FLCL: Shoegaze Explores a New Story in a Familiar World
We often underestimate the potential of sequels, dismissing them as unnecessary. However, it is precisely their lack of necessity that gives them the opportunity to explore fascinating new possibilities. FLCL: Shoegaze, the sequel to 2018’s FLCL Alternative, takes place a decade after the events of its predecessor and offers a fresh starting point for a brand new story.
The previous series followed Kana Koumoto and her group of friends as they defeated the iron-shaped factories of Medical Mechanica. The battle resulted in the opening of a new dimension, swallowing the iconic FLCL character Haruko Haruhara. In FLCL: Shoegaze, Haruko is missing, and the story focuses on teenagers Masaki Aofuji and Harumi Araishu as they navigate their discontent in a world without her.
A Touch of Terrorism Adds Some Mischievous Excitement
Masaki Aofuji, a 15-year-old, sees squiggly green ghosts everywhere due to his exposure to the Medical Mechanica incident. These apparitions display various images related to FLCL history. When Masaki meets Harumi Araishu, a girl longing for an escape from her discomfort, they come up with a drastic solution to alleviate their problems: terrorism.
In the first episode, Masaki and Harumi break into a mysterious tower with the intention of blowing it up. While it may sound serious, the act itself is more of a mischievous adventure. However, law enforcement, including the Interstellar Immigration Bureau, headed by Chief Kanda, interrupts their plans.
Continuing the Story While Exploring New Themes
FLCL: Alternative departed from the original FLCL series by focusing on slice-of-life storytelling and fewer art shifts. The return of Kana Koumoto in Shoegaze sets it apart even further and takes the franchise in a genuinely new direction. The second episode delves into the theme of adult listlessness, painting a poignant portrait of Kana’s disappointment and her struggle to move on.
While Kana tried to recapture the grandeur of her previous adventures by working with Chief Kanda, she ultimately aged out of her powers fueled by teen angst. The convergence device that could merge the split dimensions is hidden in the tower Masaki and Harumi have invaded, adding to Kana’s poignant sense of missed opportunities.
A Romance Straight Out of an Indie Film
Masaki and Harumi’s relationship feels like something out of an indie romance film. Harumi helps Masaki break out of his shell while he embarks on a journey of sexual awakening. This dynamic differs from previous seasons, where Haruko filled a similar role but with a more chaotic and comedic twist. In Shoegaze, Harumi becomes the grounding force and love interest.
Limited Time for Character Development
With only three episodes, FLCL: Shoegaze struggles to fully develop its characters and storylines. While Kana’s narrative benefits from the foundation laid in FLCL: Alternative, Masaki and Harumi’s relationship suffers from the lack of screen time. The final episode attempts to flesh out Harumi’s character, but the rushed pacing hampers the exploration of her emotional turmoil.
In its quest to provide explanations, Shoegaze comes dangerously close to sacrificing the relatability and alienation that made FLCL so impactful. The metaphysical shifts in reality become justification for the characters’ emotions and dissatisfaction, overshadowing their deeper struggles.