Post BGM. (I’m gunna start doing this. I’ve always wanted to anyway. Though in this case it might take 2 plays, lol.)
A post in the Epic Journey. Contains FLCL spoilers. Continued from here.
Episode 5 of FLCL has pretty much always been my favorite. It’s where all the plot setup finally starts moving (late as that sounds) and the whole episode is zany and awesome. What’s especially great is that it’s the most hyper-active, action-packed episode of the show but still has as much depth and subtlety as the rest of the show. And since it’s where things come to a head, it’s also probably the easiest episode to misinterpret. See, up to this point, most of the important stuff that no one gets pretty much goes right over their heads and it’s less that they misunderstand as it is that they just don’t realize something else is going on. In this episode, all of that stuff going on in the background comes rushing to the forefront, so when you see it, it’s some new thing that you try to make sense out of but really can’t without the information you missed. So this is the part where all of our earlier impressions were wrong and it becomes really important that you’ve been reading along! (not to sound pretentious, lol.)
(God damn it, I just know this post is going to be long as hell T_T. Also, I’ll be leaving out the annotations since they keep breaking things, so just assume everything I say is based on the foundation of the director’s word.)
Episode 5 comes in to a pellet gun fight between the teams of Naota x Haruka and Naota’s Dad x Canti. We then receive an explanation of why the battle’s happening. This whole scene is zany as hell and chock full of references, so I might as well explain it all. The movie the guys are watching sounds like a yakuza film, and it’s full of gun-fighting and random pigeons. The pigeons are a reference to films by John Woo, who always has them randomly flying around. We then get a scene between Haruka and Naota’s dad which is a massive Lupin III parody where he even gets into the age old debate of which is better – Lupin’s classic red coat or the green version from Castle of Cagliostro.
When Naota heads up to confront Haruka, she is reporting through the cat again, and the people on the other side seem to be accusing her of having feelings for Naota, which she is saying isn’t really the case so much and that the N.O. field is still open – I.E. she’s just having fun by prolonging this mission (which she did in episode 4 by helping Naota launch the satellite bomb back into orbit.) When Naota is going to confront her, he gets distracted by her being nearly without clothes. Now there are a couple things to keep in mind through the whole episode when it comes to Naota’s dialog. In this episode, he is completely full of himself and is also thinking mostly with his penis. However, no matter what, keep in mind that while he has feelings for Haruka, Mamimi is the one who he really likes. So don’t think too much about the things he does with Haruka, because he isn’t fully accepting his feelings for her yet.
He asks Haruka if there’s someone who she likes, which she naturally dodges as hyper actively as possible. Sure, Naota is partially asking out of his own concern, but not totally. Haruka gets him on the bed and is in a very sexual pose with him. At this point, she starts complimenting him about how he swung the bat to knock that satellite away. She tells hm it was ‘very adult’ of him, which makes him blush. That’s when things are set into motion – the gun in his head cocks (lol) and a huge trigger springs from the back of his head pushing his lips into Haruka’s. More than ever, this horn is really representing his, well, ‘horn’. Hearing about his manliness makes him feel all, well, ‘manly’, and he gets a bit sexually tense thinking this way.
As such, there is a gunfight, supposedly a war between Naota and his father for Haruka’s affection. I say ‘as such’ because the guns are meant to be very phallic here, once again reminding you that this IS Utena’s writer. This is made blatant by Naota’s dad stroking his revolver pretty sexually. You could almost think of this whole thing like a size-off. Which makes it pretty hilarious that the biggest gun goes to the young female commander. Meanwhile we see Amarao getting a haircut which is done with a hilarious South Park parody. He shows off his addiction to manliness in spite of his childishness by asking for a ‘cool’ and ‘sexy’ look but then asking to get one of the candies from a bucket hilariously held by a little kid. This is a pretty good parallel for what’s happening on Naota’s side.
