The first time I saw this was in the show FLCL. Mamimi Samejima smokes a worn cigarette with “Never Knows Best” written onto the paper. I looked for a meaning on the internet but nothing seems to work right.
I am well aware that there is a lack of a preceding noun, the phrase really doesn’t have a meaning.
I assume because it is printed on a cigarette and as the cigarette is smoked, the meaning changes. To smoke is to “Never Know Best” because, you know, cigarettes are bad. Once lit, the smoker is committed to the action of smoking. A partially smoked cigarette in media or entertainment can represent a sense of confidence, coolness and self assure nature, thus the “Knows Best” only drives any point the smoker is making. For those that have smoked cigarettes, the last part of the cigarette is the best part of smoking. Of course this is completely a guess on my part. But there has to be an answer. Someone must know what these words on a cigarette mean? Right?
This tidbit was found on the from the DVD commentary of FLCL but does not explain it’s meaning:
What does “Never Knows Best” mean?
*giggling* The English written on her cigarette
Oh, that? Originally, it was a cigarette on a postcard I have.
What did it say on the cigarette?
It was a close-up picture of a cigarette that had “Join London” on it.
And it was probably handwritten, not printed.
I thought it looked cool and that I would mimic it.
*with laughter* It’s not a cigarette brand. There’s no such brand in Japan
I thought that it might be the title of a song.
I’m not sure if it has a real meaning or not.
How can I say it? Um…
*in an explanatory manner* There’s a best way, and not everyone can follow it.
No one knows the best way.
I thought it reflected Mamimi’s belief that there’s no future.
That it had a nuance that said she’s given up on life.
It sounds like Kazuya doesn’t have a real explanation for it. He saw English written on a cigarette on a postcard, thought it looked cool, and wanted to copy it. He even says “I’m not sure if it has a real meaning or not”. It looked cool. Also he said “There’s a best way, and not everyone can follow it. No one knows the best way.” So Never knows Best could be referring to everyone not knowing the best thing to do a lot of the time. Kazuya also said it reflected Mamimi’s belief that there’s no future. What could be best if there’s nothing to go to? She’s given up on life, he said. It does have a kind of depressing ring to it, in my opinion.
Also it probably doesn’t have a preceding noun cause the guy is japanese. Bad translation maybe? Just sounded cool?
Never Knows Best
This is my guess.
You write the NEVER KNOWS BEST on the cigarette. Light it.
As you smoke it the idea is, well, I am smoking and that isn’t the best idea.
but as it burns, you lose some of that newness and you’re committed, so you know best because you are in.
now that the fire consumes the cigarette, it just says best, and that is all you’ve got, so of course, it has to be the best because no only are you committed, you are at the end.
And that is what Mamimi Samejima’s character is all about,
At first, she never knows best, but she started that fire.
and as she commits to her life, she has to believe she knows best, or better than others.
in the end of her adventure, it’s the best she come realize because it’s the end of the adventure.
that’s what makes sense to me.
I’ve always taken “Never Knows Best” being very similar to Naota’s unwillingness to swing the bat. Meaning that by not doing something, you can never be wrong. So inaction is a way of protecting yourself from failure, hence “Never” (akin to Mother) knows what’s best for you.
I think that he wants to say something like “never tastes best”, because in japanese, the words “know” and “taste” have a homograph synonym like in spanish is the word “saber” for “know” and “taste” (in japanese is “shitte” 知って) and he wants to say that the words in the cigarrete mean “never tastes best”.
Punkrawk nailed it