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“…seriously the visuals are just awe inspiring.”
I’m going to have to buy a thesaurus to come up with others words outside of ‘charming’ and ‘adorable’ aren’t I? Well, until that Amazon shipment comes in those are going to be the two words I’m going to use to describe the second episode of Flip Flappers. Also stuck on words to describe the animation like, ‘stunning’ and ‘drop-dead-gorgeous’ (ok that last one’s not a word, but seriously the visuals are just awe inspiring). This episode displayed a better sense of comedic timing than the first too. The scene where Papika followed Cocona into the bathroom like a duckling following its mother had me in stitches.
Story wise, this episode revealed that Papika is not a figment of Cocona’s imaginative mind, since Papika becomes the new transfer student in Cocona’s class. Due to an accident caused by Papika, she scares Cocona’s pet, a green rabbit like creature named Uexhull, down a vacuum tube. The two are instantly transported into Pure Illusion with the goal of rescuing Cocona’s furry friend. This time the world looks like a forest created with water colored shades of pink and light green. The two girls have also turned into adorable bunny girls (there’s that word again). Anyhow, it’s interesting to see that this time around that Pure Illusion has physically effected both of our leads. Papika starts out as a purely abstract form and only takes a humanoid shape after making contact with Cocona. It’s almost like Papika has been born form Pure Illusion while Cocona is merely a visitor.
Dream wise, I’m lead to believe that the episode focused on one thing besides rescuing Uexhull: ‘change’. Before the dream started, Cocona was majorly struggling with Papika crashing into her average everyday life. Not only that, but she’s afraid of adapting Papika’s bad habits of being reckless, ignoring personal space and the like. In the dream, Cocona’s transformed into the exact same thing as Papika, a bunny girl, and it scares her. Cocona needed to learn how to embrace that side of herself. In order to survive in a world that was out to dispose of her and her friends, she needed to adapt or ‘change’ if you will.
I also find the mystery of what exactly happened between the after credits scene in episode one and the beginning of episode two worth talking about. The first episode ends with Papika captured by a tiny net, while robots knock out Cocona with chloroform, while the second episodes begins with Cocona waking up in her bedroom being waken up by her Grandmother. Is it possible that the after credits scene was purely a dream or did it actually happen? The first episode implies that the fragment they found in Pure Illusion was take by the robots, but Papika has it intact in the second episode. If the robots are real, who are they working for? Papika’s group, the Flip Flappers, or these Big Fire rejects that are in the opening? Are they one and the same? And more importantly, is the Grandmother somebody we can trust in this story? I do really love how if you skipped the after credits scene in episode one, the scene where Cocona sees Papika’s bandages can be read like Papika was merely recovering from their last adventure instead getting ambushed by robots. While I love the big picture, it’s these little mysteries that keep me wanting more.
The Subtle Doctor (@TheSubtleDoctor)
“Magic is real, and Flip Flappers wants to show it to us.”
Magic is real, and Flip Flappers wants to show it to us. It’s out there, out in the world just waiting to be found. And it’s in here, here within our hearts and minds just waiting to be experienced. Adoration and awe and terror and rapture; at times fleeing, at times conquering us outright It’s never the same for any two people. One may have an experience and fall in love, and another may have had the same, but then nothing. Magic is a key to a single heart, and this magic is connection between two individual souls. It is relationship, it is adventure. It recolors the world and opens doors we never knew existed. Connection transforms surviving into living.
But, it is also scary. Magic is inherently mysterious, and falling under its spell means embracing the unknown. At times, the ascension to living can feel wrong because it can seem counter to essential survival protocol. “What lies around the next bend?” “Can’t I pick the path?” “Can I just drop everything now?” Connecting sacrifices control. Adventure entails unforeseen risks. Oh, but the rewards! The rewards are life-affirming. They are sights and sounds no one else can ever see.
And yet, even after swimming through a reality utterly changed, we can still get scared. Relationship is a thing that demands not just relinquishing some of our own control but also tying our own well-being to this other entity as well. Here is this totally separate self–not part of the furniture of your universe but the center of its own–this sort of mysterious, ultimately unknowable something. Though it is warmth and light and sweetness and brings everything into focus, it is still another. What if you connect with this person and then they die? What if your universe expands only to shrink again, leaving behind an empty you never knew was there before? The fear of that pain can be enough to scare us away from the bright and beautiful existence waiting for us.
Cocona feels this terror. Papika does as well. The former has to consult her inner calculus before finally relenting to that powerful good; the latter runs headlong into her new world before fully realizing the stakes. Papika accepts these novel, darker tones into her world, but she was always going to. For almost the entire episode, Cocona runs from her fear. When she is in complete control of her own destiny, Cocona feels uninspired and unexcited. Then, along comes Papika, and suddenly so much is out of Cocona’s hands. However, along the way she lets herself feel and hear and see the magic. She grabs Papika’s hand and becomes her partner. The unreserved smile on Cocona’s face proves that she has truly begun her adventure with Papika. She’s found the magic.
