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Episode 1 | Episode 2 | Episode 3 | Episode 4 | Episode 5
CJ Hitchcock (@cjhitchcock)
“I loved the hell out of this episode. “
Colors are important. Our brain is designed to register colors with emotions and ideas on a subconscious level. For example, Red is a color that’s used to represent urgency. You see the color red and you’re instantly drawn towards it. Most color theorist believe this is because Red is the color of our blood. You see blood and your mind goes into a form of self preservation that forces you to think of ways to get the bleeding to stop. Because of this connection we have with this color, our brains rush to gather as much information about the object with that color the moment we see it. The color doesn’t have to stay long in order for it to make an impact on the viewer. A single moment is all it takes. This episode of Flip Flappers is a perfect example of this.
Bulk of this episode revolves around Cocona and Papika reliving the childhood of the art student who’s popped in previous episodes. The Art Student, Irodori, has two very different sides of her life: one involves consistently visiting an older woman who helps her develop her artistic abilities and interest, while the other is spent being alone in her room drawing while her parents fight. These two aspects of her life are depicted with a different color. Whenever she’s with her “Auntie”, the dominate color is Light Orange , which is associated with warmth and happiness. The scenes of Irodori alone in her room are Dark Blue, a color associated with heartache. The scenes with Irodori and her “Auntie” are very cheerful and pleasant, while the scenes at home are very sad and lonely. Interestingly enough, not only do these colors help convey very different emotions, but the colors themselves are known as contrasting colors, meaning the colors are meant to be opposites of each other naturally. The use of these contrasting colors instantly creates a subconscious divide between the two sides of Irodori’s life. Your brain knows when the Orange color appears, it’s happy fun times with “Auntie”, while the Blue color warns us that the following scene is going to be upsetting.Red dominates the episode in one single moment. Cocona is in a Blue scene when she hears raised voices from behind a closed door. Cocona opens the door and the screen smashes instantly into the color Red. Irodori’s parents are screaming at each other. Their exaggerated movements fail to form any semblance of normalcy. The father notices Cocona and demands for her to leave. When Cocona closes the door, the Blue color returns. The sheer controlling presence of Red instantly makes the scene stand out. Our mind instantly knows nothing about this scene is normal. Something is wrong and it demands our attention. The added effect here though is we as an audience were denied a chance to respond to our subconscious urge to want to help fix the problem. It’s like we saw somebody bleeding on the side of the road and the driver continues to drive past him. We want to go back, but we can’t. It becomes something out of our control and we have to move on.
There’s one more great use of color theory in this episode and that deals with a spoiler, that I don’t want to ruin, because it is tear jerking story twist; a scene where Irodori’s world goes from Orange to Blue in an instant. This world that was so comforting and filled with joy comes crashing down in with a single question. The room she’s in is Orange, but as she backs away into the door, the Blue slowly creeps up on her. The screen suddenly smash cuts into instant blue. This thing that’s made her happy has broken her heart. She runs through the happy Orange town, but she’s completely covered in Blue. It doesn’t matter if the world around her is in peace, inside she’s broken.
I loved the hell out of this episode. It’s one thing to be able to use colors to excite and draw people’s attention, but it takes a true master of the arts to use color to tell a story like it was used here.
Jimmy Gnome (@jimmygnome9)
“Oshiyama is using narrative devices to support and validate the hard work of his staff…”
Weeks ago, when I shared my impressions on the second episode of Flip Flappers, I closed by mentioning a painting that was briefly the center of attention of both Cocona and who we now know to be Iroha Irodori, the green-haired art club student who has been peripherally present all along. While at that point I drew a parallel between how the series traded traditional narrative for a focus on visual arts, I could not have expected how far it would pursue the idea almost a month later. Through Iroha we’ve been given the keys to discover the show’s purpose, something that seems to have eluded much of its audience this season.
Before this point Pure Illusion has often seemed like a simple excuse to showcase talent from various animators, background designers, and directors. In fact, this seems to be the most common complaint from viewers that I’ve seen: ‘with such a sparse narrative and flat characters, what reason is there to invest?’ This week we’re conveniently given a real, tangible reason to care, but in an unexpectedly vicarious way. Instead of developing Papika or Cocona, we delve into a representation of Iroha’s art, which she is seen painting at the beginning of the episode in a style that directly parallels Pure Illusion. Within this colorful world there is a sekimori ishi, a small rock with a rope tied around it traditionally used as a soft-barrier in traditional Japanese gardens to block off holy areas. By crossing this barrier, our heroines reach the inner sanctum of the illusion: Iroha’s memories.
