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Fooly Cooly - The whole story

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This is an interperatation of the plot of Fooly Cooly. It is incredibly in depth, and while it might not be true at all, it is a very interesting, if long, read. It was not writtin by me, unfortunatly. The artical is taken from a forum post on adult swim.com, and then from MG87 who posted it on the MDB.




I have seen many people, both on this board and on various web sites, complain that FLCL does not make sense. I happen to disagree. It makes a good deal of sense, and has a very coherent plot which I shall attempt to explain.

Making sense of it all demands that you first realize that although Naota is the protagonist, in that he has the most face time and it is he who we understand and sympathize most with, he is not the main character. For the most part, Naota reacts to what is going on around him, and the main character in any story is the one who acts. The person driving the story is the guitar-wielding maniac, Haruhara Haruko, and it is easiest to understand the plot of FLCL from her perspective.


Haruko is an alien, and a member of the Galaxy Police. She has come to Earth in search of the Pirate King, Lord Atomsk. He is an astral being, an entity of pure spirit. As such, he and all of his power can be contained or embodied within other people or objects. Haruko wants to consume Lord Atomsk and thereby gain his powers. Perhaps most important of these powers is his "NO", his ability to instantly transport objects with his mind from any distance. NO seems to operate like a radio signal, where the brain is the receiver and objects are the signal. It also seems rather closely tied to the emotional state of the receiver's brain Ã?Æ?Ã?¢Ã?¢ââ?¬Å¡Ã?¬Ã?¢ââ??¬Ã?" more on this later.


Haruko has no NO of her own, but she is able to open NO channels in others by hitting them in the head with her guitar, often accompanied with the words "Furi Kuri." This seems to "tune" their head in to a particular signal or channel. Sometimes it can take a while for the channel to open (Naota's various robots seemed to gestate for days), while other times it will open almost immediately (the mini-guitar of Amarao). This seems to vary depending upon the size of the object brought through. Haruko hoped to use Naota's NO to open a channel through which she could summon Lord Atomsk, who had been imprisoned by Medical Mechanica, (MM).


MM is an alien organization of some sort, who manufacture hand-shaped robots and hope to flatten all thinking in the galaxy. Presumably, natural thought bothers them in some basic way. They do this flattening with giant irons, wielded by the giant hand-shaped robots. One such giant iron was placed on Earth. Its purpose in Mabase is never made clear, nor is the relationship between MM and the Earth. The government (at least as represented by Amarao) seems to hope that if they appease MM, they will be left alone.


When Haruko first meets Naota, she hopes that his NO will be able to summon Lord Atomsk immediately. At the end of the first episode, he does. Atomsk, contained within the body of the robot which will later be dubbed Lord Kanti, emerges from Naota's head. The first of the hand-robots also emerged, presumably brought through as it attempted to hold Atomsk down. Although Atomsk/Kanti easily defeated the hand robot, Haruko did not realize that Atomsk is contained within Lord Kanti, and thus subdues him with her guitar. Lord Canti survives, but Atomsk disappeared, symbolized by the Kanti's change from red to blue/gray.


Haruko tries again and again to summon forth Atomsk from Naota's head, but draws forth only MM robots. MM wants Lord Kanti, dead or alive. Whether he is necessary for them to imprison Lord Atomsk, or whether they do not realize that Atomsk is only occasionally housed within Lord Kanti, is unknown. These robots are stronger than either Haruko or Lord Kanti, and were only defeated when Naota was consumed by Lord Kanti. When Kanti ate Naota, he used his brain to open an NO channel directly to Atomsk, infusing the robot with the astral being's power and enabling him to defeat MM's robots. However, this only worked for short periods of time. Perhaps Lord Atomsk could not be contained for very long within a mere robot; perhaps Naota could only keep the channel open for a certain length of time; or perhaps Adamask simply did not want to be contained.


