This show is stupid.
After last week’s upswing from the relatively dull premiere episode, I actually had my hopes set a bit higher for this new episode of FLCL Progressive. And maybe that’s the reason why I’m left with this crushing disappointment in the end.
Here in episode 3, “Stone Skipping,” we get the obligatory beach episode. Can Progressive turn this worn-out anime premise on its head, instead of just being an excuse to show the female characters in skimpy swimsuits? The answer is a resounding “No.” They didn’t even manage to capitalize on the swimsuit thing either, which I’m not complaining about. At least they didn’t sink to that level.
Oh, look! A beach episode in an anime.
The gang heads for the ocean, because… Well, this isn’t really explained. Outside of the trio of guys, none of these characters are actually friends or would have any reason to go on this kind of trip together. Don’t worry, though, the reasoning is just brushed aside. Instead, we’re introduced to a new character, Mori’s girlfriend, who turns out to just be a rent-a-date, a plot twist I’m sure most could have seen coming from the outset.
She has a connection to the Amarao look-alike, so if this story ever gets moving, I guess we’ll end up seeing what that’s all about. The question is, do we really care about whatever the main plot turns out to be?
I feel like we’ve met before…
The real problem with FLCL Progressive is that it’s incredibly forgettable. There’s nothing to hold your interest for the length of an entire episode. Even the use of the Pillow’s music seems to be out of place. The tracks in the original were so perfectly selected, because the production crew were fans of the band. Here, they’re used because they have to be. It’s another checkbox to mark off for this pointless sequel series.
While the main plot is running circles around its setup, there’s nothing building these characters. All of them are still exactly the same as they were in the first episode. Is Hidomi even a main character? She’s a character design. She is a character that has a design. That’s about all you can say about her.
Obviously, she wants to break out of her adolescent slump and be more outgoing. This is apparent in the opening dream sequence, where we actually get to see her emote. I’m guessing this is supposed to be a glimpse at her “true self.” But the way she is presented in the real world of the story and the path the writers seem to be following to get her to showing her true personality are trite. There’s nothing original or interesting about her in any way. She’s not even a copy of Naota anymore, as I had written in the first episode review. She’s actually devolved into even less than that.
Who is this again? Oh yeah, the “main character.”
They attempt to “develop” other characters by having Jinyu have these weird one-sided conversations that I guess are supposed to be deep, but just end up coming off as pretentious and pseudo-intellectual. On that note, Jinyu and Haruko are horribly written. They do a whole lot of non-talking, cryptically alluding to the main “plot” while not really saying anything of significance.
Progressive tries to focus on its characters by having them non-talk about each other or their own personalities. This is called bad writing. You develop characters by having them actually engage with each other, have conversations, and come to understandings or conflicts.
You might think these two people are having a conversation… They’re not.
Here’s an example of a “conversation” in the show:
Jinyu: “When you were a kid, did you ever draw a picture of going to see fireworks with your family only to fail?”
Iide: “It’s Jinyu, right? Tell me, is Hidomi–I mean, is Hibajiri with you?”
Jinyu: “You try to draw the countless specks of light that you saw, but the only way to recreate the night sky is to color everything in with a black pencil. They were lighting up that dark sky, and they were so colorful and beautiful.”
Iide: “What are you talking about?! Why won’t you–”
Jinyu: “All beautiful things eventually fade away.”
And then, Iide has a vision of Hidomi. Get it? She’s the beautiful thing!
“All beautiful things eventually fade away.” Really? You’re going to use this big, pretentious metaphor about drawing fireworks just to say that? It’s just one after the other with these cliches. I’m starting to feel ill the more I think about it, so let’s move on to the main plot.
Things seem to be building towards a story more focused on Medical Mechanica, as is evidenced by the last scene where Haruko and Jinyu indirectly make mention of their “different intentions” but “same target.”
Haruko and Jinyu have said literally nothing for three episodes.
And that’s all we hear about that. I’m trying really hard not to compare Progressive to the original too much, BUT, in the original series, the main plot involving Medical Mechanica was pushed to the background and not fully explored, because it wasn’t really the focus of the show.
Progressive is trying to make that more of its focus, but is purposefully obfuscating the narrative for no reason. There are ways to de-center the narrative or obscure it without blatantly nudging the audience and proclaiming, with what might as well be a loudspeaker, “HEY, OUR STORY IS REALLY MYSTERIOUS BECAUSE WE’RE SAYING ALL OF THESE MYSTERIOUS THINGS THAT WE KNOW AND YOU DON’T. AREN’T YOU INTERESTED IN OUR MYSTERY STORY YET?”
And that’s basically FLCL Progressive as a whole. Nothing has really changed from the first episode. Despite some interesting elements popping up in episode 2, it has quickly about-faced to mediocrity again. I have absolutely nothing positive to say about this episode.
This show is stupid.