Remember, Naota is thinking he’s all manly and is also in a size-off, but when you look at it from the outside, he is acting zany and playing a childish game – he’s becoming more like his father, and less like the cool exterior he’s always tried to maintain – way less. The bridge bunny girl even says ‘they’re just playing – they look really dumb’ which accentuates just how childish Naota looks doing what he thinks makes him more adult.
After a totally awesome scene of Naota and Canti getting barreled by a truck driven by Naota’s friends, he starts yelling at Canti that he gets a ‘time out’ and such things. We can really see how into it he is, how hyper he’s gotten, and how childish he looks. This is a whole new Naota we’re seeing under the influence of Haruka. Meanwhile his friends, who are all calm in their car, are actually in the middle of doing paid work. It’s a pretty interesting parallel when you think about it, how Naota is acting like a little kid, and meanwhile the other kids his age are doing something ultimately mature in that they are already working.
However, in the eyes of Naota’s friends, and he himself, Naota has matured a lot since he did the awesome task of deflecting the satellite bomb, which everyone is now aware of. You’ll notice that the only one who’s not all excited about this is Ninamori – her thoughts right here are pretty tough to work out, since she just sort of calmly observes everything around. She looks at Naota, observing how he’s acting, sees Mamimi, and sees Haruka. She will draw her conclusions about all this in the next episode. When the friends compliment Naota about the whole incident, he smiles and blushes, and we see the gun cocking again. Naota’s pride keeps getting bigger and bigger, and he’s thinking he’s more and more manly because of it.
We next get a scene of Naota and Mamimi sitting at the riverbed again. Now, it’s important to really, really, REALLY understand what each of them is thinking for this whole dialog exchange to make any sense, because through the whole thing Mamimi and Naota are on completely different pages.
Mamimi: Remember all that I’ve told you about Mamimi’s need for stability and her usage of Takkuns to keep herself grounded. Meanwhile, Naota’s brother Tasaku, as also represented by Canti, is her guardian angel that she can look up to and count on. From Takkun, all she wants is something that needs her and wont abandon her, and will just be her support. Meanwhile, she lives fleetingly, wanting to be saved, but also not afraid to die. At the end of episode 4, Naota swung the bat and deflected the satellite bomb which saved the city. Mamimi’s last words having been ‘Takkun swung the bat.’ Remember also that while Mamimi said that Naota was cool piloting Canti in episode 3, I said how Naota hadn’t done it consciously and still wasn’t able to really swing. In episode 4, this had been he himself swinging.
For Mamimi, this has changed Naota’s role in her life, which is NOT something she wanted. Naota was just supposed to be her Takkun – the temporary support while she waited for his brother to return (which we know won’t happen, but she still hasn’t really let down, just letting Canti be his temporary replacement). Naota is now trying to take that place as guardian angel and protector by swinging the bat for her sake. However, Mamimi really loves Tasaku-sempai and can’t replace him. Naota was never meant to be anything more to her than Takkun, and now he’s overstepping his boundary and loosing his usefulness to her because, frankly, she doesn’t love him.
Naota: Naota fully thinks that Mamimi has a thing for him. He thinks that she has forgotten about his brother, since he left her, and he also has started to think that she is into him ever since she said he was cool piloting Canti. Now, him having saved the day, he is pretty confident in his masculinity, and thinks that he has become as awesome as his brother now. Because of that, he thinks he’s supposed to be Mamimi’s new boyfriend. He totally doesn’t understand her true feelings at all. This is what leads to the following situation and conversation.
Now, Mamimi starts talking about how Naota has started getting bigger and cooler, and how he’s been doing all these adult things. Naota takes all of this as compliments, even though Mamimi looks very disappointed and is mostly being a bit ironic. She also starts asking Naota about his feelings about Haruka. Naota tries as hard as he can to assure her that he doesn’t care about Haruka at all, and that he really has feelings only for Mamimi. But this isn’t what she wants to hear nor why she asked, which I’ll get to momentarily. After one of her apparent compliments, Naota is getting really full of himself, and Mamimi shoots him in the head as if hoping to shoot some sense into him.
