FLCL (pronounced “Fooly Cooly”) is a 2001 short anime series that was not only released in Japan, but aired on North America’s Cartoon Network channel. It garnered a large cult following within the American community for its crazy nature and deep themes and continues to have strong popularity even fifteen years later.
Earlier this year, Production I.G. and Cartoon Network stunned fans with the announcement that FLCL would be getting a sequel in 2017 in the form of a second and third season. Kazuya Tsurumaki–the director of the original FLCL project–and Mayumi Shintani–the actress who voiced the main heroine Haruko in the first season–sat down with press at Anime Expo 2016 to answer questions about their careers, the original anime, and the much-anticipated second and third seasons.
Tsurumaki will not be the director for the new project, but will instead serve as the original creator and supervisor. Shintani, on the other hand, has not been announced as returning as a voice in the new series.
[Note: Questions asked by Anime Now! will be marked with the “AN:” tag. Any questions asked by other reporters will be marked with ‘reporter.’]
Reporter: FLCL was very influential and very famous. Why after 15 years do you think it was decided to make this new series now? Why was now the time to make a second FLCL?
Tsurumaki: I guess that it’s kind of a coincidence that we’re making it now, because Production I.G.’s president [Mitsuhisa] Ishikawa has brought up the topic of “Please make a sequel. Please make a sequel to FLCL” for quite a long time. Actually, he brought it up to me at least ten years ago, but at the time I didn’t have any interest. And honestly, I was busy with Evangelion… What’s that thing called?
Reporters: Rebuild of Evangelion.
Tsurumaki: Oh, right. Rebuild of Evangelion. I’ve been involved with that for so long and actually, it’s not done yet. The last work hasn’t been finished, so it’s not over. Considering that and other factors, I had always said that I couldn’t do it. However, I.G. came to me and said that they wanted to do the new series no matter what and that I wouldn’t even have to be in the director’s chair. I had interest. I personally was intrigued as to whether a young team of staff would be able to create an interesting work even if I didn’t direct.
Reporter: Tsurumaki-san, before FLCL, you were working as the assistant director with Hideaki Anno on Evangelion. Did he offer you any directorial advice before your first directorial job?
Tsurumaki: In terms of direct advice, during the planning of FLCL when things weren’t going smoothly and I was really lost, Anno-san told me “Shouldn’t you try to be trying to make something you like instead of trying to make something perfect?” Thanks to that, I think I was able to make something good.
Reporter: Haruko uses a yellow Vespa as her vehicle of choice. Why did you decide to make that vehicle Haruko’s?
Tsurumaki: At the time, the character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto rode a Vespa, and I thought that it was so cool and I wanted one. Sadamoto-san showed me the shop where he often bought his Vespas… It was a place where they did Vespa maintenance and stuff–and that store’s showroom had a yellow Vespa. I wanted it really bad, but couldn’t make the plunge, so I thought, “Well, if I’m going to have it show up in my new anime, then I can count it as reference material and use that as my excuse.”
Shintani: Did you buy it with your own money?
Tsurumaki: Of course I used my own money! I bought it with my own money, but I used it as an excuse to make the plunge. Just like the main character Naota, I’m the kind of person who doesn’t really take the initiative; I need some kind of an excuse.
AN: This is a question to Shintani-san. If you had the right to be in charge of the new FLCL anime’s story, what do you think would happen? Also, what are you personally looking forward to in terms of the new FLCL?
Shintani: The story that has been announced so far for the new series reveals that the new protagonist will be a middle school girl. Since the past work’s protagonist was a boy, I’m a little curious as to if the romance element that was present in the previous series will be lost. I think it’d be interesting if Haruko wouldn’t care if the protagonist was a girl and still aggressively approached her and became her first love.
Reporter: I’m interested in how the style of the new FLCL will differ from the original, as the first work was fast-paced and crazy. Was the first series influenced by the time period that it was released?
