FLCL 3 is Ninamori’s ep, and I think it’s where this show really comes into it’s own with a clear idea of what FLCL is exactly. Ninamori is the loli-bait of this series, being as she is one smoking hot 12 year-old. In fact, Ninamori gets the most design attention – while most of the cast is only seen in one outfit, Ninamori gets a new one every time she shows up as well as new hairstyles and accesories. This is because she was apparently the art director’s favorite so he gave her special treatment (1). There are a number of things that should be understood about Ninamori before going into this ep if you want to fully understand this.
Ninamori is a foil of Naota, and she also has a crush on him (2). Like Naota, Ninamori is obsessed with her own maturity and always tries to act adult. However, she handles it a little differently then Naota does, and in fact her story is in some ways meant to be a precursor to what Naota will experience (3). Her crush on Naota never goes anywhere, and doesn’t have any real impact on the series, even in this episode, so it isn’t necessary to overthink it. The story of this episode is also told in a very ‘Darker Than Black’ way that rewards attentiveness and rewatchers. There was actually one thing I’d missed every time I watched this until I went to do this post. But all that will come up shortly.
At the episode’s start, Ninamori is in a car with her father’s secretary who is loading on perfume and makeup. We are confronted with some facts: Ninamori’s mom is divorcing her dad because her dad’s been cheating on her with the secretary. Ninamori’s family is ‘noveu-riche’ and the story about the divorce has gotten out, but no one knows about the secretary yet, which, as Ninamori comments, is why she’s skillfully pouring on makeup and perfume and wearing fresh clothes so that no one can tell she came out from having banged the dad. When the secretary talks about the incident and the divorce, Ninamori responds without concern. She continually says that it doesn’t matter to her and that her parents’ business isn’t hers. The secretary notes her maturity, which is the theme here – Ninamori acts especially mature. And the keyword there is ‘acts.’ We also learn about Ninamori having the lead role in a school play.
Over at Naota’s place, Haruka is fixing her bike and we get to see Naota’s new horn – pretty pink cat ears! (4) In this scene, we can see that Naota is speaking a bit more openly to Haruka now and seems to have kind of gotten used to her as a member of the household. She tries to force him to take curry as his lunch, but Naota retorts that he hates spicy things, bringing up the things I mentioned about spicyness in the commentary post. Haruka calls Naota’s ears ‘soft and warm like alpha waves’ which I found kind of funny and made me wonder if such waves may have some connection to his brain(less) portal.
There is also the first of a few key moments here on the part of the plot that, as I mentioned, rewards attentiveness. We learn that Naota’s dad publishes a neighboorhood magazine that he tries to sell and usually fails at. This magazine is important.
When Naota gets to school, Ninamori starts bugging him about how he needs to show up for the play rehearsals, as he is the secondary lead role. She also says how his hat doesn’t look good on him (which she says about all of his hats. There is meant to be a little hint of her liking him here, though it’s nothing serious. Ninamori’s kind of liking is more like a real life one and less like an anime one where it’s omg infatuation for no reason.) In class, we meet Naota and Ninamori’s teacher, who is very apparently childish. She’s just like Naota’s dad and likely another of the adults that he thinks acts too much like a kid. The manga (oh shit, I mentioned it finally – and before anyone asks, the manga is based on the show, not vice-versa) actually does a lot more to accentuate the teacher’s childishness.
It’s in this class that attentive hint number 2 comes in. Naota’s friends are reading a ‘naughty’ magazine which is actually the one Naota’s dad published (Naota did refer to it as a ‘doujin’ before…) the teacher confiscates it and gets furious about how it would be offensive to Ninamori. We see that the article she’s turned to has a report on the whole sex scandal of Ninamori’s family, and it’s got the secretary part pegged, too.
Down by the river, Naota is skipping practice again to hang out with Mamimi. In this scene, Mamimi seems even closer to Naota than she was before, probably due in part to the events at the end of episode 2. She tells Naota how she had been in a school play before. She says ‘it was kind of embarassing, but kind of fun – my parents were both there, so it was a good memory.’ This gives us one more look into Mamimi’s harsh life – her parents either aren’t around anymore or split up and are probably very bitter people now. Sad.
Meanwhile, attentive part 3 is going on. Naota’s dad is trying to sell a large stack of his magazines to some old shop owner (and talks about his great investigative journalism). That’s when Ninamori walks in to talk with him. We only see her say ‘ano…’ before it cuts back to Naota and Mamimi, but somehow I had always overlooked this scene and that’s why I never understood what happens with the scandal later. It was only on this like 10th watching that I put all of the pieces together.
Back at the river, Mamimi tells Naota how he looked really cool when he was ‘piloting’ Canti. Naota narrates that he didn’t really remember much post-being eaten, but he takes the compliment and blushes. We can see that he’s very proud of himself for seemingly having protected her. However, because he doesn’t really remember it, it’s important to know that his will wasn’t the factor that made him able to win that match – Canti was. Knowing that Naota isn’t now more brave or powerful is relatively important to the next episode.
