I am of the belief that ratings are in and of themselves an inherently flawed concept, as it is nigh impossible to view something completely objectively. You can judge visual quality, but not art style, for example as no matter what it'll be a different situation for everyone. And this is what I do. I rate based on visual quality, writing, and characters, but in the end my personal enjoyment takes precedence and will greatly affect the final rating. I am well aware of the many plot holes Guilty Crown has, for example, but I greatly enjoyed watching it nonetheless, and my rating reflects that.
Also note that my ratings are not necessarily representative of my favorites. Not every entry rated 10 is one I would place on a favorites list, and some rated as low as 8 would get placed on such a list.
Regarding dropped shows:
If you've viewed my list, you may have noticed that my list of dropped shows is quite extensive, and includes quite a few series' rated 7 or above. The reason for this is a simple, albeit not a flattering one. I'm a sporadic watcher. This doesn't go well with watching currently airing series', as I end up starting way too many to handle, which in turn means I don't watch anything for a while, and when I come back I've completely lost interest in most shows.
This obviously means that not every show I drop is one I think is bad, and hopefully I remember to add tags to represent my thoughts on a series. It's entirely possible that I'll one day go back and finish some of the shows I've previously dropped, although they are on even lower priority than those on-hold (which are not very high priority either).
"Don't forget. Always, somewhere, someone is fighting for you. As long as you remember her, you are not alone."
- Akemi Homura
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FLCL (fooly cooly or furi kuri) first aired on Adult Swim in 2003.
I have read a lot of theories on FLCL but have never been really satisfied by them. There is the popular "it's a metaphor for imperialism" analysis that gets bandied about on message boards, which makes for a grade-A college paper but doesn't resonate with me at all. When people say that "it's a metaphor for puberty," I think to myself "sure, but is that it?" Not only is it a shallow observation, it suggests that this series conforms to the conventional coming of age tale, when really it deconstructs and then shatters it. I find FLCL so singular and compelling and realized that, for me, it can't really be understood using literary analysis but by just bringing your own life experience to it. So here is what FLCL says to me. And remember, it's just my opinion.
I know that many people find FLCL inscrutable, but I think in a lot of ways it wears its heart on its sleeve. Look past the psychedelic imagery and gonzo digressions; just watch how these characters interact with each other. I think too many people get hung up on the sexual allegories. Of course sexuality is a crucial component of puberty and the show is right to emphasize it, but it's not really what Naota's journey is about. FLCL has a lot on its mind but its message is obscured by the show's chaotic rhythm and the haziness of each characters' motivation. Which is pretty much the same case as life.
I envy anyone who sees FLCL for the first time, because there are few experiences as luxuriously discombobulating. Some people despise it: I've seen friends visibly develop a headache during the first episode alone and then politely ask we watch something else. You are either on board or you violently want to get off the ride, and that's part of the cult appeal of the show. Scour the Youtube comments and you'll see a consensus that FLCL is a psychedelic without internal logic. I find this both thrilling and sad: this series is admittedly a mind trip on a first watch but it pains me to see it so widely misunderstood.
FLCL does have internal logic and every moment serves a narrative purpose. The stylistic whiplash it gives viewers is part of its artistic integrity; I can't think of another work of art that better articulates the confusion and discomfort a person feels during puberty. Everything is anchored by Naota's blossoming perspective; we are confused by everything we see because we see it through the eyes of a 12-year-old who is being confronted by sexuality and the escalating complications of life for the first time. Fittingly, the only way to understand FLCL is with re-watches. Every time you sift through this zany chain of events and interactions, they increasingly gain clarity. This perfectly simulates life itself. We can never understand what's happening to us during puberty until we reflect upon it later in life, when we have gained more experience and emotional understanding.
I feel like FLCL isn't about a boy becoming a man but instead about how we are only hurting ourselves when we actively pursue "adulthood," or our idealized self. It's kind of the anti-coming of age story, because it dares to question what adulthood even means.
I'm going to use a lot of key scenes from "FLClimax" to illustrate my points, so here's a link to that episode in case you want to check out the moments I'm referencing to see for yourself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pm7o4q0k0GY
It is during its final episode that FLCL finally exposes its big beating heart, and it casts a new light on everything that had unfolded beforehand.
Something that always mystified me is how Haruko is stunned when Naota confesses his love for her. It's the first time she is truly flustered. But why is she so surprised? She's spent the entire series trying to worm her way into Naota's heart. Except that I don't think Haruko actually knows what love is, and that's her fatal flaw that keeps her from growing as a person (and why she will forever remain 19). She is a teenaged Peter Pan, refusing to grow up and recruiting Lost Boys instead of Wendys. Is she in love with Atomsk or does she want to eat him? It's both - she idolizes him and wants to become him, and that's her idea of love: becoming someone who is her own idealized self. I realize now that her shock is not so much because Naota's affection is a surprise, but because this is the first time she's ever been confronted by what love actually looks like.
Throughout FLCL, Haruko treats intimate feelings like they're a joke ("Were you just about to confess your great love for me? How embarrassing!"). She expertly uses sexuality and affection as tools to manipulate. The one moment when she hints at having the capacity for empathy is when she allows Naota to hold her tightly as he cries, but even then she remains an enigma. Her far-off stare while Naota sobs into her chest (11:42) is one loaded poker face. What's going on behind those eyes? Is she mournful, regretful or just bored? You can never really tell with her.
