“When you’re on a bike, the ocean’s a lot closer than you think. The autumn salt wind went right through to the back of my nose. And maybe it’s because, like Haruko said, my head was empty.”
– Naota Nandaba
Hey guys, Samurai here once again bringing you a rundown and breakdown of the anime adventure that is FLCL during it’s run on Toonami! I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on Twitter about this little segment, and I’m excited that you guys are enjoying it!
Last time on FLCL, 6th Grade Elementary Student Naota Nandaba has had his life turned upside down as of recent; His brother has left him for a lucrative baseball career in the US, his brother’s ex girlfriend now clings to him like a second skin, and, oh yeah, he now sprouts horns from his noggin, which transforms into giant fighting robots thanks, in no small part to the Vespa Riding, pull-string bass Guitar Wielding, Haruko Haruhara. Now one of the robots is living with him and Naota must deal with the sudden confusion that fate has thrown him into. Oh yeah, he also has to deal with the ups and downs of puberty. Sucks to be you, Naota… I’m the Cajun Samurai, and this is my episodic breakdown of the experience that is FLCL Episode 2: “Fire Starter”
Our episode opens up with Mamimi narrating over what looks like a flashback of a burning building. She ruminates how she once saw “god” one rainy afternoon; a god that only she can see; a protector of the weak.
Jump into the current time, and Mamimi is meeting up with Naota outside Mabase Elementary, much to his chagrin and much to the amusement of his friends…save for Ninamori. [Oh, don’t worry Ninamori…you’ll get your time with Naota soon enough…]
Later, back at Naota’s house, Haruko uses Canti, revealed to be a Medical Mechanica robot, to take X-Rays of the inside of Naota’s head, which now has two new horns sprouting forth. The X-Ray reveals something shocking; Naota’s head is now completely empty…as in no brain whatsoever. [One wonders if the creators of this show have a similar affliction…kidding!] When Naota attempts to ask the logical question, “Why in the name of all that is good and holy are these robots coming from MY head?”, Haruko deftly evades the question. Naota ruminates how both of the women in his life, Haruko and Mamimi have a lot of lies swirling around them…
After the title card, we see Naota’s dad, Kamon, using Canti to help move boxes from the bakery to the family car…much to Naota’s annoyance. When our young blue-socked protagonist begins chastising his father, Kamon then goes into a long winded explanation about how perfectly logical and normal it is for a robot to be living with them, citing several different anime and manga. Naota reveals to Haruko, who is looking out over the city with her familiar binoculars, that Kamon once wrote a book about “the deep mysteries of Eva”. [Get in line, Kamon…EVERYBODY AND THEIR GRANDMOTHER wrote books and articles trying to understand and explain Evangelion…and they all came off sounding like pompous twits…] Haruko ruminates about how there were a lot of fires that suddenly sprang up in the city.
Later, in the rain, we join up with Mamimi, who is playing a handheld game by the river under the bridge…a small, spry kitten jumping and dancing around her as she soaks her bare feet in the river water. Naota arrives and drops off a pair of sandals, understandably curious as to why this high school girl is just hanging around a river with a kitten playing games…with no shoes. [Oh come on, Naota…lots of girls hang out by rivers alone…with cats…under bridges…okay, okay…she ain’t got it all upstairs…] Mamimi explains that she was playing with the kitten, whom she nicknamed “Takkun”, and her shoes floated away. When Naota asked if Mamimi saved the cat, Mamimi proudly replies that she’s like a god–a protector of the weak like the god of black flames, Canti-sama. Naota recalls that was the name of a character in a video game that Mamimi is currently addicted to. When Mamimi asks Naota if he wants to play, he declines saying that he has people he needs to look after…
Cut to Haruko [Thanks to @rinku588 on Twitter for pointing out my error…] barreling like a bat out of hell at full speed towards Medical Mechanica. She slams into the side of the building, much to the confusion of two security guards, one of which is taking great care to examine Haruko’s vespa…and the area up her skirt. Naota arrives just in time with a replacement part [that looks shockingly like a Gundam model…]. When questioned by the security guards, Haruko points out how odd it is that there is no way in or out of the Medical Mechanica building. Once the new part is installed, Our Vespa Vixen decides to give Naota a reward for “rescuing” her–something much better than CPR…
Meanwhile, with camera in hand, [::Coughs:: Stalker! ::coughs::] Mamimi follows what looks like a black winged and haloed god ruffling through the remnants of an old schoolhouse, long since burned out. The “god” in question is actually Canti, decked out in a halo and black wings…for reasons unknown. Mamimi soon looks up in shocked amazement as the aforementioned “god” takes flight in the sky midst the sunbeams breaking through the clouds.
