Revisiting a Modern Classic: FLCL Episode 4

See other parts: Episode 1Episode 2Episode 3Episode 4Episode 5Episode 6

Full Swing

“Hit it into the sky, don’t hold back. Before he swings the bat, a real slugger imagines an arc inside his heart…arching directly to heaven…”

For the past three episodes, we’ve been given a lot of back story. The first episode centers on Haruko. The second and third deal primarily with Mamimia and Ninamori respectively. The fourth episode we finally see Haruko’s efforts taking form.

All of her actions in this episode are carefully planned and calculated. The way she became Naota’s batting coach to get him to grow closer to her. Her “fooling around” with Kamon in front of Naota to make him jealous. All of this was to build up Naota’s emotions so when he finally snapped, the N.O. energy would act as a beacon to bring the satellite down to Earth.

We get an interesting look at Mamimi’s character in this scene. When she sees the satellite, she makes a reference to “Kyoufu no Daiou (King of Fear).” In Nostradamus, he predicts the world would come to an end in the year 1999, which spread panic amongst many people.

However, we know that Mamimi is one who has already given up on life, and would actually have been relieved for the end to come. Thus, she is actually celebrating the end of the world.

The satellite in question belongs to the Interstellar Immigration Bureau, which is introduced in this episode. Amarao, the head of the bureau has been investigating Haruko for quite some time. When he learns of the satellite coming down, he realizes that the only way to save Mabase City from being completely wiped out is Haruko’s “swing.”

Haruko, of course, has no intention of saving Mabase. Her reasons for bringing down the satellite is to test Naota. To put him in a situation where he must either “swing the bat” or be destroyed along with the rest of the city.

She drives Naota to the top of the MM plant on her vespa. There she reaches into Naota’s head to the other side of the N.O. portal and retrieves his “bat,” a Gibson Flying V Guitar.

The satellite enters Earth’s atmosphere and slowly begins speeding towards Mabase. Mid-way, the satellite breaks apart, taking the shape of a giant baseball. With a few words of encouragement, Haruko quickly disappears form the scene leaving a dazed and frightened Naota alone.

With the impending doom of Mabase City quickly approaching. Naota calls out to Tasuku for help. Canti’s TV screen lights up and channels the N.O. power into Naota’s head at the last second, giving Naota the courage he needs to finally swing the bat.

This was not the best the scene in FLCL, that honor is reserved for the final scene in episode 6. However, after watching through all of FLCL, I can safely say that this scene is definitely my favorite. Masterful dialogue, surreal setting, great buildup, and splendid climax. All to the sound of “Crazy Sunshine” by The Pillows, one of my favorite songs from the band.

This is pivotal scene that captures the importance of “swinging the bat.” Up until now, Naota has never tried to swing the bat once. Even though he holds a bat, he never swings it because of the possibility of striking out. He doesn’t want to know his limits and thus moves through life without swinging in fear of failure.

For Mamimi, she preferred Naota that way, someone who never swung the bat. Mamimi was the one who had control of their relationship. However, after this episode, Naota demonstrates that he too, can “swing the bat” like Tasuku. Mamimi is afraid that Naota will eventually follow Tasuku and leave her all alone.

Why do I love Full Swing? Because it is in essence, the pride before the fall. This is a huge step for Naota, finally able to “swing the bat” and become closer to Haruko. He saved the city, and proved to everyone that he is not just that “younger brother” of Tasuku. Haruko, however, has ulterior motives in mind. Full Swing really sets the stage for Naota’s fall from pride in episode 5, and builds into the beautiful climax of the story in episode 6.

The FLCL Universe:

Interstellar Immigration Bureau

In the show, they are portrayed as a “government” of sorts, whether it is to Mabase City, the entire Earth, or extending to other parts of the galaxy remains unknown. Their agenda seems to be to monitor and control “aliens” who intrude upon the planet.

This may be interpreted in a historical sense as the Japanese isolation policy after World War II. It represents the mid-point between reason and emotion, the average human. As such their relationship with Medical Mechanica is somewhat of a mediator.

Haruko, being alien herself, has caught the attention of the bureau for quite some time. It is implied that Haruko and the bureau have had past encounters, particularly with Amarao. In order to maintain the “golden middle” between reason and emotion, the bureau seeks to rid the world of aliens and outsiders who intrude upon this way of thinking. Amarao views Haruko as a “menace” to the peace a stability of this world.

