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Be sure to check out the write-ups for prior episodes!
Episode 1 | Episode 2 | Episode 3 | Episode 4 | Episode 5 | Episode 6
Jimmy Gnome (@jimmygnome9)
“For an anime that seemed so focused on artistry … this week is a definite misstep.”
After coming off an ambiguous, visually-driven episode last week Flip Flappers episode 7 is jarringly straightforward. Much of what made the previous episode so interesting is how deeply it could be read into, but this episode starts with a complete explanation of what exactly happened afterword. What’s more is that it characterizes Iroha’s development that was perceived by Cocona and Papika as a problem that needs to be solved, effectively putting a stake in my personal interpretation of the events. What we are left to observe is another attempt to bring meaning to Cocona and Papika’s flat and unconvincing relationship, the piece that doesn’t quite seem to fit in with the series’ visual language yet manages to find itself in focus more often that it should be. This is Flip Flappers’ Achilles’ heel, it never decides to fully dedicate do any single quality enough to give itself meaning beyond its often brilliant production, and for episodes such as this that aren’t much to write home about in terms of animation, I’m left wondering why it was even produced in the first place.
The story is the most cliché we’ve seen so far: Cocona is presented with a variety of fake Papikas represented by goofy character archetypes and is tasked with enduring temptation and finding the true version of her friend. The issue with this premise for this particular anime is that practically all of these fakes are more interesting than the real thing and only serve to emphasize how flatly characterized Papika is and how little chemistry she has with Cocona. The interactions of these girls seem so insincere that it’s difficult to even picture them as close friends, much less lovers like the show would have you believe.
Furthermore, this episode is the least imaginative yet from the standpoint of world design and animation. While I wouldn’t call it badly produced, it rarely uses its visuals to interesting effect. The sets are standard, there are occasionally pretty layouts, and the only interesting cut is Toya Oshima’s ten second rocket ship blastoff at the end. For an anime that seemed so focused on artistry at the beginning of this season, this week is a definite misstep.
Flip Flappers struggles to balance its visuals and narrative when it might have been best to simply choose one or the other and develop from there. If Oshiyama had wanted to carry the tradition of Space Dandy and showcase the talents of young animators, perhaps he should have decided on a less-intrusive plot with less rigid restrictions. If he had wanted to give a message, he should have dedicated to those ideas by now. As much as I’ve loved this series, it needs a clearer direction to move forward.
The Subtle Doctor (@TheSubtleDoctor)
“…each individual episode remains engaging on its own terms.”
Though Flip Flappers’ disconnected narrative experimentation makes me feel like the creators are more concerned with the functions the characters play as idea-conveying devices than with their progression over the life of the story, each individual episode remains engaging on its own terms. This week’s provides us with not only a metric ton of food for thought but also one of the most iconic moments in a series chock-full of them already. But, the show has a bit of a different feel to it this time out. Pure Illusion is strangely ordinary: it is basically a version of contemporary Japan. Typically, the settings and/or inhabitants of the ever-changing wonderland serve as symbols to communicate concepts or themes, so the lack of the fantastical leads me to believe the viewer should focus on the characters themselves. Flip Flappers makes this easy by physically manifesting a certain internal aspect of Papika and having Cocona confront her feelings on the matter.
Cocona loses Papika during the jump to Pure Illusion, and, while looking for her, encounters a host of beings‒male and female‒who both are and are not Papika. They each have the appearance of Papika, but, since something is off about them, Cocona treats them…well she vacilates between treating them as strangers and friends. Even though each of these appearances looks and behaves in a unique manner, unlike the Papika Cocona knows, they all still appear to be Papika. Seeing each of these but not the person who she knows to be her friend frustrates Cocona. At the end of the night, both she and not-Papika-but-still-Papika flop onto a bed and have an intensely interesting, if brief, conversation.