This pretty little scene is cut into by the most awesome fight ever, done by Hiroyuki Imaishi who is pretty much the almighty god of awesome animation sequences (see: everything GAINAX). Naota’s scene continues, and when Mamimi calls him ‘all grown up’, Naota takes this almost like a confession and is convinced that Mamimi loves him. He then proceeds to grab her by the hand and start dragging her along down the road, grinning wildly the whole time. He doesn’t even notice Mamimi saying ‘it hurts… stop it!’ (yes, it’s supposed to sound that way.) He stops her in front of a cafe – if you can’t catch it, he’s trying to take her on a date. He thinks that he’s become her boyfriend, so he wants to take her out like this. For those who have seen a lot of anime or know a lot about Japan, you’ll notice that the cafe is actually stylized to look exactly like a love hotel, a very different place to take your relationship to the next level!
Mamimi is far from happy about being taken here. You’ll notice how she is forcibly looking in the opposite direction from him. There’s a very confusing emotion going on here. Naota is so full of himself it’s almost disgusting, and Mamimi is almost desperate to get away. All that with the insanity going on with Haruka and you’ve got an almost painfully tense emotional atmosphere here. Mamimi is still asking Naota ‘don’t you like Haruka?’ Naota still thinks that she means that she’s worried about his place in the relationship, but the reality is that she really wants him to say YES, he likes Haruka. She doesn’t want him to like her, she wants him to like someone else so they can just be friends. Naota, still misinterpreting, now thinks he has to prove himself to Mamimi, and tries to forcefully kiss her. She says ‘I’m not supposed to do these things with Takkun’ and he says ‘but don’t you like me?!’ Yes, folks, this looks a lot like a rape scene!
And then it gets to a glorious moment of representative imagery. Naota’s next horn explodes out and shoots right between Mamimi’s legs, directly symbolic as though he had raped her! While Naota’s horn is growing rapidly, we cut to a scene between Haruka and Amarao. Amarao has lost his manly eyebrows and as such is acting like his true self – a complete pussy. During he and Haruka’s conversation, a number of the words they use hint that the two of them have actually known each other for a long time and that this is not the first situation like this they’ve had. That will be covered more in the show’s finale.
Haruko doesn’t even smack Amarao in the head, but does a magical girl transformation, which seems to sexually entice Amarao wnough to bring out his guitar – which is positively minuscule, further emasculating him. The tiny guitar is only even useful enough to be used as a slingshot. She comments how Naota’s was ‘much more manly’ and how Amarao has always been disappointingly small. Amarao says ‘why do you like that kid?! Why don’t you like me?!’ It’s evident that she is probably the one who crushed his young heart some time ago, leading him to his pursuit of coolness.
Quick Note: Haruka’s costume at this part is a bunny costume as worn by the magical girl in the animated shorts Daicons III and IV (Haruka even shouts ‘DAICON V!’) For those who don’t know, the Daicon videos were the very first works by GAINAX. I’d highly recommend watching them, since Daicon 4 is legendary, and also it may or may not have been a major influence on End of Evangelion.
Naota’s horn has become a giant trench-coat-covered hand that has a hand on each finger so that it can hold 5 massive guns. This fight is fucking awesome and insane, with Haruka at her very best and is chock full of awesome moments. I also have to point out the perfect choice of background music in Blues Drive Monster. The lyrics to this song are someone calling out to the monster of the radio to wash away the world and all their troubles. This kind of reminds me of Mamimi and the song’s cool tone fits well with the chaotic scene as stuff goes on everywhere.