Later, Haruko gives Naota his reward–a ride along the river on her vespa…much to Naota’s terror as Haruko is not known to be the safest driver in the world. Naota ruminates about how he can feel the breeze of the salt air slam through his nose and into the back of his head…because he no longer has a brain.
That night, Haruko, Mamimi and Naota are chilling at the bakery, with Mamimi showing off her blurry amateurish pictures of Canti. Naota is once again frustrated that Canti is out in public where anyone can see him, and is even more frustrated when Canti comes in for a landing in the background, lights flashing like a helicopter. Mamimi, however, is ecstatic and begins praying to “The god of dark wings”. As it turns out, Canti was on an errand run, picking up a few drinks for Haruko and a copy of “Hustler” magazine for Naota’s grandpa. Mamimi is shocked at this treatment of her “god” and immediately begins praying…while Haruko studies a magazine article about a mysterious apparition that appeared in the skies above the city that looks a lot like Canti…
That next day, Naota and his friends visit the remnants of a boathouse that burned down recently, swapping conspiracy theories about what could’ve caused the fire, ranging from aliens to a disgruntled housewife fed up with dirty dishes. [Yeah, because…why not? I can TOTALLY see a housewife getting so mad over the plight of dirty dishes that she sets fire to a random boathouse…SURRRRE…] The conversation then drifts to a fire that happened in a school house years back. As the group walks on, they notice Mamimi in the river, wringing out her uniform and picking up her wet bag, having been bullied off screen by other girls from her high school.
Later, while following Mamimi across the bridge silently, with the former currently in a daze/trance, the video game she was playing earlier falls out her pocket. Naota picks it up and then recalls that the rules of FireStarter. Long story short, you have to burn down the city of Endsville to receive the personal blessing of the black winged god of flames, Canti; the more fires you set, the more points you get, and the better your chances of getting the blessing. [Meh…it’s no Persona 3, but I suppose you play what you get…] Naota then realizes that it’s Mamimi who has been setting the random fires in Mabase…and that it was the fire at the school all those many years ago that brought her and Taskau, Naota’s brother, together.
Naota then discovers Mamimi by the burned remnants of the school house, surrounded by lit cigarettes in a circle, other-worldly music playing from a radio, her hands clasped in prayer. As it turns out, Canti is also there, still shifting through the rubble of the school house. Mamimi comments that she hated the school house, saying that she wanted it to go away. She then drifts over to Canti, longing for him to kiss her…
…which triggers another massive headache from Naota as he robo-births another giant robot. Both the new robot and Canti engage in battle with this new giant robot, but even with Haruko’s El Kabong maneuvers, the new robot proves to be a formidable foe. Meanwhile, Naota takes it upon himself to protect Mamimi from nearly being crushed by the battling mecha. But just as the mecha is about to deal it’s final death blow, something switches on in Canti and he flips the mecha aside, grows a massive mouth, and eats Naota whole…which causes him to return to his original bright-red coloration, turning the tide in his favor. Red-Canti then transforms into a cannon, takes aim, and fires a blast [Actually Naota…] at the enemy mecha, incapacitating it. The blast then returns back inside the cannon. Haruko comes along, gives a solid clonk to the robot, and the mecha explodes, obliterating the remnants of the burned schoolhouse. Now back to his normal blue form, Canti soon finds himself having to expel Naota…quite literally.
With police sirens blaring, Haruko decides it’s time to make a hasty exit. However, after sharing a look of knowing, Naota makes up his mind that regardless of what kind of lies or truth awaits him, he’ll stick by Mamimi’s side forever.
