Adult Swim’s ‘FLCL: Shoegaze’ Review

Photo Credit: adult swim

FLCL is back for another new series directly on the heels of the third followup series, FLCL: Grunge. FLCL: Shoegaze is a return to the more traditional FLCL, acting as a direct continuation of FLCL: Alternative, making it the first time the series explicitly defines where it fits in the greater FLCL universe. 

Oftentimes Shoegaze feels unlike any other FLCL series, and that is a good thing. It is fresh and familiar. It manages to bottle up the nostalgia for the original series, but brings it in a new direction. There are overt connections, from characters, themes, music and humor, but it also shows that FLCL can exist without all of its usual key components. There are direct references to previous series in an unusual yet vital way. Of all the series so far, it feels the least retread of the original series, which is refreshing. Going in, you would think revisiting characters other than Haruko seems against everything the series strives for as a way of reinventing itself with each additional series. In a roundabout way, it shows a risk the series took that seems to be paying off.

At its core, we follow a boy who sees the world in a way no one else can. He meets a girl who pushes against the status quo, causing him to finally break free of his self imposed constraints. Together they come up with a plan to change their world, and along the way, of course they run into outside forces who try to stop them. The new main characters have some similarities to previous ones, making them easy to watch. They are trying to find their place in their world and are just as offbeat and relatable. Jesse Nowack and Kim Gasiciel do a great job bringing them to life.

Going into the new series this time knowing it is only a three episodes series helps with pacing expectations. From the premiere, it appears that there is enough set up to deliver a satisfying story as opposed to Grunge. The story is more linear in nature than Grunge, with some flashbacks helping to flesh out backstories and how we arrived at the point we are witnessing. Grunge fell short due to its core structure not having enough episodes to fully flesh out its story or characters. By the time you got close to a connection, it was over. The characters in Shoegaze quickly become memorable and you learn about their story, creating a connection. 

Returning to a 2D animation style does wonders for the ease and accessibility for viewers. Upon first glance, it looks FLCL. It feels FLCL. Most of all, it’s not distracting. It is easy to jump right into the story and be drawn into the world once again. The quick transition from Grunge to Shoegaze really helps cleanse the palate. Also helping in the transition to the new series is the always reliably great soundtrack playing throughout. It is comforting and recognizable as ever. You know you’re watching a FLCL series without a doubt. 

The direct connection to what I would arguably consider the best FLCL followup series instantly makes it enjoyable. There’s world building already done and feels like a natural extension. Where FLCL: Grunge felt constrained by its story, FLCL: Shoegaze feels more open with endless opportunities for the story to go in many different directions. I eagerly await the next episode to see how bizarre and zany this story will get. 

FLCL: Shoegaze premieres September 30 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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