Adult Swim’s ‘FLCL: Grunge’ Review

Photo Credit: adult swim

FLCL is back again for another round on adult swim’s Toonami block. FLCL: Grunge sees the return of Haruko in a new setting with new unsuspecting people inevitably getting caught up in her orbit. There are many strong opinions about the sequel series to FLCL, and this one will only continue that debate. 

While no stranger to playing around with animation styles, the series features a completely different type of animation, a 3D form, instantly separating it from the first three series. The new animation takes a little while to get used to as some movements felt a little stiff at first. By the end of the episode, I found myself unsure if it completely worked for the show. FLCL has always felt grounded in its humanity in its 2D form, despite the absurdness that happens throughout, but this series often felt goofy. The moments the animation made most sense were when it was contrasted by a sudden change or reaction shot. The sudden jolt and contrast of animation were welcomed moments. The fact that the premiere episode only takes place in a few different locations, mostly in one tight setting, didn’t allow for it to show off the new visual style it has to offer. 

Setting aside the animation style, it may prove to have a bit more of a stronger narrative than Progressive. It’s to be seen yet if it’ll have as cohesive as one as Alternative. An unexpected twist in the final moments of the finale has me especially excited as it seems we might actually learn more about Haruko’s past which has been shrouded in mystery so far. The fact we have to wait so long for a strong enough hook in the episode is concerning though.

The main character Shin has a laid back attitude and his life is forever changed once he first interacts with Haruko, finding an inner voice to do things his way for once and grow. This might be the most overtly sexualized Haruko has been so far with not so subtle sexual references all around. Innuendo has always played a role in the series, but their appearances have been more clever in the past. New characters’ physical appearances stand out like we’ve never had before, instantly making it an interesting take. We’ve always had aliens and other creatures, but this series shows the most overtly alien looking main characters, aside from those which came out of kids’ heads. I’m most excited to learn more about Shonari. 

Recurring themes of growing up as a coming of age story pop up yet again. We also see memorable iconic FLCL images such as Medical Mechanica and its iron shaped building, objects protruding from young kids’ heads, robots, mopeds, expressive eyebrows and most importantly, The Pillows. Musical riffs are noticeably FLCL, invoking an instant nostalgic feeling. 

As to the question of the series’ setting in the FLCL universe, especially following the ending of FLCL Alternative, it’s still uncertain. Alternative almost seemed to bring the three series full circle back to the beginning. With this series, is it the same world as we’ve visited before, at a different time, or are we even in the same universe? It’s too soon for a definitive answer (if we even get one!), and more hints will likely be dropped going forward. 

The series continues to be chaotic and hectic as ever, in the best way. Always unexpected, yet predictably loony, it’s got the same sense of humor. Some fun action scenes are filled with even more jokes. There’s one extremely meta joke towards the end of the premiere which had me cracking up. 

If you are an original FLCL fan only, this one likely will not win you over. If you enjoyed Progressive and Alternative, there’s a good chance you will enjoy parts of this one too. Underneath its questionable exterior, I’m skeptically optimistic that a solid series could lie beneath. FLCL is often the sum of all its parts in the end, and will take more than one episode to tell if it’s a true worthy followup. If not, there’s always FLCL: Shoegaze coming up (back to its 2D style).

FLCL: Grunge premieres September 9 on adult swim’s Toonami block.

Lee Arvoy
Lee Arvoy joined the TV Source team in the summer of 2020 as a TV Writer.

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