Flip Flappers – 10 Review

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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!

Review:

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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.

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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.

Episode-Rating: 6.5/10

Random Thoughts:

  • 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.

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About M0rg0th

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

Posted on December 9, 2016, in Anime, Flip Flappers, Reviews and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. The grandmother revelation was kind of late coming given the previous flashback at the hospital. If they expected that to shock it was a little too little too late. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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    • Well, by now I think most of the audience is used to this series telling you that something or someone isn’t what or who you think they are. It’s like the only storybeat the series knows apparently.

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  2. I agree that some of the storytelling in this series could be improved, but good God, isn’t this exactly the kind of production we want from anime? Unlike Kyoto Animation wasting its sublime talents at animation on a deeply conventional show like Euphonium, one totally lacking in any sort of compelling narrative and, most importantly, any particular reason why the story needed to be animated rather than live action. (Compare it with Hyouka, which elevated what could have been a similarly conventional story to something ethereal through terrific animation that was also unbelievably imaginative.)

    I’m not entirely sure where Flip Flappers is going, or if I’ll be swept away by its conclusion, but it’s telling a fairy tale by cleverly and fully using the tools of animation to its great advantage. Even if it ultimately fails to reach the heights it could/should, it’s exactly the kind of show we should want to encourage: animation that’s ambitious and creative; animation that’s ANIMATED for a reason. Ambitious failure is much more interesting that safe, dull conventionality, at least to me.

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    • “but it’s telling a fairy tale by cleverly and fully using the tools of animation to its great advantage.”

      Wait, are you arguing here that this show shares similarities to the story-type of fairy tales? Can you elaborate on that?

      “Ambitious failure is much more interesting that safe, dull conventionality, at least to me.”

      Well, I would wait until the finale to put Flip Flappers into that category. Besides, you’d have to make an argument that the series is indeed swinging for the fences and so far, what the series has done is interesting but I wouldn’t call it “ambitious”. A lot of it depends on what the story will ultimately be. And that very part has been the series’ weak point so far. Therefore, I don’t see any ambition in this series but merely a lot of interesting ideas. So far, the series has yet to amount to anything.

      “Even if it ultimately fails to reach the heights it could/should, it’s exactly the kind of show we should want to encourage: animation that’s ambitious and creative; animation that’s ANIMATED for a reason.”

      Is it? I would argue that as anime-viewers we shouldn’t simply give a show a blank check just because it demonstrated a willingness to break convention. What matters more is what it represents. For example, championing Mamoru Hasada’s movies post-2006 makes more sense to me than making the case for a series like Flip Flappers. Granted that could change depending on what happens in the next two episodes but right now, I don’t think this series qualifies for that treatment.

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  3. I will preface this by saying this is a logn one: …………i got inspired to write XD. Ill also post this on your main blog so that you can read it there as well

    “I assume where the series wants to go, though, is the social route of defining one’s self by the people around that person. And Yayaka/Papika will help Cocona to define herself as a person rooted in the primary reality rather than the delusional world of Mimi”

    ***while i agree with this perspective, I would argue that the series main thematic focus is the idea of taking chances in order to grow as an adult. When we were introduced to cocona, she was always about being proper and hiding her emotions. She is afraid of failure and doesnt want to take chances. As she continued adventuring with papika, she began to change and each pure illusion adventure highlighted those changes; this is why i dont agree with your statement that there was too much focus on pure illusion without doing much with it. Their pure illusion adventures heavily service cementing this component of the series.

    “Watching Cocona’s struggles I’ve never once felt the urge to look closer because it never seems necessary to know all this extra stuff in order to understand Cocona’s troubles”.

