A post in the Epic Journey. Contains FLCL spoilers. Continued from here.
Episode 2 is all about Mamimi (1), who may be my favorite of the FLCL girls and I find is by far the most overlooked by series fans. And I don’t blame them – she’s a tough nut to crack. Growing up in my teen years with this show, I never got nor cared for Mamimi much at all. I never understood what she was on about and mostly ignored her (I didn’t care much for girl characters back then anyway.) In my reading of FLCL theories, her ‘overflows’ and attitude had been connected to the grand scheme of the story by people who I now know also didn’t understand her. The trouble that so many people have is that they’re missing the point. As I said in ep 1, this is a normal show with exactly 1 insane character, Haruka. The key to Mamimi is that she is a real girl.
Please note: After watching the ep, some stuff came up and it was 2-3 hours before I could write this, so some stuff is out of chronological order. It works anyway, though.
The first seconds of this episode depict a burning building which we are going to soon learn was Mamimi’s doing. It jumps right into images of her playing a game and walking around the bridge area while talking about how she has seen a god. It is Cantido, god of the black flame, who came to earth just for her. Director Tsurumaki is careful to point out in the commentary that we must think of this in the Japanese sense, as in Japan pretty much anything can be considered a god, and it’s not anywhere near like the western concept. What Mamimi has found here is an instant replacement for Naota’s brother who has just indirectly rejected her. As I explained in the last episode, Mamimi has a small threshhold of sanity and she surrounds herself by influences to keep her somewhat stable.
Canti is her new guardian angel, whereas it used to be Naota’s brother. Mamimi also saves a little kitten from the river that she names ‘Takkun’ – the same name she calls Naota by. She says how she is almost like a god in saving the little thing’s life. While this can’t be fully understood until taking later episodes into account, what Mamimi seeks in her Takkuns is something that she can attach herself to that won’t try to be anything back to her. The kitten needs her and relies on her, so it will always come back to her, is what she’s thinking. She hangs out with Naota because even though he doesn’t do anything for her, he is there for her, and so she can cling to him with her own need and without his. There is a noteworthy distinction between the guardian and the Takkun, both of which she wants.
In this episode, Naota is informed that his brain is gone and his head is completely empty. The hole in his head is actually a portal to another world from which the machines that Canti fights come through (2). This time, he also has 2 horns growing from his head – a small one in front and a huge one in back. It’s here that he uses the quote the first time: “where do the lies end and the truth begin?”. He says this alongside shots of his horns, which leads me to theorize that the horns are representative of the two women in his life – Mamimi is the small lie in front of him, and Haruko is the huge lie sitting in the back of his head. This may be overthinking it, though, lol.
Quick Note: There’s a really awesome scene where we are seeing everything in the fisheye reflection of Canti’s head. VERY well done.
Quick Note: When Canti is helping move things for Naota’s dad, there is one of my favorite references: Naota says that his dad wrote a book on ‘the deep secrets of Eva’.
Haruka crashes her bike into Medical Mechanica for no apparent reason, and while she’s waiting for Naota to show up with spare parts (hilariously a Gundam model) one of the security guards is trying to look up Haruka’s skirt. Naota smacks him and says ‘What do you think you’re doing? You’re an adult.’ Once again, he is assuming adults should act one way. Haruka tells the guards that Takkun is her guardian, which seems to be her playing on his supposed maturity, which actually makes him feel pretty good – especially when she compliments him and smiles in a way that grabs him by the balls.
Meanwhile, back at the riverbed, Mamimi (Takkun 2 in tow) finds Canti digging around in the grass. He is wearing a halo and black angel wings (Haibane?! iie, too old) that Naota’s dad put on him, but to her makes him look more godly. He actually is out here looking for pieces of his skull that Haruka broke (3) which we will see him doing in the background all episode. When she finds him, Hybrid Rainbow starts playing – my favorite song from the show, leading up to one of my favroite scenes in the whole show and one of those where it is obvious that Tsurumaki directed it specifically to fit with the music. Canti stands atop the charred remains of one of the arsoned buildings and spreads his arms out. He does an incredibly awesome flight takeoff (filmed off-center and oh my god HUGEST DIRECTOR BONER EVER) and then floats up to the clousd while the emotional music reaches a peak and Mamimi is completely awed by the glorious sight.
