This FLCL Alternative review contains spoilers.
FLCL Alternative: Episode 4
Last week, I noted how FLCL Alternative was working well as a slice-of-life anime, but that it didn’t quite know where to place the FLCL staples of Haruko doing sexy stuff and robot fighting. Well, “Pit-a-Pat” was apparently designed specifically to shut me up because all of a sudden the two disparate elements of this sequel series have been weaved together and, surprisingly, it comes out pretty darn good.
Alternative’s version of Haruko still seems less straightforwardly manipulative than her original character, but this episode brings her much closer to her old self. Instead of committing all her unclear weirdness in the background and occasionally intruding upon the girls’ lives, she is now openly hitting on Kana’s crush, Sasaki, specifically with the goal of getting robots to come out of Kana’s head. It’s refreshing that Haruko’s motives are spelled out here; there’s no point in being coy about something we’re already familiar with from FLCLassic. And the expected outcome of her behavior is far more understandable than all the surreal nonsense in Progressive that appeared to, on deeper analysis, have no consistent internal logic.
In general, Alternative has surprisingly gotten away with abruptly upping all the surreal FLCL lore content just by seeding a few elements in its previous episodes (e.g., the giant pins and the very Medical Mechanica-esque shopping center). It seems like it should be jarring that things have just now gotten, well, a lot more FLCL, but I think they set up enough in advance to get away with it. (It’s worth remembering that the original series waited until its fourth episode to truly introduce its overarching plot and dumped the bulk of its exposition into a long ramble in the very last episode.)
Yes, you’d be pretty lost if you hadn’t seen the original FLCL. It still feels as though this series is not meant to operate without familiarity with its predecessor. (Frankly, I’d hope the original FLCL is everyone’s introduction to the universe as it’s still by some distance the superior production.) Much of what happens in “Pit-a-Pat�� could be understood (to the extent FLCL is understandable) with a knowledge of only Alternative, but there are still some overt old-school references that are complete non-sequiturs without FLCLassic. The shower cap flashback is the major one and it was also my least favorite moment of the episode, coming across a bit too fanservicey for my liking.
The rest of the episode works fine though, regularly hitting that FLCL sweet spot where it’s just enough nonsense to feel like it makes some sense even if you don’t really get why. A big part of it is that, even with the increased focus on lore and Haruko, “Pit-a-Pat” is anchored by a dramatic story about adolescence. Kana’s crush on Sasaki has been briefly mentioned throughout the series (the dynamic between them is already way stronger than the non-relationship of Progressive’s Ide and Hidomi), but it’s finally brought front-and-center.
It works well because it’s tied to what Haruko’s doing and, to Kana, it’s super-dramatic, but, to her friends, it’s not that big a deal. They’re supportive, but they can’t take it too seriously. After all, it’s just some high school guy. All she has to do is say she likes him and see what happens. The scenes between Kana and Sasaki are sweet, bolstered by the added backstory that both of them have suffered from serious health issues. This was also the episode that made me laugh the most, mostly because of lines from Mossan (“It’s hot as balls,” “Mount him, Kana”). Haruko pissing Kana off by saying “Wow, your face looks really ugly” is good stuff too.
It’s a surprising and cool plot turn that, in the end, Kana decides maybe her crush on Sasaki was superficial and that she isn’t actually ready for a relationship. I’m not going to pretend I really understood the origins of that bull robot (he didn’t appear in a previous episode, did he?), but it was an interesting twist that he didn’t come out of Kana’s head. I also appreciate the basketball theme continuing up until the episode’s ending.
It is a bit sad how little The Pillows are heard in this episode. “Pit-a-Pat” has almost wall-to-wall rock music scoring its scenes, but with the exception of “Little Busters” popping up at the end, I don’t believe any of it is Pillows’ stuff. The music isn’t bad, but considering rock is being used to underscore everything, just as it was in FLCLassic, I can’t help but feel it’d be more memorable and the scenes would be more powerful, if it were more remarkable. Again, I’m quite certain the teams were only given a small pool of Pillows tracks to work with, which is why we get so little of them.
“Pit-a-Pat” keeps the good character development coming while also weaving back in some FLCL lore and reverting Haruko more to her manipulative, sexy self (she is, by the way, at some points here, actually genuinely sexy the way she used to be, rather than it feeling confused and perfunctory as it was in Progressive). Is this ever going to be the emotionally impactful, mind-blowing series the original was? Probably not. But as far as a sequel to that series goes? This’ll do.
Joe Matar watches a lot of cartoons and a lot of sitcoms. He’s obsessed with story structure so that’s what all his reviews are about. Joe also writes about video games on occasion. He has an MA in English if you can believe it. Read more of his work here. Follow Joe on Twitter for more fun @joespirational!