We learn that Papika and Cocona love in different ways. Cocona believes she loves Papika, but she is thinking about love in a sort of containing way, a limited and selfish way. For Cocona, love is predicated on knowledge, and therefore, on her as the knower; she loves Papika as Papika has appeared before her. It is the Papika she knows, in this moment, in this relation with her; that is who Cocona loves. However, the human self, the subject “I,” exists mostly independent of other human knowers, like the larger part of an iceberg beneath the surface of arctic waters. What protrudes from the surface at one time may be different than what does so at another. These appearances may even come into conflict with one another, but they are all still part (projections?) of a single self.
The piece(s) of the iceberg we can see won’t stay the same forever. It will change or erode over time. And, so will Cocona, the knowing subject in her love relation to Papaika. Both will inevitably become different from the girls they were and the girls they knew each other to be. Well, how is love possible, then, in such a changing world? Papika applies another approach. No matter how the appearances of Cocona’s self change, Papika has decided to remain in love with her. Cocona will become other than the Cocona Papika knows, but Papika choses to make a sort of blind leap, a decision based on faith she has in both Papika and herself. Come what may, Papika will love what lies beyond the bounds of knowing. She can’t completely know who it is she loves, but she has decided to embrace all parts that appear before her in an effort to move a bit closer to what lies beneath the arctic waters.
CJ Hitchcock (@cjhitchcock)
“This part of the story is completely unnecessary..”
As much as I love this show, whenever the show tries to introduce a plot, it starts to lose me. This episode we discover that Cocona and Papika’s trip into Irodori’s past has altered Irodori’s personality slightly. More or less, their interactions in the Pure Illusion have consequences in the real world. This part of the story is completely unnecessary, mostly because I could give a flying toss about what’s happening in reality. Everyone outside of Cocona and Papika are complete throw away characters who’s only purpose is to give vague explanations for what’s going on and to act as pointless antagonists. If bad things happen and it doesn’t effect either of our two heroines, I do not care. Well I take that back, I like Uexhull, but I admit it’s mostly because I wanna cuddle with the little fuzz ball.
I actually really liked the Pure Illusion aspect of this episode. Cocona discovers she’s completely alone in her home town. The only person she comes across is Papika, who’s appearance and personality is constantly shifting. Papika will appear as a little sister in one scene and a bosozoku in the next (quick aside, if I don’t see Bosozoku Papika cosplay come next year, I’ll riot). Everything comes to a head in a final scene where Cocona is confronted and asked to define what her feelings are for Papika. Before I dive into my feelings about that, I do want to say how much I love the concept of this episode. Basically, it’s a dream about a lover constantly trying to change who they are in order to appeal towards the person they love the most. Even though the shift in personality might better fit a mood, it’s a dishonest front and at the end of the day, your lover should be looking for you, not some false act that was trying to impress them.
Honestly, I like Cocona’s and Papika’s relationship, they bounce off each other well. The way Papika seems to have unquestionable faith and devotion in Cocona is cute to watch. I’d like to think their relationship is built off of mutual respect for each other instead of one trying to get into the other’s pants. I’m glad the show decided to come out and say Papika loves Cocona, and Cocona being unsure how she feels; that feels real. It’s extremely rare that both people in a relationship are head-over heels for each other from the get-go. I don’t believe in the assumption that two characters love each other because they’re close. Relationships are more complicated than that. I kinda have a feeling I might get labeled as a guy who needs to be hit with a dump truck that says, “They’re gay!” Before I actually catch on, but I just don’t like to make assumptions and make leaps of logic when the show doesn’t want me to think in that direction.
“ The animation is mostly pedestrian…”
This feels like a breather episode after the intense ride last week. We finally get a bit of explanation of what exactly Pure Illusion is: it sounds like it’s basically a world of imagination, which would explain the pastiche of different stories and genres we’ve seen so far. This time it is an alternate reality where all the people are missing, but water, electricity, and mass transit still work (possibly another Beautiful Dreamer parallel). Cocona meets different versions of Papika that resemble stereotypical anime characters, which gives voice actor M·A·O a good chance to show off her versatility. She successfully pulls of both male and female versions of Papika, each with their own specific quirks. As silly and cliched as the concept is, it’s still pretty fun to watch.
