Episode 5: Brittle Bullet

I chided the last episode for being, well, too un-episodic, and for spending way too much time planting things to pay off. While that strategy made for a weak episode, it makes the follow-up even more engaging and interesting. The seeds planted start to pay off here. The Naota/Haruko relationship comes to a head when Naota’s dad says they have to duel for the girl. While shooting each other, they’re attacked by the girl from the secret government agency.

This is a backdrop to the goings-on in Naota’s character. He’s more confident, not to mention a little arrogant, since he swung that bat (in the last episode). So, when Mamimi starts to whine about how much he likes Haruko, he takes her on a dinner date.

Of course, it doesn’t work out. Mamimi and Naota never had a real relationship, because to her he was a small, non-threatening version of his older brother, one who didn’t go to America and get a blonde girlfriend. Mamimi, who plays with cameras and video games, doesn’t have much interest in Naota, but she wants to possess him because she thinks she can. It’s not for his benefit that she doesn’t want him to be warm on Haruko.

All of this turmoil peaks when a new alien (in a nice-looking trenchcoat) bursts out of Naota’s head. He and Mamimi are attacked, and she goes down on her knees begging for help – from his brother. Naota doesn’t take kindly to this, and for the first time he gets into a position to defeat the monster, not by asking for his brother’s help, but by calling on Canti-sama, and demanding that Mamimi recognize it was he who saved them all those times in the Canti-robot – not his brother.

We also get more and more signals that Haruko – innocuous, cute, and funny – has nothing good in mind for Naota, or for any other human. She uses Naota because his empty head is a good conduit for sending aliens, to get her closer to whatever goal she has.

FLCL puts other shows to shame, because it develops a real interest in the growth of its characters, particularly Naota. He’s sullen, but not in the taciturn, gothic-Byronic way you get with the leads from X, or the moping that Shinji does in Eva. As Mike Toole (who writes anime reviews so I don’t have to) points out, Naota is a “pissed-off kid.” And he’s right that “we don’t see enough pissed-off kids in anime.” But Naota isn’t pissed off in the awful, fake, pretend way you get from brats in Hollywood movies or cartoons. He’s pissed off for real, and it works.

Rating :B+

About Kent Conrad

To contact Kent Conrad, email kentc@explodedgoat.com