Tsurumaki: Well, it’s not like I’m involved with production directly. I think that the new director will have control over those kinds of things, so honestly, I don’t know what’s going to happen. Personally, I would like it if it sped up even more. For example, Trigger. Trigger is a company made up of staff from FLCL that went off on their own. When I watch Trigger’s works, I get the feeling that they’re a lot faster than FLCL. Back during the time of the first FLCL, I was influenced by shows on Cartoon Network and the Disney Channel. Looking at those, it makes me think that FLCL has to speed up even more… I mean, it’s not a global standard or anything, but I don’t think it would become a work I consider interesting if it doesn’t.
Shintani: Hideto Iwai, the script-writer for FLCL 2… It’s a complete coincidence, but he’s my friend. I’ve worked with him on stage plays in Japan in the past. The scripts he writes are so interesting. They go in a different direction of crazy from Tsurumaki-san, though (laughs). That’s why I think his craziness that is different from the craziness within Tsurumaki-san that will show itself.
Reporter: This is a question for Shintani. FLCL is a work from 2001, but now there’s finally a sequel after more than fifteen years. After you received the offer to play Haruko after so long, what was your reaction?
Shintani: (laughs) I actually don’t know if I’m going to play Haruko yet, but if I can play her, I would play the role without thinking too much about the original FLCL. To me, FLCL is such a precious work–and it’s also a precious memory. It’s the work on which I met Tsurumaki-san and other staff that I’ve been working with on a lot of anime since then. It’s just too precious to me, so I’d actually like to not think about the original and make my performance as crazy as possible.
Reporter: [Tsurumaki-san], what experiences from the past fifteen years do you think you’ll apply to your new works and projects?
Tsurumaki: FLCL was my first work as a director, and of course I did my best at the time and made it, but I definitely think I was unskilled and had my shortcomings. After gaining experience over 15 years, I think I’ve gotten better in a lot of areas. I think those will come in handy in my newer works. Obviously, I’ve lost my youth, but I’ve gained experience in its place. In terms of FLCL, I’m not like Haruko anymore, but I identify more with Kamon Nandaba.
Shintani: Yes, in the original anime, there was a boy in elementary school named Takkun…
Tsurumaki: I had always projected myself onto him. I had identified with a boy in elementary school, but now I might identify myself more with his dad instead.
Shintani: They wore the same clothes.
Tsurumaki: I think that’s true (both laugh). I made the primary schooler wear the same clothes as me.
Shintani: Recently, I’ve started doing voice work again, but some of the same staff as FLCL were working at a studio called Trigger on a show titled SPACE PATROL LULUCO and I realized when listening to my own acting that my voice hasn’t matured at all (laughs). That’s why I think I would be able to play the role [of Haruko] the same way I did back then.
Reporter: It’s obvious that young directors like Kyōsōgiga’s Rie Matsumoto took inspiration from FLCL for their own works. What do you think about that?
Tsurumaki: I’m actually really happy. Of course, I like Rie Matsumoto’s anime Kyousougiga and Blood Blockade Battlefront is one of my favorite anime as of late. I like the rhythm of it.
AN: Shintani-san, you were on hiatus for quite a while, but you’ve been showing up in more and more roles lately, little by little. Is there some kind of character you’d like to play in the future?
Shintani: During the time I was taking a break from voice acting, I was acting in stage plays, but because I started to think that I wanted to work as a voice actor again, I’ve been increasing my voice acting jobs. Though I’m kind of an old lady now, I must have this image from my past role, so I’ve been cast as middle-schoolers and high-schoolers. I’d like to play an older woman pretty soon.
Reporter: [Tsurumaki-san,] most of the works you’ve worked on in the past have built up a pretty big fandom. How do you deal with what fans demand and what you want to create?
Tsurumaki: I do want fans to enjoy my works, but it’s not like I’m watching the reaction of fans and creating my work. I want to put my personal enjoyment of my work first. That’s the way I work. I want to make what I want to make and I think that it’d be great if fans enjoyed what I create.
Thank you to Kazuya Tsurumaki and Mayumi Shintani for their time and the opportunity to conduct this interview.