[Side note: Naota breaking down in Haruko's arms is one of my favorite scenes in FLCL because it casts a deeply bittersweet light on their relationship. Who is Haruko to Naota? On one level, living without her has made him realize how much she has become his world - he is in love with her. But when he asks her why she left and abandoned him, his question is also directed at his brother Tasuku. On another level, the way he clings to her is an acknowledgement that Naota is a boy without a mother. We realize now why Naota has been so hesitant to open himself up - he feels abandoned by those he loves. Does Haruko recognize this? As she comforts him, she's acting as his lover, his sibling, his parent. And yet she can never really allow herself to be any of those things for Noata. Kinda breaks my heart.]
For me, her posture and expression in that moment looks like someone who recognizes that they're getting in too deep, that they're teetering on the edge of feeling personal responsibility to another person. Naota began as a means to an end for her but when he cries in her arms she is reminded that this isn't a game anymore. But her bracelet keeps clinking away - indicating that Atomsk is near - that reminder that she's close to getting what she wants, to becoming that person she sees herself as. She's resigned to her destiny and just tunes this moment of honest connection out. She simply cannot allow herself to feel anything - because once that door is opened, she'd be letting in feelings like doubt, insecurity, regret. She would no longer have control over her identity. Haruko views emotions like they're pathogens and she has steeled her immune system accordingly.
Someone becomes that numb to intimacy because it scares them. Haruko embraces the perks of adult behavior (developed sense of humor, sexuality, freedom) but she's a coward when it comes to actual intimacy. She's incredibly brave in other ways: when piratized Naota is barreling down on her, she's defiantly ready to be crushed. But when Naota confronts her with his vulnerable, sincere feelings? For the first time, she's speechless. Terrified. In that moment, she's a confused kid just like the rest of us. Then she must watch Atomsk, that rock god whose the coolest of the cool, fly away. She's not worthy - but then again, no one can actually become Atomsk. He's an ideal, that aura we perceive in those we look up to. But no one has it all figured out - there is no stage in life where you are free from insecurity and doubt. If Haruko actually caught Atomsk, she would ultimately become very disappointed.
The characters keep asking what Fooly Cooly means. Something kinky? Is it just gibberish? I think, in the end, the show tips its hat to what it's all about: love, baby. Sex is an important and thrilling discovery as you're growing up, but if that's all you ever care about then you'll become Naota's Dad, who is gonna die alone. Obsessing about sex is ignoring the bigger picture. It's not physical sexuality that really paralyzes us during puberty - what's really scary and frustrating are the anxieties and insecurities that come with sexual intimacy. Kids are given this narrative that love will be this wonderful feeling that can only brighten your life, but it's much more complicated than that. In reality, love is traumatic and can tear you apart if it goes awry.
FLCL captures the body horror and chaos of discovering sexuality, but if FLCL was only about sex, it would have ended when Naota swung the bat and hit a home run. This show understands that the most terrifying thing about sexuality is emotional intimacy. Because that means taking off your "mask" and being truly naked. Many people are scared to show their true selves - they become convinced that there is something wrong with them and that to be loved they must become this other person - their idealized self. Because of this, many folks don't make it through puberty intact - they've lost a crucial piece of who they are during the process and spend the rest of their lives trying to recapture it. I am certain that N.O. waves are triggered whenever a person feels an overwhelming emotion that cracks the false identity they've made for themselves, when they hit this wall that exposes their lie, that contradicts the role that they are trying to play.
Every principle character in FLCL falls prey to this. Kamon is a widower (or divorcee) who never really made it as a journalist, so he yearns to be seen as distinguished and desirable (like Lupin III, perhaps?). He would have sprouted a robot from his head when he caught Naota and Haruko kissing if he had the gift. Mamimi has been bullied and abandoned so she feels too helpless to take command of her own life. Her protector (savior) was Tasuku, so she desperately tries to continue her role as his girlfriend even after he has moved on. Ninamori is devastated that her family may be broken up, so she adopts the persona of a dispassionate independent in order to cope. Her infatuation with the story of "Puss in Boots" ('his lie eventually becomes the truth') is maybe the most important clue to my understanding of FLCL. These characters cannot confront their sadness and insecurity, so they commit to these false identities in the hopes that they will become happy.
The only exception is Canti, who is completely at ease with himself. He not only accepts the world but embraces it, freeing him up to be kind and giving to those around him. How appropriate that the only character in FLCL who is free of insecurity or selfishness... is a robot.
Tasuku didn't need to move to America for their to be a gulf between him and Naota - he is years older and at a different stage in life. People with older siblings know this all too well - there comes a point where you feel forcibly separated from this person you love, where they have gone to a place you can't follow. The physical distance between these two brothers only makes the emotional gap between them literal. So Naota adopts his "mask" of being a rational adult in the hopes that if he can commit to this role, then he can bridge the divide between him and Tasuku and feel connected to his brother again. He walls off his emotions and aspires to be mature even when it makes him miserable. All of the times Naota refers to his town and how much he hates it ("Nothing amazing happens here"), he's talking about his own headspace. His town isn't the problem - Masabe seems like a perfectly fine place to grow up - what makes him feel alienated and hopeless are the walls and borders he's built inside of his own head. The smoke that pours out from Medical Mechanica - that's Naota's anxiety, clouding his mind and numbing his true feelings.