Studio Pablo’s backgrounds are once again the star, emphasizing the emptiness of the world with views of vacant sidewalks and streets. There are some nice layouts like the shot of Cocona from inside a car and the overhead views of the street crossing and train station. The gorgeous shots of the stairs and wood carvings at the shrine are another highlight. There’s one scene in a train that has really cool lighting effect, with the background colors and angles of the shadows subtly changing to show the passage of time.
The animation is mostly pedestrian, the one exception being the sequence where Cocona is almost swallowed by a black hole. There’s some fun drawings of the world being sucked into the void like viscous fluid. The effects and perspective work on Cocona’s fluttering hair and clothes is also neat.
I like how Cocona and Yayaka have sort of maintained their real world friendship. Yayaka apparently isn’t above leaving Cocona stranded in Pure Illusion, but she still seems to care for her classmate to some degree. I wish Yayaka got more screentime—in a series where most of the characters are essentially one-note, she is refreshingly complex.
I’m a little concerned that there are still so many unanswered questions at this point in the show. With the exception of Yayaka, I don’t have any better sense of who the characters are than I did in the first episode—who is Papika, exactly? Why is Dr. Salt after the fragments? What is the evil organization after? How is Cocona related to all this? My fear is that the finale will have to rush all the explanations at once, which could be detrimental to the pacing and leave the plot feeling kind of thin.
So after thinking about this all day I’m really not particularly impressed by the analysis on display here. I understand that the focus of these articles is more on craft than the overarching “plot” or “characters”, but by basically blithely ignoring what the episode is doing, you are doing a disservice to the craft at hand.
This episode is, absolutely, much less overtly impressive than any of the others. And certainly more than the spectacles seen in episodes 3, 5 and 8. But those episodes aren’t spectacles for their own sake, they exist, just as this episode does, to push forward what the show is actually doing. Telling the story of Cocona’s growth and self-actualization.
This episode is much more subtle than any of the others, and also much more straightforward, though somehow none of you actually addressed this outright. @TheSubtleDoctor and @CJHitchcock came closest, but still danced around it.
In this episode we are, more directly than even episode 1, inside Cocona’s head. We are directly dealing with what she finds is pressing on her more than anything else. What is it? Well, its not her ‘future’, its not what happened with Iroha-senpai (which by the way the show does not at all suggest that what happened is a problem that needs to be solved, in fact I would say that the exact opposite is what the show is conveying), instead she is overwhelmingly concerned with her feelings for Papika.
Putting aside what you think of the relationship, this is the most straightforward the show has ever been. Everything about this episode is laser focused on this one point. The more subdued animation, that only picks back up when Papika herself makes a return and the gorgeous, yet devoid of life settings. Devoid of any life but Cocona and the piece of Papika she’s interacting with.
Cocona confronts aspects of Papika. Each “Papika” she meets expresses a different way Cocona can relate to Papika. But for each one, Cocona finds them lacking. They are Papika, but they are not “her” Papika. This comes to a head with the final two Papikas. First there is an “ikemen” boy, who flusters Cocona but is at the same time rejected, much more firmly than any of the others. And then there is the final Papika. A literal succubus, she represents the thing Cocona is both most scared of, and desires the most.
She’s asked by this Papika “Do you love me?” and responds “As a friend?” This Papika is surprised, you could almost say offended, that Cocona would ask that. Cocona is asked if she wants to “play around”. Cocona clearly desires this Papika, but just as with the others, she’s not *her* Papika. Not the Papika she loves. She doesn’t love just one part of Papika, she loves all the parts of Papika. All the fragments she’s met in this Pure Illusion. Individually they are all lacking, but together they make up the Papika she loves. The Papika who is kind, the Papika who is daring, the Papika who is dangerous, the Papika who takes risks, the Papika who plays around, the Papika who entices her and the Papika Cocona desires. All of these are her Papika.
When she finds, or rather, is found, by Papika, her world lights back up. She escapes from a yawning void and sets off on another adventure with Papika. Their Hideout has become a Rocketship to take them wherever their hearts desire.
Cocona still may not have completely come to terms with her sexuality, but she knows that there is only one place to find her Papika. And that is by Papika’s side.
