An Episodic Breakdown of “FLCL”: Episode 3 – Ninamori’s Noggin…

Selamat PagiSamurai here, welcoming you to our third voyage into the world of FLCL. With this episode, we are now 1/2 way done with the series! I know this particular post is a little late, but I’ve been super busy with offline activities, and also writing up the summary of this episode proved to be slightly more difficult than I anticipated. However, I got it done, so let’s jump right into it.

Last time on FLCL, our robo-birthing male lead Naota discovered that his head-womb no longer has a brain inside it, Mamimi immerses herself in a video game and is under the illusion that the Nandaba Family Robot, Canti, is the God Of Darkwings from the game, and Haruko manages to breach Medical Mechanica headquarters and discover that not all is as it seems. What are the real secrets tucked away in that iron-shaped building? How do they relate to the events going on in Naota’s head? And just what the heck does fooly cooly mean anyway? Let’s get it on. I’m Cajun Samurai, and this is my episodic breakdown of the experience that is FLCL Episode 3: “Marquis de Carabas”!

Our episode opens up with Ninamori in the backseat of a car, a mysterious lady driving in bumper-to-bumper traffic. She compliments her on how mature and calm Ninamori was upon hearing the news that her parents could potentially split up. Ninamori plays it real cool, saying that there’s nothing she can do about her parents getting a divorce. She also observes how the secretary wore a different outfit today than she wore when she slept over last night. The secretary then asks her why she has a change of clothes with her. Ninamori defiantly says that it’s for a play at school and that she has the lead role…

After the title card, we head into Naota’s room, as our blue socked male protagonist [ironic statement as he is barefoot in this shot…] wakes up in the morning, wearing yet another hat, noticing all the junk currently gathered in his room from his new roommate. He gets dressed and goes outside to confront Haruko, who is working on her Vespa, which is now exploding and sputtering at random, despite having new parts installed. Haruko explains that it doesn’t really matter if the house is messy as Kamon is printing a “Mini-Zine” in the house. [Mini-Zine = Mini Magazine…see what they did there?] As Naota turns away to leave Haruko to her own devices, she grabs him and begins doing…SOMETHING…off camera to the top of his head, saying she loves how SOMETHING feels so soft and cuddly. Naota squirms, but it’s clear that he is putty in her hands as the two discuss what to have for dinner.

Later, at school, outside the shoe lockers, Ninamori confronts Naota about being late for rehearsals. As it turns out, Mabase Elementary is putting on a school play, “Puss in Boots”. Ninamori was selected to play the lead role  and Naota got pressed into service as the cat…with great reluctance. Ninamori reminds Naota of his responsibilities as the cat and demands that he shows up for rehearsal. Naota wonders what exactly has her all riled up.

 

During class, the teacher, Junko Miyaji, is giving a lecture on cats…which just seems like a bunch of fluff. [I mean, really? Is it that much of a requirement to teach a bunch of 6th graders about cats?] Masashi secretly passes a tabloid magazine to Naota, which puts Ninamori’s father on full blast about his scandalous relationship with his secretary. Unfortunately, Miya-Jun discovers and confiscates the magazine, ranting and raving about how impolite it is to read magazines of tabloid variety about Ninamori’s father. Naota feels sorry for the trouble that Ninamori goes through…but not sorry enough to stick around for rehearsal, and he skips off.

vlcsnap-2013-11-06-20h03m43s19…and soon wishes he hasn’t as Mamimi, once again ditching school, now suddenly has the urge to don a pair of cat ears and take pictures with Naota. [Because, hey, who needs a proper education, right Mamimi?] Naota complains to Mamimi about how he was volunteered into doing the school play, when he really didn’t want to. Mamimi ruminates on her experiences with school plays, saying that they were embarrassing, but how her mom and dad both went to see her in a play, so it was a good memory. [Must’ve been one of those days she decided NOT to skip…] She then decides to yank off Naota’s hat, much to his utter horror as, instead of horns, Naota now has what appears to be fluffy white and pink cat ears growing out his skull. Mamimi, ever the photographer, decides to take advantage and snap a bunch of pictures.

Meanwhile, Kamon is busy trying to flog his mini-zine of Justice, “Come On, Mabase!” at the local convenience store. As he negotiates with the store owner, in walks Ninamori. Kamon then tries to sell her one of the magazines, which she instantly recognizes as the one Naota and Masashi were looking at in class.

Back at the river, Mamimi is quite taken with Naota’s nekomimi, and his predicament of having random things come out his head like the cat ears and “Lord” Canti. Mamimi then comments on how brave Naota was for piloting Canti and saving her life. Naota, blushing slightly, admits that he doesn’t remember exactly what happens when he got swallowed up by Canti.[Naota, all you have to do is read my write-up on Episode 2, silly…]

Speaking of, back at the bakery, Canti works on piecing back together the red pieces of his shattered red armor in seclusion. When Haruko catches him, Canti becomes noticeably embarrassed, much to Haruko’s delight. She leaves him to bring in the laundry while she runs off to do some…errands.

