Flip Flappers – 10 Review
Does this evil cult that can experiment on kids, has a robot-army and can indoctrinate grandmas really need world-domination? The way it looks to me, they already control the world.
Flip Flappers 10: Shit hits the fan!
… Also, a lot of exposition!
It wouldn’t be a Flip Flappers-episode without Cocona getting mad at Papika (again)…
In my first review of this series I alluded to my idea that Flip Flappers feels like a world-type-series and that it reminds me of Evangelion and all those other more experimental animes from that 90s-period. Now that the series is (finally) ready to show its cards and actually admit what it’s about, the series feels more than ever like a riff on the 90s.
The simple admission that the cult is trying to control the world through Pure Illusion clarifies the story and Cocona’s position within it who has lost all connection to the world around her clarifies the stakes. On one hand, the world-part of the series offers the threat of apocalypse whereas Cocona is the deciding factor with her desire to find herself (or to describe it with a little more fancy: achieve homeostasis). Both are very dominant themes from the 90s and this connection helps to shed some light on what is actually going on in this series.
Pure Illusion as a setting for the series serves as a very literal metaphor for the struggle between fiction and reality that a lot of animes (think of all the animes where dudes land in fantasy-worlds or videogame-worlds) and how Otaku define themselves or are defined by others (which has changed from disgust to acceptance since the 80s). The worlds of Pure Illusion are tiny pockets of “reality” where fiction has triumphed. In the third episode when Cocona and Papika are having this insane battle-shounen-esque battle, their actions aren’t based on characterization but on reflexivity. Characters defined themselves in part by the battle-shounen-tropes of that world. And what’s important to note here is that whenever Cocona and/or Papika give in to the influence of Pure Illusion they find a place for themselves in that world (the battle-shounen-episode, the mecha-episode, the yuri-episode), they achieve homeostasis.
As a goal for Cocona, this search for a better self becomes even more important in the Inception-episode where Cocona and Papika enter another person’s mindscape. They reshape that world by changing a key-moment in the painter-girl’s life. But the purpose for that isn’t to alleviate any worldly problems but to strive for an ideal self. When Pure Illusion reflects reality and reacts to Papika and Cocona, the effect isn’t a transformation of the world but a transformation of the self. Since Pure Illusion relativizes reality by assigning it to a particular point-of-view, homeostasis can be reached by submitting to that subjectivity. But ultimately, it’s only a secondary reality.
This subjectivity and refusal to accept reality are where the cult is coming in. If I’m interpreting this series correctly, the cult is a reference to the Aum Shinrikyou cult from the 90s. The fiction of the belief that the world would end was more important to them than the reality which led to the desire to “reset reality”. Their disastrous actions, though, weren’t about creating a better world but to create conditions which would reaffirm their sense of self. In Flip Flappers, the cult is a similar bad guy in that they want to use Pure Illusion to control the primary reality according to their cultish point-of-view.
Similar to the cult, what stands in her way is reality but other than the cult she doesn’t seek to “reset it”. For her, the secondary-reality-stuff (everything connected to Pure Illusion, including Papika) is enough for her. What we’re getting from her character is that really all she wants to do is to go on adventures with Papika in Pure Illusion. But reality is weighing down on her with all the stuff about Mimi, the cult and all the people close to her who turned out to be entirely untruthful. Cocona needs to overcome that in order to just be this carefree schoolgirl who goes on adventures with Papika.
So… young Salt hung out with Papika and Mimi and he was in love with Mimi… but sure, let’s wait until the 10th episode to cover such “simplistic” reveal. I bet it will be REALLY easy to resolve this flashback AND the series as a whole in the next two episodes… *sigh* That’s why I hate series with this kind of structure…
Aside from this bit of 90s-riffing, the show’s encountering a fundamental problem in this episode: It has only two episodes left. I can’t help but fear that the next two episodes will feel incredibly rushed as they try to conclude the story. It’s especially baffling to notice how unbalanced the build-up for this development. In this series where fiction and reality clash and where characters strive to find themselves, it was strange how often the series got lost in its episodic Pure-Illusion-action. Again, the betrayal of Cocona’s grandma didn’t land as a reveal because the recent episodes had made it seem like Cocona has stopped caring about her “home” and started caring more about what Papika’s thinking of her. You have little inconsistencies like this that make it seem like the series doesn’t know how to prioritize its storytelling-decisions correctly.
In a way, this was a tablesetting-episode for the finale. It established the stakes and introduced Mimi as the central character of the show’s mystery. But it’s hard to take an interest in the episode’s revelations as their appearance is long overdue and pacing-wise the episode has barely enough time to just do the bare minimum needed for its infodumps. It’s good that the series is finally starting to make sense. At the same time, though, it does feel like too little, too late and the prospect of already watching the finale unfold in the next two episode doesn’t exactly fill me with optimism.
- My explanations of the 90s-stuff barely scrape the surface, I have to admit. But it’s hard to explain it all because this series does such a poor job of explaining itself. One interpretation I personally like is Miyadai Shinji’s idea of classifying the 80s and 90s as the age of self. Mechademia has a translation of his essay “Transformation of Semantics in the History of Japanese Subcultures since 1992” about that in volume 06.
- Speaking of 90s-riffs… While I was thinking about the 90s I remembered Serial Experiments Lain (1998) in relation to that one episode where Cocona is meeting all these versions of Papika. In SEL Lain, the main-character, is dealing with another version of herself and at one point finds herself presented with an endless gallery of copies of her. A big part of Lain’s identity-crisis (again, that search for the self to achieve homeostasis) is that she doesn’t know who the real version of her is and ultimately comes to the conclusion that there is no real version and she only exists only insofar as others are aware of her. Applying that to the episode with the multiple Papikas and the series in general: Therefore the “real” Papika only appeared because Cocona first refused to acknowledge the copies and then actively longed for the “real” version. Similar to that, Cocona’s idea of herself will ultimately depend on how Yayaka and Papika see her, I assume.
- I have to say, I wasn’t surprised when the grandma turned out to be a cultist. Cocona’s homelife was way too weird.
- So when I said in a previous review that this series would include time-travel, I guess, I wasn’t wrong. I mean, why else would this version of Papika be the same age as in the flashback, right? Now all that’s left is for said time-travelling to be used to undo everything that has happened in the series and end with a nicer (or at least, different) version of reality.