Wait, how do teenagers get jobs working a construction site? Aren’t there labor laws against that?
Mossan has been ridiculously busy as of late with a multitude of activities. In addition to keeping up with her schoolwork, she maintains a night job working at a construction site as well as keeping up with her unique interest in fashion design. This catches the interest of her friends when they all take a look through her notebook, which is full of illustrations of possible dress designs. As they’re hanging out, Mossan reveals that she actually entered a major fashion contest in the hopes of taking home top honors and bolstering her career prospects. All of this both impresses and worries the rest of the girls, as while they’re impressed by her having always been the hardest-working member of the group throughout the years, they continuously wonder about all of this stress getting to her. Their worst fears suddenly come to pass, as one day during a typical hangout, Mossan nervously shovels rice balls into her mouth and suddenly passes out.
The girls take her to the hospital where they’re helpfully assisted by… Nurse Haruko. Okay, so maybe “helpfully assisted” is the wrong phrase here. Very wrong in fact, as she just harasses the girls while not really providing any sense of relief to the issue. The girls ultimately just take Mossan back to her own house, and her mother helpfully clarifies a few details about their situation: Mossan aspires to go to college and study, but because of the family’s tight financial situation, she’s perpetually on the grind to make the cash to put herself through school. The girls debate on finding a way to help her, and they ultimately decide to alleviate some of the stress by taking up her work at the construction site (with Haruko tagging along because of course). However, Mossan finds out about this and is not happy at all, flipping out since she thinks getting any help at all will invalidate the accomplishment of her future goals. Now the girls are completely stuck with no idea how to help their friend without a similar incident occurring.
After an encounter with Haruko involving another Medical Mechanica robot and a hip-hop musical number (we’ll come back to that later), Kana decides to visit Mossan and actually ask for permission to help her. Following a sincere back-and-forth exchange between the two, Mossan decides to let her friends help with finishing her dress for the design competition. When the day finally arrives, everything seems to be going well as the girls eagerly await the announcement of the winner. Unfortunately, Mossan doesn’t end up the big winner of the event, but she accepts the results as they are, taking solace in the fact that she had a lot of fun working on the dress with them. When it comes time to present the winning design, the show is suddenly interrupted by Haruko herself, walking out on the runway showing off Mossan’s dress which pleases her greatly. However, Haruko gets instantly called out by the judges and is besieged by a hoard of officers, but she makes quick work of them. When the chaos settles down, the announcer gives Mossan the mic and a chance to speak, where she proudly declares her intentions to become a top model.
While last week’s episode dealt with the notion of faking a sense of maturity through the guise of Hijiri’s new relationship, this episode tackles the theme of stress and overworking oneself with Mossan as its focus. It’s’pretty interesting to see the girls get their own individual episodes like this, helping to flesh out the dynamics and getting to see them when they live their own lives. It especially helps that we get to see Mossan as a fleshed-out person this week, considering that she was mostly a sass machine that was always eating for the first couple of episodes. In fact, we actually get to see her overeating characterized as a factor of her perpetually busy lifestyle. Not only is there the notion that at least half of her intake is stress-eating (a characteristic I relate to quite a bit), but there’s also her workflow and financial situation. For people who are always busy working and are in a tight financial situation, sometimes junk food is all they can really afford to eat.
In addition, the ways that the characters play off her overeating show some rather easily overlooked details of their dynamic. This is perhaps best embodied in the scene where Kana meets with Mossan alone in the park and offers her a diet coke, which she immediately takes as mildly judgmental. Now it’s true that the girls sometimes poke fun at her weight, but this scene shows a sense of genuine concern for her general well-being. Kana is sincerely trying to be helpful here, but she just chose a way that could be misconstrued, which isn’t an uncommon thing in any sort of friendship. We’ve all had moments in life where we tried to help out friends but in a way where the optics of the situation could be seen as a bit back-handed. No friendship is ever truly perfect, after all. There’s also the moment where Mossan’s younger siblings try to jolt her out of bed with illustrated pictures of delicious food, which is honestly just a really sweet and charming scene. It may very well be just another fat joke, but they’re young kids genuinely trying to help their older sister the only way they know how, so it gets a pass.
For an episode all about fashion design, it helps that the show gets incredibly stylish in spots. There are some stunningly gorgeous scenes in this episode, including the girls just hanging out on a river bank as the water fills up with the orange haze of sunset and an abundance of shimmering twinkles of light reflecting off the surface. There’s also the intense glitz and glamour of the climactic fashion show, with overhead lights and constant camera flashes engulfing the frame alongside the unique and elegant dress designs. Let’s not forget seeing Mossan’s actual design in action on Haruko, as she definitely has a bold and ambitious sense of style, with its striking shape and intense red color, all assisted by some high-energy EDM from DJ Dennis that adds some more welcome flourishes to the proceedings.
Speaking of Haruko, music, and stylistic visuals, this review would not really be complete without a thorough mention of arguably the episode’s biggest comedic highlight, and it’s not the requisite hospital scene. As previously mentioned, there’s a point where Kana spawns another robot from her head and our pink-haired force of nature takes it out. As she and Kana start a discussion, Haruko immediately segues into an elaborate hip-hop musical sequence, spitting several bars dissecting Kana’s personality while also just showing off. The scene is dense with slick design details, with the dotted pattern across the frame, lens flares peering out from the sides, and a persistent pink/purple filter overtop the whole thing. It kind of looks like the animators went to Future’s house and dunked the scenes in his personal batch of lean.
It’s worth noting the unique contrast between both the visuals and the style of song used. On the side of the visual filters, much of the elements at play tend to evoke something more akin to a big electronic musical festival or possibly a more modern-style rap video in the vain of artists like Drake. However, in addition to the utilization of urban locales and graffiti backdrops, the song itself is decidedly ‘90s, with slick wordplay and a stripped-down boom-bap drum beat. The song is very much in line with that era, whether it be the West Coast G-Funk mainstays like Warren G, Ice Cube, and Cypress Hill, or East Coast staples like Mobb Deep. I don’t know how much of that era of music Kari Wahlgren and the screenwriters had to listen to in order to nail this scene, but credit to them for making it work as well as it does.
And now that we’re at the halfway point of the story, I’m really invested in what happens next with these characters and the plot. It seems like the Medical Mechanica stuff will finally arrive in full force next week, so I eagerly await the results.
FLCL Alternative airs every Saturday at 11:30 PM only on Toonami on Adult Swim. Episodes can also be streamed on adultswim.com and purchased on iTunes.