    ***I dont think flip flappers ever asks its viewers to understand cocona on a personal level as some multi-faceted character (like you would with characters like yukino from “kare kano” ), but rather to follow her journey of adolescence through visual expression and watch her change throughout the series’ run. I wrote in a comment above about the mechanisms flip flappers uses to operate as a show and why its way of storytelling still works. Every story has its own way of trying to get you to engage in its themes or characters and its understandable if certain storytelling mechanics dont work for some people:

    ***Flip flappers has always been a narrative about the representation of themes and genre’s, with the characters being pantomimes to the visual whims of the story. They exist within the themes and experience them. The themes dont exist to say anything truly meaning about the characters more than it is an exploration about how the character’s exist within the themes. With that in mind, it can be argued that this makes the characters hard to connect with even if there is a steady progression of characterization happening with the cast members. Flip flappers doesnt really flesh out characters in a traditional sense; instead it presents you with visuals that are meant to contextualize what characters are feeling and thinking within the scenes they are in. The closest any character gets to being fleshed out is Yayaka, with cocona being more of figurehead to explore the genre and themes the narrative tries to take on (which sort of leads to kinda fleshing her out as well; it’s a very roundabout way of storytelling). Everything from the title of the episodes, to the worlds the girls travel to are all in line with where the story is now.

    The series is more about experiencing adolescence, not about commenting on it like some other coming of age stories do. Mob psycho 100 (probably my favorite show of summer 2016; yes it’s better than re:zero for anyone who might ask “b-b-but what about re:zero”) is a good example of a show that is a commentary of adolescence; and i think this is where you are coming from about flip flappers not particularly saying anything about its characters. This is why again, one needs to differentiate experiencing adolescence and commentating on it. One would argue that flcl, one of the greatest anime of all time, is a coming of age story that is also about experiencing adolescence through wacky metaphors and visuals rather than truly saying something meaningful about the protagonist or characters (however, you could still relate to naota, and in sense someone may be able to relate with cocona). What i will say about flcl in contrast with flip flappers was that there was a bit more intimacy with the character dynamics in that show than there is in flip flappers. Anywho, my point is that flip flappers is a different approach to telling a coming of age tale and if you immerse yourself in the visual expression and are able to take away something from them, you’ll find yourself not being intrigued by cocona’s character or understanding her on a personal level per se; but rather understanding what she’s going through; and that’s where the emotional investment can come from. If not emotional investment, then at least intellectual.

    “I think the series still hasn’t made clear what it hopes to gain from all these hidden tidbits. Like the idea for example that most Pure-Illusion-worlds relate to a specific character’s inner world. There’s a good case to make that this is true. But why is that in this series?”

    ***Why should it not be in this series when it has been the core element used to allow us to experience cocona’s coming of age; pure illusion is part of the storytelling. All those “hidden tidbits” arent plot related but rather character related, and each ep has cashed in on those hidden tidbits and used it towards elucidating cocona’s journey of self discovery. Take ep 5 for example: Cocona is afraid of failure and taking chances; so what better way to visually explore that then have them travel to a yuri-based school where everything is on repeat and no one has to worry about consequences day after day. Cocona need not worry about failing (a thing to note is that before this ep had started, it was made clear that the girls had traveled to 3 other worlds and lost amorphous fragments to yayaka’s gang. Also the previous ep was about cocona failing to relate to papika); not to mention that her course of life is decided for her by a ghoulish-looking group of seemingly well-mannered girls. Cocona need not take any action. However, after her conversation with yayaka, cocona and papika fight back against the repeating world. It then makes sense that since cocona is the one that is fearful of taking action and making her own decisions, that she is the one who has to ring the bell and break the illusionary world by taking action. This all culminates in the end when cocona has the guts to tell yayaka that she’ll fight back against her if she thinks she’s doing anything bad. This pure illusion is one of the more direct moralizations of cocona’s struggles, with ep 7 being yet another direct moralization of cocona questioning the idea of change. If her actions (again, cocona is more of creature of inaction) in pure illusion might change someone, is it okay to take action in the first place? is it ok to change? Cocona confronts this in yet another pure illusion world tailored to her own securities (written by the director himself). Pure illusion is explained to be (and the series has cleverly hinted at it since ep 1) a singularity of human thoughts and emotions, so by that being said, pure illusion being tailored to a character is not just a theory.