You can’t discuss this show without acknowledging that its much more than just some “yuri subtext”. This episode shouted its meaning for all to see. It pulled back on weird and wild art and animation to allow its message to shine through. Flip Flappers is not just a showcase of brilliant animation (though it frequently is) and its not just a place where surreal landscapes come to life (though they often do), its the story of a girl confronting who she is and who she will become.
To not discuss this aspect of the show, to just lukewarmly complain that its not being “ambitious” enough does it an enormous disservice. Almost no media has ever approached a queer girl coming of age as frankly as this one does. The amazing art and animation is almost just icing on the cake.
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You make excellent points and I very much agree with you. I actually had a bit cut from my section this week where I prefaced that I didn’t talk about the Yuri aspect of it because I’m bad at detecting romantic subtext in real life. I’ve had relationships go sour because I jumped to the wrong conclusion and I try my hardest not to repeat the same mistakes. Even when writing analysis on fiction, I don’t want to discredit myself. But you’re right, there is a chuck of this show about Cocona coming to terms with her sexuality and none of us committed on that in detail. Again, I avoided it because I didn’t want to be mistaken and misread their relationship.
There are two restrictions on Weekly Motion Cannon: space and scope. I elected to use my space to write about the scene that spoke to me. For me, that conversation was the most important thing from this episode and is the filter through which other events that took place in the episode became comprehensible to me. These columns are not meant to be comprehensive reviews but reactions to individual episodes, and writing about the thing that resonated most deeply with me was the best way to do justice to my reaction to this episode.
I am personally on board with much of your take on the show and, in fact, talk about the episode being about Cocona confronting her love for Papika in my reaction above. Moreover, I’m not sure that saying the characters are in love with one another is dancing around the matter. If, however, you do feel that I was intentionally burying the idea of the leads being gay, I apologize. That was not my intent; rather, I never thought to shout from the rooftops about something that seemed fairly obvious, if occasionally downplayed by the material itself. The idea of Papika’s love for Cocona contrasted with Cocona’s for Papika–as relayed by their conversation–seemed a far more interesting angle as well as an angle with a sharper focus on episode 7 (not to mention an angle that entails the characters’ being gay).
Thanks for the feedback! I’ve held off talking about the Yuri aspect because I’m not sure how I feel about the way the show is handling it. Like Jimmy says, it seems imbalanced. Cocona and Papika’s relationship just isn’t convincing to me. Maybe it’s too subtle or too clumsy, or a little of both. Their personalities seem thin; there’s not a lot of chemistry or believability. There’s some great visuals but they don’t have much to do with the characters. Besides that one scene of Iro’s parents in ep 6, the character acting has been pretty weak. It doesn’t help that Cocona is as charismatic as a dead fish. And what’s with the perverted stuff? It’s hard to take the show’s message seriously with those robot gropings and skeevy camera angles.
That said, it’s a beautifully produced series and I’d rather focus on the good. The art direction has been consistently excellent so far. I’m sure you’re right about what the story is aiming for, but I don’t think I’d enjoy it as much through that lens. I’m honestly more interested in Kiyotaka Oshiyama’s artistic growth than Cocona’s sexual growth.
@ibcf Could you talk more about how the fan service impedes your taking the message seriously? This isn’t an issue for me, so I’d like to try to figure out what’s happening there.
@TheSubtleDoctor It’s not a huge problem, it’s just one little thing that turns me off. I think it slightly cheapens the characters, like it objectifies and exploits them, makes them seem less like real people, almost as if the artists couldn’t find anything more interesting to do with them. It implies that the show doesn’t really respect the characters or their relationship. Which is what the story is supposed to be about.
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@ibcf OK, that make sense. I think I’ve become numb over time to a lot of the natural effects of this kind of thing because I don’t recall it being particularly exploitative (despite the peeping bot). I suppose my default mode of thinking is that an anime showcasing its characters sexuality isn’t automatically undercutting its themes regarding same. Highlighting the sexuality of characters coming into their own sexually doesn’t feel, at first blush, like the show disrespects them. But, I do see and respect your point of view, here. Thanks for following up!