 

Later, back at Ninamori’s house, there is a mob of press gathered outside, undoubtedly anxious to get a statement. The secretary, attempting to avoid the press mob, takes to the sewers to meet up with Ninamori, who waits a good distance away. The secretary compliments her on her boots, saying that they’re perfect for a Nouveau Riche princess. Before Ninamori has a chance to reply, she runs away as the reporters begin getting violent.

At the train station, Ninamori ruminates about her current situation, saying that all she has in her life is her cat. As she takes a swig of her soda, Naota appears behind her, grinning at the idea of the class president hanging around town drinking like a derelict. After trading a few barbs about missing rehearsals and his taste in headgear, our blue socked protagonist asks Ninamori about the events at her house. Ninamori, clearly somewhat affected, bushes it off saying that she’ll be alright because she’s a Nouveau Riche princess. Just then, Haruko comes barreling down the street in her Vespa, leaving chaos in her wake. [And just WHAT city in Japan gave this woman a license???] She swerves to avoid hitting a cat but winds up flying off the Vespa, which flips end over end down the street, slamming into Naota. Our blue socked protagonist goes flying towards Ninamori, but jjjjjjjust as it looks like their lips are going to lock in a kiss, his head winds up slamming into hers, and the two of them go stumbling down the stairwell. When Ninamori comes to, she notices Naota’s cat ears for the first time and touches them against Haruko’s advise. Almost immediately, her stomach begins hurting and she passes out once again.

After the commercial break, we see Haruko [in a Maid uniform…], Naota, Kamon, Canti, Ninamori and Shigekuni are enjoying “Little Prince Curry Goes to New York”. Ninamori looks none the worse for wear after her literal run-in with Naota, and is more curious about Canti, who is eating curry at the table with the others. While Naota complains about the spiciness of this royal curry, and dear old grandpa knocking on death’s door, it seems as though Ninamori and Kamon are handling the spiciness well, with the former relatively stone faced throughout the whole meal. Kamon then gets the bright idea to invite Ninamori to stay over for the night to both recuperate from her little accident with Haruko and her Vespa, and to avoid the scandal currently going on at her house. Ninamori decides to accept the offer…but not before  the Little Prince Curry decides to take the southbound train from New York, sending her flying to the facilities.

vlcsnap-2013-11-06-20h12m45s65Later that night, as she takes a bath, Kamon engages her in polite conversation. Ninamori expresses her gratitude for letting her stay and getting rid of the secretary. Kamon, in a moment that would make PedoBear proud, offers her a shower cap to keep the soap out her eyes…

Meanwhile, Naota is having a conversation with Canti…evidently our blue ‘bot said something to Naota that required Naota to clarify his relationship with Ninamori, saying that “she’s really grown up.”

When Naota returns to his room after his bath, sipping a pouch drink, he sees Ninamori sitting at his desk in his PJ’s wearing glasses. Ninamori explains that she typically wears contacts in school. After a bit of back and forth, Naota reminds her that people may start talking around school if they discover that the two of them spent the night together, so they make arrangements to avoid each other. Ninamori asks if it’s still cool if they hang out tonight and she sits next to him. Inadvertently, Naota leans on her, but then jumps away, exclaiming how weird the situation currently is. Ninamori retorts that the really weird thing is Naota’s new ears and how they’re perfect to play a cat. When Naota, in shock and anguish, asks why he has to play a cat, Ninamori reveals that she rigged the votes so she plays the lead and he plays the cat, thinking that nobody would EVER suspect the class president of doing such a thing. She goes on to explain how Naota, more than anyone else, should understand her plight as he is playing the title character in “Puss in Boots”–a character who hides their true identity in order to take on a better one, and does so for so long that the lie becomes the truth and thus the character finds happiness. Haruko soon makes her presence known on the top bunk. She’s been there the entire time and heard Ninamori’s confession. When Ninamori questions if Haruko sleeps in the same room with Naota every night, Haruko begins fondling Naota’s fluffy ears…much to Naota’s feigned annoyance, and Ninamori’s annoyance.