Atop the giant hand are Naota and Mamimi. Mamimi is shaking and scared and starts holding her head chanting ‘Tasaku-sempai, Tasaku-sempai’ over and over. This pisses Naota right off. He’s confused as to why she’s still calling for his brother when he left her behind and he’s right here to protect him. There’s a mix of the unfairness of her preference and the effort he’s trying to put forth for her mixing around in his head. He gets pissed as hell and yells at her that HE is the one who’s protecting her. And then he outright CALLS Canti to him. None of that bullshit about being eaten or stumbling into the solution, he is taking the situation into his own hands. As he steps into the ride, he says ‘My name is Naota! Don’t ever call me Takkun again!’ It’s like his way of saying ‘I’m not just going to be your tool, you will accept me as the one who protects you, or not at all.’ He’s no longer content with being her plaything and wants to be in a real relationship.
The battle continues, but Canti and Haruka both fail in their fighting. There is one important moment that is impossible to catch without rewatch or reflection. One of Canti’s bullets gets deflected into a billboard. At the episode’s end, we will find out that Naota was this bullet. The significance of this is that Naota is no longer in control of Canti. That’s why, after Haruka runs out of ammo and is caught in Canti’s arms, he is suddenly able to go badass – he isn’t inhibited by Naota who wasn’t really ready for this big step up in manliness. Canti is now fully under Atomisk’s control, which is why he summons Atomisk’s ultimate weapon – the Gibson EB-0 1961 model (I assure you, when this show came out stateside, demand for this guitar had to rise. I know Funeral and I wanted one really bad. Unfortunately, it’s apparently very rare.)
Upon taking up his mighty axe, Atomisk proceeds to beat the piss out of the giant hand. He knocks out it’s core part (which lands right on Naota’s dad) which leaves the hand inoperable. It falls into place just next to the Medical Mechanica iron and freezes there (it’s frozen form being actually an image of director Kazuya Tsurumaki’s hand.) Here at the end, Naota comes out of his ball shape only to be immediately stood on by Haruka while she googly eyes Atomisk, practically riding his dick. There is a very direct message here – Haruka loves Atomisk and does not give half of a fuck about Naota in light of his presence. Now we can really get a sense of where Haruka’s priorities lie. The episode ends here, so we can only wait for the finale!
Episode 5 remains my favorite episode, because there’s no other anime episode that can be so thoroughly zany, uproarious, and full of absurdly well-animated and choreographed fight scenes while still having enough depth and subtlety that I can write a 3000 word post on it. It’s kind of like all my favorite things about anime in one place!
Incidentally, this post came out just a couple hundred words less than the episode 3 one, but mostly because of bonus comments and annotations on that one.
EDIT: Jesus fuck, even after editing there were a ton of spelling errors I had to fix. I actually wrote ‘anime’ in place of ‘ammo.’
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so the overwhelming impression that i get from the first 5 episodes is the absolute suckiness of Naota. He’s so young that it’s totally understandable, but still it’s funny how gainax like their Shinjiesque heroes. All the men in this show are totally clueless, and the women are the ones that know what they want.
But wait! But that’s why there’s 6 episodes! And it’s a show about growing up! SHHHHHHH!!!!!!
The fifth episode is my favorite as well, for the fast, frenetic action, and because it was where things started to come together more than any other episode.
Stylistically my least favorite episode, but the fight at the end picks it up (as always). I just finished rewatching the whole series myself, so I look forward to the final post concerning FLCL.
I think that after the epi BAT SWING, this entire episode was the highlight of an awesome series for me, though I haven’t seen it in a while. I should take your example and rewatch. D;
A comment on an incredibly old article, but nonetheless: there’s a reference missing here that I haven’t been able to confirm but am highly confident about.
The name of the episode and corresponding song are a reference to the famous electric guitar distortion pedal the BD-2, Boss Blues Driver https://www.boss.info/us/products/bd-2/
It is quite likely the Pillows used it when recording the sound track as the crunchy sound of the guitars sounds very much like the pedal effect and paid an homage to it by naming the song after it. And, given the themes that electric guitars play in the show, it’s a pretty fitting title for the episode too.