Flip Flappers Series Review

Overview:

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.

Review:

This is going to be a really difficult review and I’ve already deleted three attempts at this. The issue is that taken by itself Flip Flappers isn’t dreadful, but the overwhelming sense of disappointment that it couldn’t pull itself together is kind of hindering any objective tone I might put on a review. 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.

Going back through my weekly impressions it was as early as episode 5 where I really started to think this show was going to have issues and not go anywhere and that makes sense. The first third, the establishment phase, was over and Flip Flappers struggled with everything beyond that.

So let’s take this review logically (as opposed to how this show writes resolutions).

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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.

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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.

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And this is all the explanation we are going to get.

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.

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.

If you watched it, what did you think of Flip Flappers?


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Flip Flappers Episode 13

Review:

This episode gave me a sinking feeling fairly close to the start. While part of me just kept hoping that Flip Flappers would actually do something noteworthy other than the visual spectacle the final episode overly relied on the power of love and friendship (without offering anything interesting thematically about either) and pure coincidence. No answers about who funded research into Pure Illusion, where the weird cult came from, who is funding Salt and his group now, who is looking after any of the kids even though clearly the weird cult was responsible for raising them and has now been destroyed, and no real answers about what gathering the shards would have actually done given apparently none of it mattered at all. Let’s just narrowly focus down on Cocona, Papika and Mimi and not give Mimi any real character. She’s either evil, controlling Mimi, or sweetness and light Mimi and neither side of her has any more depth than that. The one moment I genuinely enjoyed in this final episode was when a second  Salt appeared and more or less echoed evil Mimi’s words from a few episodes ago but Salt wasn’t having any of it and just shot his potential evil twin. Just think how much better off Mimi would have been if she’d done similar. And that was the best moment to get you thinking in the entire episode as everything else was pretty visuals and frantic energy but little substance. While this series is still very enjoyable it is definitely the biggest disappointment for me this season. I’m going to give myself some time before reviewing it because right now I’d be pretty negative about it.

Flip Flappers is available on AnimeLab.

Flip Flappers Episode 12

Review:

For most of this series I’ve found Flip Flappers to be a confused mess of imagery and ideas and there was always some kind of hope that coherence would be found. Episode 11 attempted an info dump to try to somehow make sense of the senseless and it did, kind of, but at the expense of the wonder and mystery or anything that may have actually been interesting. Episode 12 takes us to the nightmare after the dream, almost the moments before waking, where all the ideas are mushed together and we are running from set-piece to set-piece revisiting images we’ve seen before but in a new and horrific light. Which sounds kind of interesting until you realise that in the entire episode Papika and Yayaka chased after Cocona and Salt walked to the cult base and may or may not become relevant next week. All the emotional screaming and calling out of names amounts to nothing. The undoing of the transformation sequence before an instant new transformation (Princess style no less) amounted to nothing. Yayaka finally getting to transform just allowed the running around to go on for longer because this story feels the need to never allow Yayaka even a single moment of glory without punching her in the guts right after. Yep, Mimi is our final boss (unless you count Cocona’s own uncertainty which is probably equally to blame at this point), but only evil Mimi. There’s good Mimi as well from time to time. Sorry, but evil Mimi with overly possessive parenting tendencies is just not enough after all the build up this series attempted. It does link most of the ideas together but it just isn’t satisfying. We’ll see what the final episode delivers but at this point I’m really not expecting much.

Flip Flappers is available on AnimeLab.

Flip Flappers Episode 11

Review:

Any hope I had of Flip Flappers coming to something resembling a satisfactory resolution was dashed to little pieces (or rather exploded in a flowery mess) after watching this episode. While as visually tantalizing as ever, Flip Flappers essentially info dumped the whole plot up to now into one episode (and in the process eliminated the need for at least 60% of everything we’d seen prior) and then set up for an action-type show down in the next episode. Or maybe it will be a battle of wills. Either way Cocona fighting her mother for control of Pure Illusion or her body doesn’t seem like a particularly interesting way to end this. And that shady cult turned out to be worse than useless. They don’t even serve as a red-herring to the plot. More like the Team Rocket of the show when all is said and done and that really isn’t a compliment.

