[Meta context: This is the second record of MagicConan14’s writing in a WordPress style. It’s done in a style for acceptance at Giga Drill Breakdown, so it does not reflect the style of either the Spellbook or Giga Drill Breakdown. Kudos to those at Giga Drill Breakdown who edited it, though.]
Humans have a history of longing and envy that can be as deep and complex as people’s lives. FLCL, being a coming-of-age story, deals with what how it is to be left behind and what it means to leave someone behind.
Initially, the absence of Tasuku is the most blatant instance of how people can be left behind. Once Tasuku leaves, things go downhill…fast. Episode 5 brings this progression to a head where Mamimi calls out “Tasuku!” in the heat of the moment, even when it may have been building towards “Naota!” instead. Episode 6 continues this with giving up the phone with Tasuku’s details – her willingness to let go of her lingering doubts and affections, exacerbated by calling her cat in episode 2 and her Terminal Core in episode 6 “Takkun”. (There’s a meta detail in that Mamimi sacrifices an old flip phone – it brings another dimension to “letting go of Tasuku” when considered in context of the present day.) The name “Takkun” itself could be assigned to both Nandaba brothers, to the point where Mamimi could have considered Naota a replacement to Tasuku.
Furthermore, the Terminal Core Takkun eating machines makes it grow into a dog-like creature, both a symbol of reassuring she won’t get her feelings reciprocated and her loss of the closest thing she had to a friend – if the “friend” in this case is Naota, she’s lost to Haruko, and if it’s Tasuku, she’s lost him to baseball and the new girlfriend he has. It’s said pets resemble their owners. Vengeful Mamimi and her “dog” certainly fit that at that point in time. Sometimes being left behind can only lead to hatred and feelings of uselessness.
Similar to Mamimi, Haruko, having been left behind by her “boyfriend” Atomsk the Pirate King, tries to use Naota as a “chew toy” as well as a NO portal. However, Amarao notes Haruko is herself no better than Medical Mechanica once she tries to “eat” Atomsk and gain his power.
Medical Mechanica are themselves, for the most part, unseen and unheard from, but present nonetheless – which makes even the viewer left behind to a certain extent.
Haruko makes moves on Kamon, not only for her own amusement, but to get a rise out of Naota for the dual purposes of “awakening” him and, in a convoluted way, showing the boy he’s not alone. Kamon himself may be Naota’s father, but he’s more comfortable with acting childish than Naota – a fact the latter finds embarrassing at first. The former seems – to an almost horrifying degree, in Naota’s eyes – to embrace it fully, but it is this lesson that Haruko delivers him in the end.
Speaking of Naota, he sits in the shadow of everyone – not just Haruko, literally and figuratively. He’s overshadowed by Tasuku, who has presumably gone to the States for baseball, while during the play, he is the title character yet Ninamori is the one who put him into that position, leaving him in her metaphorical and literal shadow. Notably the Marquis de Carabas, within its own universe of Puss in Boots, is fictional, as if it were the outline of where Naota and Ninamori should be, just like they “should be” adults. In Ninamori’s case, this could be argued as to why she wants to be “saved” by Naota. The turning point in this case is Ninamori who, as the mayor’s daughter, gets left alone all the time and has to compensate for that by gaining people’s attention, such as by rigging the play’s votes. Her fake glasses show how she learns not to put up false pretences after dealing with her problems.
Naota’s “Nothing ever happens here” spiel, which both introduces and ends the OVA, reflects how Mabase is to the world and how Naota is to Mabase – it’s literally blocked off once the hand settles itself into the landscape and the fog rises over the town, a symbol of a dreary life thrown to the wind. With him piloting Canti and such, the abnormal becomes normal, allowing for the feeling of being left behind to dissipate like the wind. Being left behind can create dead weights in some respects, but become liberating in others.
Also, being taught how to use chopsticks, for Asian countries, isn’t that big a deal; however, the important part is that chopstick usage is taught from an earlier age than the age Naota is at. Consequently, Naota and his class used to use sporks (a Western utensil associated with the fact children find it hard to use chopsticks) which is another sign of their immaturity – a fact Naota learns to embrace as he comes to terms with Tasuku’s departure and his own life.
A similar lesson to the one Naota learns exists in characterisation of Amarao. Basically, he is what Naota could become – an odd caricature of, in ineloquent words, “adulting” and yet “not adulting”. His eyebrows exaggerate his nonexistent macho qualities, thereby showing both an unconscious wish to be an adult, yet not truly making him an adult in the way he wants. In this way, he is both behind and a fool. Furthermore, it’s clear Amarao’s been chasing Atomsk and Haruko for a long time – thus being not only left behind physically, but socially and mentally. While Amarao offers some seaweed eyebrows and they stick to Naota, the boy is trying to cope with emotional turmoil of having lost everyone he cares about. In essence, Naota tries to channel an actual adult figure in his life in order to grow up (in a mental sense) in order to not be left behind by his peers. However, to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, an equilibrium of the status quo – either one mopes about it, or moves on.
Finally, the hand of episode 5 is, noted by Naota, reaching for something. Perhaps, this hand is reaching for love and attention, which can be either aftereffects or the cause of being left behind. Then again, with the second season coming up (as of this post), it seems even FLCL, while being a relic of the 90s, will be able to move along with time itself due to the integrity of its themes and the myriad interpretations it can garner.