Cocona is an ordinary kind of girl not looking for adventure when Papika (a definitely not normal girl) rushes into her life and literally drags her into various adventures. I reviewed this week to week so if you are interested in my thoughts on individual episodes click here. However, it’s now been two years since this originally aired (updating March 2019) and the question I ended up asking myself was whether or not my view on this anime had changed.
Flip Flappers was always a difficult anime to review. There’s so many bright and wonderful things about the anime, with sparkling characters, interesting themes, and fairly solid visual presentation (also great music). And yet, even two years later I can’t shake that overwhelming sense of disappointment that it couldn’t pull itself together. I really wanted Flip Flappers to be good. I wanted it to pull all of those ideas it had scrambled about the screen into a coherent plot that just blew me away. I wanted so much from this other than ‘ooh, pretty’, but unfortunately that was a wish not realised. And two years on, I’m still kind of feeling that Flip Flappers had most ideas and potential than what it actually realised during its run.
My impression the second time through was once again that Flip Flappers sets up a fairly impressive story and characters in its first four episodes. There’s very little to complain about during these episodes as we get introduced to the world and ideas and become charmed by the complimentary personalities of Papika and Cocona. Unfortunately, as Flip Flappers moves beyond establishing itself, it ends up on some shaky footing and by the time we get to the introduced villain at the end and a frantic conclusion that doesn’t hold up to much scrutiny, while there are great moments speckled throughout this series, the narrative as a whole is unsatisfying.
However, let’s look at the positives. The beginning of the story is pretty amazing. It’s beautiful and colourful with lots of rich symbolism and sequences that draw you in to the adventures the girls are having. It raises question about the nature of the adventures and the relationship between Cocona and Papika. Essentially, it does everything it needs to hook the audience in and make you want to watch more. However, even in this early phase of the show we realise that from a narrative point of view there are issues. Conflicts within the episodes are solved through fast paced action sequences or sudden power-ups. Little is explained or given reason. While this ties in nicely with an Alice in Wonderland-esque feel it isn’t overly coherent. Which is fine for the early phase of a fantasy adventure story provided its followed up by something of note.
Then we get to episode 5. The girls are on yet another adventure. We’re in the middle phase of the series so should be gearing toward the greater narrative or learning more about the characters, or something should be happening and instead we just go around a time loop with the girls before they run around in a mad-cap type sequence before engaging in a fight that has no real context and somehow everything is okay. Episode 5 can kind of be held up as a model for how the narrative of the entire series goes. We don’t know how they got into the situation. We don’t know why anything is occurring and why it might be good, bad or otherwise. The villain shows up out of nowhere toward the end. Run around lots and lets fight. Whoo!
But I am getting a little sidetracked.
Episodes 6 through 8 continue the character’s adventures through the illusionary world of Pure Illusion and give us even more questions about what it is and why are we collecting these shards? These episodes would be a very reasonable follow up to the first 4 except for one thing. When we finally get to the final third of this series the shards and the nature of Pure Illusion are questions that get tossed aside as almost inconsequential. So, none of the shard collecting really means anything and we leave the series still with no idea what Pure Illusion is or why Cocona (and Mimi) have any connection to it. We don’t know why the scientists were studying it or doing experiments on kids or what anybody hoped to accomplish. So all of these episodes can be more or less disregarded in terms of an overall narrative. Instead, they are a cute diversion into questions that could have been examined but won’t be.
Then we get to the final run of episodes. This is where things go completely off the rails in terms of enjoyment or narrative. We meet Mimi, Cocona’s mother. Which is fine and all except somehow she turns out to be the antagonist we’re going to spend most of this last third facing, even though there was no indication previously that Mimi was going to be an antagonist and it comes at the expense of every other possible conflict that show might have developed. Also, Mimi sucks as an antagonist. She’s dreadful. She just spews the worst dialogue with incredibly horrendous self-justifications for her actions which absolutely make no sense. More importantly, she doesn’t tell us a thing about Pure Illusion that we hadn’t already been told which means we still know absolutely nothing about it of any substance.
Anyway, let’s have a big fight sequence between Cocona, Papika and Mimi and finish the show with a flourish and somehow everything will be all wrapped up. Except, you know, all the parts that aren’t.
I’m going to be honest, watching this again, the flaws of this show are even more glaring and that ending is just kind of… It is almost as if they gave up and realised they needed to end on a fight.
Okay, if you want a visually pretty story with two main characters who celebrate the fact that friendship and/or love can triumph in the face of all reason and just saying it lots makes it true then Flip Flappers will probably be great for you. For me, I really was disappointed by the end of this even though it kind of showed its hand early on.
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