It all comes to a head for Naota in the penultimate episode, "Brittle Bullet." After getting some sort of handle on his blossoming sexuality (he swung the bat!), he thought that he had crossed some figurative finish line, believing that he had become his idealized self - his brother. His newfound ego keeps building as his friends geek out over his exploits ("You're the pilot!") and it reaches a boil when Mamimi indicates that she's jealous of Haruko (doesn't every young adult fantasize that they're the focal point of a love triangle?).
But Naota's ego starts to crumble when Mamimi makes it clear that what they have isn't romance and that he's overstepped the arrangement. His ego then thrashes out in self-defense when, in her moment of panic, Mamimi calls out for Tasuku, not Naota. He can never become his brother; just because you swing the bat doesn't mean you get the girl. So he bristles with rage and hits his lowest point. Sure, it's a good thing that he takes back his name ("don't ever call me Takkun again!"), but his whole outburst is kinda unfair to Mamimi. He never loved her - the reason why he's so enraged is because his ego has been bruised.
He's already in love with Haruko but cannot reconcile what he's feeling, largely because she defies his expectations. He has bought into the outdated conventional wisdom of what becoming a man is: being strong and protective of a vulnerable woman who validates your masculinity with her gratitude. So instead of accepting that he is madly in love with this domineering woman who doesn't need saving, he instead hinges his self-esteem on Mamimi's approval because she is both helpless and is a connection to his brother. Naota believes that if he can somehow fill the void Tasuku left in Mamimi's life, then he will have escaped from his brother's shadow. When she doesn't return his affection, this false identity he's made for himself cracks. He had been treating romance like a power play and gets mad when he loses. He berates Mamimi for not recognizing his worth (look at how big my robots are, woman!), but really he's just trying to convince himself that he is what she needs. He then goes into battle fighting for the sake of his own ego, so of course he loses. Adding insult to injury, it's revealed that he was the bullet, not the pilot. He never really had control. This idealized identity he had constructed for himself is completely broken down.
In "FLClimax," Naota learns what it truly means to swing the bat - coming to terms with the blistering intensity of loving another person regardless of whether or not they love you back. By doing this, he accepts his true self.
Admitting that you love someone is really hard to do because it's kinda stupid. And childish. Being in love defies all of your rationality and self-interest. It's making yourself totally vulnerable and ceding control - and Haruko looks down on vulnerability. While she's amused by a child's insecurity, she's repulsed when an "adult" like Amarao shows weakness. That's why she can't allow herself to love.
The climactic kiss isn't a physical consummation. Naota and Haruko had locked lips several times throughout FLCL, but it was always her kissing him. All of those times, the kiss was just a provocation - it meant nothing. In the end, Naota chooses to kiss her, and it actually means something this time. Furthermore, it means everything. It's not really the world that's at stake when Haruko and Naota clash - what's going on is a battle between the mind and the heart. Haruko is powered by self-interest and narcissism - what she wants is to vindicate her own ego by becoming the most powerful being in the universe, becoming her idealized self. Naota is powered by his love for her - he is literally bathed in the energy of a burning heart. Naota won't let her get what she wants - it would hurt too many people - but he basically surrenders to her. Instead of cutting her down, he admits defeat because he can't stand to hurt her. But by throwing in the towel, Naota has won.
One of the most wonderful things about FLCL is how every character is going through the same growing pains and confusion that Naota is, whether they know it or not. Every character is in love with someone who doesn't love them back, they're all lying to themselves in one way or another and they all aspire to be someone they're not.
I think Haruko's sort of "superpower" is that she has realized the absurdity of everyone trying to play their "adult" role. She recognizes how everyone is putting on a "mask" and thinks that they're suckers for even trying. This is why she is so adept at shifting identities - space cop, nurse, housekeeper, athletic superstar, tormentor, lover, Daicon V... she understands that these are just roles and that anyone can play the part. Her gonzo "Master the Guitar in One Millisecond Class" bit? On some level, I feel like that's her revealing her process to Naota - if you just pick up the guitar and pretend you're a rockstar, then people will believe you are one - it's that easy, dude. It's why she's so amused when Ninamori reveals her "Puss in Boots" scheme in episode 3; it's why she is able to identify what people want and manipulate them so easily. It's why Naota is endearing to her - he clings to his mask so tightly even as she picks away it. And it's why she takes such pleasure in twisting the knife in Amarao's self-esteem - as far as she's concerned, the guy only has himself to blame for his misery.
I think what Haruko "wants" is to escape from being like the rest of these suckers and adopt the ultimate mask - Atomsk - so that she can have the ultimate control over her identity and escape from all insecurity and self-doubt. Her bracelet clinking away whenever Atomsk is near - that's her anxiety. She seems in complete control because she always has her eye on the ultimate prize. Whenever that is threatened, her composure is immediately shattered and she reveals herself to be an angry, petulant child. That's why she's shaking with rage when Naota emerges with Atomsk's power - he has stolen her mask and reminded her that she will never have full control over her life and that, most insulting of all, she is going to remain on the same boat as everyone else.