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I think the worst part is Mimi herself. Seriously, the way she ditched Salt at the drop of a hat on three separate occasions just kind of makes me really dislike her as an individual. Even if she did deliberately give him the amorphous as part of some attempt for her non-evil personality to help out in the final round, she did it by stabbing him through the hand.

Oh well. It will be over soon and at least it has the ‘ooh, pretty’ factor to sell itself on.

Flip Flappers is available on AnimeLab.

Flip Flappers Episode 10

Review:

Not sure if this episode of Flip Flappers clarified or if it just made things more confusing. We kind of vaguely know who Mimi was, though we still don’t know why she could go to Pure Illusion, or why she was being experimented on, or why she needs a partner to go to Pure Illusion or… you know what, we know nothing other than she’s related to Cocona and made friends with Papika. I will say that the episodes have become much more linear and less confusing in and of themselves over the last couple of weeks and this one was fairly straightforward in that the base is attacked, Papika and Cocona escape, and then Cocona returns home. Even if the grandmother hadn’t turned out to be part of everything (which was pretty obvious given how Cocona met Yayaka etc) surely someone as supposedly smart as Cocona could have figured out that if you are being pursued home is not a safe place to go.

Flip Flappers is available on AnimeLab.

Flip Flappers Episode 9

Review:

Was it just me, or did we feel closer to getting a reveal this week? Not that we actually had a reveal that makes anything make sense but we finally saw some back story about why Yayaka is so hung up on Cocona and the fact that their relationship was orchestrated in the first place (meaning there really is some reason why it had to be Cocona). Papika also kind of has some kind of awakening with regards to her memories so possibly we’re going to finally learn what her deal is in the next episode. This show continues to tip-toe around the edges of making sense without actually taking the plunge but this is probably the first episode that has given me real hope that there is a plan for this to all come together.

On a character note though, I do have to wonder if Cocona is just prone to following any random exuberant kid who takes her hand and drags her out of her comfort zone.

Flip Flappers is available on AnimeLab.

Flip Flappers Episode 8

Review:

Flip Flappers this week takes us to a futuristic city full of lights, giant birds, robot battles and a very short man who apparently created the city.Visually it is stunning as usual but from a story point of view all we see is Yayaka moving further away from her core purpose because of her genuine affection for Cocona (no matter how much she tries to pretend otherwise). I can’t help but think that Yayaka is walking a very fine line and will soon find herself either in real trouble with her group or thrown away. Other than this we really just see Cocona and Papika do their usual run around and let their emotions guide their actions. Somehow Cocona has recovered from her fear of changing things. We know this because she says so. And that’s it. There’s no real build up to this fairly major shift from the previous episode where she was nearly paralysed at the thought of change. Apparently hanging out with Papika has just done it. Still wondering what the end game of all of this is going to be but still entertained enough to keep going.

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Flip Flappers is available on AnimeLab.

Friday’s Feature: Constructing Characters Through Visuals in Anime

A while back I made the point that I don’t really like comparing anime when I review them but there are times when a comparison can help to clarify meaning (Comparing Apples and Oranges). This week I am going to be comparing two current anime and their use of visuals to construct meaning. I am not going to be discussing which of these is a better anime. If you’ve been reading my weekly overviews you already know which I am enjoying more and my reasons.

The two anime I’d like to look at are March Comes in Like a Lion and Flip Flappers. Now I’m not going to get to cover much in this article because both of these shows are absolutely full of visual metaphors so after a brief overview I am going to look at how the central characters of each show have been constructed (in part – there’s too much in either show to fully cover without writing way too much for anyone to bother reading on my blog) so far and the impact of the story so far on the character (up to episode 6). I may do a follow up feature later on some of the other visuals in the shows, though that will probably be after they are finished airing.