Faced with Naota's seeming inability to summon Atomsk, Haruko decided that she needed to work on the boy, to bring his NO up to speed. His mental and emotional state were crucial to the proper functioning of his NO. Until he was able to recognize his desires and willing to act upon them (to "swing the bat"), he would not be able to release Atomsk. In the fourth and fifth episodes, Haruko tried to bring this out by throwing herself at the boy, and then encouraging him to fight for her love by pretending to be interested in the boy's father, Nandaba Kamon.


In the fourth episode, she killed Kamon and replaced him with a robot, with which she could cavort freely in front of the boy. This was necessary because Haruko found the real Kamon repulsive. Then she damaged a government satellite bomb, sending it on an attack course to Mabase. Haruko planned to use a combination of jealousy and necessity to force Naota to act. This is one of two episodes in which Naota did not sprout a MM robot, and this is for a reason. MM robots came through the NO channel because Naota was insufficiently mature to truly summon Atomsk. In this episode a robot did not appear because Haruko did not attempt to free Atomsk, but rather to put Naota in better contact with his true power. To do this, she pulled a guitar out of the boy with her bare hands, and made him use it. Her plan worked perfectly, and the episode ended with her maniac cackling. Naota could swing the bat, but only if he had to. There was still more work to be done.


In the fifth episode, Haruko continued to play on the jealousy angle, but with no success. Naota would not recognize his feelings for Haruko, let alone fight for her. Instead, all he had developed was a big ego. As a result, he just sprouted another MM robot. He was getting closer to the proper mental state, and thus this robot was far bigger and more powerful than all the previous MM robots, but it was still not Atomsk. However, Haruko had learned from Amarao that the red Kanti was an incarnation of Atomsk, and at the end of the episode she eloped with Kanti/Atomsk, leaving Naota in the dust. Of course, the Kanti/Atomsk hybrid was only temporary, and after a time they both returned to Mabase. However, Haruko's departure had forced Naota to realize his feelings for her. In the final episode he demonstrated his willingness to act upon them by running away with Haruko, setting the stage for the show's finale.


In the show's climax, the giant MM robot left over from the fifth episode is re-awakened and seeks to activate the MM plant and destroy the Earth, presumably to prevent the rescue of Atomsk. Haruko sends Naota into Kanti one last time, hoping that he is finally ready to bring forth Atomsk. It almost works Ã?Æ?Ã?¢Ã?¢ââ?¬Å¡Ã?¬Ã?¢ââ??¬Ã?" Naota does bring Atomsk out of Kanti, but he does it by merging with the Pirate King himself, creating a new Naota/Atomsk hybrid. This infuriates Haruko. Her plan had been to consume the powers of Atomsk all along, and thus she could not stand for her pawn to take the powers of the Pirate King for himself. She attacks, but Naota/Atomsk is more than a match for her, easily knocking her guitar to Earth and sending her crashing down into the now-inert giant hand. For a moment it seems as if he will finish her off, as Amarao hopes, but just as he is poised for the final attack, Naota/Atomsk stops, and plain old Naota emerges. He declares his love for Haruko, and kisses her.


At that moment the real Atomsk bursts forth from his forehead. The Pirate King is a great winged beast, an astral being of tremendous power which absorbs the giant hand and nearly pulls all of Mabase along in his wake as he flees to the heavens. Haruko had finally freed Atomsk, but he escaped before she could eat him. So she boards her Vespa, and flies off after him. Naota goes back to a more or less ordinary life. He was changed, but not dramatically. Growing up takes time.


This is a basic outline of the plot. Most of the major events take place in the first, fourth, and sixth episodes. The series could perhaps have been done as a three-part OAV. However, this is not to say that everything else was insignificant. The above plot summary merely scratches the surface of what FLCL is saying.


In my opinion, the show is not just about Haruko's quest to consume the Pirate King, or about Naota's maturation. It is a meditation on what exactly maturity means, and an illustration of its several false forms. These are symbolized by various characters in the show, and by Naota's actions throughout. I shall now go through these characters, and do my best to interpret their role in the story.