It’s a metaphor, these developments are instructions for experiencing art. Papika and Cocona are literally dwelling within a painting that Iroha is creating, and searching deeply within the piece they find the meaning its creator embedded within it: nail polish. At the beginning of the episode when Iroha mentions that she used nail polish to paint we don’t think much of it, but after experiencing her childhood memories we can understand the significance of its presence. The presentation makes it seem as though Papika and Cocona are helping Iroha overcome her regrets, but in fact that are simply empathizing deeply with her art; the act of creation is therapeutic in-and-of itself.
What makes this revelation fascinating is how it can be applied in retrospect to the previous iterations of Pure Illusion. The snowy fields, shoujo academy, and even the Mad Max world are all works of art themselves, and though the show doesn’t provide an in-universe explanation for its creation we can find out who the artists are by looking at the key animator lists at the end of each episode. Oshiyama is using narrative devices to support and validate the hard work of his staff in an attempt to reveal the wonders of artistic appreciation to more general audiences, and I hope his message rings far and wide.
“ …clear expression of color and imaginative settings…that’s what counts most in the end.”
I think I have a new favorite episode. Studio Pablo outdid themselves here—there’s an almost overwhelming variety of visual ideas, from the surreal crayon backgrounds in Pure Illusion to the dreamlike tints of Iroha’s memories. The art direction had always figured prominently in the show, but here it encompasses almost every aspect of the frame and narrative. As CJ describes, the characters and backgrounds are given impressionistic colors that shift with each emotional beat. The design tells the story as much or more than the dialogue and animation.
Of course, the highlight of this episode is Yasunori Miyazawa’s animation of Iro’s parents. This scene was brilliantly conceived in all respects. Miyazawa has the characters shift and boil like angry, amorphous blobs. They abruptly spring into angular poses that threaten sudden physical violence. I love how the father’s glasses pulsate and deform like they are living extensions of his body. Everything about the sequence speaks of instability and dread. We see them dominating the screen in off-kilter low-angle shots, as though through the eyes of a fearful young child. Like the characters, the backgrounds are warped and sketchy. The world is distorted by painful emotions in Iro’s memories. Anyone who remembers their parents arguing as a child knows this feeling. The animation is an effective visual metaphor for psychological domestic abuse.
Yasunori Miyazawa started as an inbetweener in the early 80’s. He seems to have bounced around various projects and studios before coming into his own in the early 2000’s. He often collaborated with Satoshi Kon and Masaaki Yuasa, the latter of whom has described Miyazawa as a “genius.” His scene in this episode is very characteristic of his style: constantly changing shapes and volumes, exaggerated perspective, and a completely wild stream of design and movement ideas. Up to now Flip Flapper’s animation style had been more or less uniform, so this was a delightful surprise. The jarring, unexpected art shift in this sequence makes it that much more effective.
Cartoon backgrounds are typically rendered in realistic and muted tones so that the flat and brightly colored characters will pop out on the screen. Sometimes, the art directors opt to make the animation and backgrounds match in color and level of detail, so that the animation effectively becomes a design element. One is always emphasized at the expense of the other. However—in the argument scene, the animation and design complement each other in perfect symbiosis. Neither element dominates over the other. Miyazawa’s animation is exciting and visceral enough that it stands out on its own, yet it still feels like part of the greater design.
This episode gives some clues as to the nature of Pure Illusion, but for the most part the plot and characters have remained tantalizingly opaque. We’ve spent a lot of time with Cocona and Papika, but they still seem oddly indistinct somehow. The motivations of the competing organizations have yet to be explained. Perhaps they’re besides the point. The show is delivering a clear expression of color and imaginative settings, and that’s what counts most in the end.
Pat ‘Suri’ Price (@Suribot)
“…in a way that feels comprehensible, but one that I’m not sure I can articulate yet.”
Flip Flappers has intermittently felt like a series of vignettes as well as something striving to comprise a greater whole out of its parts. Last episode was a fantastic horror one-off that managed to stimulate a sense of unease without being outright scary. This week was something different entirely.
