Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Few Thoughts on FLCL

I have seen a lot of anime. I have seen very few, however, that rival FLCL in terms of timelessness and symbolism (Texhnolyze and Haibane take second and third place).

While many dismiss FLCL as random, there is a lot of symbolism to be found in the series that helps keep the narrative glued together.

When I was still in college, I wrote up a (very) brief set of notes on some of the major symbols that appear. From time to time I've gone back to tweak a few things, but here's what I've got so far:

Canti: Naota's reliance on Canti represents his reliance on his (now-absent) older brother. In many respects, Canti replaces Naota's brother, starting with simply being another person in the house. During combat, however, Naota does not rely on his own strength (at first), but the combined strength of himself and Canti. As the series progresses and Naota believes in himself more and more, his power evolves. In the final episode, he finally steps out of Canti's frame (his famous brother's shadow)and finds a strength even greater than his best when combined with Canti.

The Iron: Medical Mechanica's Iron represents adulthood. Whenever Naota finds himself in a sexual situation, the Iron produces steam and blankets the entire town (to Naota, it is his entire WORLD) in a confusing fog. Furthermore, it is noted that there are neither entrances nor exits to the Iron--one simply finds oneself inside of it. Amarao is terrified that the Iron might render the world flat and destroy an entire planet. Naota learns that he doesn't have to worry about being "run over" by adulthood at his age. He can let it lie still for a while. And maybe, just maybe, looming adulthood isn't as threatening as it seems.

Mamimi's Cigarettes: Imprinted with the slogan, "Never Knows Best." While more obvious than some of the other symbols, the cigarette slogan defines Mamimi's character. She means no harm, but her actions get out of control in the end. It starts with her physical interest in Naota, despite a very wide age-gap between them. With Naota's older brother gone (he left Mamimi when he left to play baseball), she shifts her sexual interests to the person who was most closely related to her ex-boyfriend. When Naota grows attached to Haruko, Mamimi tries to find another replacement, which ends up the Terminal Core. While she does let go of Naota's older brother by letting the Terminal Core devour her cell phone, she becomes wrapped up in the idea of revenge. Eventually the Terminal Core is beyond her control, due to the amount of electronics and vehicles she let it devour as part of her revenge. She is directly responsible for creating one of the beasts that is meant to grasp the Iron and level the town.

Baseball: Naota's older brother has a career as an athlete. Throughout the series, many references are made to baseball. The series opens with Mamimi instructing Naota how to properly swing a bat. Later on, Haruko and Canti join a baseball team. Haruko is the one who teaches Naota to swing his own bat. (Freudian? At times.) She teaches him that he can face a giant challenge on his own when she leaves him to swing at the giant satellite that is sent to crash into the town. While it is never stated outright, Haruko teaches Naota that wielding power isn't something he should be ashamed or afraid of. When the satellite turns out to be a little too much for Naota to handle on his own, Haruko steps up and helps him, letting him know that when a situation gets tough, he still has people who will back him up.

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