    “Even with the painter-girl it’s hard to say how bad or good her change has been (Cocona seems to dislike it and the recent flashback with Salt’s dad portrays it as a bad thing).”

    ***I dont think the show needs to necessarily tell you whether iroha’s change is a good or bad thing. The whole point of that plot point is to stir up ambiguity about iroha’s change. That’s why ep 6 is so good, because cocona and papika inherently do something sweet for iroha, but in doing so, they fundamentally change her. So that begs the question: was what they did really a good thing? it is these questions that is made to make you wonder about the dangers of pure illusion and how what catastrophes it could spell if someone changed a person fundamentally (which ep 7 lighthearted explores and which ep 11 gives us a brutal answer that messing with pure illusion can break a person completely). The ambiguity of iroha’s change is what leads into cocona questioning change; something that she herself is slowly facing. So yea, i disagree with your notion that the hidden tidbits of flip flappers doesnt add anything to the story; it allows us, the viewer to continue experiencing cocona’s coming of age in an interesting way. Heck, the whole switching motif becomes a pivotal plot point in ep 11 that serves to paint mimi as an antagonist while bringing forth the idea that we have multiple layers that make up our whole personality and pure illusion can mess with that. It is a smart call back to ep 6, especially when mimi says “this is the real me”….”Iro is Iro” no matter how many times she switches

    “A good example of how the interplay of hidden depths and mystery should work is Lost, I would say. The original premise was just that a group of people gets stranded on an island after an airplane-crash. But the first concern of the writers was how to avoid the obvious goal of such a narrative (“So, when are they going to get off the island?”) and because of that they wanted to distract the audience by turning the island into a deeply, mysterious place”

    ****I would argue that your mixing apples and oranges here. Lost’s balance of depth and mysteries serviced the world building which was essential to the plot. Lost had diferent goals in mind from something like flip flappers; In a show where the obvious question is “when are they going to get of the island”, it is crucial to a narrative structure like this to rely on world building strategies, creating mystery and intrigue, and suplanting all that with narrative depth for the sake of creating suspense so that the show can function and not loose viewers across its six season run. (that is the important part; the suspense i would argue, changes the opus of the premise to “when are they going to get off the island” to “will they be able to get of the island. This transformative element is absolutely crucial for a series like this. The way “lost” goes about making this metamorphosis while keeping you lost in regards to answering this question is the beauty of this series. Flip flappers uses it’s depth’s not to world build but to express themes. In a comment i wrote above, i explain what constitutes as intelligent writing and what domains are associated with that. Lost is a show that relies heavily of narrative richness. Its narrative is sprawling, filled cavernous depths of info and mystery, all of which service the plot. Flip flappers works in a similar way except isnt about mystery or plot (because plot has always been really simple). It never was about mystery. it’s about visual abstraction and how that is used to represent themes. Flip flappers is thematically intelligence while Lost excels mostly in narrative richness and clever writing. The interplay of hidden depths and mystery in Lost is not so much a textbook example of how all series should go about balancing those two aspects; but rather it is an example of how a series of it’s genre should handle the interplay of depth and mystery.

    Lastly, just to briefly discuss where we are with the current arc; The last two eps have provided information to us about the plot, but they werent really infodumps (a term i think some people use incorrectly) For one, the flash backs where like 5 mins long; secondly, there werent overwrought with narration; rather the flashbacks where treated like seamless moments in the episode; and thirdly, they werent packed with detail. The flashbacks touched upon certain plot beats that were necessary to understand some context about the story without overexplaining anything or staying on a certain topic for too long. By the end of each flashback, there was some better understanding as to the events that transpired in the past to lead up to the present and it did so in a straightforward mannner because once again, the narative of flip flappers is straightforward. That’s something that has been true since day one so i dont understand why some people are surprised by this. Like flcl, the complexity comes from how the show explores themes. This culminates in mimi being the perfect antagonist to cocona. What better way to represent coming of age and become independent than breaking away from the rule of one’s parents. I think the flashbacks were handled very well and do not seem clunky at all. It clarifies what it needs to to step up the final act of the narrative and never overstays its welcome

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