Luluco is your average middle school girl, and like many middle schoolers, there are two things which she most desires: to fit in and to be viewed as normal, and to experience love. At its heart Space Patrol Luluco is a coming of a age story like any other, albeit seen through the lens of Hiroyuki Imaishi and Trigger shenanigans, but it says some interesting things about what it means to be “normal” and to fall in love as middle schooler.
At the start of the series, Luluco is unhappy with her life, and as much as she loves her father and friends, is rather ungrateful about her upbringing in an alien immigration town. She expresses to the audience her desire to live in a normal Japanese town full of humans instead of aliens, but it’s not because of racism towards extraterrestrials that she holds this view. We see that she gets along fine with her alien classmates just fine, and even has a difficult time distinguishing aliens from humans in the first place (in other words, she’s colorblind.)
This is rather odd, since our perception of normalcy is largely shaped by our surroundings, therefor there’s a contradiction here. In fact, I don’t believe it’s ever quite explained exactly why Luluco is so obsessed with being normal, and so this contradiction with her world view is never fully explained.
But if I were to throw out a theory for what Imaishi may have been trying to get at though, I’d say that Luluco’s desire to be normal comes from a desire for harmony, both for within herself and her surroundings. Her parents had a bitter and chaotic relationship before her mother left to become a space pirate. And I would imagine a town full of wacky aliens of the Trigger team’s imagination must be quite a chaotic one as well. Someone who grows up in chaos naturally desires stability in their life, which Luluco hopes to attain through normalcy.
When Luluco comes back from the dead towards the end of the series, her mother Lalaco gives a nice bit of advice:
Lalaco: Listen up, Luluco! If you ask me, only after one dies and returns to life do they become a normal person! (Episode 12, 1:40.)
That’s a nice way to sum up what the whole coming of age story really boils down to. As far as being normal goes, what Luluco really wants is to be at ease with herself and her surroundings, to feel that who she is as a person is okay and acceptable in the eyes of a wider cultural context. After Luluco dies towards the end of the series, she does some self-reflection to figure what she did wrong to wound up dead, and emerges from that self-reflection with a renewed sense of purpose as she sets out to confess to Nova. She becomes “normal” in the sense that she becomes more confident and matured as a person. No one has an ideal life, but everyone (or at least any functional adult,) learns how to deal with their problems, which is about as normal as you can get in reality.
Now lets talk about Romeo and Juliet for a bit. For Shakespeare’s most well-known play, there’s a great debate on whether Romeo and Juliet’s love for each another is genuine, or just the shallow infatuation of teenagers. Romeo and Juliet first lay eye upon each other at a party and immediately falls in love (with Romeo quickly forgetting about another girl he was infatuated with at the start of the play,) and then just four days later the two commit suicide after believing each other to be dead. And they barely even talk to each other throughout the whole play! Yet Romeo and Juliet is still regarded as a timeless romance of two lovers. So were they really in love, or were Romeo and Juliet both shallow brats only concerned about appearances?
As Luluco would have it, this sort of love is most definitely infatuation, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s invalid or worthless. Much like Romeo and Juliet, Luluco falls in love with Nova at first sight, but by its very nature love at first sight is merely means to fall in love with the appearance of someone. This form of first love is what Nova represents, literally, as a “Nothingness”. As the leader of the Blackholeians puts it, “The first love of a stupid middle schooler is a boy who is nothing but his looks”(Episode 10, 4:20.)
This sort of love obviously lacks depth and is rather weak in spirit, which is why her “Aflutter Jewel”, the physical manifestation of her love, is so easily stolen by Nova and the Blackholeians. But that doesn’t mean her love is necessarily bad or invalid though. Rather, it’s simply the first step towards something greater. As a result of her Aflutter Jewel being taken away, Luluco dies and is sent to hell, and while there reflects on what went wrong for her to be betrayed by Nova. She realizes though that Nova didn’t really betray her, because she was never honest with him about her feelings in the first place. The problem wasn’t that she fell in love with Nova or trusted him, but that she never took things further by confessing her feelings for him. And so she returns from hell and confesses to Nova in earnest, and her love provides Nova with emotions of his own as well. It’s only when you communicate your feelings to the one you love that the relationship can become deeper than mere appearances.
• All quotes are taken from the GJM fansub.
• I ended up watching episode 2–13 of Space Patrol Luluco in one go, and it occurs to me now that I’ve cheated myself a bit by not watching it each week as it aired. Particularly for a story-driven work like Luluco, watching it all at once really empathizes just how limiting shorter running times can be. The show is perfectly fine as it is, but it feels like it could have been even better than it already was if only it was given more runtime to flesh out the narrative. Though to be fair, Trigger also had Kiznaiver airing in the same season, so they would have had only so many resources to expend on two shows.
• “Seasons” was a clever way to break the narrative up into overarching parts while trolling the audience a bit.
• I pretty much decided that Space Pirate Lalaco was going to be Best Character when I saw some random screencaps of her on twitter, before I got around to watching past episode 1. She has a nice character design (all the characters do, for that matter.)
• It’s worth noting that in Japanese words like 好き, 大好き, and 恋 are used to describe love and attraction, but to my knowledge there no specific word for “infatuation.” So in Space Patrol Luluco, it’s technically not a matter of love versus infatuation, but of genuine love versus shallow love. It all means the same thing though, just different words. I just wanted to compare Space Patrol Luluco’s themes to the debate surrounding Romeo and Juliet, and so I went with the “love versus infatuation” terminology.
• Hiroshi Kobayashi, the director to Kiznaiver, mentioned that Imaishi is known for working on more “boyish” projects, which isn’t hard to see. After all, Imaishi is the guy who directed Gurren Lagaan, Kill la Kill, and Sex and Machine with Machspeed. So knowing that it’s interesting that Imaishi decided to write and directed a show which specifically deals with the problems of a middle school girl, even if it’s still clearly the work of a boobs-and-guns guy like him.