So, Episode 2 of FLCL brings us deeper into the mind [or lack there of] of our characters. This particular episode gives us a fascinating look inside Mamimi’s life and her thought process…for better or worse. Though there are still loads of mysteries surrounding her, and while we will NEVER learn EVERYTHING about this peculiar girl, we do get a general idea about some of her more odd eccentricities. Mamimi is a very impressionable and girl with, I would imagine, a pretty bad home life; after all, we NEVER see her in school or with other people, she eats the day-old bread and bread crusts from the bakery, she’s being bullied by other girls in her school, and she lost her first, real love. So it wouldn’t be a stretch to theorize that Mamimi is the way she is because of her circumstances. Also, did you notice the nickname that she gave the little kitten? “Tak-Kun?” Did you hear how happy she was when Naota asked her if she was taking care of it? This kinda shows how Mamimi wants to have something to love that she can hold onto, something that depends on her and won’t run away easily, like Taskau did.
With regards to the relationship between Naota and Haruko, it’s making baby steps. Back in episode 1, it’s pretty evident that Naota doesn’t think very highly of Haruko–and rightly so. In episode 2, we now get Naota helping out Haruko every so often, we see the two of them hanging out a little more, Naota even rides around with Haruko on her Vespa…though he complained the whole time. Even though our blue-socked protagonist still is on his guard around this strange girl, you can tell that their relationship will only continue to deepen as the series goes on.
My favorite scene in Episode 2 is from just after the commercial break, when Mamimi, Naota and Haruko are chilling outside together talking. Though the animation is odd in this scene, and not much happens [Save for the shout-out to “Hustler” and Anna Nicole Smith…], I liked this scene because it has two of the most important female figures in Naota’s life in close quarters with each other, just having a chat. And presumably, these two get along alright enough, as Haruko refers to Mamimi by a nickname, “Sameji”.
Animation-wise, we’re given another special scene after the commercial break, where the animation gets all stringy…according to the Commentary Track on the FLCL DVD, this animation style is the specialty of the animation director of this particular episode. It’s unusual, but it’s kinda cool.
In Case You Missed It Lagniappe:
- Naota’s school is unimaginatively named Mabase Elementary School.
- Haruko is wearing the same nurses uniform she swiped from the hospital in Episode 1 and gives her age here as 19 Years Old.
- In ways that aren’t 100% explained, Haruko is able to communicate with her superiors through Miyu-Miyu, the Nandaba family cat.
- According to Naota’s X-Ray, he is 148 Centimeters tall, 47 Centimeters heavy, and has Type-A Positive blood.
- In this episode, Mamimi uses an Olympus SLR camera. Mamimi tends to favor Olympus-brand cameras as the first camera she is seen with is an Olympus XA.
- When Canti arrives back to the bakery after his magazine/drink run, Haruko demands to know why he is late. Canti’s excuse, as printed on the screen in Japanese was “The stupid clerk at the store was slow”.
- In the original Japanese, when Grandpa gets angry at the magazine Canti brings, he says “I told you to get the one with Shaku-chan in it, didn’t I?!” “Shaku-chan” refers to Yumiko Shaku, a famous Japanese actress and model. One reasons that the closest thing to Shaku-chan would be Anna Nicole Smith, the late model and actress here in the US.
- Also in the original Japanese, the magazine is named “Bomb”…not “Hustler”.
- We find out in this show that Mamimi goes to Shinden High School…though it’s not clear what grade she’s in.
- The scene with Naota recalling the rules of the Fire Starter video game is reminiscent of a scene from Studio Gainax earlier theatrical production, The End of Evangelion.
- During this scene, you can hear several different voices. Some of them are simply replays of dialogue that we heard earlier this episode, while others are brand new including Naota being interrogated by the police and Naota finding out that his cat is able to understand and communicate in human language. This is why Naota asked “Why did Miyu-Miyu get on your case anyway?!” earlier in the episode. Evidently he walked in on a scene when Haruko was being fussed at.
- Before converting into his standard blue form, Red-Canti pats Mamimi on the head, just like Taskau did in the school fire six years earlier.
- Speaking of, did you notice what Mamimi was praying while surrounded by the Cigarettes? She was repeating fooly Cooly” over and over again.
- Though it’s unnoticeable in the On-Air version, Haruko actually swears immediately before insisting they haul tail.
And that’s Episode 2 in the can! Things are really starting to get busy in Mabase now! If you think things are confusing NOW…ohhh, just wait until later! Next week: We take a look at Episode 3: “Marquis de Carabas” — Also known as My Favorite Freaking Episode!
See ya then!