The Saga Continues…
Every fandom dreads it at least a little, the end, and anime is no exception. No matter how perfect or complete the finale of a series is, it still means the show is over, leaving most of us scrambling to find similar mediums to laugh, despair, ship, and rage over. In recent years, that kind of scrambling has become little more than a temporary necessity, as an increasingly frequent amount of old faves have been given new life by way of prequels, sequels and reboots, either leaving fans to jump for joy at new and improved material, or to wonder if it would have been better to leave well enough alone amidst the wreckage of a sullied franchise.
Latest in a long line of updates is FLCL (Fooly Cooly for the uninitiated) Progressive, the sequel to a six episode adaption of a rock and roll, robot beat-em-up coming of age manga that first exploded onto screens in early 2000. With the premiere of this addition still days away, it’s hard to pass judgement on whether or not it will be worthwhile, but that won’t stop me from voicing a few hopes, concerns, and wild speculations about what might be on its way. However, before we get to all that, and in the spirit of optimism, let’s take a look at a few other series that got the go ahead to go ahead and didn’t completely stomp on fans’ feelings. Buckle up for a hit right to your [potentially frustrated] nostalgia parts.
Lupin the Third Part IV: Italian Adventure- That Old Familiar Feeling
The over fifty year old franchise that introduced the titular and invariably perverted Lupin is one of manga and anime’s most popular and well received to date, but even something as long-standing and beloved as Third hasn’t existed in perpetuity. Though some credit is undeniably due to 2012’s dark, steamy prequel The Woman Called Fujiko Mine for being the first series to see the light of day after an almost 30 year break, it wasn’t until 2015’s Lupin the 3rd Part IV: The Italian Adventure that the affable thief was returned to the story’s spotlight, and he and his compatriots were allowed to move forward into brand new, daring, and at times slapstick, mayhem. Covering a series of heists and harebrained schemes set to the backdrop of various Italian cities and landmarks, Adventure doesn’t offer anything innovative or stray into the kind of thoughtful, moody territory that Mine boasted. Lupin is still sly and smarmy, his cohorts keep close to the tropes (gruff right-hand man, the stalwart muscle, and the femme fatale respectively) that they have settled into since their inception, and the plot itself is typical fare of this kind of caper-genre, but all of it is true to form in a way that has and continues to work for the property. Much like its lead, the show doesn’t appear to show any signs of stopping, but that doesn’t present much of a problem when no one is asking it to. Know what I Mine? Get it? Like– Yeah, OK…
Lupin the 3rd Part IV: Italian Adventure is available on Funimation. Lupin the 3rd Part V is currently airing on Japanese Television and simulcast on Crunchyroll.
Ghost in the Shell: Arise- Back to Factory Settings
This entry in the canon that serves as much more of a prequel than a continuation (and arguably, given Ghost’s varied stories and thematic approaches to the source material, this series is its own universe entirely), but the series earns a spot on this list due to the way it extends past lore by fleshing out previously unexplored aspects of an iconic character. Set in the early days of her work with Section 9, Arise’s Major Motoko Kusinagi is a younger, brasher version of the existentially fraught lead first introduced in the 1995 films, struggling against a muddled sense of self and a techno-virus terrorizing 21st century Japan. In many ways, specifically chronologically if one was hoping for a clearer branch in Shell’s already messy timeline, this wasn’t the series that fans were clamoring for after an eleven year, post-Stand Alone Complex hiatus. Rather than deep-dive into the meaning of existence in an increasingly automated world, Arise’s plot works to align itself closer to those of an crime thriller than a sci-fi think piece. While this endeavor is decently successful, what the show does best is give viewers a Major that is closer to the manga figure that spawned her, providing a glimpse into the humanity she feared she was losing by the time she faced down the Puppet Master years later. Perfect Arise was not, but it may have been necessary to reveal a side of the story that wasn’t so robotic. See what I did there? No? Alright, alright.
Ghost in the Shell: Arise is available on Funimation and Netflix
Dragon Ball Super- Wish Granted?
catastrophe disaster abomination misstep that was Dragon Ball: GT, many fans of the series were likely content to let things lie. At least, until Dragon Ball Super blasted onto the scene boasting everything from new Super Saiyan transformations to previously unexplored and unheard of worlds. In its 131 episode run, Super follows the time between the end of Dragon Ball Z’s final boss battle and the ten-year time jump that followed it, covering the Z-Fighters’ struggles in both high-stakes tournaments and peace-times alike. If its only goal was to wash the taste of GT out of viewers’ mouths, Super is an undeniable success, though any way you slice it the show can’t escape the pitfalls that often beset modern day additions to classic anime. The animation of early episodes is choppy and, unfortunately, in trying to recapture the rhythm of its predecessor’s plot-lines, the series falls into formulaic territory with a few more tournament arcs than is necessary, not to mention the bizarre and somewhat illogical choice to resurrect one of the universe’s most iconic villains only to release them back into the wild, consequences be damned. All told, it was a turbulent and at times redundant ride, but considering what fans could (and have) been given in the past, it was a welcome enough breath of fresh air that did it’s due diligence in clearing out old funk. Plus, the new transformations were pretty sweet, I’m just Saiyan. Sorry, last one… Probably.
Dragon Ball Super is available on Funimation and currently airing its dubbed episodes on Toonami
Which brings us back around to FLCL Progressive.
Admittedly, tacking any kind of sequel onto something like FLCL is a slippery slope to travel down. The original series was as close to pure symbolism as one can get, trading a cohesive set of motivations and modus operandi for a wild representation of the peaks and valleys of puberty, as told by a frustrated little boy, a pink-haired space traveler, and more robots than you could shake a stick at. It could very well be that adding any kind of structure to something so purposefully abstract could ruin it, if that is indeed what the show-runners of Progressive intend to do, but straying away from an exact copy of the original may also prove to be the wisest option if it hopes to avoid tediously stomping over old ground. With some of its original voice cast and the originators of its alt rock soundtrack returning, the most fans can do is settle in, hold on tight, and hope the results are cool and not just idiotic. Though, if the series itself is to be believed, we’re going to need a little idiocy for this to work at all.
FLCL Progressive premieres on Toonami Saturday, June 2nd
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