The song continues as Haruka and Naota are riding along the coastline. Naota raises some complaints about how he isn’t wearing a helmet and that she drives like a maniac, but you can tell he’s really enjoying himself. Haruka starts to strip down his sensibilities. Naota narratively reflects on the scene with pleasure, wondering if it was because he really had no brain. What’s important here is that Haruka is becoming something exciting to Naota that can make him loosen up and enjoy things a little, though he doesn’t grasp it. She is also starting to strip his inhibitions a little.
Back at Naota’s house, there is a comedic scene about how they’ve been making Canti run errands for them and Mamimi complains that a god shouldn’t have to do those things. Naota blows it off as her talking about some game again. It’s worth noting that Tsurumaki likens Mamimi’s state of mind here to that of the old Dungeons and Dragons cases in America where people got too into the game and started to confuse it with reality and ended up sacrificing someone. However, he also points out that it is less that Mamimi is confusing reality with a game world as it is that she is allowing the game world to enter her world because it is the world she wishes for.
Naota and his friends visit the building that was arsoned recently and they discuss who could have done it. One line I found funny was when one of them suggests terrorists, Ninamori says that they would attack something more high profile, and one of the friends replies ‘like a school!’ It really goes to show you how small of a world the people of Mabase live in when they think of a school as a high-profile location that terrorists would attack.
Here, Naota remembers the event from his early childhood where an elementary school in the area had burned to the ground. It was the school that Mamimi and his brother had gone to, and his brother had saved her from the fire, which is how they met and how she came to adore and look up to him.
As the group passes over a bridge, they spot Mamimi out in a creak where her shoes are floating away and she is desperately searching for them. Naota is completely and utterly shocked to see her there. The other kids go on about how they saw her being bullied before and how that was what seemed to have happened here. Naota has a look of total shock and worry on his face as Mamimi looks up at him with almost dead-looking eyes. The two of them start walking back home.
As they pass over the bridge, Naota brings up the old fire and asks if it was his brother who had saved her. Mamimi replies that it was ‘Canti, the god of the black flame,’ as she lights up a Never Knows Best. Naota’s eyes widen. He has a realization – done as an Evangelion-style mindfuck scene where flashing images and voices fly everywhere – one voice is explaining the rules of Mamimi’s game, Fire Starter. You are in a city of evil called Endsville. You work for the God of the Black Flame, Cantido. You must trick the police and firefighters, never get caught, and burn the whole city to the ground.
Everything he knows about Mamimi collides in his head – the bullying, her past, her loneliness, her rage. To Mamimi, who has been bullied and tormented, left homeless and abandoned, this city really must have seemed like a city of evil. A city full of people who wronged her that she must burn to the ground. The simultaneous disappearance of her lover and appearance of a god-like figure had driven her to finally start unleashing her wrath. One of the voices in Naota’s head cries out – ‘it’s my fault! I should have known!’
Quick Note – Inside his head, one voice keeps accusing him of things and he says ‘why is it Miyu Miyu?!’ I can only assume Hideaki Anno is doing this awesome scene. After all, the scene is incredibly Anno, and he is listed as one of the show’s Key Animators.
When Naota finds Mamimi she is surrounded by an emblem in the dirt and a ring of lit Never Knows Best. She is having some kind of ritual in front of the charred carcass of the old school building. She tells Naota how she had wanted the place to go away back then, but that it was useless since the remains were still there. From here, we can start to see a little more of Mamimi’s overall negative worldview, which I’ll really get into in episode 4. Mamimi has pretty much accepted that there is no real escape from the harshness of the world. She can keep herself from overflowing by clinging to things, and she can get her little Smirking Revenge by burning down some buildings, but in the end, nothing will really change for her. She then goes to try and receive a blessing kiss from Canti. Some kind of emotional reaction to this comes into Naota’s mind and BOOM! It’s mecha time.
The robot that comes out of his head this time is pretty large, but only has one arm – many didn’t notice that the giant hand which Canti fought in episode 1 was cut off from the rest, and this is that rest. The robot quickly owns Canti and Haruka shows up but doesn’t have much better luck. It’s a little hard to tell with all the crazy fighting going on, but close observers will notice that Mamimi is protecting the Takkun cat the whole time as it continually nearly gets crushed. She really doesn’t want to loose her beloved Takkun – which is proven again moments later. When Mamimi almost gets hit by an attack, Naota leaps to try and protect her in his first show of real manliness, and that’s about when Canti lands beside them both and proceeds to devour Naota.
