Anime as a Work of Allegorical Art
When 12-year-old Naota is struck on the head by a crazed girl named Haruko on a yellow moped with a bass guitar, his strange town where nothing happens gets transformed into a hotbed of galactic battles when giant robotic monsters start escaping from his skull. Haruko, a member of the Galactic Space Police Brotherhood, is looking for the Space Pirate named Atomsk, who was abducted by the Medical Mechanica corporation, who build the killer robots that attack Naota's hometown. Can Naota find his place in the world, sort out all of the girls in his life, and defeat the monsters that threaten to destroy his sleepy city? He'll have to master the on the fly animation changes, his brother's crazy ex-girlfriend, and a TV-headed robot named Canti that he can pilot after he's been swallowed if he wants to sort out his existence and save the universe.
I was first introduced to FLCL when I was just graduating high school and I was more confused than anything else. I kept trying to see it as a straight narrative like so many other anime series that I'd seen before it. I wasn't able to appreciate that the entire series was an allegory for growing up and dealing with the problems of being a young person without a place in the world. Now that I've re-watched it, and luckily in gorgeous 1080P format, I can appreciate the unique storytelling and complex characters that are represented in one of the most visually stunning pieces of animation I've ever seen.
Naota is living in the shadow of his older brother, Tasuku, who has gone to America to be a professional baseball player. Naota isn't interested in baseball, and finds himself constantly being compared to his brother by his family, peers, and his brother's ex-girlfriend, Mamimi, who dumps her affection on Naota since his brother isn't around. All he wants is for people to respect him and leave him alone, but he's constantly hassled by his father and the girls in his life. When he meets Haruko, he can't stand having her insane lifestyle and personality interfering with his quiet existence. It also doesn't help that every time she hits him with her revved up base guitar a killer robot escapes from his forehead.
The fight scenes are one of the most beautiful things I've seen in any medium. The pairing of a soundtrack by J-Rock band The Pillows gives it a distinct rock and roll feel that makes you want to pick up a guitar and wail on bad robots. The soundtrack is just as good as the animation, and I couldn't imagine any other band pulling it off.
The character designs of the robots and monsters are some of the more inventive of modern anime. Though the people are depicted as very realistic, the robots are very bright and cartoonish, giving it a good offset to the humans and providing that level of science fiction fairy tale that the show beams with.
The only drawback is that it's very confusing and very in your face for viewers. I recommend watching it a few times in order to get a deeper understanding of the metaphors for growing up, as well as just enjoying the animation and music.
That being said, something that's worth watching again and again for literary value is worth it in and of itself. The fact that it's one of the most highly regarded anime series with a kick ass soundtrack and genuinely funny science fiction comedy is a huge bonus.