BY JOHN CARTER JR
Growing up is scary. From the changes inside ourselves to the changes in the world around us, the thought of permanence iconically passes by as you become aware that the only true constant is change. Everything changes, evolves, and becomes something different than it was when it was first formed. At its foundation, it is the same thing that it always has been but it accumulates time and with that adjustments. The small daily adjustments humans acquire through learning, acting, and experiencing cause us to constantly morph into someone new.
While who we are now and what we were in the past are unchangeable, the possibilities for who we can be is infinite. Whether that is you one second from now or one decade from now, who you are is constantly on the move. Every person has a choice. Certainly there are factors outside of our control but it is how we choose to respond to those uncontrollable factors and what we choose to do with the controllable ones that are fundamental to who we are becoming.
The ball is going to fly toward you regardless of whether you do anything or not. It is up to you whether you let it pass you by and into the catcher’s mitt or in staunch defiance, you can choose to swing the bat.
FLCL or Fooly Cooly, directed by Kazuya Tsurumaki, was originally released in April 2000. The story centers around a boy named Naota whose brother recently left home to play baseball in the States. Throughout his journey, he comes across Mamimi, a girl who claims to be in love with Naota’s older brother, Canti the robot, and Haruko Haruhara, an eccentric person on a Vespa. Throughout the show, Naota is confronted with change. Change within himself, change in the world around him, change within others, and a refusal to change within those things all the same. Taking place at the heart of the show is this deep-rooted struggle between staying the same and changing. This powerful struggle wells up in Naota. Will he succumb to the pressure of growing up or will he swing for the fences and meet his future head on?
What makes FLCL stand out among its contemporaries is its art design, its themes, and its deliciously era-specific music. The music for the show was done by the band The Pillows. Iconic songs from the show include “Last Dinosaur,” “Ride on Shooting Star,” and “Little Busters,” to name a few. Without its iconic music, FLCL probably wouldn’t have its lasting iconic status but it also wouldn’t be FLCL. The series, through its band of characters and rockin’ jams, present us with everything: weird transformation scenes, sexy robot and alien action, guitar swords, and big eyebrows are all used to perfection here. All the while, FLCL presents us with a message that can be felt by anyone while still conveying the difference in our paths. Challenges and circumstances that will spark change within Naota surround him. They exist at every corner and are simply unavoidable.
The character of Mamimi is an excellent example of what lies in Naota’s path. Mamimi is the representation of the refusal to change. She misses the presence of Naota’s older brother and subsequently uses Naota as a surrogate for him. She, like Naota, is on her own path to development. While she has different circumstances as Naota in terms of the hand life has dealt her, she refuses to respond to the challenges of growing up head-on; instead, she turns away from them. Pretending that nothing will ever change. She would rather live in her depression because she thrives off of it. It is all she has ever known and she has never been taught that responding to her circumstances was even a possibility. Thus it’s easier to identify with the loneliness she has self-imposed although she clearly longs to be loved and give her love. She doesn’t know how to love herself. She represents stunted emotional and mental growth in a developing person.
On the other end of the spectrum, the character who is both a supporting protagonist and an antagonistic force is the alien icon with a guitar, our favorite baddie on a Vespa, Haruko Haruhara. She represents something similar to the id in Freud’s id, ego, and superego concepts. She encourages change and development in Naota. This is for her own purposes but nevertheless, she inspires the willingness to confront change in him. She tells him, “Nothing can happen till you swing the bat,” in an episode centered around a baseball game.
This lesson later becomes integral in Naota’s growth and development. It taught him that choosing to swing the bat, to make a choice, is how we respond to the unwanted changes that occur. The anxiety we get from the unknown future, the fear elicited from taking the paths undetermined, and the pain from darkness that consumes us from a world constantly on the run will not be resolved or healed if we don’t make the choice to respond. Standing still doesn’t halt the change in the world; nothing can, but rather it stokes fear and piles up regrets from choices that have passed us by while waiting.
FLCL is a musical, artistic, and fantastical ride. It presents many images and ideas to its viewers concerning the different circumstances we have been dealt, our responses to these circumstances, and what becomes of our futures after a choice has been made. It teaches us about maturity, what it means to grow up, and moving forward. It is a cathartic and reassuring series that presents us with the idea that no matter what life throws at us, we will be alright as long as we choose to respond.
Growing up is scary. Choosing to move forward as the world marches on beside you is hard. It is hard to keep up with a world that throws so many unpredictable curveballs that it might seem easier to sit down and hide from the flurry. However, doing that will only lead to a pelting of hits. Rather if you stand up and swing, while you might get hit by some, you might land a few hits of your own or even land a homerun. The possibilities for what could happen are endless. You’ll never know until you take a swing.