When the tables are turned and Haruko is clearly outmatched by piratized Naota, Agent Amarao urges him to "teach her a lesson." Amarao keeps fretting about the end of the world but deep down his gravest concern is that Haruko may somehow get what she wants. He bemoans that Medical Mechanica is going to flatten and smooth out humanity's brains - which seems to mean they intend to rob everyone of their uniqueness and capacity to feel - but this is a guy who wears eyebrows to protect himself from his own emotions. Amarao has clothed himself in responsibility, taking on the safety of the world so that he never has to confront himself. He clings to his mask just like everyone else. What he really cares about is seeing Haruko punished for breaking his heart. He is among the many who emerge from puberty jaded and hateful of the opposite sex. That's not maturity - that's letting anger and spite dictate your life. Amarao could not understand why Naota would choose Haruko over the world - but that's because he has become a corrupted version of himself - only willing to love if he will be loved in return. That's thinking purely with your mind - all the wrinkles removed. He's become what Medical Mechanica wants everyone else to be: stripped of their uniqueness, conforming to adulthood without arriving to it organically.
After being betrayed by Haruko and gaining the most coveted power in the universe, Naota could have taken revenge. That's what Agent Amarao would have done. Instead, Naota discards that power and let's Haruko know that despite all that she's done and how much she has hurt him, that he loves her. To Haruko, Atomsk's almighty energy is the only thing that truly matters. Naota throws that power away like it's meaningless and makes her realize that, to him, she is all that truly matters. Even if she doesn't love him back. By doing this, he defeats what Haruko represents. Naota demonstrates that we are not measured by how much power we wield or control we have over our lives, but by how we affect those around us. The sexually charged nature of their relationship was a red herring the whole time: it was not Haruko's flirtatious advances that bewitched Naota, it was how she invited him to share a connection ("You're the one I saw first") and how her sheer uniqueness shattered the chains he had placed on himself. Haruko is at her most dazzling to Naota when she idly observes that eating a bowl of awful ramen can be fun - that's what he loves about her. She doesn't need to become Atomsk to be a shooting star, and by denying her what she wants while simultaneously affirming how special she is to him, Naota lets her know this. I think he deeply affects her with that gesture. At the very least, he rattles her worldview irrevocably.
FLCL began with Haruko giving Naota a kiss of life (the CPR) - he is never the same afterwards, even if it's not immediately apparent. Appropriately, FLCL ends with Naota returning the favor.
[Side Note: The kiss shared between Naota and Haruko makes my heart swell to the point of bursting. Their relationship is not conventionally romantic nor is it even appropriate because, let's face it, the kid's 12 and she should be on a neighborhood watchlist for the shit she's pulled. However, it's strikingly beautiful, with the pillows' "I Think I Can" sweetly approving of this union while Atomsk's energy wreathes above them in a halo. Naota's love for Haruko is unrequited; he knows that it will not be returned. Haruko is guided by her own ego; she has never been concerned with her responsibility to others. She invests in the people around her based on how she can profit from them; she's incapable of loving another person. When Naota lets her know that she is loved, he is defying all of her cynicism and selfishness and in that one perfect moment gives her a dose of redemption. She has helped him in so many ways but for her own dark, selfish purposes. But Naota chooses to be grateful for the journey.]
Haruko is a bad person, but when Naota kisses her, she is defined as a person who is loved, not as a monster. And let's be clear: becoming Atomsk (the idealized adult) was what Naota hungered for at the beginning of the show. Shedding that power is a sacrifice for him; it's rejecting what he had initially wanted. He lets go of the identity that all of the principle characters in FLCL desire, and it is a selfless act made triumphant because he realized how empty that status was if it meant taking Haruko out. Naota finally lets go of how he had presumed the world should be, who Haruko should be and, most importantly, who he should be. Instead, he honors what's really brewing inside of him. He grasps the enormity of the love he feels like he just discovered fire, because the only way to genuinely love is to arrive to that feeling like you're the first person to ever discover it - not because your feelings resemble what society tells you love is. His honesty trumps all of the insanity that's unfolding around him: the world-defining machinations of Medical Mechanica and the coveted power of Atomsk look so small in comparison to a genuinely meaningful kiss. The world is so chaotic and oppressive, it can make us forget that we are not defined by our identities but by the connections we share with each other. FLCL is about love, baby.
Haruko leaving Naota behind was the first truly altruistic thing she does in the entire show. She finally recognizes her responsibility to Naota as a person and, despite her soft spot for him, decides that it's time to let him off this ride she has taken him on. She also lets him know, in her own snide way, that it's okay to still be a kid and that he doesn't have to have everything figured out. The look on Naota's face, to me, shows that he had already come to this conclusion. He just wishes Haruko could find it for herself.
Haruko will continue after Atomsk but can never catch him, forever stuck in that selfish phase of setting aside genuine personal growth in pursuit of some fabled identity she feels entitled to. She thinks that there is a finish line to becoming who you want to be but that's just not true - no one has it figured out and the only way to grow is through experience. Atomsk is an unattainable goal - we grow through valuing the people in our lives, not using them as pawns to help us bolster our own self-worth. Haruko can't comprehend this and that's her tragedy. However, she takes Naota's guitar with her and leaves him her own as a memento. It's a sign of subtle growth for her - she would never have done something so sentimental beforehand. It's a gesture that he meant something to her and that she wants to leave a piece of herself with him, and that they will now always be carrying their experiences together. Her sociopathic drive has been cracked somewhat, and I suspect that it will only continue to chip away from there. The day she gives up on chasing Atomsk would be the day she finally becomes a person.
