Episode 4: Full Swing

Watching this episode for the third time, I got the jokes. After Haruko pulls a Flying V out of Naota’s head, all the girls (for a secret government organization) see them get nosebleeds. Not tiny ones, but geysers, covering their mouths in a grotesque fashion. I didn’t realize that, before the guitar comes out, Haruko says, “Whip it out.” To which Naota replies: “I can’t do it if you rush me.” Nosebleeds are the anime symbol of sexual arousal. Get it? It’s like his guitar is a big dick, and these women are all jonesing for it.

And for that reason I’m ambivalent about this episode. Here, the focus is on baseball, and why Naota never swings his bat. He does swing — three times. First, to attack a vending machine when he thinks Haruko and his dad are getting it on. Later, when he confronts his dad, he smashes the TV with his bat, causing a clock to brain his dad. And then, of course, at the end, when he stops the world from destruction by hitting a fastball (a robot-propelled bomb) that’s colliding with earth.

This is one of the densest episodes of FLCL. It brings up many story ideas that are paid off in the last two episodes. Which makes it a little more traditionally anime-like, not only as an episode but as part of the series. And that diminishes its power. Episode four feels like “just another episode.” Because it’s just another episode of FLCL, it has few parallels in strangeness. But for this series, that’s not enough.

What turns me off is the smuttiness that creeps in. In terms of ideas and presentation, FLCL banks on being outrageous. Here, we get stupid sex jokes: the robotic version of Naota’s dad is a kind of massage-dildo for Haruko; Naota thinks he’s killed his dad; and their cat’s huge nutsac swings like a punching bag. Ho ho ho.

We’re given a plot, but it ain’t brilliant. An X Files-like agency tracks Haruko, who’s looking for a pirate king, and…who cares. What matters is whether Naota can swing. But that doesn’t matter as much as it could.

Rating :B-

About Kent Conrad

To contact Kent Conrad, email kentc@explodedgoat.com