Starting with Flip Flappers, it is not difficult to see why it is enthralling some people. It is a high energy anime with two adorable central characters and a sense of whimsy to the plot that calls you back to a children’s fairy tale (only one that has incredibly dark undertones and a sense of impending danger). There’s a lot to like about it even as it confuses or deliberately withholds information from the audience. It’s a visual feast for the eyes filled with dazzling colours and sharp contrasts.

March Comes in Like a Lion couldn’t be more different in terms of what it is trying to do. It’s an incredibly slow paced character piece with a fairly dark outlook on life only occasionally punctuated by moments of brightness. It is compelling viewing even as you wonder if there is in fact a plot other than seeing the character on his journey. Again, there is a lot to like about it but what really keeps the audience enthralled are how emotions are being presented visually.

Both shows initially set up a protagonist who is isolated and suffering from feelings of emptiness or at the very least a general dissatisfaction with their current existence. We see both Cocona and Rei as being isolated from others and continually looking away and toward something else. In Cocona’s case she stares out of the classroom window where she initially sees Papika (though she doesn’t know what she is seeing). In Rei’s case he regularly looks out the window toward the water and even when he is walking he regularly stops to stare off into the distance, particularly when crossing a bridge so that he can look at the water. It’s effective characterisation because we get a sense that both of these characters are wanting something more but don’t know what it is or how to get it. We also clearly get a sense of their isolation.

One thing both shows have done which I find somewhat off putting is the way they have made the characters’ eyes seem glassy. Not just these two characters. All of the characters. We see these glistening globes of colour and shading and while anime eyes are never exactly what you would call realistic, the eyes in both Flip Flappers and March Comes in Like a Lion are particularly interesting. However, this choice has allowed for an absolute freedom of expression because the eyes aren’t realistic in the first place they can clearly become the window to the characters’ emotions and change to reflect the current emotional state without anyone calling them out on being off-model.

Where the two shows diverge is in where these characters have gone. For Cocona, Papika is an unwanted intrusion in her life and yet the energy and chaos she brings is a welcome break from the stuffiness of her usual existence. The show is never subtle about the contrast between these characters and their inverted natures became clear after their first transformation experience where their colouring was entirely inverted.

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This has of course led to speculation that perhaps Cocona and Papika are actually one person and merely opposite sides of the same coin and there is certainly merit in such an interpretation but at this stage it is speculation. It will be interesting to see what becomes of that idea as the show draws to a conclusion.

Flip Flappers takes us away from Cocona’s everyday life to a fantasy world literally known as ‘Pure Illusion’. While elements from the real world have a presence there, it is clearly a world that defies normal logic and the contrast between the real world and Pure Illusion is visually clear.

While at first resisting the lure of Pure Illusion and the bright world Papika has opened up for Cocona, the change on Cocona as a character is made clear. She’s moved from being alone, to grudgingly accepting Papika’s presence, to acknowledging the emotions Papika helps her to experience.

It is clear that colour is playing a significant role in creating meaning and character throughout Flip Flappers and the composition of the shots continues to layer meaning into each scene as well. When we start looking at the number of visual symbols and references packed into most episodes this article could go on forever but I’m going to leave Flip Flappers here and go back to March Comes in Like  a Lion.

In direct contrast to Cocona’s progressive character development, Rei Kiriyama is still very much stuck in his own head after 6 episodes. The vast majority of his dialogue is an internal monologue and his interactions with other characters are few and far between and even then they are usually scarce in terms of actual interaction.

For Rei, everyday is a struggle against apathy and disillusionment and we see him facing the world and finding moments of calm in amongst a sense that he is drowning (sometimes quite literally). Dark and light again play a crucial role in constructing this conflict.

