Location: Vienna, Virginia, United States

A graduate of Dartmouth College (2005) and Washington and Lee University School of Law (2010). These are my personal blogs, and the musings expressed on them do not reflect the positions of my employer. They do reflect my readings, thoughts, and aspirations, which I figure is good enough.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Gibson EB-0, 1961 Model

To get me motivated in my thesis, I've been periodically watching Furi Kuri. No joke.

For anyone that doesn't know the anime Furi Kuri, it may be the single most incomprehensible, phallically-charged, humorous, coming-of-age, short anime ever created. It's utterly brilliant and only six episodes long, but a first viewing usually makes the viewer (whether he or she knows Japanese or not) scratching their head in confusion.

Spoilers, so don't read if you're going to watch it.

The main character, Naota, is a jaded kid that's bored with his existence in Mabase, his mundane and predictable hometown. The only thing that's new is the Medical Mechanica factory, which doesn't serve any ostensible purpose to the local economy or any purpose at all except to emit a large cloud of smoke once a day, every day. Oh yeah, it looks like a huge iron.

Naota's brother Tasuku has gone to America (to go to school? play baseball?), leaving Naota at the mercy of his brother's clingy and slightly neurotic girlfriend, who has insisted on replacing Tasuku, emotionally and physically, with Naota.

Naota is confused about his relationship with his brother's girlfriend, and isn't sure about the whole girls and kissing and sex thing. Dirty thoughts and hair growing in weird places and stuff like that.

To top it all off, his brother, who was, and still is, Naota's idol, has sent him a letter from America with a picture enclosed that brags about his new blonde girlfriend. This sets the stage for Haruko, a guitar-wielding Alien riding a Vespa who literally runs Naota over.

As a result of his accident, not only does Haruko become his family's maid, but Naota also discovers a weird growth protruding from his head, a horn that may or may not be a result of his latent and confused sexuality. Of course, a robot erupts out the top of his head, along with some other monster, and by the end of the first episode, the robot is also working in his house and Naota is completely confused. And so is the viewer.

It is also explained in the first episode that "Furi Kuri" is something, probably sexual, that is accompanied by a kneading motion of the hands. That's what Naota's grandfather suggests, but by the end of the series, Furi Kuri, and various other nonsensical words are representative of all kind of sexual acts.

So why do I like it? I think a list would serve best in this situation.

1) It's psychological, and deep enough that it makes you think, but all of it is right there. For instance, Haruko looks out for herself, and herself only. She's some version of the "pleasure principle" or the Id.

It's complicated because in the first episode, Naota notices that she looks a lot like his brother Tasuku. The sexual valuation of a brother figure is one that is underevaluated in Western culture, aside from the concept of a sibling rivalry, and I really like that this anime goes into it so deeply.

The robot Canti is also some kind of brother-figure, but it's a more idealized one, one that comes to his rescue. The guy with weird eyebrows, Amaroq, and Medical Mechanica also represent various psychological pressures, ego, super-ego, etc. etc.

The Oedipal does play a role, but like my thesis, it's very much concerned with lateral relationships (siblings) and that kind of thing.

Oh, and Atomsk is just a big damn God thing that everyone wants but no one can attain (except Naota, but that's because he's not after the whole Pirate King bit).

2) My theory about the term "Furi Kuri" is that its usage signifies an unwillingness to discuss sex in the household, with friends, and in general. It's the need to trivilize and make jokes out of sex because otherwise the topic would be too uncomfortable. When Naota's family and friends use the terms furi kuri, or kuri kuri, or muku muku, or pyon pyon, or chuuu, etc etc it avoids anything serious being said in the situation. And it leads to monsters erupting out of your head.

The nonsense term is basically filler for a more mature discussion that no one is willing to have, but it has to happen. Through all the teasing, first from his brother's girlfriend, and then his family, and then Haruko and even his friends, who are going through their own rites of passage, Naota has to figure out what it means. It's saying that whether it's Furi Kuri or the "birds and the bees", or any of the other terms that people use, everyone has to figure out the path to maturity, sexual or not, by themselves.