Relationship with Medical Mechanica

Medical Mechanica remains, in large, a mystery throughout the show. As stated in Part 1 of this guide, the factory takes the shape of a clothe-iron. The factory appears to “activate” whenever an MM robot appears (most of which come from the N.O. channel within Naota’s head). All the robots have some sort of a hand meant to grab hold of the giant iron, the only exception being Canti.

Amarao reveals their plans to “iron out the wrinkles in the human brain” effectively turning them all into mindless slaves thinking alike. This is another metaphor for the cultural invasion of America after the war.

Character Studies:

Amarao

Amarao is first introduced in episode 4. He works for the Interstellar Immigration Bureau on Earth. He comes off initially as a character who knows a lot about the situation and is “in-control.” However, we later realize that’s not the case and the Amarao is often times limited in what he can actual do, unlike Naota.

The Interstellar Immigration Bureau is an organization that regulates aliens. It can be viewed as a government of sorts to the people of Mabase City, except its keeping actual “alien immigrants” from coming to Earth. They are after Haruko because she came to Earth illegally, and is thus an illegal immigrant.

According to bits and pieces of dialogue in episodes 4 and 5. We can make several inferences regarding the past life of Amarao. It is heavily implied that Amarao and Haruko met before in the past, in the same way that Haruko met Naota. Haruko wants to capture Atomsk so she most likely hit Amarao in the head to open up an N.O. channel.

Like Naota, however, Amarao’s head still wouldn’t generate enough N.O. to summon Atomsk, and in the end, Haruko left him. It is implied that Amarao has never gotten over Haruko’s betrayal and seeks to stop her before she can do the same thing to Naota.

Amarao rides a Fuji Rabbit, a Japanese made motorbike, unlike the Italian made Vespa

It is revealed that her real name is Haruha Raharu, not Haruko (whether he knows this because of his job or from past encounters remains ambiguous)

His character is, in many respects, represents a grown-up version of Naota had he not swung the bat. He has two distinctive sides, an “adult” as well as a “childish” side. Like Naota, Amarao doesn’t like spicy curry, preferring the mild type. He is also seen with fake eyebrows made from nori (dried seaweed) because he feels that having defined eyebrows makes him more of a man.

This episode also reveals key information about the existence of extra dimensions and their relationship with N.O. portals.

Amarao first visits Naota under the false pretext of an "investigator" for the murder of Kamon. Of course, Amarao already knows that it was merely a trick played by Haruko.

Dialogue between Amarao and Naota reveal the truth behind N.O. According to Amarao, “It utilizes the right and left brain’s thought processes to open up an inter-dimensional channel capable of transportation. Sometimes instantly transporting materials from light years away. But the notion that anyone’s head can be used is incorrect. You have to use the right one.”

All this time, Haruko has been searching for the “right head” to pull Atomsk through the N.O. channel. She thinks she’s finally found it in Naota.

Kitsurubami

Lieutenant Kitsurubami is the second in command of Amarao’s division of the Interstellar Immigration Bureau. She tries to maintain as professional an appearance as humanly possible. Quickly to follow orders, and always ready to carry out her missions.

Kitsurubami is a named after a light brown traditional Japanese color, which is in reference to her skin color. Like Amarao, she also exhibits several childish traits. She feels generally indifferent and sometimes even disgusted at the idea of romance. She tends to keep her distance from Amarao, whom she views as a sort of disgusting man despite him being her superior. Despite her best attempts to act in a professional manner, she does break down in two instances, once in episode 4 and once in episode 5. Both times, she is smitten with Naota’s “bat.” Still, she remains loyal to Amarao, despite her doing everything to avoid contact with men.

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3 Responses to Revisiting a Modern Classic: FLCL Episode 4

  1. ojisan says:

    This is… this is great. Thank you.

    I always thought that Kitsurubami wasn’t so smitten by “Naota’s bat” in episode 4 (holy nosebleed, though) as she was turned on by a primal female fantasy: to reach Right Into a Guy’s Brain and find and drag out the thing you want most from him…

    • Tronulax says:

      Yes you may be correct. In many ways, the FLCL universe remains ambiguous to its viewers. The way Haruko reaches into Naota’s brain causes all of Amaro’s female subordinates to break out in nosebleeds.

      Or it could be that Gainax are bunch of nerds, and they thing they want most from him…is exactly “that.”

      She does say its “impressive.”

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