It speaks volumes about the different appeals of the FLCL anime and manga that I sold my first copy of the manga years ago. My reaction to the manga, like, I imagine, that of most FLCL fans when it hit the states in 2004, was, “what the fuck is up with this art? Why is the plot even more fucking confusing than it was in the anime? What’s with all the sexual stuff?” (Of course, I only later realized how much sexual stuff there was in the anime—I’d been thirteen in 2004 after all.)
I’ve got another copy of the manga now and I love it. The style of Ueda Hajime’s art and ridiculous dialog are right up my alley, and the whole thing feels like it belongs to my favorite category of work: the stuff I refer to as “Faust-like.” (Since that’s always confusing, I’m talking about this Faust—a Japanese novel and manga magazine that features authors such as NISIOISIN, Kadono Kouhei, Takimoto Tatsuhiko, and Kinoko Nasu, as well as artists like, of course, Ueda Hajime.) Since I know a lot of people haven’t had the chance to read these works, the best way to give an impression of Ueda Hajime’s crowd is by looking at his involvement in anime: he did the art for the Bakemonogatari ending and did an illustration at the end of an episode of Madoka Magica. These couldn’t be more representative of this style of work.
The FLCL anime and manga both convey the frustrations of youth as brilliantly as any other work has done, but they do it in different ways to the very same result. The anime version appeals to the burning pathos of GAINAX fans, or fans of that kind of anime (usually involving robots). I think it’s worth mention that FLCL is written by Enokido Yoji (Revolutionary Girl Utena, Star Driver), yet the show is a lot less sexual and decadent than his other work. (I also think Tsurumaki Kazuya saying that most of the sexual stuff that *is* in the show is Enokido’s doing says something.) The FLCL anime is more about having its burning youth and frustration layered under stylish explosiveness.
Meanwhile, the manga puts the sexual frustration up front and foremost like a showcase. This is in with the Faust style of writing where the frustrations of youth overpower the narrative, to an extent of washing the narrative away at times.
Which FLCL you like may or may not depend on what representation of youthful frustration you like more. For me, it’s a given to like the anime more overall, but I think the message resonates with me more powerfully through the manga.
[Damn it Digiboy, get your dick out of your heart!]