Unlike most anime, the manga version of FLCL came after the animated series. FLCL was first published as a graphic novel in 2000 by Kodansha in Japan. The manga is two volumes long, with artwork by Hajime Ueda.
Naota is a lonely boy in a lonely town living a lonely life amidst utter chaos. His father’s a perv, his grandfather a nut, his brother ran off to seek riches in America, and his brother’s dumb ex-girlfriend won’t leave him alone. Now from beyond the stars drops an impish defender sent forth to stop alien robots from destroying the Earth. Where do the alien robots come from? Well, Naota’s forhead for starters. From the twisted mind that brought us End of Evangelion comes this bizarre tale of adolescence in a world gone mad.
Naota goes from high school nothing to mutant warrior in the blink of any eye. But what does it all mean? The town stirs with gossip with the Mayor’s adulterous affair makes headlines. And his daughter, Ninamori, the class president and Naota’s friend, is having a hard time of it. So hard, in fact, that she turns into a giant balloon to challenge Naota in battle. And Haruko is closing in on the interplanetary foes she was dispatched to dispatch. And is there any saving Mamimi from her downwardly spiraling descent into madness? Plunge deeper into the dreamscape with FLCL Volume 2.
The manga is substantially different than the anime. It interprets the series with all of the key elements intact, but loses some details and changes the dialogue. Overall the manga is a much darker version of the story, highlighting the sex and violence, especially the gory murder of Kamon. Some suspect the manga to be a truer adaptation of the story than the anime itself, but this theory has yet to be proven.
The manga has also been mildly controversial for its unique art style. Hajime Ueda’s artwork uses ink to roughly outline objects and shade areas, which has been regarded to be primitive by some people. Simple or not, Ueda is an experienced artist who was distinctively chosen by Gainax to produce the manga.
The series was published by TokyoPop in North America. The English version is a fairly accurate translation for the most part. While the English dialogue retains most of the original ideas, it can be awkward and confusing at times. However, the Japanese version was almost just as confusing.
The first few pages from Volume 1 (click for larger image).