Episode 2: Fire Starter

There’s a fun scene in the middle of this episode of FLCL. Haruko’s vespa crashes into Medical Machina, and two security guards interrogate her. The young guard see that she’s wearing a skirt which tends to ride up her legs, and he tries to look under it. Just in time to brain the guard, Naota arrives, and he looks pretty smug about it. Haruko calls him her legal guardian.

Most of the second episode revolves around guardianship, responsibility, and people taking care of each other. Naota worries that his dad doesn’t act grown up, that he doesn’t like his grandfather looking at girly mags, and when he rescues Mamimi’s sandals from the river, he admonishes her for not acting like a high-schooler. He takes it upon himself to decide what is the proper way for each age group to act, and he’s impatient with abrogation.

There’s the suggestion that he shouldn’t have to take care of Mamimi; that she should be able to take care of herself. The subtext: Mamimi had a protector in Naota’s brother, and Naota doesn’t think he can take his brother’s place. He couldn’t do it to satisfy Mamimi’s amorous appetites in the last episode, and now he thinks she needs to be on her own.

But on her own, Mamimi is a dangerous thing. The robot that came out of Naota’s head is seen around town, and Mamimi believes it’s the god Canti-sama from a video game – a bizarre hand-held, a Game-n-Watch where the object (as disclosed in a weird montage that gives us a mind scan of Naota’s worry about Mamimi being an arsonist in real life and video games) is to burn a city to make places of worship for Canti-sama.

As happens in each episode, things end with a robot battle. It speaks to the skills of the creators that this robot fight (typical for anime) is emotionally moving. Mamimi is almost crushed by the robots, and Naota pulls her out of the way. The big robot comes down, but this time Naota calls for his brother, and the dynamics of the battle change. Canti-sama eats Naota, he turns into a killing machine, and he kicks the other robot’s ass.

Naota doesn’t know what it means to be grown up, but he thinks he does. His lack of experience makes him reach out to people who don’t need help while, like his brother, he neglects Mamimi. When he decides to help Mamimi, he acts like the brother he admired – who saved Mamimi when their school burnt down (burnt, we think, by Mamimi). But the real catalyst, after he states explicitly that he’s ready to stand beside Mamimi, is when he calls for his brother. He learns that he can’t take everything on his shoulders, and sometimes he needs to be protected too.

Rating :A

About Kent Conrad

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