Naota learns a lesson that is very difficult to take in. Yes, you're going to get your heart broken. Some people are going to be fickle with your emotions and betray your trust. Everyone has their own motives and desires and you can never have complete control over your life. His odyssey isn't actually that unique - to any child, the politics of love are so complicated that they might as well be a giant alien conspiracy spanning the universe. The question of why you would want to engage in life when it's just going to knock you down is a fair one. But you can't let your bitterness drive you, or else you run the risk of becoming Amarao, who has a self-esteem and identity built upon a foundation of sand. You can't let the fear of rejection or betrayal or abandonment keep you from growing or you will wallow like Mamimi, who had retreated from life waiting for someone else to fix it for her. It wasn't until she witnessed Naota's own revelation that she realized what had always been inside of her: creativity. Growing up is accepting that life will always be mysterious and messy but that you must always be open to the world around you.
Because we're all really just kids dealing with increasingly complex responsibilities and emotions - all you can do is have the courage to grapple with those things while maintaining your core decency. Never be afraid to swing the bat - but accept your strikeouts with grace and gratitude. I can't put it better than Charles Grodin does in this clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJlj3auSlKA
So what does "FLCL" mean? To me, it means both childhood and adulthood running parallel to each other. You need both in order to be a complete person. You never stop being who you are as a kid - there is never this line that you cross to become your idealized adult self. Suppressing the kid in you is denying your uniqueness, snuffing out your capacity to hope and love. So many people disown their true feelings and their true selves in order to become their adult self in the hopes that once they reach that finish line, they will be alright. Our anxieties and insecurities are created by who we think we are supposed to be. But playing these roles is what makes all of these characters profoundly unhappy - it is when they stop trying to deny their true selves that they find peace.
While Naota's relationships with Mamimi and Haruko were ultimately doomed, they gave him the wisdom to finally move forward with someone who truly deserves his affection. Because the person who Naota is actually compatible with is Ninamori. One of the most wonderful, unspoken ironies in FLCL is that because Naota is so preoccupied trying to decipher his feelings for Haruko and Mamimi, he is blind to the girl who is truly smitten with him. In a way, their stories are running parallel to each other - Ninamori is going through the same confusion and turbulence (she's the only other character who has a death-machine sprout from their head) but finally learns to work through it in a healthy way (13:15 in "FLClimax"). She calls him out when he's wrong but still views him with a deep curiosity. She sees him clearly and is frustrated by his attempts to be someone he is not and that's why she's always the one to dampen his ego before it gets the better of him (sometimes literally, like when she sprays him with her water pistol).
[Side Note: Ninamori reveals that she resolved her crisis of angst by admitting to her parents that she was sad ("And then I cried and stuff to my mother and father"). If that sounds familiar, it's because that is literally the plot of "Inside Out." Yep; one of the most original movies of 2015 happened to Ninamori offscreen. With one blink-and-you'll-miss-it line, FLCL beat Pixar to the punch by fifteen years. Fuck, this show is brilliant.]
I suspect that Ninamori is still too young to make sense of her feelings for Naota - until she finds him sleeping alongside Haruko on a park bench. She is constantly irritated throughout FLCL as Naota's attention goes towards these two older women instead of her, but in that moment she realizes just how deeply and fully Naota has chosen Haruko and how much this hurts her. For all of the grief Mamimi and Haruko give Naota, he inflicts it right back onto Ninamori without even knowing it. It's a reminder that while this is Naota's story, everyone around him is experiencing the same journey. As the series draws to a close, it's hinted that Ninamori will become the woman in Naota's life and that he will be in good hands. The show is smart enough to not have them get together in the end, though. At least not now. They're just kids, after all. They have all the time in the world.
Some people still argue about whether or not Naota ever really attained "adulthood." Of course he did - he became Atomsk, after all. It's just that he realized that "adulthood" is a fallacy. Maturity is not some revelation, it's an ongoing process - it's gaining layers that strengthen who you already are. When Naota gained Atomsk's powers, he realized that he didn't want or need it - becoming Atomsk would just be putting on another mask (or a pair of fake glasses or seaweed eyebrows). He doesn't need to drink the sour stuff and he doesn't need to become his brother. He loves the sweet stuff, he loves his brother, he loves his boring old town and he loves Haruko - and he is no longer going to disengage from the world around him even if it can be rough. He's become grateful that he gets to love and learn and accepts that the world will always be mysterious and out of his control. Haruko can't accept this, and that's why she needs to keep on truckin' while Naota stays. It's not that he couldn't follow her - he's just the one who is no longer lost.
Naota is back where he started by FLCL's conclusion. His town remains ordinary, his brother is still an ocean away, he still has Kamon as a father and he's back to square one when it comes to girls. Nothing has changed except for his attitude. He can now move forward with a clear mind and an open heart. And he will carry Haruko's bass guitar with him; if he learns how to play it, he'll have a helluva song to share. While the pillows' "Little Busters" serenades us one last time, telling us about how the kids are alright, the final shot of FLCL lingers on Haruko's guitar as it strums one last note. It's an acknowledgement that, even when they are flawed and disappointing, the most important people in our lives are those who strike a chord.
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Personally I am biased towards Harem shows but I think the your reference to it being a reverse harem even though not completely untrue, was a little misleading.
