An Episodic Breakdown of “FLCL”: Episode 4 – Swingin’ and Missin’…

Greetings everyone! Cajun Samurai here with my episode for synopsis of FLCL episode 4! Yes, I know this episode has long since aired, but as I said earlier, I had a lot of offline things I had to take care of, and that plus the Thanksgiving holiday conspired to make this write-up late. My apologies. But! I’m here now, so let’s get it started!

Last time on FLCL, Naota had been voted in, reluctantly, to play the cat in the Mabase Elementary School production of “Puss n’ Boots”. Ninamori, who is going through some Bill Clinton-level family issues, is determined to have Naota play the cat and for the production to be perfect, even if it means forcing him to play the role by rigging the votes. However, after a chance encounter with Naota’s head, and Karma, Ninamori takes part in the Robo-Birthing experience first-hand and a robot springs from her head. Canti and Haruko are quickly dispatched and the robot is eliminated…along with most of the school. Now, with that out the way, let’s kick off December the right way and get back on track! I’m Cajun Samurai, and this is my episodic breakdown of the experience that is FLCL Episode 4: “Full Swing”!

vlcsnap-2013-11-21-12h15m27s4Our episode opens up with Haruko playing baseball for the other team [who looks like they play for the other team…hint-hint…]…and doing a darn good job of it too as she pops a ball high in the air and dances up and down the bases. The team she’s playing against, the Martians, is the textbook definition of defeated, commenting, much to coach Shigekuni’s consternation, that ever since they lost their star player, Taskau, to the US, the team has pretty much sucked harder than the Green Bay Packers without Aaron Rogers. [Stop me when I’m lying…] The guys also comment that the only “help” they got was Taskau’s bat and Taskau’s little brother Naota. However, Naota seems to have a small problem that is a basic requirement for playing baseball–he doesn’t swing the bat. He doesn’t even ATTEMPT to swing the bat. [Granted it doesn’t help matters much that Haruko slings balls over the plate at well over the speed of sound…] After the complete and utter shut-out of a game, the Martians discover that Canti, the ball “boy”, has a great arm, and an awesome catch, and they happily recruit him to the team. Naota, smelling the winds of change, strides off. Haruko teases him about his new bandage and as she gets ready to pull off in her vespa, reminds him somewhat critically that nothing can happen until you swing the bat. 

vlcsnap-2013-11-21-20h30m02s42Naota arrives back home to find Haruko enjoying a very creepy, somewhat erotic massage given by Kamon, Naota’s dad, using his chin hairs. Yes…his chin hairs. When Naota asks why Haruko was playing for the other team [baseball wise…], Haruko comments that it’s to earn extra income to help pay the power bill. The erotic massage soon moves into feeding as Kamon feeds Haruko some fried eggs…mouth to mouth with Naota watching on in anger with a touch of jealousy.

vlcsnap-2013-11-21-21h39m20s150Still frustrated over what he just saw, Naota goes outside and takes his anger out on the vending machine, giving a half-hearted hit to the inanimate object. Suddenly, a mysterious shadowy figure rides up in his own scooter, saying that he should hit it with french bread instead of a baseball bat. As it turns out, he’s a customer for the bakery. The shadowy figure with rather pronounced eyebrows goes inside the bakery and inquires about the new “Super Spicy Curry Bread” on offer and also laying down subtle and not so subtle hints that he knows Haruko saying how much she is addicted to Naota and that he will soon know just how horrible a woman she is. He then departs with his purchases saying that older women can have a very strong and painful effect on people. As the figure drives off, Naota comments that adults are really stupid. [Please note that this whole discussion takes place with Haruko and Kamon upstairs doing…well…”special things”, and it can be heard all in the bakery and outside…freaks.]

vlcsnap-2013-11-21-21h41m48s93After his daily rape session with Mamimi a small innocent conversation with Mamimi, Naota comes back home but meets up with Haruko who offers to teach him how to swing the bat. Naota, at first refuses, but Haruko reiterates that his head “is the only one that works” and promises that he will soon be able to hit a home run. It also seems as though she’s throwing away something that looks oddly like a model of Kamon’s head… In the backyard, Haruko coaches Naota on proper stance. He has it down pat, but Haruko repeats again that he has to actually swing the bat. She then stands up close behind him, telling him to aim for the stars without holding back. She points out one particularly sparkly and bright star in the sky…

vlcsnap-2013-11-21-22h04m03s136…which is also being looked at by a group of technicians on large Evangelion-esque screens just outside of Mabase in a department known as Immigration Department CP. While the mysterious figure from earlier, now identified as Commander Amaro, is examining the super spicy curry bread he acquired from the bakery earlier, Lt. Kitsurubami, his second in command, gives a report. As it turns out, the “star” in the sky is a strange satellite known as Shiosaki that blasted though several defenses and is now on a pre-programmed attack on Earth.

