FLCL: The Ultimate Collection
Madeline Ashby · February 12, 2007 | This six-episode series, Kazuya Tsurumaki's chaotic allegory for adolescence, is the tale of Naota Nandaba, who finds his boring life completely disrupted when Haruko Haruhara enters the sleepy little town of Mabase on her Vespa scooter. Haruko's motives are not immediately clear, and Tsurumaki's breakneck pacing means that even with the relatively small amount of material, viewers might have a hard time discerning the actual events of the story—especially when the animation is lush, luxuriant, and advanced enough to distract the eye.

The story centers on Naota's interactions with Haruko after she runs him over with her Vespa, then strikes him with her specially modified Rickenbacker bass. As the viewer later discovers, this injury opens Naota's "N.O. Portal," an entry through which he and Haruko can pull devices—like guitars and robots—from other dimensions. Naota and Haruko use these robots to battle the foreboding Medical Mechanica factory that overshadows Mabase. Haruko has a score to settle with Medical Mechanica, and it seems she'll do anything to accomplish her goal. She has no compunction about destroying the town, embarrassing Naota in front of his friends, or flirting shamelessly with Naota's father after she has taken up residence as the family housekeeper. Naota's reactions to her vacillate between love and admiration to envy and resentment. The havoc that Haruko wreaks on Naota's life turns FLCL into a darker, more tragic Urusei Yatsura.

Thankfully, those who purchase this boxed set will have an endless amount of information with which to indulge and interpret. Included in the Ultimate Collection are four discs containing six episodes, multiple commentaries from director Tsurumaki and the English-language voice actors, storyboard comparisons, music videos, and over 40 pages of images. The fourth disc, "Test Type," includes a karaoke track so that fans can sing along with the Pillows' rock soundtrack in Japanese. The sound quality is somewhat muddy, but the music videos are well-edited from clips of the original series. And that's just the digital material.

FLCL: The Ultimate Collection
Animation production by Gainax and Production I.G
Distributed by Broccoli International, 2007
Originally released on video in apan in 2000
200 minutes

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Lovingly tucked within the bright, shiny Ultimate Collection box, you'll find six postcards featuring robots from the show—each of which is named after a popular song that corresponds to one of the six episodes—like "Light My Fire" for episode 2, "Firestarter"—a sticker sheet, a limited edition black rubber wristband with the words "NEVER KNOWS BEST," and a postcard redeemable for a t-shirt. But the best part of this particular boxed set is a 68-page booklet that includes interviews from the director, voice actors, designers, and the Pillows. Ever wanted to know what some of the homonyms and references from the Japanese teleplay are? Ever wanted to understand why so many guitars appear, and what their significance is? If so, the booklet is for you. The FLCL experience is much richer for having the booklet and the director commentaries available, and will prove interesting for anyone who wanted to know why Tsurumaki incorporated certain themes. He explains the profusion of cats, spicy food, and canned drinks in the commentaries, as well as his views on how voice actors should be cast. He even clarifies a few of the series' trickier plot points.

In other words, this collection is a treasure trove for fans of FLCL. My review edition came with a twelve-month large-sized calendar full of Gainax character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto's art from the series. I'm not sure that all consumers can expect such a boon, but the calendar thoughtfully includes an advertisement for further FLCL merchandise on the last page. These include wallets, bags, hats, mugs, dolls, and plush toys. It seems that Synch Point, the American producer, has things well in hand with this franchise from a marketing and merchandising perspective. Curiously, though, the trailers portion of the "Test Type" DVD is full of advertisements for Di Gi Charat. This is evidence of distributor Broccoli's involvement, but I would have liked to see additional advertisements for other Gainax or Production I.G. titles. Given the differences between FLCL and Di Gi Charat in presentation as well as genre, I found the trailers a bit of a surprise.
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