Mamimi, once again protective of her Takkuns, yells ‘you’re not a god at all! You ate Takkun!’ But then Naota presumably gets control of Canti, who turns into red badass mode. Now, the director points out something very interesting here in the commentary. He explains that the normal blue Canti is somewhat of a bumbling idiot. He has to do chores, and makes mistakes, and generally isn’t very bright. However, when he goes red, he is a badass among badasses. He stated that red Canti represents ‘manliness’ and how a really cool guy would be. This will be further exemplified when we learn about Atomisk, who’s symbol that appears when Canti goes red is actually the upside-down kanji for ‘man.’ It also makes me think that maybe Canti ate Naota at that moment because he had just displayed manliness in trying to save Mamimi.
Canti proceeds to completely own the enemy in one of the most badass-looking scenes ever. But more importantly than just his manly fighting, he is also taking care of Mamimi and keeping her out of the fray with very caring, protective gestures. After the robot explodes, we see Mamimi crying, but Canti pets her head and looks down at her, making her feel at ease. The robot then shits out Naota (literally) and turns blue again. Naota mentions how the ashes of the school have all been blown to dust in the explosion. Haruka and Canti are on the ready to get the fuck out of there when they hear the cop sirens, but Naota and Mamimi are locked in a gaze. Both of them are in a mixture of surprise and new feelings. For Mamimi, not only did Naota (in the form of Canti) protect her from harm, but he blew away the ashes of the school that she hated. However, she isn’t really sure what ot think about it all, so she doesn’t show much expression. Meanwhile Naota is full of resolve. His last line is that he will ‘stay by her side’.
It’d be pretty pointless to say this is one of my favroite episodes, because everything past episode 1 is my favorite episode <3 I really love Mamimi because she falls into all of my heaviest attractions (broken girls, smokers, free spirits – THE TRIFECTA!) and because she’s a character I can relate to. I could say that in many ways, anime is my ‘Takkun’. It’s something that can never leave me and never change and offers me support. When I get lost in anime, I can forget about how I am teetering on the edge of sanity most of the time. Like Mamimi, I sometimes overflow and lash out, and I cling to whatever can hold me. I really understand her character, so it fascinates me. And I would so be her Takkun~~
The best part of the whole thing was just the Hybrid Rainbow part, though, my god. One of the best scenes ever. Especially with how he threw in actual rainbows in the background. And man, I watched it 3 times in 24 hours and got chills every time!
1. Tsurumaki says ‘episode 1 is about Haruka, episode 2 is about Mamimi, and episode 3 is about Ninamori.’
2. Tsurumaki describes it this way, and also talks about the original plans, which you can read about in the commentary post.
3. I had never noticed this until the commentary track. Throughout the episode he picks up fragments of the skull and in the next ep we see him trying to glue them together.
I like Mamimi too. I’d actually noticed that the mech was the rest of the arm the first time around. But it wasn’t connected with anything else so I didn’t mention it.
Overlooked? There’s always been a strong Mamimi contingent in FLCL fandom as far as I can tell. She’s definitely my favourite. How could anyone not love a nihilistic arsonist school girl? Also, lots of pantsu for the pervs.
god, these posts are great. i’m gonna have to go back and revisit this series. but i’ll read all of your posts first.. They really threw all sorts of cool stuff into this mix..
Tsurumaki is Anno’s protege after all, though. Could go either way.
I really like your tidbits about the director commentary, especially how episode 1 2 and 3 are about Haruka Mamimi and Ninamori. I’ve never seen it. Is there a DVD edition that features it with translation? (knowing full well it’s out of print but as many times as I’ve seen FLCL, on adult swim and otherwise, I’ve never owned it)
Yeah, the Broccoli releases, which I never bought because they were 30 bucks a pop and 3 dvds, but now I regret not owning. but also the boxtorrent has the tracks.
“The best part of the whole thing was just the Hybrid Rainbow part, though, my god. ”
Yes. I still get goosebumps anytime I hear the “CAN YOU FEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEL” part of the song when I watched episode 2. Definitely one of my favorite songs on the OST.
I’m liking these posts on FLCL. Please keep them up. :3
The lord knows I tried watching from the very start. I didn’t connect with this one, despite all the cool, clever edgy stuff going on.
She is my faovorite! I enjoyed her character the most. Haruko was cool fighting but she didn’t glue me into FLCL. It was MAMIMI. Mamimi’s actions and decisions were so fun to figure out and had so much symbolism to it. And the music in the show really helped tell her story beautifully.
Haruko was just likable by default, I mean she was really forced into the story, and had a typical anime personality of a loud, witty, strong, exciting character to me. No hate on her. That’s what makes her Haruko.