Revisiting a Modern Classic: FLCL Episode 5

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

Brittle Bullet

As the title of this episode suggests. Naota, after experienced his emotional high last episode, will inevitably experience the fall that comes afterward. This episode is funny, entertaining, and emotionally charged as the series winds down to its finale.

In this episode, Naota turns into Alpha-Naota. It’s only natural, after saving the city last episode, to be a little full of yourself. All of his classmates praise him, however we distinctively see two characters (Mamimi and Ninamori) who aren’t too pleased with Naota’s newfound confidence.

The name is that of a coffee shop, but the design of the building is closer to that of a love motel

Mamimi secretly blames Haruko for Naota’s change of character. Naota sensing Mamimi’s distress wants to prove to her that’s not the case. Full of confidence, Naota takes Mamimi by the hand tries to kiss her, but is ultimately rejected.

This show can be meticulously subtle at times, or not

Mamimi’s rejection acts as the catalyst for yet another horn to sprout out of Naota’s head. This time, the robot that emerges appears to be a giant humanoid at first glance.

The MM robot starts making its way towards the MM factory to active it. Haruko begins her transformation sequence in front of Amarao whom she has been dueling up until now (also a reference to classic mahou shojo anime). She engages with the MM robot who fires back with a giant shot gun.

Naota during his moment of GAR

On top of the robot, Mamimi covers her head and calls out for “Tasuku-senpai.” Upon hearing this, Naota immediately summons Canti and says to her that he’s going to save her, not Tasuku. Naota is swallowed by Canti and becomes Atomsk yet again.

However, Naota commits a huge mistake. He is still over-confident and thus over exerts himself. He shifts Canti into “Overdrive Mode” and fires the mounted cannon too early. The shell deflects off one of the MM robot’s bullets and ricochets into a nearby billboard, rendering Naota “useless” for the rest of the fight. (The folks at GAINAX all have dirty minds, this episode is full of sexual references).

With Haruko’s guitar unable to damage the MM robot, and Naota having “blown” it (see what I did there?), Atomsk is forced to reach into his head and pull out his 1961 Gibson EB0 Bass Guitar.

This is the moment where Haruko finally realizes that Atomsk resides within Canti when he turns red. Atomsk then swings his guitar destroying the robots terminal core and puncturing a hole in the “palm of its hand.”

FLCL is not all that pretentious, so no, the hole in the hand does not mean anything, despite the very heavy connotations it may invoke

Naota’s fall from grace is a pivotal moment in his character development. His brashness and over-confidence eventually leads to his downfall. This is a metaphor for the consequences we suffer for making hasty decisions without thinking them over first.

Haruko, having finally realized that Red Canti is the Atomsk she’d been searching for this entire time, decides to leave Mabase City with Canti. Naota’s fall is compounded by the sudden disappearance of Haruko, and he is left contemplating why all of this has happened.

The feeling is completely opposite that episode 4. Naota went from being on top of the world, to being on the bottom of the world all in a matter of one episode. The atmosphere is integral in the setting-up of episode 6 and the finale to the series.

Character Studies:

Atomsk

When Canti turns red, he becomes Atomsk. Red Canti symbolizes everything Naota pictures in his older brother. He is the perfect person whom Naota wants to be like. The symbol that appears on Canti’s face when he transforms is a deformed mesh of the kanji for “adult.”

The “Pirate King” Atomsk is the driving force behind Haruko’s arrival on Earth. He is known as the most powerful “space pirate.” According to Amarao, his N.O. is powerful enough to “steal entire star systems.” Sometime before the series began, Haruko had some sort of encounter with Atomsk. According to Amarao, Haruko was once part of a “Galaxy Police Force” tasked with arresting Atomsk, but while on her mission, the two of them fell in love.

We are led to believe this since Haruko wears a metal ring similar to Atomsk’s nose ring in episode 6. This allows her to detect Atomsk’s presence while perhaps also acting as an engagement ring of sorts. While it is true that Haruko wants to rescue Atomsk from Medical Mechanica’s clutches, it is not because she loves him. That is merely a dillusion of Amarao who thinks Haruko betrayed him for Atomsk. In reality, Haruko merely wants his power and will sacrifice anyone and anything to attain it.

Out of all the characters in FLCL, Atomsk is definitely (in my opinion) the most difficult to understand. His existence is never really made clear, even in the final episode. It is unknown what his motives are. All we know of his back story is that he’s wanted by the Galaxy Police Force, was chased by Haruko, somehow got captured by Medical Mechanica which led Haruko to Earth where Naota somehow became tangled in all of this.

Atomsk’s existence almost creates another story by itself. On one side, we have Naota’s struggle to come to terms with his emotions. And on a deeper level, we have the underlying struggle between Atomsk and Haruko. Atomsk represents the “ultimate power,” something that Haruko wants, but is never able to attain. Could this symbolize in some way the dangers of a capitalist and materialist society? The fact that such a society will always want “more” and never be truly satisfied? These are some of the many questions that FLCL leaves for the viewer to interpret themselves.

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