Still a decent review, Respect
What's interesting is I've tried on several occasions to get into Fate Zero without much luck...though its also an anime that I have yet to complete so maybe that's part of it..idk there are a few things about it I like but also some flaws as well which hold it back from my perspective but I guess I can't judge it completely till I one day complete it.
I suppose it might also help to get another perspective on it besides my own since maybe there is something I'm missing in regards to it..who knows.
And truth be told I understand what your saying regarding Kyoko and most scenarios coming out on top due to her over all mentality and the way she goes about having grief seeds on hand and shes not really shown to have any obvious weakness to speak of aside from maybe her kindness that she displays at times but idk I suppose that's not really a solid enough weakness.
Honestly idk on paper Koyko appears to have the best chances of winning a fight but there still so many ways a fight can go but if we are talking about who is the most prepared to win a fight then Kyoko has the edge in SOME ways but I don't think her having this type of advantage is enough to call her the absolute strongest of all the girls.
Personally I always felt Homura was stronger than her due the style in which they both fight.
Also another thing that occurred to me regarding Mami and Kyoko is that aside from the different story timeline Mami was able to get the edge over Kyoko when her mental state was a mess and actually killed her right before Madoka did the same to her in episode 10.
Interestingly enough these are two scenarios in which Mami had the edge over Kyoko in similar circumstances granted you did say in most scenarios you feel Kyoko would come out top due to her mental state never wavering and having grief seed stock though the way the narrative is set up in the story its shown more than once that even when her mental state is the way it is once the reveal of magical girls becoming witches comes into play Mami is still somehow able to defeat Kyoko in some way even if its by attacking her by surprise like she did in episode 10.
Also the timelines within Madoka tend to repeat themselves in many ways even if certain events change like with Sayaka becoming a Witch in every single timeline no matter what changes happen before hand so truth be told that's almost to say that its more likely that a scenario of Mami defeating Kyoko is more likely to occur than it being the other way around despite Kyoko seemingly having an advantage in some ways seeing as its happened twice with almost the same circumstances in place both times so that's the say despite Kyoko having the edge in some ways its still not enough to be able to say she can defeat Mami if the anime and manga timeline events are any indication of this.
Whats interesting about the scene in episode 10 also is its speculated that Mami killed Kyoko first on purpose as a strategic move to get rid of the girl that would cause her the most trouble first though there's no actual proof if that's really true but still possible and something to take into account because Mami is all about being strategic which brings me to my next point.
One thing I notice you did not take into consideration is how Mami's ability to be strategic would come into play in a fight when it comes to determining who the strongest magical girl actually is.
I mean sure you took the time to observe Kyoko and her advantages when it comes to fights but did you take any consideration as to how Mami fights on a strategic level as well and what role that would play when determining who the strongest actually is?
I think it goes without saying that between Kyoko and Mami its obvious Mami has the most experience when it comes to battle between the two seeing as Mami was the teacher and Kyoko was the student and that's one advantage that could make all the difference in a fight.
Not to mention that since Mami was originally Kyoko's senpai when it came to battle that would play a major role in who would win since as i mentioned before Mami is all about being strategic and its shown even when she is not at her best mentally she can still use tactics and Kyoko is someone she understands pretty well which is how she was able to see past her illusion ability within the manga for example so its not just about mental state or having grief seeds that would determine a winner between the two since Mami clearly has her own advantages and even if Kyoko attempted to draw out the fight who is to say that Mami would let her do so based on Mami's strategic style of fighting?
Just wanted to throw all that out there which is partly why even if Kyoko has the edge when it comes to mental and grief seed stock I feel like that's still not enough to say she is destined to win or enough to call her the strongest by any means and even if you take into account her having access to the illusion ability Mami understand's that ability very well and was even able to see through it in the manga while they were actually fighting despite the mental state she was in( I know I mentioned this already but this scene is quite the big one because it shows just how well Mami knows Kyoko when it comes to fighting and shows how observant she can be in an intense fight even when she is not at her best)
Also want to mention that Mami worked with Kyoko to perfect the ability originally which is to say she more than likely understands it well so even if Kyoko had full access to this power would still not change much since the ability to use illusion is only helpful if you opponent does not expect it or if it catches them off guard but if you know of the ability and how it works then the ability itself is virtually useless which is to say this ability has zero effect of Mami when you look at it from this perspective.
Only thing I will say about Kyoko is out of all the girls she is possibly the most prepared to win a fight as you illustrated but based on the way the events of the timeline seem to dictate and also taking into consideration that sometimes tactics and experience and knowing the person who you are fighting really well can also give you quite the advantage it not an absolute thing that a scenario would be presented for Kyoko to actually be able to win or that she is the strongest magical girl even if she has her advantages because Mami has hers as well and if your going to try to determine who the strongest among the girls actually is then you have take both there advantages in battle into consideration and not just one otherwise you can't truly determine who the strongest is cause your focusing more on one side of the coin rather than looking at both or all sides.
So yeah to summarize...due to the way the timelines presents themselves in both the manga and anime as they connect to Mami and Kyoko even though there are only two scenarios recorded when you actually connect the two there is evidence that would suggest that since the events in all timelines tend to repeat themselves more often than not like with the example I gave off Sayaka becoming a witch in everyone that a scenario would always occur where Mami would defeat Kyoko combined with Mami's battle experience and tactful and observant mind not to mention her experience and understanding of Kyoko as her former senpai I personally don't feel Kyoko's advantages as you pointed out are enough to be able to say she is the strongest among the magical girls even in most scenarios because in more than one scenario Kyoko was taken down by Mami and in pretty much every scenario Mami understands Kyoko and how her abilities work( at least to a point) and in every scenario Mami is still the more experienced senpai between the two and these are all facts that need to be taken into consideration in determining who the strongest girl actually is.