Meanwhile, that night, Naota wakes up and notices Haruko is not in the bunk above him. Hearing some strange noises in his father’s room, he tiptoes over and peeks in the crack. What he sees is enough to shock him into a headache, but instead of a robot, Naota’s head begins flashing with a bright red light that can be seen from space, like a beacon. Amarao determines that the point of impact is Mabase.

vlcsnap-2013-12-01-13h49m35s7After the commercial, we’re on to the next day–Canti is on the mound, and ready to pitch in his first game. However, Naota is having none of that and he opts to spend time next to the river wrapped in Mamimi’s arms. When Haruko comes over, she tries to get Naota to swing the bat, but he wants none of it. However, Mamimi, upon hearing that Canti is playing, ditches Naota [and her panties] and ride off with Haruko. Naota is upset over the current change and decides to head home.

It’s here when things get a little freaky. When Naota arrives home, his father is sitting in the shadows. Daddy dearest is acting a little strange, speaking in robotic, disjointed sentences about how Haruko “fixed” him. The conversation carries some highly sexual undertones, saying how he couldn’t get himself up and how she told her not to leave any marks and that they have a “mouth-to-mouth” sort of relationship. He then walks clumsily towards Naota, but our blue-socked protagonist wants none of this and smashes the TV with his red bat, causing Kamon to fall backwards, seemingly dead. Naota stands in horror at what just happened.

vlcsnap-2013-12-01-13h52m00s182Meanwhile, Haruko is pitching a game worthy of the major leagues, to the awe of the opposing team. As she gets ready to sling another one across the plate, air-raid sirens suddenly blast around the city with an “Emergency” blimp flying overhead announcing that a state of emergency exists in Mabase City. Haruko looks up with a smile.

Later, Amarao begins interrogating Naota about what happened with his father. Naota attests that all he hit was the Television, but Amarao doesn’t buy it, claiming that Naota was jealous of Haruko and Kamon’s relationship and that he got so upset, he hit Kamon with the bat, killing him. Naota firmly denies that he has any feelings towards Haruko, even though Amarao rightly points out that Naota calls her by her first name.  Amarao then decides to drop the act and let Naota know what’s going on, telling our blue socked protagonist that he is simply being used by our yellow eyed femme fatale.

vlcsnap-2013-12-01-14h00m35s208Later, Naota returns home and notices that there is an electrical plug coming out of his “father’s” body. Suspicious, Naota walks around the house and discovers his real father is in the closet, completely dehydrated. Quickly, Naota runs to the bathroom with the body, tosses him in the bathtub, and re-hydrates him. As his dad returns to the world of the living, he explains to his son that Haruko asked if he could use his head, to which he agreed, but it didn’t quite work. Naota then recalls the conversation he had with Amarao…

vlcsnap-2013-12-01-14h02m24s21Apparently, the robots are coming through something called an “N.O Chanel”, which uses the right and left thought processes of the brain to create a kind of inter-dimensional gateway from one set place to another, allowing the user to transport just about anything from just about anywhere…even whole galaxies light-years away. However, only a certain kind of person with a certain kind of head can be used. He also states that the thing that was in Naota’s house pretending to be his father is only a mannequin–“the equivalent of a vending machine.” Amaro also explains how the evacuation is pointless as the bomb dropping into the atmosphere will destroy the entire city. He then asks Naota to pass a message to Haruko as a request from “a hometown fan”: hit one more ball out the park.

Haruko soon comes smashing through the Nandaba household with her vespa scooter, destroying the remnants of the mannequin. When Naota presses her for information why she replaced his father with a robot, she evades the question with an anime-esque reply. Naota then relays the message from Amarao, but Haruko says that a double-header is exhausting and that she’ll have to be paid for it.

Meanwhile, after declining all suggestions from Kitsurubami to go public with the bomb, explaining that it was a last-ditch backup plan in case of emergency. Amarao explains how Haruko, also known as Haruha Raharu, orchestrated this whole thing, and is using Naota for her own means to infiltrate the foreign embassy, the Interstellar Immigration unit and Medical Mechanica, and is not afraid of sacrificing an entire town to get her way.

vlcsnap-2013-12-01-14h05m46s252Haruko and Naota speed off to the top of the Medical Mechanica building, with Naota’s head blinking rapidly. Suddenly, Haruko reaches in Naota’s head and rather violently pulls out a glowing red Gibson Flying V…much to the arousal of the technicians of the Immigration unit. As the satellite begins its final decent into the atmosphere, zeroing in right on Naota’s location, and now resembling a black and red baseball, our blue socked protagonist looks around panicked for Haruko, who has already made her escape, assuming, of course, that Naota won’t swing the bat…

vlcsnap-2013-12-01-14h06m39s11However, Calling on his brother for strength, Naota assumes the position and swings the bat, connecting with the “ball”. However, it’s not enough and the ball begins glowing. Just when it looks like all is lost, in comes Haruko who, with a monstrous swing, blasts the bomb out the park into the deep beyond. Mamimi, looking on with Canti, remarks almost sadly that Takkun swung the bat.

