Episode 3: Marquis de Carabas

One of the pleasures of FLCL is that it adds depth of character to the sensibilities of a cartoon. By character depth, I don’t mean that everyone realizes their parents were mean to them and they could care less about other kids being abused and thrown into large robots. What I mean is that a character who seemed one-note now has more going on, and his/her actions in the episodes prior weren’t just gags but had motivation. For instance, this episode highlights Ninamori, the character whose previous interaction with Naota was to tell him that things didn’t look good on him, and to get a little piqued at Mamimi for hanging around him.

In episode three, she gets annoyed at Naota for ditching rehearsals of the school play, Puss In Boots. (Naota is cast as the puss, Ninamori the other lead.) At the same time, Ninamori (class president and daughter of the mayor) is unable to go to her press-hounded home because of a legal problem with her father, a secretary, and her parents’ potential divorce.

Naota and Ninamori have a sort of nascent romance. It’s happening but it’s not. She likes him, he doesn’t hate her, and there’s a funny scene where, after Haruko runs him over, he and Ninamori almost kiss. But he rams her, making them fly down the stairs and transfer the new robot inside his head to Ninamori.

The Puss In Boots angle has more to do with the theme of this episode than any mere robot attack. Ninamori has a hard shell. She pretends to be cool about anything – her parents’ divorce, her sleeping over at Naota’s place. Nothing seems to reach her. But she gets excited when she tells Naota that she rigged the play for him to play puss and she the princess. She likes to lie, or (perhaps more accurately), she likes to tell the truth about her lies. Only during a public fight with Naota, when she reveals that she cares about the play because her parents are coming together, does she get as excited.

The romance between Naota and Ninamori is handled very sweetly and subtly. They aren’t dating, and they don’t admit to themselves or each other that they might like one another. (In fact, the only clue Naota gives is that he approaches Ninamori when she ducks down a stairwell, and he lets her sleep over when she has nowhere to go). But they are cute, and for a while they share each other’s secrets – that Ninamori rigged the election and Naota has cat ears (the last thing to sprout from his head). I love the scene where Ninamori wears Naota’s PJs, and teases him about how they’re too small for her. It shows the light touch with character unique to FLCL.

Once again, the episode comes down to a dichotomy between mature aspirations and reality. Commended by the secretary her dad is having an affair with for the mature way she’s handled it, Ninamori lies to herself when she says it doesn’t matter what her parents do. She wants mom & dad to see her act, hoping against hope that it might bring them together.

She wears glasses in front of Naota, but she doesn’t want anyone else to know she wears them. When she’s onstage for the play, she wears them in front of everybody, but hooks her finger through the lens to show they’re fake. She’s still trying to fool other people, but she can’t fool herself anymore. Instead of sublimating desire to affected whims and hopes, she takes control of the situation. She hasn’t transformed her personality completely, but she’s adapted, and that’s better.

Rating :A-

About Kent Conrad

To contact Kent Conrad, email kentc@explodedgoat.com