If Evangelion was an exploration of human interaction under the most extreme of circumstances, FLCL is the exploration of the lack thereof. Nothing amazing ever happens in Natota’s life. There are no changes from the status quo, no interesting people to interact with, no form of expression that he uses that might add some semblance of worth or meaning to his existence. He only person that he does interact with is Mamimi, someone whom he doesn’t understand and someone who is constantly enveloped in their own fantasy. She only uses others to fill the void in her heart left by Naota’s brother, even going as far as to use a robot for that purpose after Naota leaves her. She actively avoids the chance for anything amazing to happen because she can’t see the value in change, but instead actively fears it. She is enveloped in smoke that prevents her from seeing the outside world or changing who she is, but completely of her own volition. Don’t leave, don’t do anything. That could lead to something special, something uncomfortable, something dangerous. Never do anything. Never knows best.

Naota interacts with her exclusively, and as such is caught in the same world of monotony Mamimi lives in, but not of his own volition. He thinks that’s just how life is for him without ever understanding the outside world. But then Haruko arrives. A force of change so radical that she immediately pulls Naota out of the smoke and into reality. She’s loud, obnoxious, perverted and insane, and exactly what Naota needed in order to recognize that there is more to life than sitting under a bridge doing homework forever. Her arrival makes Naota remember something that he had long since forgotten: Emotion.

Reluctantly at first, he starts to feel things and have opinions and create things and, above all, express himself. He starts hanging out with other friends and leaves that world of boredom he had previously mistaken for reality. He tries to suppress it at first, but eventually the fruits of him being himself shine through and he accepts reality. Why would he remain trapped in a world where nothing amazing happens when Haruko is there? He lets the embodiment of insanity start living with him and become a normal part of his life so that he doesn’t get sucked back into nothingness. Mamimi is still stuck in her own world, however, and sees Naota’s expression as a god to be worshiped rather than a role model to live up to.

Naota can no longer empathies with Mamimi, though, and continues forward in embracing reality as he finds that he cares about some people enough to protect them, while simultaneously developing fear of the smokey, clouded reality that he used to be a part of. Confused by the lack of structure in Mamimi’s world, he at first tries to come back and empathize with her again, but realizes that he’s already become too interesting to do so.

What’s maturity? The lack of childishness? What is childishness? Sweat drinks, innocence, a lack of cynicism. So does that make adulthood spicy curry? Impurity? Jaded eyebrows? I guess. But that’s no fun. Who is this? Eri Ninamori? What is she like? She seems mature, but how? She’s just a kid. No, she’s playful and currious, just like any other kid. Glasses? You can remove them at any time. Oh, they’re fake? I get it. It’s not black and white. It’s not even a gradient. “Maturity” and “childishness” are two sides of the same coin.

Naota’s brother left Japan for America to go play baseball ages ago. He saw his chance, swung his bat and left everything for a chance at his dream. Naota himself hasn’t. What does Haruko see in him? Haruko tires to bring him to swing his bat, to take his step. For the first time, Naota’s faced with adversity. He has to take a chance, he has to swing his bat for the sake of his survival. When it comes down to it, very few people will swing the bat, but nothing can happen until you do. A real slugger imagines an arc inside his heart, leading directly to haven. There, that star will make a good target. Strange, that’s not a baseball bat, that’s an electric guitar. What is an electric guitar? It’s the tradition of acoustics, but it’s the noise of a loud concert. Normality and unwieldiness. Naota swings and lands it. He’s become is own.

We’re having fun now. Guitars, guns and kissing. But I’m still a kid, aren’t I? I still like sweat drinks, can’t stand spicy curry, and hate these eyebrows. I can even look at the waterguns and conclude this. Legitimate weapons and toys aren’t that different after all, but they are still different. I am still a kid. I don’t get a lot of things. Why would Haruko go to such extremes to get what she wants? Who is this pirate king? What is Medical Mechanica? I don’t understand anything. And now Haruko’s gone. I’m back in the smoke again, back in monotony, but this time it’s worse because everyone’s below me. I know that it’s like to have fun, to be myself, but I can’t anymore. It’s nighttime, I’m back it being tired. Tired of existing. Too tired to do anything. When you’re in a town like this all covered with smoke, you forget that there’s a world outside. Nothing amazing happens here. And you get used to that, used to a world where everything is ordinary. Every day we spend here is like a whole lifetime of dying slowly.

Is that the sun? Excitiment shining through the same every day existance? Haruko is back! But she’s not who I thought she was. I really couldn’t see anything, but I loved her anyway. I can do something about it, though. At least I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. I did it. I get it.

So violence and mercy, maturity and childhood, normality and unwieldiness are one in the same? Interesting. The truly happy aren’t ignorant to the world around them, nor are they fully innocent either. There was never any difference, was there? The idiocy of childhood is fun, and the jadedness of adulthood is what keeps us alive. They need balance. It takes a fool to do cool things. That’s why they’re cool. Growing up isn’t easy, but you don’t always have to change completely. Enjoying yourself, properly experiencing life is being fooly cooly.

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