Quick Note: At Naota’s house, there is a scene where Haruka is looking for something, and spots Canti glueing together the pieces of his head that he lost. Canti covers it up and blushes. Tsurumaki points out in the commentary that to Canti, the way his head looks makes him feel kind of like he’s balding, and the cardboard box he wears is like a tupee.
Quick Note: Canti’s box flaps sticking out and the apron he wears are supposed to make him look like the famous character Sanae-san.
Now, in the next scene, we see Ninamori arrive at her house which is completely swamped with reporters and TV vans. She seems to have expected this, though. The secretary is seen trying to flee the scene in disguise and stops quickly to tease Ninamori before running off. Now, what happened here is, Naota’s dad’s ‘investigative journalism’ has gotten the word out and now everyone knows about the sex scandal. The real reason for this is that Ninamori wanted him to blow up the story to drive away the secretary. As we will soon learn, Ninamori is very manipulative like this.
Ninamori and Naota meet in an old subway entry by chance, and Ninamori fumes about him skipping practice, though Naota retorts that he could tell everyone about a class rep being in a place like this. Naota tries to reassure Ninamori about the whole scandal, but she, playing mature again, tells him it’s no big deal anyway. However, being as she has time, she asks Naota if he wants to go somewhere (she’s hitting on him?). Naota refuses, though, because he’s waiting for Haruka – who shows up in the nic of time to ram him with her vespa. He flies through the air and in another dramatic 3D scene flies at Ninamori – their lips almost touch, but instead their foreheads do (5) and they both fall down a hole.
It’s important to note that when their foreheads colided, the robot that was next supposed to come out of Naota’s head has been transferred into Ninamori’s (6). Ninamori discovers Naota’s ears and also suddenly has to take a shit (effect of the transfer), so Haruka takes them both back to Naota’s place.
Back at the house, Naota’s family, Haruka, and Ninamori all sit down to eat some curry. Haruka has of course gotten the most brutally hot curry imaginable, which Naota won’t touch and his father and grandfather slowly die while eating. Somewhere in the fray of comedy and plot dialog mixing, Ninamori, who is eating very calmly, tells Naota ‘you’re such a kid. It’s an adult taste.’ Now we can definitely see that she completely perceives herself as an adult. Naota then points out that her curry is actually mild, as Haruka used a different box. She also says in the conversation once again how her parents’ business isn’t hers. Suddenly, she finds herself having to take a shit again, and runs off to the bathroom. If you pay REAL close attention, you’ll notice that there’s a shot of Canti watching her run off curiously – he seems to have noticed her N.O. field (a phrase we will learn in later eps) and realized that the robot is in her.
While Ninamori is taking a bath, the window opens and we hear Naota’s dad talking to her (CREEEEPY). She thanks him for getting rid of the secretary, which is where all those attentive hints payed off since I had otherwise never fucking understood this scene beyond Naota’s dad being creepy. He hands her a shampoo hat – this has no significance whatsoever, but it comes back in another episode just for the hell of it, so i thought I’d mention.
When Naota goes to his room, Ninamori is there already wearing his pajamas. I wanted to point this out – this look is FUCKING HOT. This scene was like pure sex to me back in the day, I think I fapped to this like a hundred times. I also think this is where I got my pajama fetish (yes, pajama fetish exists.) In the room, Ninamori is wearing glasses. She says how she usually wears contacts. This has significance later, but I couldn’t decide at this part what combination of ‘glasses vs. contacts’ and ‘immaturity vs. maturity’ was going on, so I gave up. Sorry.
Quick Note: They are drinking some weird drinks here. There is a story behind them. Evidently, these are health drinks that are supposed to have a whole day’s supply of everything you need. What actually happened was the company had offered to sponsor Gainax through this OVA. So they went ahead and put those drinks in there and went through the trouble of copying the labels to an exactness and stuff. As it turned out, though, the company didn’t sponser them, so the effort was for naught. At least it looks cool.
Ninamori starts getting all up on Naota (how he kept it down is beyond me…) and tells him about how she rigged the votes so that she would have the lead role and Naota would play the cat. She explains this very excitedly, as though she were proud of it, and says how no one would expect it from the class rep. As I mentioned before, she’s very manipulative. She then makes a very, very important analogy. She tells Naota how great the play is – it’s Puss in Boots – because it’s about a peasant who lies for so long about being royalty that eventually he becomes it. ‘Isn’t that great?!’ she says.
