Flip Flappers – 04/05 Review
The series remains “subtle” as ever in what genres it tackles…
Flip Flappers 04/05: Teamwork is all about friendship. And so to improve their teamwork, Cocona and Papika start living together which leads to them getting stranded on a deserted island. (Go figure how someone thought that was a good idea for an episodic plot.)
Having escaped the island… Papika and Cocona try to end their losing streak. Due to this, they end up in a creepy all-girls-school with a little Groundhog-Day-problem. And while it’s raining blood outside, everybody’s gay inside the school.
Just a tiny suggestion for the writers of the show: Don’t let characters talk about what something is NOT. That would be annoying if anyone did that in real life and it’s just as annoying in fiction.
Nobody would argue with the fact that Madoka Magica has been a great success financially and in terms of popularity. It has changed the tone of Mahou-Shoujo-stories into something darker and more melancholic as a lot of series of that ilk try to chase the same things that have made Madoka Magica so popular. After five episodes, Flip Flappers’ Mahou-Shoujo-elements slowly are starting to take shape. But this isn’t a series about deconstructing Mahou-Shoujo-stories (or anything else for that matter). This is a series about escapism. And depending on how committed the series is, it either will get somewhere meaningful or it just becomes a parade of generic symbolism tied to a simplistic message.
The world of Pure Illusion continues to be the most interesting part of the series. While episode 04 dealt with a rather dull “We need to become better friends!”-story-line, the fifth episode once again dealt with a specific type of storytelling. And it becomes apparent now how all the worlds in Pure Illusion have been about escapism. While they all are dangerous, they all want Papika and Cocona to become the heroes/protagonists of that world. In the first world, Papika and Cocona are the last humans surviving in a post-apocalyptic snowscape. During the second episode, Cocona and Papika go on a surrealist adventure to save Uexkull who has turned into a male guardian-figure for Cocona. What follows in the third episode is both Papika and Cocona filling stereotypical roles for a shounen-action-series in the mold of Fist Of The North Star. And now in the fifth series, Cocona and Papika play the roles of two girls at an all-girls-school who fall in love (à la Maria-Sama Ga Miteru). These are all just stories that rather than confront the truth of those shiny stones create fictions that distract from them.
It’s precisely here where the series is on the precipice to get somewhere meaningful or by not following through with this setting ends up just being a superficial parade. Because the question of how much the worlds control Papika’s and Cocona’s actions could poison the series’ need for stakes and character-development. The series has already sown the seeds for that by having Cocona worry about the words from that woman in the third episode. But the series has yet to confront the question how much of what Papika and Cocona are doing in the world of Pure Illusion is because of those worlds’ influence. When Cocona is showing off kickass fighting skills in the third episode, is that all coming from the world or is Cocona herself showing off a secret interest in being such a fighter. And as Cocona/Papika increasingly look more and more like a yuri-couple in the fifth episode, it’s unclear how much of that is the world’s influence. Due to questions like that, the series has failed to provide a foundation for build-up. All the symbolism of the Pure-Illusion-moments always end with a hectic action-packed escape. There’s little self-reflection going on and so even after five episodes, the series has had little to offer in terms of character-development so far.
It is?! They’re just supposed to become better friends!
Flip Flappers’ story-development hasn’t been much better. At the end of the fifth episode, Yayaka warns: “Those stones aren’t what you think they are.” Yeah, no shit, Sherlock… I’ve mentioned Madoka Magica at the beginning because one of its central themes is how it ties the Mahou-Shoujo-role to a Faustian-like pact. Of course, the innocence and inexperience of the girls in that series plays a big role and it does here, too. Cocona knows next to nothing about what’s going on and Papika doesn’t seem to care. And the accusation of naivete from Yayaka seems fitting when Cocona talks about “It’s fun.” as one of the reasons she’s helping Papika. In a post-Madoka-world you can’t help but feel, though, that the series could’ve gotten to that point much earlier. The series doesn’t get anything from hiding its story and not letting its characters confront it. What is the audience supposed to do with Yayaka’s statement? It proves the suspicions of the more attentive viewers right but it doesn’t in any way reveal anything of substance. So, it’s only the most oblivious viewers who will get anything out of that remark.
It’s frustrating how incredibly insubstantial the story remains. It isn’t that it’s mysterious in the way where it answers one question and then raises more questions. Instead, the series lets itself distract by the adventures in the Pure-Illusion-worlds again and again without advancing the story or letting the characters reflect on what’s going on. While the Pure-Illusion-worlds are brimming with creative visuals and somewhat interesting symbolism, both the characters and story seem to remain in stasis. Yayaka’s annoyance with Cocona’s actions just highlight an essential flaw of the storytelling but the series itself hasn’t done much thus far to move on. And above all else, the big mystery and its thematic undercurrents remain too vague to offer anything of substance. Which means that depending on how hopeful/pessimistic you are, the series can only get better/worse in the upcoming episodes. Either way, it will be interesting to see what kind of story the series ends up telling.
Episodes-Rating: 4th episode: 5.0/10 5th episode: 6.5/10
- The creepy atmosphere of the fifth episode was great! It’s just strange how the whole thing had no story whatsoever (besides Cocona slowly growing fonder of Papika with each cycle). I guess, you could link the entire yuri-angle of that world to the stereotypical “Maidens’ garden”-setting you can find in yuri-series (This essay in Mechademia talks about this). The reason the time reset every time was a comment on how some yuri-series exist in these isolated all-girls-schools where they fall in love with each other without discussing the future of that relationship realistically (or it’s a tragedy because ‘reality’ intrudes).
- Also, why was it raining blood outside? And why did both Cocona/Papika faint? Well, I can guess and this is a really far-fetched interpretation based on the vague story-frame-work of that episode… But what if the rain of blood represents menstruation as a sign of growing up and becoming an adult. And as such it’s something this world tries to keep outside. As for the fainting… maybe it’s because both Cocona and Papika aren’t mature enough to deal with this symbolic representation of womanhood…? I mean, this really is just me mostly guessing, so… *shrug*
- I have no idea what that creepy doll in episode 05 means. But what if it’s a hint of the bigger mystery. As I said, normally it turns out that the protagonist (Cocona) has deep personal ties to the mystery of the world. Or maybe the creepy doll was just there because it’s creepy…
- Just a really random thought: Doesn’t Mr. Salt (that guy with the glasses) look similar to the figure Uexkull turned into in the second episode? Maybe he has a secret connection to Cocona… Who knows.
- Also, how weird is that transition between episodes 04 and 05, right? Episode 04 ends with Cocona/Papika being sucked into a black hole and episode 05 starts with a time skip where Cocona and Papika have already lost three times against Yayaka in battle. Not exactly the definition of smooth storytelling…