Thank you my Secret Santa for recommending this show as I’ve encountered the series for a long time now but I haven’t had the push to watch it. FLCL was an interesting and mind boggling show with its weird allusion to robots. To be honest, I’m still trying to gather my thoughts on what really the show was all about. The central theme, at least for me, was Naota’s transition to adolescence. And as it stood, the way the story developed involved the closest people around Naota, just as how our very own childhood are shaped by the influences of the environment and the people around us.
- Naota’s attachment to his big brother – and the consequences (Mamimi)
“Nothing amazing ever happens here.”
You can tell that he admires his brother just with the bat he’s always carrying around but at the same time, he’s burdened with other people’s expectation to his brother – in which he suffers as a convenient proxy. Naota seemed not to mind his blurred kind of relationship with Mamimi at first because he must have thought that out of all things (or should I say problems?) that his brother left behind – this could be one of those that he can handle on his own without taking that much of a toll. They both like Tasuku, so it’s perfectly fine for the two of them to hang out. Isn’t it just fascinating that the person not even present in the anime could have this so much influence?
While Naota certainly likes his brother, he’s frustrated that people do not see him as Naota but as Tasuku’s little brother. This comparison factor hinders him from achieving his true potential and seeing things from his very own lens. Mamimi was instrumental in setting off that desire to step out of his brother’s shadow and eventually differentiate his existence as Naota and not as “Takkun”. Haruko played her role to make sure Naota had that needed push. I guess her, as an external disturbance, released that default thinking and widened his perspective about his brother being the only “decent adult”.
His search for something out of ordinary manifests as his desire to become a proper adult like his older brother – but this was subverted due to Tasuku’s absence.
- Haruko as the catalyst
“When you’re in a town that’s covered with smoke, you forget that there’s a world outside.”
I don’t really like Haruko as a character, but I don’t hate her since I haven’t seen her whole character background to judge if her selfishness is justified or not. We sadly don’t have a better back story to define her motivations. Her behavior towards Naota never seemed right to me. She may never had the right words all the time but she mentioned some of the words Naota would have liked to hear from the people around him. I can’t help but see her as a partial Kamina in the show, in the same manner that she acknowledges her need for Naota.
Naota is quite hung up on the idea that nothing amazing ever happens in the city until Haruko shows up. She was the catalyst to the almost empathetic facade he made up just to hide his frustration from the adults. Haruko was ever impulsive throughout the show which captivated Naota as a stark contrast to his environment that has subdued tone. Her transience in the story actually enabled her to have just the right impact to Naota. We all have that transient things that came and go quickly in our lives that had more impact than the things we’ve been around with for so long. Or maybe it’s because they weren’t around for so long that they had that kind of impact.
- Fire Starter – Cantido-sama and Endsville
“You must hinder its growth by setting it afire.. and torch the city to purge it of its devils.. but you mustn’t burn everything. If the entire city burns down, you will have no place to stay. You will not be able to live. There can be no final victory. The only thing you can do is burn the city. Your only hope is to receive the blessing of Cantido, god of black flames.”
This game’s allusion was shortly mentioned but rather than the vague robot references, this one’s something I liked. I like the irony that the game presents which something you can readily apply to Mamimi’s situation. As much as how she wants to kill the ennui and cut all ties, she is not able to – since her relationship with Naota is one of the things that binds her to reality and Mabase. She subscribes into the idea of Cantido as a Deus ex Machina to her troubles – this differentiates her from Naota who clutches hard on his own capability.
Mamimi’s an example of what happens if you let other people swallow up your individuality without thinking for your own. This is something both she and Naota has been struggling – with Tasuku being a large portion of who they are. They tried their best not to burn down everything. Without Tasuku – these two might not be the same characters as they are now. Naota did mention that Haruko resembled his brother – but his affection towards Haruko was not rooted from this reason. Naota was lucky to have Haruko. It was unfortunate however that Mamimi only saw Naota differently a little too late before she succumbed – and technically became a part of “Endsville” for a short while.
- Medical Mechanica
An Iron. Ok, that’s not really weird at all. This is actually one of the things that did not really got through me. While this corporation basically is treated as an antagonist in the series, it fails to register why the concept of “Ironing out the wrinkles in your brain so you can’t think” has to have a physical manifestation to that of alien’s. Maybe it is easier to put it that way. I was just not comfortable why there has to be an external interference by a mysterious corporation just to drive that message home. In my opinion, the setting and the supporting characters in itself are enough to establish the dilemma of our main protagonist about maturity and adolescence – that the world out there is nothing amazing at all. Everything is ordinary and everyone assumes the complacent role in the society. Even if there are situations wherein they find the need to challenge the norm, these robots (I interpret them as reset buttons to status quo) will fight their way to resist the changes about to happen.
I believe that’s typically human – so why exactly do we need Medical Mechanica – as alien existence to establish itself as an outside force pushing for “flattening of the planets”? Maybe this an idiosyncrasy of Gainax team with their obsession with aliens. For me however, this story of adolescence does not need aliens. The concept of robots does not elude me – but they need not to be aliens. This concept is human nature so having an alien as central representation seems just so wrong, at least for me.
- The damn OST! and Direction
Well. It would be blasphemous if you did not like FLCL’s OST. I was smitten by Little Busters. I was actually a bit annoyed when this thing comes up back then when I was looking for Rita’s OP song for Little Busters! (Key) — but now I feel sorry for not listening to it sooner than this month… Their music sets a good tone to the story. I’d describe the music as thematic to the concept of growing up — lively, fun and filled with mixed/conflicting emotions.
Well aside from the story-related things, the direction was indeed very Gainax. The animated manga scene was one of the highlights for me since you’ll see the same style from Karekano. It’s just oddly appealing. I’d like to take that as the show’s way of saying that no matter how serious one should be in deciding how they’d want to grow up, humor and foolishness from time to time is a must!
This one is minor, but hearing some rare seiyuus was also pretty nice. I don’t particularly liked Tsubasa’s seiyuu (Karekano) but hearing her again as Haruko in FLCL was good. I was actually surprised she did the recent voice for Nonon Jakuzure (Kill la Kill). Another one would be Kitsurubami (Amarao’s subordinate) since she voiced Wanya from Daa! Daa! Daa!
To wrap it up, it was an enjoyable show. I actually thought I watched a full cour anime that I am watching with the rich theme it is trying to tell. It was rather challenge for me at first though considering I’m getting rusty with blogging! The show was never straight forward. It wants you to interpret it openly which is a trap for someone like me. All in all, if you are familiar with Gainax, all the more you would enjoy it because it reeks of their style, all in animation, narrative and thematic. I’ve seen bits and pieces of how early they might have been thinking of Gurren Laggan during this show. Gainax never fails to deliver a story about coming of age with a twist of action and great characters.
Check out Reverse Thieve’s 6th Secret Santa Project out here for more details!