10 years ago yesterday, on August 23, 2000, the 3rd episode of Gainax’s OVA series FLCL was released to DVD. It probably wasn’t until a year later that I first got to watch it. I wrote a corresponding post on the 10th year anniversary of the 2nd episode, wherein I explained how I came across this series. I downloaded Marquis de Carabas only after having downloaded the first 2 episodes together and having watched them multiple times. Episode 3 was downloaded by itself, and it would be another few days before I got to see the last 3 episodes of this series. In retrospect, after watching the rest of the series, I can appreciate this episode for what it did. It set up Eri Ninamori as a proper foil for Naota, to show us a different way that someone going through the same things could act. Eri was a kid at an adolescent phase, just like Naota. Though her troubles undoubtedly manifest themselves in a much more mundane manner. However, at the first watch, Marquis de Carabas was a huge disappointment to me, especially after the incredible first 2 episodes this series had had. My main source of disappointment was that this episode lacked that moment. You know, that moment. When it feels as if all barriers between the director’s brain and your heart have been broken down, and your emotions are his to play with. When you feel as if you are at the presence of something great, that you’re lucky to be watching what you are watching, even if you don’t quite know why or how. It’s that moment that makes you want to watch it again and again, if only to marvel at the excellence of direction. These moments are usually fleeting and short. But they are also the ones that can define a piece of work. They’re the ones you remember later and turn to when you think of why you liked a piece of work. The first two episodes had several. The One Life and Never Knows Best scenes in Fooly Cooly. The Hybrid Rainbow scene and the Little Busters climax in Firestarter. Marquis de Carabas had… well, it didn’t really have anything, which is my point. When I think back to the episode, no singular scene or sequence of scenes stand out. Even the climax, with the rare non-Pillows soundtrack – it was actually a piece called Galloping Comedians by a Russian composer named Dmitry Kabalevsky – wasn’t that well directed, and its transition to the denouement and credits was jarring. In fact, the entire second half of the episode felt shoddy and thrown together. It lacked the polish and tightness of direction that had made the first two episodes so unforgettable. What did stick with me from this episode was the character of Eri Ninamori.
Eri was a tough nut to crack. She had been given a few lines in the first two episodes, but I hadn’t expected her to play any major role. But here she was, ostensibly the main character of Marquis de Carabas. My first time watching it, I was surprised at what appeared to be the entrance of a third heroine. What about all the stuff with Mamimi and Haruko that had been set up in the first two episodes? Given that this OVA was only 6 episodes, could they really afford to add another protagonist and spend an entire episode on her? As I wrote above, I realized after the fact that Marquis de Carabas was important in placing Eri Ninamori into the role of foil to Naota. Her story was that of the divorce of her parents. Like Naota, Eri struggled with what it meant to grow up. Also like him, she perceived herself to be more grown up than the kids and adults around her. This despite her still childlike tendencies that were featured heavily in this episode. She cheated to get herself and her crush roles in the school play. She went for the mild Little Prince curry at Naota’s house. She wore a shampoo cap. She hid her need for eye glasses due to her vanity. All the while, she considered herself superior to those around her. Like her father’s cheating secretary. Or Naota for skipping the rehearsals.
She was the very reflection of Naota. She showed us the ugly manifestations of Naota’s way of thinking. I don’t know that this episode showed her develop out of that immature phase. We were told that her parents divorced, but her reaction to it wasn’t revealed (until episode 6, that is) beyond her cool demeanor at the school play. Most damning is, of course, the final shot, showing her declare her glasses as being fake. It was a sudden reversal after the initial surprise that she had shown everyone that she wore glasses. To the end (of the episode), she remained a cynic, wanting to pull one over on everyone else. That’s probably why, even though Eri Ninamori stuck with me after I watched this episode, neither she nor the episode as a whole left me very fulfilled. I sometimes have a hard time choosing which of the episodes was my favorite. But I can say without reservation that Marquis de Carabas was my least favorite. Even though Eri and the episode were redeemed by the events in the final episode (which I should be writing about around March 16 of next year), it didn’t meet the standards set by the previous episodes, nor the ones that would be set in the coming episodes.
Do you remember watching this episode for the first time? Was it during the Adult Swim run in 2003 that had made this show so huge in the US? Was it before, when you had to scour IRC or one of the filesharing clients for low quality fansubs? Was it after, on that high quality, though expensive, DVD release by Synch Point? What was your initial response to it, negative like mine, or positive for reasons not stated in this post?
- A couple months ago, there was a nice little post made on Anime Diet about the 10th anniversary of FLCL as a whole. It’s a nice, quick little read. I added a link to it after putting up my first post, but in case you missed it, check it out.
- Funimation is supposed to release a Blu-ray edition of FLCL some time later this year. Reports of the Japanese release – out last week on the 18th – indicate that the HD versions of the episodes are mere upscales, and poor ones at that. Shame on GAINAX for not keeping higher resolution masters!
- This episode also featured the triumphant entrance of Naota’s homeroom teacher, Junko Miyaji, played by none other than the wonderfully lispy voice of Yukari Fukui. She went on to make a name for herself with two more works by GAINAX (Aim for the Top! 2 and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann) and remains one of a handful of FLCL’s cast still in the anime voice acting industry.