FLCL Alternative episode 5, “Shake It Off,” runs full steam ahead with the main storyline, but sort of fumbles the character development, creating an episode with a lot of good moments that ultimately end up leaving a strange aftertaste.
The mysterious giant irons revealed themselves at the end of episode 4 last week. As we all know by now, these devices are being used by Medical Mechanica to flatten out the surfaces of the worlds that they appear on with the ultimate goal of flattening out the entire universe.
Veterans of the original already had this tidbit explained to them in the final episode of that series, but it’s a helpful refresher for newcomers. This bit of info comes with one new morsel: Medical Mechanica aren’t actually an organization of people or aliens. They have no representatives. So what exactly is controlling these irons and propelling the plans to flatten out planets forward is left a mystery. There’s a high chance this won’t be solved in the next episode either.
With all of that intrigue going on in the main plot, what is happening with the main cast of characters? Well, this week, we finally get to find out more about Pets, the last one of the girls who hasn’t yet had an episode devoted to her. Unlike the other girls though, even Pets’ own episode doesn’t reveal a whole lot about her.
She comes from a wealthy family, a fact that Kana was unaware of. This comes off as strange, especially since Kana has known Pets since they were kids. We get a little flashback sequence in the beginning of the episode to show us that. It turns out that Kana didn’t know a whole lot about her supposed best friend to begin with. Aside from being rich, her family was also planning to emigrate to Mars during this whole space iron catastrophe.
Apparently, that’s what’s been going on with the politician lady on TV. She’s the boss of Kanda, the man who is always eating noodles at Kana’s family’s noodle shop. The government’s plan is to only protect a few people from the imposing catastrophe, namely those who can pay. That’s where Kana’s family comes in.
We get introduced to Pets’ mom, whom Kana also had never met before. There is an awkward scene where Pets’ mom freaks out on Kana and we learn that Pets’ dad is abusive, but don’t worry too much about that, because it never comes up again.
I’m fairly convinced by this point that screenwriter, Hideto Iwai, just doesn’t know how to develop characters or situations. He can write some effective scenes and dialogue, but when you actually stop to think about the deeper meaning or how any of it actually came about, you realize that absolutely nothing leads to anything.
Case in point, in the finale of this episode it is suddenly revealed that Kana is a bad friend because she’s selfish and Pets has hated her all along. There are really no indications of this throughout the series, nothing has been building to this moment. It just happens.
There is a fairly heartbreaking scene where we get to see inside of Kana’s dream as she is knocked unconscious. She is surrounded by her friends who are concerned about her and concerned about each other. Back in reality, Pets ends up leaving at the end of the episode.
This would have been a great reversal of the supposed strong friendship that was presented in the beginning of the series. In fact, I think that’s what Iwai was actually going for, but, man, did he bungle the execution. It’s really hard to tell if we were meant to be fooled into thinking the four of them were close friends. I guess we’ll have to see how the next episode plays out.
Once again, the animation in this episode is fairly bland. The music is also generic, Pillows cover band material with only one actual Pillows song, “Last Dinosaur,” which is from the original series.
Overall, episode 5 had some interesting moments, but was ultimately lacking thanks to the generally poor writing this series and its predecessor have suffered with. There’s only one more episode left, so we’ll see how everything comes together next week.