First is Samejima Mamiji. For all the time she spends of screen, my basic summary does not even mention her. She is nonetheless quite significant. Mamiji acts both as a foil for the various manifestations of Naota's growing maturity, and as a representation of a false form of maturity. I think that Mamiji represents disassociation from the world, the retreat from the responsibilities of everyday life into a fantasy world of one's own making. She is a high-school delinquent in a country where "good" high-school students spend nearly every waking hour studying for their college entry exams. She tries to look grown-up with her short skirts, her smoking, and her contempt for school, embodying the stereotype of the "cool" kid who doesn't play by the rules. But in her case, the retreat from ordinary responsibility has lead to madness. She sets fires to obliterate her memories of the past, prays to the God of Fear so that it might smite the town of Mabase, and feeds the cellphones and scooters and bikes of her classmates to a robot that she finds by the river. Her denial of responsibility has isolated her. Her passion for photography is a symbol of this Ã?Æ?Ã?¢Ã?¢ââ?¬Å¡Ã?¬Ã?¢ââ??¬Ã?" she is forever looking at the world from a distance, viewing it as an outsider. This, I think, is the root of her attachment to Naota, and to the cat Takkun, and to the robot Takkun. She sees each of them as a pet of sorts, something to keep her company as she lives in her own little world. When Naota outgrows the role of pet, she can no longer deal with him, and the two part ways. The closing shot of the final episode indicates that she makes her way in the outside world as a photographer, an outsider who is able to show people who they really are precisely because she stands apart.


Second is Ninamori Eri, a classmate of Naota's and the sixth-grade class president. Ninamori represents another false maturity, that of cynical detachment. It is easier for her to believe that everything is a game, and that everyone is out for themselves, than it is for her to acknowledge the reality of her own feelings and to act upon them. In her case, she does not want to deal with the fact that her father's infidelity and impending divorce is upsetting, and so she pretends to not care. Likewise, she sees nothing wrong with rigging the election for the school play to suit her own whims, as she believes that this is just how the world works. Everything is easier if you don't have to deal with feelings Ã?Æ?Ã?¢Ã?¢ââ?¬Å¡Ã?¬Ã?¢ââ??¬Ã?" except that it just doesn't work. She comes to realize this, and grows. In the sixth episode, the scene at the high-jump makes this clear Ã?Æ?Ã?¢Ã?¢ââ?¬Å¡Ã?¬Ã?¢ââ??¬Ã?" Ninamori recognized her feelings and acted upon them, and thus was able to surprise everyone and make the jump. In that this mirrors the leap Naota would make later in the episode, the high-jump scene is about as close to straight-out exposition as you are likely to find in FLCL.


Third is Amarao, the government agent who just never grew up. Events in the fifth episode indicate that when he was a child, Haruko had gone to him much as she had gone to Naota. However, Amarao was not up to the task, and she left him. He never got over it. Amarao attempt to achieve maturity through the acquisition of the appearance and accouterments of maturity, without realizing that what really mattered was one's emotional development. Most obvious are his eyebrows. Obviously pasted onto his face, he wears them to look manly Ã?Æ?Ã?¢Ã?¢ââ?¬Å¡Ã?¬Ã?¢ââ??¬Ã?" but everybody can see just how fake they really are. When he finally confronted Haruko, neither his guns, his agents, nor his eyebrows could stand up to her, and he was left groveling at her feet. The other recurring symbol of his immaturity, and Naota's, is his preference for sweet things. Kids love sweet things, but they have to learn to appreciate the other flavors. Over the course of the series, Naota does learn, but Amarao never did. He never learned to accept the bad as well as the good, the hard as well as the easy, and thus he remained a child at heart.