So yeah I personally don't think Kyoko's advantages are enough to give her the crown of strongest girl based om the evidence shown within both the manga and anime but at the very least she is not the weakest girl since no matter how you analyze it that role will always belong to Sayaka if we are just talking about the original anime series and not the third movie because that's a completely different arguement in itself.
I'm also kinda curious once again as to why you seem to feel she would be able to defeat Homura in a fight because from my perspective the strong within the series are 1. Mami 2. Homura, 3 Kyoko not counting Madoka of course but when shes taken out I always felt this was the most obvious order of who was the strongest.
Also the stuff about Mami being outplayed and not wining fights makes no since to me at all to be honest...
The only fight she is recorded to not win is her battle with Charlotte because aside from taking down Kyoko both in the manga and anime and defeating the witch in episode 2 and its faimlers in episode 1 as well as taking down mutilple witches within the manga(this is actually shown) and also sharing a few victories as a team with Madoka and Homura within different timelines as shown in episode 10 she is also able to "outplay" Homura within the third movie of Madoka Magica as its shown with how the fight actually ends with Homura being trapped within Mami's ribbons and Mami also revealing that she had been studying Homura's action and was able to observe and determine that she did not shoot to kill.
I personally don't see many actual fights that have taken place both within the manga and anime that Mami was outplayed and not wining aside from what happened in episode 3 though I suppose you could count the time within the manga where she got injured trying to protect Sayaka and maybe when she fought Walpurgisnaut with Madoka in the first timeline.
But regardless Mami is actually shown to be the victory in 90 percent of her fights so I don't understand where you got the part about her not wining and being outplayed more than anything else since the anime and manga present otherwise.
Also what makes Madoka your least favorite?
Though based on everything you said it appears there a few things in context you did not pick up on or at least forgot to mention them in your post but I'll share some of those things with you now.
Firstly the part were you mention Kyoko being the strongest girl is something I personally don't agree with.
Now if one the main reasons your saying this is the case is due to the fight that took place between her and Mami I can assure you that the manga itself presents enough evidence to suggest that this is not case or it at least presents that its unclear who the strongest actually is though there is evidence that would suggest Mami is infact stronger and I'll explain why.
Firstly when it came to actual fight Between Mami and Kyoko did you take the time to analyze Mami state of being before and while this fight took place?
May not seem like a big deal but this aspect of the fight was huge and reason being is the manga took the time to illustrate before hand that Mami was in intense mental agony and distress over all the events that had taken place within her life as it related to her partnership with Sayaka ending in such a bad heart breaking way to Sayaka also becoming a witch and that fact that Mami partly blamed herself for what happened as well as her discovering the truth about magical girls which completely turned her purpose for living upside down.
Not to mention the intense amount of loneliness Mami had experienced in her life up to that point as it related to not having friends as well as losing her parents and her relationship with Kyoko also ending in such a terrible way was also highlighted.
The manga made sure to cram all these events all at once at the viewer right after Sayaka made the Witch transformation.
It was actually illustrated quiet a bit leading up to the fight how mentally distressed Mami was which is to say when she actually fought Kyoko she was not fighting in the way she normally would due to her frame of mind being a complete mess with all the events and revelations that had only just transpired.
One thing both the Manga and anime likes to show us in regards to Mami is how tactical, strategy driven and level headed she normally is when it comes to fighting an actual battle.
However the manga clearly displayed to us...or more like shoved it down our throats the amount of pain and anguish she was feeling while she was in search for Sayaka and everyone was aware of this being the case and its also highlighted during her actual fight with Kyoko due to that way she was acting and even the way she used up her magical energy on purpose so that she would die.
What I'm trying to say is the Mami that fought Kyoko was not the calm level headed Mami that she is normally portrayed as being thus she was not at full strength mentally when she actually fought Kyoko according to the context the manga presented to us before hand so if your using this fight to justify Kyoko being the strongest magical girl due to her fight with Mami I'm afraid there is enough evidence to suggest that this is simply not the case especially considering once again the type of fighter Mami is portrayed as being.
Had Mami been her normal mental self fighting Kyoko during this time then an argument could be made that Kyoko could be stronger..
BUT the fact that Mami was not in a clear mental state of mind and was still able to hold her own versus Kyoko to point of actually wining and being able to see through her illusion ability which she states after the fight actually shows that had Mami been her normal mental self the fight would have gone completely different and seeing as Mami actually won the fight despite everything she was going through mentally really says a lot about her and how strong she actually is.
If you go back and re-read some parts of the manga you'll notice all this information is presented in context.
One thing I kinda notice is even though you took the time to analyze Kyoko and her role within this manga I kinda feels like you did not quite take the time to analyze Mami 100 percent fully which leads me to the next bit you mentioned when you say that Mami is mentally weak.
Personally I once again feel like there evidence to suggest this is in fact not the case even despite what Mami herself says in the manga.
