Like episode 3, episode 4 is fairly straightforward, and this one in particular is very plot-focused so I won’t be saying quite as much about it, seeing as the plot questions raised in the episode are answered in the proceeding ones. This episode’s individual director was Masahiko Ohtsuka, who brings his own style to the table for the episode. The character designs look very different throughout, and the visual style is more dark, mysterious, and mindfuck than is usual for this show. According to Tsurumaki, Ohtsuka takes his style a lot from trippy 60s movies that have lots of strange imagery.
The emotional point of this episode is mostly brought to focus in the episode’s beginning when the baseball team coached by Naota’s grandfather of which he is a part, having taken his brother’s place, is getting royally owned by Haruka. The players all talk about how if his brother were there, they’d be dominating, but with Naota they are hopeless as he never, ever swings the bat. Naota’s never swinging the bat is (very obviously) an analogy for the fact that he never takes control of life and just lets himself get pushed along by the current. This is the exact element of his personality that Haruka has been slowly and subtly changing through the last few episodes, though Naota still hasn’t gotten into it (hence my care in pointing out that he didn’t remember having piloted Canti in ep 2, because he couldn’t actually make those decisions yet.) At this part, it isn’t stated outright, but it’s evident that one of Haruka’s balls that ‘looks like it’s going into outer space’ knocked the missile satellite out of orbit.
Naota tries to claim that he doesn’t care about sucking at baseball since he doesn’t play it, but Haruka accuses him of being dishonest with himself, seeing as he’s always carrying that bat around. It’s obvious that Naota really wishes he could swing the bat, like his brother who he looks up to can, but he is so sure that he lacks his brother’s power that he can’t really do it. (My own brother is exactly like this. If I left him behind, I think he’d turn out just like Naota.) Haruka tells him the key words, “nothing can happen until you swing the bat.”
When Naota comes home to Haruka getting a very erotic shin massage from his father, he’s pretty pissed. You can see from his father’s erratic movements, dead eyes, and the plug coming from his ass that he’s been replaced by a robot (as will be confirmed later.) I’d like to put forth that Naota doesn’t notice this because he’s not really concerned with his dad’s part in this relationship as much as he is with Haruka’s.
Quick Note: When they erotically bite into the omelet together, the omelet is shaped like a pair of panties.
Naota’s reaction to them is not only disgusted an jealous, but also a bit crushed and disappointed. To him, Haruka is supposed to be like his brother. She’s cool and she has that master swing, so she should be the kind of person he can look up to. However, instead she does degrading things with his father, which weakens his image of her. (1) Of course, while he looks up to her, he also loves her, so he’s jealous in a sexual way as well.
When Amarao shows up at the bakery, he’s generally being a complete tool and Naota can see it. He wears his trenchcoat and sunglasses look and his huge-ass fake eyebrows like he’s trying to be cool, and he despenses shitty advice while thinking it makes him sound cool (reminds me of my idiot uncle…). When he leaves, Naota is left with the sound of Haruka and his dad screwing around, and he yells ‘adults are all idiots!’ wrapped up again in his maturity.
Later on there’s a trippy scene before Haruka and Naota hang out together in the backyard. At first, Naota is still mad with her, but then Haruka starts helping him practice his swing. She gets very close and talks calmly and affectionately in a way that begs Naota’s admiration as she tells him to aim for the stars. Naota feels like he’s re-connecting with her, and that maybe he was wrong about her being a bad person.
Back at the Space Beaureau, we find out a comet is falling to earth, and we meet Amarao’s team and bridge bunnies. Most of this is plot stuff, but we also learn that Amarao hates spicy things. Really, he is just like Naota in a number of ways, namely in that he acts like a kid who’s trying to act grown-up with his whole cool-guy routine and masculine eyebrows. However, he still hates spicy things (and later talks about how sweet things really are the best.) In this respect, he is Naota completely.
That night, Naota seems to witness Haruka shagging his dad, though the viewer will learn it’s nothing of the sort later. She’s actually fixing the robot. The next day Naota is hanging out with Mamimi who is rambling something about how the Great Emperor of Fear may be coming. This is a prelude to her actions later in the episode, which I will discuss then. When Haruka shows up and wheels away with Mamimi, Naota yells that he’ll never ask her to coach him again. He has become once again scompletely disappointed in Haruka and is refusing to think of her as his brother or figure of admiration anymore.
Then a lot of really trippy shit happens, plot progresses, etc.
Once the satellite bomb is on it’s way to earth, we get the rest of Mamimi’s important lines. She is calling out to the “Lord of Terror” in excitement as she watches for the bomb from a radio tower. Tsurumaki explains that this ‘lord of terror’ was one of the crazes that was going around in the pre-2000 time where everyone thought the world was going to end. Mamimi says “it was worth it to pray to him every day even after the boom.” Mamimi quite clearly wants the world to end. She even says to Canti “if that thing falls down here, do you think we’ll have school tomorrow?” She wants this thing to kill everyone and take away all of her pain and struggle. While Mamimi lives as carefree and happy as she can manage with the things around her, her life is painful no matter what, and while she doesn’t hate life strongly enough to kill herself, she welcomes the idea of wiping the world clean and leaving this troubled life behind. I can’t say I disagree with her mindset, lol.
Haruka drives Naota to the top of medical mechanica and (with another shampoo hat) pulls a Gibson Flying V out of his head – just like she has her bass, this is Naota’s ‘bat’ (the ultimate comparison of the weapons to masculity comes when the bridge bunnies see the flying V and all get massive nosebleeds). She tells Naota that now it’s finally time for him to swing the bat and leaves him there. Right here is another scene like Hybrid Rainbow where you can tell the director wrote it to the song, since the sky all changes color along with the lyrics ‘CRAZY SUNSHINE!’ Naota decides to swing.
A few things happen. He calls out his brother’s name as he is about to swing. Remember, his brother, to him, is the epitome of what a man should be. This is also what Atomisk is, and when Naota calls out the brother’s name, the Atomisk symbol appears on his head. However, unlike in episode 2, this time Naota is making the conscious decision to swing the bat, so even though he’s getting an extra push from Atomisk, he really is doing it himself this time, and really is living out a manly moment. This will set the stage for the dramatic tension of the next episode.
Looking on at the sight, Mamimi calmly says ‘Takkun swung the bat.’ She is a bit disappointed, but for more reasons than the world remaining, but those things come out really in the next episode. We also get a scene at the end where Amarao is looking on with shock and awe as Naota has batted away the bomb. At the very end, we see one of his manly eyebrows fall off. This is a symbol that he actually feels imasculated by Naota’s manliness in saving the day.
While still great, this really isn’t my favorite episode of FLCL. The stylistic choices are very nice, but for the most part it’s kind of a downer compared to the last 2 and proceeding 2 episodes, and mostly serves as a plot progression ep with less depth to speak of. I do look forward to covering episode 5, possibly the deepest episode of the show and maybe even my number one favorite.
And now, I wanted to point something out once again. Look at the main bridge bunny’s uniform, then look at Nono’s clothes in Gunbuster, then look at the new Evangelion character for 2.0. MIND = BLOWN.
1. This is actually all said by Tsurumaki, which is where I started thinking about the fact that Naota connects Haruka directly to his brother and how this drives his feelings towards her.