Introduction: About The Series
FLCL, also known as Fooly Cooly or Furi Kuri, is a 6-episode OVA series that began in 2000. Gainax worked on it, and it has the same director as the Evangelion movies (Kazuya Tsurumaki). FLCL is well-known and widely beloved, and it’s no wonder. The art and animation are amazing. Audio and voice-acting are great too. Parody elements and general humor is good. The amount of insanity and dementia within the show can be overwhelming at first, but you learn to love it. FLCL falls in the genres of psychological, parody, mecha, sci-fi, and dementia.
This blog series will consist of three parts containing my notes and analyses of FLCL. It’s about themes, meanings, and character psychology. The technical aspects like animation and voice-acting will not be discussed, and parodies and references won’t be explained. This is also not a recap post, so the plot is not usually apparent. The first two posts will feature my thoughts organized by episode. Part 1 covers episodes 1-3, and part 2 covers episodes 4-6. Finally, part 3 will be a summary of everything, plus any additional thoughts. With this information, it’s time to begin. Let’s rant!
FLCL Episode 1
“Nothing amazing happens here: only the ordinary.”
-Naota, FLCL episode 1
The first episode is about Naota’s initial encounters with Haruka. After being hit by the strange woman’s guitar, Naota grows a horn from his head. He is able to push it in and keep it hidden with a bandage for a while. So what is it with that horn? What are the robots? What is Haruka? There’s a difference between the answers revealed in the plot and the kind of symbolism I’m referring to.
The horn could symbolize a several things, but I think the best explanation is adolescence. Adolescence is a hard time for a lot of people, and we tend to forget it when we grow up. There are a lot of difficult emotions, self-consciousness, and the beginning of sexual awareness. These line up with what we see Naota experiencing in FLCL. Sexual imagery and euphemisms are used liberally, as well as interesting insights into Naota’s emotional frustrations and sense of self.
We’ll come back to the psychology of Naota later. What about the robots? I think most of the robot battles are present for plot, parody, and exciting action in the anime. However, there may be a slim meaning. One can think of these fight scenes as Naota’s struggles with negative emotions, either his own or that of others. Although Haruka might be responsible for all this chaos, she also helps defeat the rampaging mecha-creatures. I interpret that to mean that Haruka’s presence is immensely important for helping Naota change and grow.
Speaking of Haruka, we can view her character as a metaphor. I think she represents change. This idea will make a bit more sense if we first look at Naota and what’s going on in his inner world. Essentially, he is reluctant to change himself, and doesn’t want change in his life, either. In comes Haruka screaming wildly on a vesper motorcycle, smashing things with her guitar. She’s almost otherworldly with her insane energy and strange behaviors. Whatever else she’s there for in the plot, Haruka also stands in as the chaotic changes of life.
There are a handful of observations to discuss concerning the psychology of Naota. To start off with, the boy feels he must be mature and responsible. Since his beloved brother left for the US, Naota wants to take care of everyone. But it’s hard to help anyone when you don’t put care into yourself. Naota doesn’t want anything taking the place of his brother in his heart, so he’s closed off. He repeats that nothing unusual ever happens because that’s what he wishes were the case.
When she was disguised as a nurse, Haruka said that Naota has FLCL Syndrome, a condition where adolescent kids grow horns from trying too hard. This was a lie, but there may be truth to the “trying too hard” part. What is Naota trying so hard at? Perhaps maintaining a distance from everyone and “acting mature.” He is at first enraged by Haruka since she is “a stupid adult that won’t grow up.” I think the core of the issue is that Naota is trying to grow up, but struggles with change.
Haruka’s “magic” is already working on him, though. After the battle on the bridge, he has already started to change. The best example is the sour juice. At the start of the episode, Naota rejected the sour drink that Mamimi offered him. (She was also offering him n indirect kiss.) But when she offered again at the end of the episode, Naota prepared himself for the sourness and drank it. This means he is changing and growing up, getting closer to being a healthy self.
FLCL Episode 2
“I hated this place. I wished for it to go away. But it’s no use.
Even if you burn it down, there are still the remains.”
~Mamimi, FLCL episode 2.
The first episode was packed with content and possible meanings, but episode two is a bit simpler and more concise once you view it as a whole. A big part of adolescence and growing up in general is that uncomfortable feeling of not knowing. You felt so sure of things as a child, but the world becomes complex and confusing with change and age. So do people. How much can they be trusted? Why do people lie or hide things? Naota’s empty head in this episode is fitting, since he feels like he knows nothing.
This is clear in the case of his friendship with Mamimi. Episode two reveals that she is being bullied, and probably has been bullied most of her life. But she never said anything about it, and Naota never realized. Based on what he learns, the boy also realizes that it’s possible that Mamimi was the arsonist behind the school fire 6 years ago. He chooses to believe in her, but he’s immensely frustrated that he never knew these things before.
The contents of Naota’s mind and heart continue to be shown and explored in this episode. FLCL is strong with its character psychology. Mamimi, for instance, is also an interesting and well-written character with a lot of personal struggles. There’s the bullying, and her family is also deep in poverty. To escape from those things, she focuses on video games and doting on Naota. She also has a cigarette addiction. In episode 2, Mamimi is so desperate that she believes Naota’s robot (Canti) is God.
However, Mamimi’s borderline insanity is halted after Naota pilots Canti and saves her from the enemy creature. By episode 3, Mamimi seems to be doing better, and is happy that Naota rescued her. She is disillusioned of the idea that Canti is God. As for Naota, he wants to do more to help Mamimi. He decided to believe in her and stay with her no matter what. Both kids are complex and their character development is spot-on.
FLCL Episode 3
“Kids can’t choose the adults in our lives. Least of all our parents. Ninamori’s father is the mayor of our town. I don’t really get it, but it must be hard for her.”
-Naota, FLCL Episode 3
I didn’t find as many insights or things to analyze in the third episode. It’s pretty straightforward. Young miss Ninamori is the focus of this installment. She is an intelligent teen who doesn’t let anything effect her. She always says, “It’s not a big deal,” and the like. She’s calm about her father’s divorce and his “other woman.” The only thing she seems passionate about is the upcoming school play, where she is the lead.
It took a lot to break this girl’s strong calmness. Ninamori finally snapped after Naota exposed her secret, that she rigged the votes in order to play the lead character. Another insane battle ensues when a monster emerges from Ninamori. I think this represents her negative emotions. Eventually, the monster is defeated.
Afterward, Ninamori started doing better. Even though she said “it’s no big deal,” she smiled when she heard her dad wasn’t getting a divorce after all. Ninamori cut her hair and wore her glasses to school for the first time, showing the theme of change. Another theme in this episode is embarrassing secrets, and the self-consciousness associated with having them exposed. This is a common experience in adolescence.
Just to help me keep things straight, I’ll summarize here. The themes in episodes 1-2 include adolescence, sexual awareness, change, and uncertainty about people and the world. Episode 3 was about embarrassing secrets, and a child’s inability to chose the adults that surround them. Elements of character psychology were found throughout, especially for Naota, Mamimi, and Ninamori. This is a story of children going through difficult and chaotic changes while experiencing the powerful feelings of adolescence.
Thank you for reading at Anime Rants! In part 2 of this blog series, we’ll examine FLCL episodes 4, 5, and 6! Take care and stay awesome!