Now firstly its made very clear that Mami lost her parents at a really young age...as far as the actual age goes its not said but seeing as she is 15 in the actual anime and and manga when she meets up with the other girls and the fact that a possible two time skips had taken place before hand would suggest that Mami was possibly 13 when she made her wish to Kyubey in order to become a magical girl.
Now the manga illustrates that from the very moment that Mami became a magical girl she made the decision to dedicate her life for the sake of battling witches and helping as many people as she could in the process.
it is displayed and mentioned that she was able to stay true to this path for more than a year..possibly two despite not having any friends, family or any type of support she continued fighting and becoming strong in the process every single day from the moment she made her wish.
Now honestly does this description of a person sound like someone who is mentally weak to you? Think about that for a second....
a 13 year old girl with no friends, family or support fights every single day in order to help others despite having zero support from the entire world.
I honestly just can't wrap my head around these being the actions of someone who is mentally weak simply because a person who is mentally weak would be unable to take this type of action especially at such a young age for as as long as Mami did.
In fact if Mami were a mentally weak person I imagine that she would have caved to despair the moment she made her wish to live on now knowing she would be forced to live in the world alone without her parents or perhaps she could have even caved into despair while continuously fighting alone when it came to all the witches she had to do battle with...but despite all that she was able to survive and become a strong ON HER OWN and became magical girl who everyone respects.
I mean not even Kyoko can say she was able to do that since when she first started off as a magical girl she had Mami there to guide her before she became strong while Mami on the other hand had no one but herself to depend on from the start.
Despite that fact that its mentioned that she is mentally weak I feel there is enough evidence to suggest this is wrong.
If anything I think the best word to describe Mami Tomoe is that she is very much "Human" just like every other girl in the series.
Is she a perfect person with no flaws?
Of course not but but every girl in the series has a flaw to them but one thing they all have in common is the will to Ulimately fight on despite whatever bad hand life deals them.
I also would like to put it into better perspective why Mami decided to end her own life at the end of them manga because despite not being happy this happened it makes lots of since as to why she decided on this course of action and I personally think in a way it was a very noble thing to do in a way only because rather than one day becoming a Witch and cursing other people after dedicating her life to help as many people as she could.
She made the Ultimate sacrifice in order to make sure that all her efforts up to the point were not in vain and in a since her actions can easily be interpreted that she was still in a way considering the lives of others which displays that despite never wanting to be a Hero of Justice she ultimately lived her life as a self sacrificing hero if you pay very close attention to all the actions she took over all right to the very end.
I'll also put something else into better perspective when it comes to Mami and use Homura as an example.
Okay so I'm sure I don't need to remind you what Homura's over all purpose in life was and how that purpose defined her as a person and gave her strength.
Homura's purpose was to Ultimately to protect Madoka in a way that's very simaler to Mami's desire of wanting to protect everyone she could from witches.
The reason I mention this is because of the comment you made regarding her being mentally weak due to the way she reacted after finding out everything regarding the soul gems and true purpose of magical girls.
One thing the series puts into perspective meaning both the anime and manga is that Mami had absolutely noting to live for aside from her purpose to protect others from witches just like how Homura had noting to really live for aside from wanting to protect Madoka.
And in episode 12 after all of her failed attempts at trying to save Madoka had finally caught up with her it was at that moment that Homura was on the verge of caving into grief as its shown right before Madoka appears and grabs her hand right before Homura completely gives up.
I personally feel like Mami dealing with the reality of finding out what a magical girls real purpose is equivalent to Homura reaching that point of feeling like she would not be able to save Madoka no matter how hard she tried to do so.
Both girls fought strongly for there purpose despite being alone and despite struggling hard for there ideals and after fighting a long hard battle its revealed to both of them that there struggles were in vain and thus they both reach a state of grief.
In Mami's case she was the most effected by the revelation of the magical girls ultimately becoming witches and cursing people because her ENTIRE life from the moment she became a magical girl was to save people from witches only to discover that all her efforts...all her struggles...all the loneliness she was forced to endure would all be for absolutely noting because she was destined to become the very thing that she was trying so hard to protect everyone from which completely devalues her very existence and purpose for living since its made very clear that her life was 100 percent focused on fighting to protect EVERYONE she could from witches.
So when you look at it from this perspective shes not mentally weak for reacting the way she did no more than Homura is not mentally weak for wanting to give up and give into despair after all her efforts to save Madoka time and time again would all be for noting from her perspective right before Madoka appeared before her.
Bottom line is when you look in context the way they both fought for there purpose and reason for living and why they fought and how they both reached a point where all there efforts appeared to be in vain you really can't blame Mami for the actions she takes no more than you can't blame Homura for almost giving up..or actually giving up ( if Madoka had not shown up when she did its implied she would have given up)
So yeah that's pretty much all I have to say regarding that...
Hopefully you'll take the time to read carefully everything I mentioned and I would also like to say that all that I have stated is information and evidence that can be fond within both the manga as well as the anime if you take the time to pay attention and analyze all the details no matter how small they are..
and as you can imagine I'm someone that pays attention to all the details especially as it relates to Mami since she is my favorite and for me my favorites are Mami #1 Sayaka #2 Kyoko hangs at number three while Madoka comes in at number 3 and Homura number 4.
Though if were are focusing on the different story manga by itself I would put Kyoko at number 2 honestly so at least we can agree on that somewhat XD