This is a direct reflection of her personality. Ninamori is constantly putting up a front of maturity. She convinces herself that nothing matters to her and that she is too grown up and intelligent for everything. She does things in a very dishonest way, controlling people behind their backs and never letting her real thoughts shine through. She thinks that by acitng in this way that she thinks is mature, it means she really is mature. But Haruka then interrupts from the top bunk with a direct opposition – ‘is it really?’ She doesn’t continue from there, but from Haruka’s personality we can tell that she isn’t a person who agrees with Ninamori’s supposed maturity, and sees through the analogy – especially since she is the one who’s been slowly getting Naota out of his maturity-based mindset as well.
The next day, at the end of school, Haruka and Canti show up to give Naota a bento for his staying after to practice. However, Naota has no intent to play the cat, and tries to storm off, but Ninamori won’t have it and grabs him by the arm. They start arguing back and forth, which quickly escalates to anger. Ninamori says she ‘wants them to see it’ and then that both of her parents will be there. Now we can see the big picture. Ninamori wanted the lead to force both of her parents to come watch her do the play. Now we understand her real emotions underneath. She desperately wants her parents to stick together, and all of the mature talk about it being none of her business is just a front for a lonely little girl who doesn’t want her family to fall apart. She’s manipulated everything from the start with the intent of hopefully bringing her parents together again.
Quick Note: Naota’s retarded friend keeps yelling ‘chuu~!’ which is both the sound effect of the kiss and that that a mouse makes. As in ‘Pikachu’. And he’s in a mouse costume. Yay for double-meanings.
The argument continues to escalate, and after Ninamori snatches off Naota’s hat, revealing the cat ears, Naota yells out about Ninamori rigging the vote. And that’s when we get our emotional reaction – remember, Naota’s robot entered Ninamori’s head when they collided. Now that Ninamori’s had a peak of emotion, the ears suddenly switch from Naota’s head to hers, and the huge robot shoots out of her head. Battle time!
Quick Note: The director points out that after Ninamori’s robot comes out, he wanted to make her really jarringly off from her character. Ordinarilly, she is very cute, intelligent, and reserved, not moving around much. After the robot emerges, she is frightening looking and her body jerks and spasms in crazy ways. The effect is absolutely superb and leads to one chilling but still insanely hot scene.
Quick Note: During the fight, there is a comical appearance of a classical song. This was apparently the suggestion of one of the staff who really begged for the song there. It happens to be the song that is played at athletic events in Japanese elementary schools, so the impression you would get is that this was one of those.
After the fight, there is a sort of summation of events that happen later. Naota narrates that Ninamori’s parents didn’t get divorced, and the whole thing blew over. Now, I’d hate to pull from a later episode, but I feel I really need to. Later on, Ninamori tells her and Naota’s friends that ‘Naota should just open up, like I did. I told my parents and then cried and stuff and it all worked out.’ In other words, Ninamori finally gave up on pretending to be mature all the time and broke down like a child before her parents, which was enough to keep them together. In the later episode, she is saying that Naota, too, should stop trying to be so mature and just accept his childhood.
At the end of the episode, the stage performance goes on, and Naota sees that Ninamori is wearing glasses. She looks over at him and says ‘they’re fake’ as the episode ends. This is one of the hardest lines in the show to decifer, and as much as he says about it, Tsurumaki only manages to make it more confusing when he poorly attempts to explain it (the interviewer gets confused to.) Basically, he says that she has gone from being someone who tries to fool herself into thinking she is mature to someone who fools everyon else (this makes enough sense) and then he starts going on about how a good woman is one who can be a little sneaky and fool those around them. He honestly seems to be just throwing stuff out there and is actually laughing as he tries to explain this – somehow, I think the meaning was meant to be pretty simple, but he somehow lost track of it and the line jsut became one of those things that’s just there. In other words, they’re fucking with you, lol.
Anyway, this was a really great episode about a really cute girl whose story is a foil to try and make you understand Naota’s better and get some more perspective on the show’s themes. It’s a pretty straightforward episode, even though I typed so much about it >_<. I think that this episode is really where the show got a handle on where it was going exactly and how it wanted itself to be. The first episode seemed like it was warming up, and the second episode was a lot of having fun with experimentation, so with this episode they seemed to have a better sense of the show’s feel and could produce something more definitive of ‘what’ FLCL ‘is’.
And since I wanted to do this: Naota = Shinji, Haruka = Misato, Ninamori = Asuka, and Mamimi = Rei. When you look at it this way, you can actually see that FLCL’s characters are much more complex :p I’ll have another thing like this next episode~
1. Pointed out in commentary, semi-spitefully lol. Tsurumaki also points out how he made Haruka cosplay at least once per episode. Nurse in first 2, maid in this one, and more to come.
2. Yes, it’s canon, says director.
3. Also confirmed by Tsurumaki.
4. Tsurumaki says ‘everyone knows cat ears are cute on girls, so I wanted to try them on a boy’
5. Tsurumaki says he wanted to use the CG for something maningless. He says ‘if they’d kissed, it would have been important, but they didn’t, so it’s really useless!’
6. Also confirmed in commentary