I’m not sure how to describe the sensation I was left with at the end. Nearly the entire episode fostered a profound feeling of being not quite incomprehensible, but definitely intriguing. I am actually struggling for the words here. For the duration of its seemingly one-off story, I felt like I absolutely did not understand where it was going, but was thoroughly riveted. A sensation of craving more, desperate for a payoff, even without understanding the road the show was driving on. The painter classmate that has shown up a few times always felt important, but it wasn’t until the very end that I finally had a firm grasp on what had been presented to me in this episode and that I had been given payoff on something I did not even know about yet.
I’m finding this difficult to articulate, because Flip Flappers has been kind of an iron wall to me thus far. Things have happened and the basic plot is easy to understand, but the presentation has been impenetrable. I’ve been unclear on how closely the show wants me to think about it, how much analysis it is asking for. Hitting the half-way point, there is a crack, and I can see the light on the other side of the wall. I feel like I understand what the show is going for with Pure Illusion in a way that feels comprehensible, but one that I’m not sure I can articulate yet. Flip Flappers is giving me feelings up and down about its narrative structure and I wasn’t prepared for this.
I’m excited for more. Not just hopeful that it will eventually present to me its story and meaning on a silver platter, but confident that whatever Flip Flappers throws at me next will be interesting in ways that I can’t predict. It’s rare that something that I would concretely say is best enjoyed as a ‘don’t think, feel’ experience can get my brain racing like this.
Josh Dunham (@Josh_Dunham)
“Ask yourself, ‘What about this animation makes me feel this way?'”
Flip Flappers episode 6 is visually dense and emotionally deep. It is the emotional equivalent of a 2 hour film in a single episode – and it owes everything to the visuals for that. There’s so much to unpack. For those who just watched, you felt something. For those who actively engaged: you experienced something. This episode is the perfect entry for fans looking to start down the path of what Evan Minto calls active viewing, or watching the show and asking questions to yourself. Questions like ‘Why were these colors used?’ and, ‘Why was the camera angled this way?’ or even ‘What about this animation makes me feel this way? What is it that gives me this emotion?’. The answers may not have any objective aspect to them (that’s where research and learning more about the medium comes in), but they will be your answers. It is a higher process to interact with art.
CJ has done an amazing job analyzing the color theory of the show, and has answered ‘Why were these colors used?’. I will add my two cents and say that color coding the visuals made it easy for us to tap into the emotion instantly, but I want to focus on the camera movement. A perfect scene for this is when Cocona launches out of the room, emotionally distraught.
A static closeup lasts on screen for a full 3 seconds – a lifetime when it comes to editing, but we need the moment. The static shot allows us to focus on only one thing, Cocona. Cut to a gliding tracking shot, it’s composition: uneven, the angle: canted, an oppressive ceiling instills feelings of claustrophobia. The shot displays no emotion. Side tracking shots tend to read as unfeeling, their unmotivated camera movement continues regardless, inevitably leaving characters behind, and we understand as fact, ‘that’s just how things are’. But in the absence of active projected emotion we project onto the scene, we are left to imagine. It pulls us into our own feelings. As Cocona backs up, the camera matches her movements, swooping backwards. As she is taking a step back, the camera is too. Finally, as she falls into the hall the camera zooms out at a Dutch angle, accentuating the motion. As previously established, blue is the coded color of sorrow: this scene is quite litterally a fall into sorrow. As Cocona’s step moves towards the camera, there’s a zoom cut to establish her now making progress in her retreat. The slight jitter of the camera is enough to make us feel her run. As she runs, the background moves very little; Cocona’s progress to escape this overwhelming emotion is also very little.
Ask yourself, ‘What about this animation makes me feel this way? What is it that gives me this emotion?’.
Paintings and drawings are really just moments. Young Irodori spent all her time drawing pictures and painting moments, either historical happenings in her life or maybe an emotional state. Part of art is preserving a piece of life in some fashion, preserving a moment, and being able to share it with others. What hurts most of all is when we are unable to share these moments, our personal paintings. This is why Irodori put off using nail polish for so long. Once she shared her moments with Cocona and Papika she was able to paint the greatest canvas of all – herself.