Afterwards, during the ride home on Haruko’s Vespa, now completely exhausted yet smiling slightly, Naota ruminates how his hands still stinging and he wonders if the high he’s feeling is what Haruko feels all the time.

The technicians in Immigration report that the bomb achieved escape velocity and was now blasting off to unknown galaxies. Armarao, upset that he let Haruko slip through his fingers, loses one of his fake eyebrows.

vlcsnap-2013-12-01-14h06m41s34The message of this show is about as simple as simple can get. Nothing in life can happen if you don’t swing the bat and take a chance. Sure you might strike out once or twice, but the fact that you actually ATTEMPTED to do something instead of standing there and letting opportunities pass you by can be fulfilling in its own right. This is a fundamental lesson that we learn as we grow up, and the way it’s handled in this episode, both on the literal and the metaphorical level is all kinds of awesome. Giant bombs, dehydrated fathers, and underlying sexual innuendo aside, this story is a prime example of being a coming of age story of the highest degree.

I also love the fact that this is a Naota-centered episode. The last three were focused more on our female cast; Haruko in Episode 1, Mamimi in Episode 2 and Ninamori in Episode 3. Though these three episodes were really good, and I enjoyed them completely, they didn’t focus a whole lot on Naota’s development as a character. This episode, and the last two give our blue-socked protagonist a lot of growing up time.

vlcsnap-2013-12-01-14h07m27s237Oh, and did you notice how disappointed Mamimi looked when Naota swung the bat? Yeah, keep that moment in your mind for the next episode. This is the moment when Mamimi edges away from Naota. Remember that when Naota was passive and indifferent, Mamimi couldn’t keep her hands off him. But now that Naota is showing some assertive tendencies and the ability to stand up for himself, Mamimi starts seeing him differently.

With regards to the animation style this time around, the whole show kinda takes on a horror movie feel. The shadows and angles are all genuinely spooky and terrifying. Also, there are quite a few quick 2 frame shots where you really don’t know quite what you’re looking at unless you take it frame-by-frame. I can’t really explain it, but I refer you to the scene when Naota and Haruko are talking at sunset and Haruko offers to give our blue-socked protagonist some batting practice. Theres a quick, almost surreal moment where it looks like Haruko is holding Naota’s head…it’s creepy, but so cool.

vlcsnap-2013-12-01-14h03m20s67My favorite scene this time comes right after Naota rehydrated his father. Haruko rams into the house on her scooter. Naota holds up the mannequin’s head and starts asking Haruko who she is and why did she feel the need to replace his father with a robot. I love the following dialogue [in english]:

“Yo!”

“What’s up with this robot thing? Who are you really?”

“I’m an illusion of your youth; a manifestation of the feelings in your adolescent heart!”

“Where’d you get that line from? Anime?”

FLCL is known for completely obliterating the 4th wall, and this time is no different. Barbara Goodson’s read of that last line is just awesome. Whoever cast her in this role, God bless you and I owe you a drink.

In Case You Missed It Lagniappe:

  • During his time at bat in the beginning of the episode, none of the other players ever refer to Naota by name. They call him “Taskau’s little brother”.
  • This is the second episode in the series when a robot of some sort does not come out of Naota’s head.
  • The texturing used on Armaro’s eyebrows are actually images of seaweed scanned into the computer. The same goes for the roaches that are crawling around Kamon’s body.vlcsnap-2013-12-01-14h01m02s222
  • In the scene with Mamimi and Naota by the river, when Mamimi hears about Canti playing in the game, she darts off. If you take that scene frame-by-frame, you notice that Naota somehow pulls off Mamimi’s panties.
  • When Amarao reads Naota’s file, he notes that Kamon is 47 years old and was an editor of a sub-culture magazine in Tokyo up until ten years ago. This means Naota was about three when something happened and he left the magazine to run a bakery. My theory is that this is when Naota’s mom either died or left the picture, leaving Kamon alone to raise Naota and his brother. Further, I’m going to theorize that Shigekuni is actually Naota’s Maternal Grandfather–or his Mother’s father.
  • Also noted during the interrogation scene is that only a month has passed from the start of the series.
  • This is the one and only time we see Mamimi with her uniform shirt open when she’s sitting on top of Canti.

And so, that’s the end of our trip through Episode 4! We are two episodes away from finishing our trippy-trip […even though the show has already concluded its’ first run on TV yesterday…] and the next episode…boy, oh boy, oh boy…if you thought the metaphors were strong this time around, it all comes to a head here. Come back and join us as we take a look at Episode 4: “Brittle Bullet” Lock and load!

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