Fourth, and finally, is Haruhara Haruko. She represents what can go wrong even with those who have embraced their desires and are willing to act upon them Ã?Æ?Ã?¢Ã?¢ââ?¬Å¡Ã?¬Ã?¢ââ??¬Ã?" obsession. Haruko has been driven mad by her desire for Atomsk, an ultimately unobtainable being. Atomsk is not just a sexy alien or a garden-variety romantic interest. He is a higher power, a supernatural force, an angel Ã?Æ?Ã?¢Ã?¢ââ?¬Å¡Ã?¬Ã?¢ââ??¬Ã?" male sexual energy incarnate. This is something that no person can have. The best any person can hope for is to have a fleeting glimpse of the divine, and that is something we must be content with. Haruko's mad quest to master Atomsk has driven her to abandon her duty to the Space Police and to disregard the welfare of all who get in her way. She is willing to toy with Naota, kill his father, and unleash the wrath of MM upon all of humanity so that she may unite with Atomsk. Yet still he escapes her, and will forever escape her. It has driven her mad.


And now I will go further!


Now that I have discussed the main characters, I shall turn to other issues of some importance, starting with the concept of NO. Like the various characters described above, it has two roles Ã?Æ?Ã?¢Ã?¢ââ?¬Å¡Ã?¬Ã?¢ââ??¬Ã?" one in the surface plot of aliens and space travel, and one on the metaphorical level. On the metaphorical level, NO ability is a manifestation of maturity, but specifically male maturity. . This is not merely physical maturity, but emotional maturity as well Ã?Æ?Ã?¢Ã?¢ââ?¬Å¡Ã?¬Ã?¢ââ??¬Ã?" both Kamon and Amarao were physically mature, but neither had significant NO. Women do not have NO in this series. Furthermore, they seem to be rather taken with its manifestations Ã?Æ?Ã?¢Ã?¢ââ?¬Å¡Ã?¬Ã?¢ââ??¬Ã?" the nosebleeds of the station workers in episode 4, the hearts and stars that float from Kitsurabami's head whenever she sees NO in action. Most importantly, Haruko's main goal in the series is to capture and consume a being with tremendous NO, Atomsk. There is also the rather loaded warning Haruko gives to Ninamori in the third episode, when she first discovers Naota's cat-ears, something along the lines of, "Don't touch it! It's not girl your age shouldn't touch it with your bare hands!" Although NO seems to be a male attribute, each time NO is used it is activated by a woman. Naota's NO channel is tuned by Haruko's guitar. In the first, second, and fifth episodes Naota's NO channel is opened through his interactions with Mamimi, in the fourth episode Haruko rips it open with her bare hands, and in the final episode it is opened after Naota kisses Haruko. Finally, this interpretation makes it somewhat difficult to make sense of the third episode, in which Ninamori sprouts a robot instead of Naota. The easy explanation would be that the NO channel was transferred to her when the heads of these two children were smashed into each other. However, there is also the fact that Ninamori's robot was fundamentally different from those of Naota Ã?Æ?Ã?¢Ã?¢ââ?¬Å¡Ã?¬Ã?¢ââ??¬Ã?" his were hands, while hers seemed to be a stomach. This raises the possibility that women, too, have their own version of NO, but that it operates somewhat differently from the masculine NO, and must perhaps be activated by a man, instead of a woman. This would fit with the fact that Ninamori sprouted the robot during her fight with Naota.


This connotation between NO and masculinity gives irony to Amarao's eyebrows Ã?Æ?Ã?¢Ã?¢ââ?¬Å¡Ã?¬Ã?¢ââ??¬Ã?" not only are they false props of maturity, but in blocking his NO they also block the manifestation of true maturity. Stuck pursuing an image of "what a man should be" he has rendered himself incapable of truly being a man. I think the same kind of symbolism is behind the use of guns and the South Park-style imagery in the fifth episode. Both are manifestations of what Haruko calls the "manly coolness factor" in the "next episode" blurb for Brittle Bullet, and both are thus manifestations of false maturity. Swaggering about with guns, in and of itself, is no more mature than a bunch of little kids swearing a lot. The fact that it was Amarao, and then briefly Naota, who were portrayed in South Park style, makes the connection clearer. Amarao's eyebrows (which are, I think, references to South Park in and of themselves), and all the guns, are simply props that the immature can use to try and demonstrate that they are mature. In Amarao's case, he bought in so completely to the props that they prevented the manifestation of the real thing. In Naota's case, the fifth episode saw him experimenting with the manly swagger to impress his friends and Mamimi. When he finally realized that it would not work, that Mamimi was simply alienated by this newfound "maturity," the giant hand sprouted from his skull. Having made that realization, he was dangerously close to releasing Atomsk, and thus MM decided to end things by activating the plant and ironing the Earth.


