.
Overall, FLCL Progressive is beginning to take on a life of its own, moving out from under the shadow of the original to tell its own story and create its own weirdness. Will it reach the dizzying heights of the original? Probably not, but it shows infinitely more potential than the first episode let on.