3 There are also plenty of metaphors for maturity, which may or may not be applicable to Naota. There's the idea that he doesn't like bitter drinks or really carbonated beverages, and the notion that this might make him immature. There's his distaste for really spicy curry, which has the same implications. And in the end, none of these indicators really make any difference. And his friends, who are either rigging school play elections or driving cars around delivering liquor, might not be any better off than he is at the beginning.

But one of my favorite quotes from the series, if not my favorite: Haruko - "Eating bad ramen . . . can be fun too" - cheap is probably a better translation than bad, but still . . . it's such a great philosophy.

4) The anime is not shy about various forms of representation. It jumps between various forms of animation, from standard Japanese "anime", fanservice and all, to parody of South Park, and then a kind of flipbook-like black and white manga style. At one point, it even suggests puppetry (in episode 5 when men dressed in all black remove two panels of manga from the scene). I love this last one because not only is it a nice breaking of the 4th wall, but the puppetry motif was used to a great extent in the Japanese film "Double Suicide".

5) Baseball and rock music and phallic imagery all run together. There's talk of "swinging the bat", guitars are used to defeat aliens and of course, there's The Pirate King, Atomsk's legendary Gibson EB-0, 1961 Model Bass Guitar.

6) Plenty of gross out factor - shit jokes, masturbation jokes, large mecha getting their intestine-like guts ripped out, it's nonstop.

7) Awesome music. The Pillow are a catchy Japanese punk group, and their stuff is the only featured music in the anime, to very good effect.

8) And really, the pace is so frenetic that it's over before you know it. I see something new each time I watch an episode, and there's just so much embedded in the animation that I'll probably never catch it all.

In fact the only complaint I might have is that the anime isn't that good about depicting women. I mean, you have Haruko, who is a female alien whose motto is "look out for number one" (she might look like his brother too, but that's besides the point), Mamimi, the neurotic and pyromaniacal and clingy girlfriend who might have found something out about herself at the end of the anime, a certain schoolmate of Naota's that is going through some troubles of her own, and her parents, whose marriage is being split apart by her dad's female secretary. The anime really ends up revolving around Naota, his brother, and his dad, and while that's not a bad thing, there is some space there, I think.

That being said, I haven't seen too many animes that are in any way progressive about women's roles. Utena. There's not a whole lot else.


Blogger Album said...

Hey I was actually googling "EB-0, 1961" to try to get an image of the guitar they were referring to. But I'm really happy I found your blog post.

I became hooked on FLCL 4 years ago and it's actually what influenced my friends and I to start playing music -- let's face it, The Pillows are amazing!

And although it was funny in the most ridiculous way, I never really understood why I liked it so much. So just today I decided to watch the whole series again and try to figure that out.

I came up with conclusions very similar to the ones that you wrote out. I definitely agree that this is a coming-of-age story, about changes in life, be it growing up, divorce, break ups, etc. Many important characters in the story play high egos that voice the conscious in making decisions. Haruko at one point even says, "I'm an illusion of your youth, a manifestation of your adolescent heart." Along with Takkun reminding us "everything that happens here is ordinary," it serves to convey that the ideas of changing in life apply to everyone.

Although it focuses on Takkun (with growing up the abundance of sexual innuendos are necessary and very welcome :D ), the story extends to beyond that, to a universal sensation. When Mamimi and Ninamori "overflow" it's just another way of saying that they're collapsing from losing an important past, despite how Ninamori tries to play it cool.

Anyways, I liked your explanation of the lateral relationships and sibling valuation. Prior to that I wasn't sure what to make of the whimsical Canti... But I still don't understand the fat cat that they keep... Any significance to that? haha :]

furi kuri!
-Album Shen

12:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The cat is the subconscious, I think.

8:19 PM  
Anonymous beasto said...

ha i was googling the EB-0, 1961 too when i came across your blog its very interesting and i like the reasons that you pointed out but i would have to say that the story revolves around haruku and naota

12:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I kind of just stubled across your blog, but I read the whole thing because I've watched FLCL probably 50 times. I really like the sociological view you have on the anime.

5:39 PM  

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