Josh Dunham (@Josh_Dunham)
“In that light, Pure Illusion is a metaphor for art itself.”
Empathy is a very important piece of art. Art speaks the language of visceral emotion, it is to be felt first and foremost. When that intended emotion is felt an unspoken dialog occurs where the viewer empathizes with the piece, and thus understands. This is the explicit intention of Flip Flappers, to have us empathize.
In fact, this theme is woven into the narrative of the show itself. In this episode it is revealed that our two heroines cannot enter the world of Pure Illusion unless they ‘feel the same’, they must be on the same emotional wavelength. It’s a dichotomy of Cocona’s trepidation and Papika’s adventurous optimism, a theme that is alluded in the first half of the episode as Cocona observes a tapestry hanging on the school wall. When an unnamed art student approaches, questioning Cocona’s thoughts on the piece, her immediate answer is fear, saying, “It’s scary.” but leaves the answer open ended. It is under that theme that Cocona later refuses returning to Pure Illusion with Papika, for fear of the harm that could befall them. Here the emotions felt in the scene with the painting are equated to those concerning Pure Illusion, both being fantasy worlds that are shaped and molded my the viewer’s/artist’s values. And again, like art, this idealistic world can only be entered through empathy. In that light, Pure Illusion is a metaphor for art itself.
However, upon entering Pure Illusion the message grows more bold, and the hues, pigments, and shades follow suit. Color pallet swaps become a visual representation of characters’ emotions as they move from scene to scene. This is wisely disguised as a response to different in-world lighting conditions, as to make the transition of color and emotion seamless. Cocona becomes more exploratory, Papika more aware of potential threats and dangers, and by the end the two girls understand each other. Papika extends her hand and offers the invitation again, “Come with me. I swear I won’t let you go.” Cocona acquiesces, understanding that sometimes danger and beauty can be part of the same tapestry of life.
Isuta Meister animated the perfect scene expressing this, giving us the sense of impending doom and (for the lack of a better term) making it fun. The two girls are attempting to escape a death trap. The steal piston ushering them towards a wall of giant, spinning rock-crushers is personified with bear-trap teeth, chopping at them as it chases hungrily. The tunnel they run down features bends and winds were before there were none. Papika and co. zoom in and out of the camera, dodging debris before using their powers to manage a narrow escape. It’s a beautiful scene that perfectly visualizes every theme presented up until now – and you can empathize.
Jimmy Gnome (@jimmygnome9)
“This type of development is precisely why Flip Flappers is the most evocative anime of this season…”
Despite the post-credits cliffhanger last episode, Flip Flappers 2 begins again with Cocona waking up as though nothing had happened. She dresses for school the same as any other day and meets with her friends, but soon enough Papika returns to confirm their meeting was no fantasy. This sets up a simple conflict between the two as Cocona reflects upon the dangers they were put through and pushes Papika away. While this segment leans more on anime narrative standards than the first episode and lasts a little bit longer, eventually Cocona’s pet rabbit-thing is caught in a vacuum, forcing the girls to follow into another creative world. (Interestingly enough the creature featured in this episode is known as ‘Uexkull’, possibly named after German biologist Jakob von Uexküll who theorized about the subjective realities that different organisms perceive.)
While Oshiyama previously evoked his own work on Space Dandy through his careful atmosphere, this time the comparison is drawn more directly through the actual world design which seems at least partially inspired by Eunyoung Choi’s colorful organics from episode 9. Lumpy mounds grow from the earth and unknown flecks float through the air like a miasma. The color design here is absolutely fabulous with each character receiving entirely new pallets between scenes to complement their environment, of which there are many despite the bulk of the world being only relevant for a mere five minutes. Indeed, while it may be weirder and more fantastical than the first episode’s snow-covered hills it has less of a sense of place, instead opting for a more aggressive assault on the senses.
The highlight this episode comes from upcoming webgen talent Isuta Meister who animated the fantastic escape sequence at the end of the episode, featuring rapid and technical motions as the crew speeds through the vast passage. It’s an excellent cut for conveying the desperation of the scene, and as they slide through the brief opening at the end of the tunnel it really feels like it was by the skin of their teeth.
Afterword there is more exposition to introduce the FlipFlap headquarters and its chief, Dr. Salt. Cocona and Papika are led through obtuse architectures to be confined in two small holes in the wall. Cut off from their senses the walls begin to warp, until they suddenly reveal several red eyes. The girls disappear. This type of development is precisely why Flip Flappers is the most evocative anime of this season, it never lets itself get bogged down by the how or why for too long and is content with letting its visual execution carry the meaning of the show.
At one point in this episode Cocona stares at a grim piece of art on the wall at her school before being joined by another classmate whom she had seen painting in the previous episode. They have a brief chat about the emotions they feel while looking at it, and it seems they both see something beyond its surface aesthetic. I feel the same can be said about Flip Flappers itself as an anime that foregoes traditional storytelling for a showcase of visual arts.