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There is a long history of yuri being used as queerbaiting and fanservice in anime of course (cf. every other Slice of Moe show) and if the show is not above using other sorts of fanservice, it immediately undermines the confidence in it handling the Cocona + Papika romance because all those doubts about it just being fanservice or queerbaiting rise up again. Compare and contrast with Izetta the Last Witch which suffers from a much more severe case of this. It’s a symptom of laziness, or perhaps lack of confidence, when a show that looks like it attempts to do something more, actually has something to say about anime, falls back on the tired old fanservice toolkit.
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I think this is an issue which I need some help grasping @Martin
OK, say you’re watching an anime where there are a couple of hotties in a heterosexual romance. The anime showcases their sexuality. Say you’re a queer viewer who finds one of those characters sexy and enjoys them showing off their assets. The anime is serving you by doing this, (in addition to serving straight viewers who also happen to enjoy) but I wouldn’t say anything about the characters relationships is undermined because this is so. I see what’s going on in FliFla as this sort of thing, and I’m struggling to see the problem. If, instead, the problem is that show is being exploitative, I get it. But, it seems (correct me if I’m wrong) like you’re saying that fan service = fear of queer baiting. Do queer viewers mind fan service in these sorts of anime relationships?
The problem with seeing (arguably) heterosexual directed fanservice in a series which also seems to push a queer romance is twofold. First, it makes me wonder how serious the creators are actually taking this relationship, or whether it’s just there as a different sort of fanservice. Izetta makes a good comparison here, as a show which also is pushing its main female leads together but then spents an episode on them getting groped in the most stereotypical anime way possible. In short, is the queerness only there to titillate a straight audience?
Second is the matter of execution. If a show uses lazy fanservice — and episode eight with its school swimsuits and up the butt camera angles qualifies in spades –, how confident can you be it won’t cut corners with Cocon & Papika’s relationship?
In context I don’t think you can reasonably compare a hypothetical heterosexual relationship being undermined by gay fanservice because for both the audience and the creators such are much more easier to depict and accept explicitly. A recent example being how a certain segment of Yuri on Ice fandom was all too quick to pair Yuri with a just introduced five seconds before girl because they shared a meaningful look..
With gay or lesbian romance outside of explicit yuri or yaoi series, there’s always this ambiguity and all too often this isn’t resolved in favour of taking the romance seriously.
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Yeah, I just don’t think FliFla is comparable to Izetta in terms of catering to a straight audience or not taking its queer relationship seriously. We will see if the service in episode 8 was an ill omen, but that remains to be seen. I remain unconvinced by the argument that begins with “In context”. While I do think the bait and switch you’re talking about is a problem, I think we may be jumping at shadows in the case of FliFla. The leap from fan service to queer baiting is not one I’m quite ready to make.
Personally I feel like this is an enormous double-standard that doesn’t really do anything except further de-legitimize non-hetero relationships.
Literally no one would use the presence of fanservice in an anime with a hetero romance at its core to suggest that the relationship isn’t actually real or valid. Its hard to even phrase this in a way that makes sense because its so incredibly impossible!
Yes, “queer-baiting” is an issue, and Izetta and certain other shows this season can be accused of it to one extent or another, but to level it at Flip Flappers is to basically entirely disregard everything the show has done for its first 7 episodes.
I would probably prefer a bit less service (that pan up Cocona in episode 4 was highly gratuitous, and episode 8…well I’ll get to that in its thread) but you cant’ have a sexual awakening without sex. And this episode’s pivotal scene revolved entirely around sexual desire. And, its worth noting, was sexy without being excessive in any way. Papina was distinctly sexier than the real Papika, but you would have to do extreme amounts of stretching to say that that scene was “fanservicey”
Is the show 100% perfect? No. But to try and de-legitimize its Actual Core Point because it has an arbitrarily too large amount of fanservice is pretty bad.
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To be clear, I’m not denying the reality of Cocona and Papika’s romance, unless the show gives me reason to. it’s just that the fanservice makes me a little bit more wary than I otherwise would be.
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Gotcha @Martin. This seems sensible. Let’s hope the worst doesn’t come to pass.