That next day, Haruko and Canti drop in at Naota’s school to deliver his curry lunch. The class is busy with rehersals and Naota was just getting ready to leave for the day, despite his classmates reminding him that it was a group democratic decision. Ninamori takes the initiative and grabs Naota’s arm, demanding that he return to the rehearsal, finally admitting that she wants her father and mother to see the play. In frustration, Naota knocks Ninamori’s hat off her head. She then in turn snatches Naota’s hat off his head, revealing his fluffy cat ears to the class. Enraged, Naota then spills the beans that Ninamori cheated to get the lead role in the play…

Suddenly, Ninamori gets a very massive, very familiar headache. Naota, quickly feeling his head, realizes that his ears are now gone and now appear on Ninamori. The ears now show their true nature as they are, in reality, the tips of the newest enemy robot now emerging from her head. Haruko and Canti attempt to fight it off in the classroom, but fail miserably as the robot uses Ninamori’s legs to fend them off. Naota grabs hold of Ninamori’s body, attempting to pull her free of the robot. With a whistle, Haruko summons her trusty vespa and guitar from the bakery and moves the fight upstairs to the roof of the school. The battle continues on the roof where Haruko soon gets a lock on the robots weak spot and begins thrashing at it, opening up the bulbous top to reveal a large flower. Naota, now flung away from Ninamori, drops his curry lunchbox in the center of the flower, causing it to close on itself and drop Ninamori, unceremoniously on the ground. Naota gets swallowed up by Canti, which converts into Cannon mode, and fires our blue socked protagonist at the robot, obliterating it and most of the school gymnasium in the process.

So the play goes on as scheduled with Naota playing the role of the Cat. He narrates how Ninamori’s father wound up not getting prosecuted and how Ninamori didn’t have to move. During the curtain call in the partially rebuilt school gym, Naota notes that Ninamori wore her glasses. Ninamori then looks over pokes her finger through the frame and says simply “They’re fake.”

Okay, hands down, this is one of my favorite episodes in this whole six episode series. Why, you may ask? Because it brings another character into Naota’s insane world. It’s always awesome when an anime brings in an outsider to witness the insanity, and even though Ninamori is one of Naota’s friends, she has always been on the outside looking in, like Gaku and Masashi. However, this episode drags her into the foray and gives Naota someone new that he has to, at least temporarily, contend with. Ninamori as a character is fascinating to watch. Much like Naota, she tries to hide her emotions and remain cool and indifferent to the goings on around her. However, it is blindingly obvious exactly what is going on in her mind. The whole incident with her parents potentially getting a divorce and her high-profile father potentially getting arrested has her shook…so much so that she formulates a plan to bring her mother and father together at the school play, hoping that the closeness will make them want to stay together; and she’ll do anything to accomplish that goal. This is why she’s so insistent that everything go without a hitch…including getting Naota to play the role of the cat. The funny thing is, Mamimi somewhat alludes to this during her photo session with Naota, saying how it was a good memory that her folks came to see her at the school play.

My favorite scene from this episode has to be the scene with Ninamori and Naota talking in his bedroom. That whole conversation is just so interesting to watch, and I love Naota’s reactions when Ninamori is leaning in closer and closer to him as she reveals the intricacies of her plan and explains her reasoning behind it. When I first watched FLCL way back in the day, I initially thought that this was a moment of romance between Naota and Ninamori. In hindsight, however, this is just Ninamori finally being able to reveal her plan to the one person she felt would understand it best; another person who has something to hide. I love the fact that she explains it with such intensity that Naota backs up to the corner of his bed and actually curls his toes in as though to say “Get the hell away from me, you psycho.”

With regards to animation, there’s nothing really special here, though the bright cartoon-like chase and battle scenes at the school looked amazing. The music that plays over it adds to the light feeling of the scene. Also, it might be me, but Haruko seems particularly cute this episode. In the first two episodes, she’s always had this kind of harshness or grunge look to her, but this time around, she looked downright adorable! Oh yeah, we’re also given another Matrix-esque scene. I love that the creators are using it so sparingly–if it was used in EVERY episode, it would get real tiring real fast!

In Case You Missed It Lagniappe:

  • The hat that Naota wears through most of the episode looks identical to the hat Takeru “T.K” Takaishi wears in Digimon Adventure 02. It should be noted that Digimon Adventure 02 premiered in Japan on April 2, 2000 while FLCL came along twenty-four days later on April 26.
  • Ninamori bears a striking resemblance to Misato Katsuragi from Neon Genesis Evangelion.
  • According to the election results, Naota “won” the vote to play the Cat by a vote of 23 to 15 against a student named Komine.
  • In the english dub, Gaku mentions Crystal Pepsi and the “Right Now” commercials done by Van Halen. In the original Japanese, the soda in question is Cherio.
  • When Mamimi says “Look everyone! The king ears are really donkey’s ears!” this could be a messed up rendition of “The Emperors New Cloak”.
  • For some reason, Mamimi says that Naota is “Almost as cute as Durilomon”. Naota rightly corrects her saying that Durilomon does not have ears.
  • When Miya-jun’s car gets smashed during the battle with the robot, a small keychain resembling Kenny from the animated series South Park appears in the debris.

And that’s episode 3 put away for another day! Up next in Episode 4, if you thought the metaphors were strong so far, you ain’t seen NOTHING yet, my friends. Come back and join us as we take a look at Episode 3: ”Full Swing” Batter Up!!

Advertisements

Speak Your Mind...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s