Who or what Medical Mechanica is, exactly, is never made clear. As stated before, they seem to make hand shaped robots, and seek to flatten the thoughts of everyone with giant irons. I suppose that one could see MM as a symbol of civilization in general. According to this reading, FLCL is arguing that civilization has imprisoned male sexuality, and has turned it from an intensely chaotic force into a power source for its own dark designs. Many have argued that civilization strives to flatten the individual, forcing them to conform to its own standards and practices without regard for their individual talents or abilities. This would fit with the techno-phobic, anti-government prejudices common in anime, and perhaps with a more general critique of Japanese society as overly-controlling and anti-individualistic. To be honest, I do not find this reading particularly compelling, but I can think of nothing better. Perhaps this is simply a cultural difference, or a matter of personal taste, in that I do not like this bit of the series' symbolism. Or maybe I am completely wrong.


I think Kamon is a self-referential tool through which the director can comment on the show . . . but only to give what he believes are incorrect or inane opinions. Incorrect, in that Kamon continually reduces all of the complexity of the show to sex. Inane, as in his commentary on the various elements of FLCL as it relates to other anime. He is also used by Haruko for her own purposes, but I have already discussed that.


I think Naota's cat is a pretty much ordinary cat. Haruko uses it to talk with her superiors on several occasions, but I think she does this by opening some sort of communication channel through the cat. Who know, though. Maybe the cat really was her superior. Maybe they replaced the real cat with a robot cat. It's a sufficiently minor element that speculation beyond a certain point seems futile.


I have nothing to say about the grandfather, or Naota's other two friends from class.


Finally, what does FLCL mean? The show's formal title is both FLCL, an acronymic abbreviation for FoolyCooly. FoolyCooly is a word in English made up by the Japanese. In Japanese, FoolyCooly would be written (in katakana) as furikuri. That is how it is spelled in the title for the first episode, and that is how it is pronounced. Pretty much every Japanese schoolchild has to sit through several years of instruction in English, but most forget it all by the time they finish high school. This combination of familiarity and incoherence has resulted in the immense popularity of faux-English words and phrases in Japanese pop culture. FoolyCooly is just another example of this. Although in the general language this is a nonsense word, in the show it has a very specific connotation Ã?Æ?Ã?¢Ã?¢ââ?¬Å¡Ã?¬Ã?¢ââ??¬Ã?" it is the process whereby Haruko activates an NO channel. You can see this in the "next episode" sequence for the final episode. While Haruko talks about how there's not much to say, in the background you see a series of dictionary definitions of two word phrases which start with an Fl and a Cl, interspersed with snippets of the various scenes where Haruko hits Naota's head. Furthermore, Haruko often says "FuriKuri" when she hits Naota on the head, most obviously in the last episode after the manga sequence. She also chants it when she draws forth the mini-guitar from Amarao. Of course, this particular action has many symbolic meanings beyond the literal, as I have discussed previously. You can make the connections yourself.


End post.



So, FLCL isn't just an insane attempt at humor, but it has some deeper meaning. Hell, the humor on the surface may be that whole maturity issues thing the post goes on about. Anyway, it's a great argument and I hope it helped :P

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Guest Anonymous

Heh. I kinda figured out all that about the storyline on my own, but I think the symbolism is just soemone reading too far into it...

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I'd agree, if it were made by any other company than Gainax...


but Gainax, man, they get off on putting insane symbolism in everything.


It's like, "Oh, look at that sexy metaphore, you're a dirty metaphore, aren't you... urg, gurk!"


Yeah. It all makes sense in hindsight, after it's been all layed out for me, but not knowing about it didn't harm my enjoyment of the show anyway :P

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