During the late 90s and early 00s, many animes that are now considered cult classics were created. It was these animes that captivated an entire generation and gave the impression that they were more than just Japanese cartoons. While series from the 80s and early 90s also contributed to this perception, it was shows like those from Gainax that solidified the idea that something unique was brewing in Japan—something more intriguing and profound. And the final great anime from Gainax during that era was FLCL.

Published as six OVAs, anime episodes released directly on video but also broadcasted on television in the West, between April 26, 2000, and March 16, 2001, FLCL was a series directed by Kazuya Tsurumaki with a script by Yoji Enokido. It stood out for its experimental use of animation, extraordinary music by The Pillows, and an incredibly strange yet comforting story about the implications of leaving childhood behind and transitioning into adulthood. All of this was accompanied by mechs, alien invasions, a company with an iron-shaped building, interdimensional travel, and a guitar duel that has gone down in anime history as one of the coolest and most iconic battles in the medium.

Since then, Gainax has never been the same. A significant portion of its team left to work as independent animators or to join other studios, such as Kara—Hideaki Anno’s studio, the creator of Neon Genesis Evangelion—or Trigger—Hiroyuki Imaishi and Yoh Yoshinari’s studio, the creators of Kill la Kill and Gurren Lagann—both composed of former Gainax members who contributed in one way or another to the creation of FLCL. However, this didn’t stop them from continuing with FLCL almost twenty years later.

In 2018, FLCL returned with two new seasons, each consisting of six episodes, named Progressive and Alternative, but they failed to make a significant impact on the audience. Considered as not faithful to the originals and unnecessarily extending what was a perfect conclusion to the series, they also lacked the original team’s involvement or a highly talented team as promised initially. Production I.G handled half of the episodes for the third season, while the rest of the season and the fourth season were handled by the studios NUT and Revoroot. However, neither of these studios has yet proven themselves capable of creating a standout anime on their own.

Now, Adult Swim has announced a fresh comeback with two more seasons of FLCL, titled Grunge and Shoegaze. FLCL: Grunge will be produced by MontBlanc Pictures, the studio behind the not-so-noteworthy Houkago Midnighters, and will feature a CGI story about three teenagers who have graduated from high school and started working. On the other hand, FLCL: Shoegaze will once again be a collaboration between Production I.G and NUT, set ten years after FLCL Alternative, and will focus on a high school boy and girl. In both cases, The Pillows will once again compose the soundtrack.

Without the original team behind it and with FLCL: Grunge being CGI—an animation style that is often not highly regarded by the anime community—and, in general, not seeming to grasp the spirit that made the original series a cult classic we love, it’s challenging to be enthusiastic about these two new seasons of FLCL. However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for them to capture the essence they need this time.

Both FLCL: Grunge and FLCL: Shoegaze are scheduled to be released in 2023. Nevertheless, only FLCL: Grunge has a specific release date: September 9th of the upcoming year. This means we won’t have to wait long to see if Gainax manages to reclaim its former glory or continues its unchecked descent toward tarnishing its own legacy.

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