In episode 6 we are treated to an extended metaphor of Rei swimming on and on in an ocean until he became a professional shogi player (illustrated by him finding his place on an island but then collapsing on the sand). He had no will to return to the ocean to advance any further.

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The visual and the internal monologue perfectly express his feelings about the journey he has been on and where he is currently sitting. It also perfectly expresses the inner conflict he is facing because in order to stay there he has to accept stagnation but as he has said earlier in the episode he wants to go somewhere. It leaves us wondering where Rei intends to go. We know he doesn’t know yet and that until he decides he is stuck on this island and completely isolated (metaphorically of course) but we also know that through his encounters with the three sisters his carefully constructed world where he is on an isolated island is beginning to fall apart on him. Almost every scene where Rei encounters the sisters (or at least one of the sisters) is punctuated visually by the dark visuals being literally swept away by a sea of light, sparkles, or colours.

In that respect it is similar to Flip Flappers in that the sisters are acting as a catalyst of change on the main character and that the visuals are reflective of these changes. However, Papika is a force of nature that sweeps Cocona along in her wake and the sisters are more of a healing balm that gently push back some of the darkness for a moment.

Like with Flip Flappers, I could go on about the symbolism in the show (particularly the use of water and wind and the way shots have been constructed) but I’m going to leave it here because this article already got a bit longer than I kind of planned.

I think it is great we have such two highly visual shows this season (which is funny to say given anime is a visual medium and yet so often the visuals simply get the story across). Both of these are so laden with imagery that it is hard to look away and even background details take on significance. Plus, rewatching an episode is still fun because there are aspects that were missed or overlooked on the first watch through.

If you are watching either of these series I’d love to know your thoughts on the visuals and how they are constructing meaning for you. If you aren’t watching these, what are some shows you’ve watched that have used visuals in an interesting way to create character?

 

Flip Flappers Episode 7

Review:

Flip Flappers this week seemed mostly pointless to the plot but fairly important for the characters covering Cocona’s inner conflict about what she was doing and the consequences of last week. That said, there’s very little that is new here. This is Cocona reverting to the cautious person she was pre-Papika and being frozen by her own uncertainty. However, the real payoff for the episode comes right toward the end where we may or may not have actually found out something about Papika and her mysterious past. Visually, this episode was average for the season but couldn’t hold up to the impressive visual display we were given in episode 6. This show continues to intrigue but also continues to delay any kind of overall satisfaction by obscuring the overall objectives at every turn. Even when the scientist guy was asked directly to explain something he instead went on an ambiguous rant that mostly amounted to ‘I don’t know’. Which might be true or might be him withholding information and there’s really no way to tell at this point.

Flip Flappers is available on AnimeLab.

Flip Flappers Episode 6

Review:

Flip Flappers this week just made me wonder all over again if all the symbolism and visual metaphors are actually going anywhere or are we just getting a splattering of ideas that may or may not ultimately mesh. If you wanted, you could probably spend the better part of a week deconstructing every image presented this week and the use of colour throughout the episode but all that will leave you with is a really long winded analysis of something that each viewer is going to have a totally different reaction to. The only coherent thread I’ve found so far in this narrative is Cocona and her becoming a more emotive and whole character, and we see her continuing to search for her identity and getting pushed into action (or at least inspired to act) by her counterpart Papika, and this works well enough as a story.

The rest of this episode kind of gave us a bit of back story about the art student we’ve seen a few times (though how much of this back story is real and how much is entirely illusionary or symbolic is questionable) and we learn that actions in Pure Illusion actually are changing things in the real world (or at least the action this week did). That said, this was definitely the long way to get to that revelation and the question of whether or not this series is any good or just really colourful is still up in the air.

I know I’ve said it before but it probably will be the end of this series before I decide whether I like it or not and my answer will probably entirely hang on whether or not they manage to stick the landing as we tumble down this rabbit hole. Is there a final destination and will it be worth the journey?

Flip Flappers is available on AnimeLab.