FLCL Omnibus: (Written and drawn by Hajime Ueda)
Oh my, the FLCL omnibus was a strange read, and is going to be a hard one to review, and to categorise. But If I had to, I would label it a sci-fi, romance, slice of life story with surrealist and some ‘harem manga’ elements. It’s packed to the brim with robots, anime girls and love triangles.
The opening scene sets the tone of the whole piece; it introduces the main character Naota; a stoic young boy, and his girlfriend, Mamimi, hanging around in a field together in a semi-cliché romantic scene, until they’re interrupted by a wild and crazy girl on a scooter (Haruko), who delivers a drive-by guitar bat to Naota’s face. This manga smashes conventions in the same way on more than one occasion, which is very refreshing.
The whole thing feels like it’s built to keep the reader bewildered, right down to the art style. It’s sketchy for the most part, making the pages feel like a strange dream and heavily shaded in others, almost as if it’s keeping the reader in the dark – the line between realism and surrealism is very thin in this story. Despite this, however, most of the characters are believable and feel like human beings , particularly the scenes with Naota and his friends – his friends feel like kids who are up to no good and he’s just going along with the crowd.
Even though the manga is surreal, it never really falls into the trap of becoming too dark – the sprinkling of humour helps with this, most of the jokes revolve around Naota being too thick headed to believe what’s happening around him, and Haruko’s complete bat-crap insanity, and visual gags that involve his perverted father.
It doesn’t quite get the balance right at times though; the plot seems too ‘out there’ at points and has a hard time showing its elements without being confusing, and while the sketchy art style is a positive from a thematic standpoint, it’s very much overdone at points, some panels are hard to decipher and the female characters start to look remarkably similar, especially when a character with dark hair doesn’t get her hair shaded, and her only unique feature becomes her slightly thicker eyebrows.
For these reasons, the FLCL Omnibus is hard to recommend to everyone, particularly newer manga readers who are branching out from typical Shonen and Shojo fare. It’s very weird, hard to follow at points and requires a great deal of perseverance to see it through to the end, though I thought it was worth it, since the plot does make sense at its closing pages.
It’s a frustrating ride at first, but it’s worth it if you’re willing to put in the time – I enjoyed it, and you might too.
Recommended for Manga enthusiasts,
not so much for those new to Manga.