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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.