Weekly Motion Cannon: Flip Flappers Episode 10

Don’t miss an episode! You can watch Flip Flappers on Crunchyroll!

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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 | Episode 7 | Episode 8 | Episode 9


ibcf-smallibcf (@_ibcf_)

“To the writers’ credit, I can honestly say I didn’t see the ending coming.”

I’ll start with the good: Hidaka, the pink-haired scientist, finally gets his day in the sun. After being relegated to the sidelines for most of the show, he gets to have a useful role at last. His feverish grins, wild gesticulations, and sudden outbursts are easily the best part of this episode. I love the awesome blue lighting in his lab and the way his glasses reflect the code on the computer screens. A character who basically just presses buttons can be entertaining if he does it with this much enthusiasm and zest. I’m certain Hidaka will be assured a place alongside Hakase and Wattsman as one of anime’s most memorable mad scientists.

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With Studio Pablo gone, the backgrounds seem to pop out a little less than they used to, though the shades and textures are still detailed and moody. The overall style has remained the same, with rich, painterly schemes contrasting with spots of bright, vivid colors. It isn’t quite as visually inventive, but as far I can tell the new studio provides a reasonable facsimile of Pablo’s work.

There’s some decent bits of animation here and there, like the mechanical effects and explosions throughout the robot invasion, and the scene where Papika and Cocona fly through a series of collapsing metal corridors.  However, for the most part it’s pretty mediocre by the show’s own standards, especially coming after episode 9. The one exception is the scene towards the end where we see the world distorting through Cocona’s eyes. The mundane view of the floor, furniture, and Obaa-chan’s feet morphs into an abstract nightmare of shifting shapes and colors, punctuated by flashes of electric sparks. It’s a powerful depiction of emotional trauma and loss of consciousness; one wishes that the corresponding plot was on the same level.

This episode’s story is underwhelming, to say the least. After putting off dealing with the plot for most of the show, the writers now make up for it by pelting us with nonstop exposition. The revelations consequently feel rushed and unsatisfying, if not downright ludicrous. For instance: Toto and Yuyu inform Cocona that she has a fragment embedded in her leg, which she somehow never noticed, so as to reveal that Yayaka had selfish motives in the past. Cocona falls for their B.S., the fact that Yayaka had just sacrificed herself to save Cocona’s life notwithstanding. Not only is this a lazy excuse to move Cocona through the story beats, it also undermines the believability of her character. Other explanations drop out of the sky in similarly contrived ways. Apparently Papika has had amnesia up until now, which is a cheap way to explain her prior reluctance to answer vital questions. Likewise, the dream girl’s identity is revealed in an abrupt and disappointing manner.

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To the writers’ credit, I can honestly say I didn’t see the ending coming. Obaa-chan—evidently fed up with her lack of character development or relevance to the plot—attempts to bring the show to a swift and merciful end by selling her granddaughter out to the evil organization. Unfortunately, her plan is foiled when Cocona violently explodes, killing everyone in the vicinity except Cocona herself, who is then immediately possessed by the ghost of her dead mother (or possibly her grandmother, which would make sense in this context).

For all the answers this episode provides, there are still plenty of mysteries for the next few episodes to address, no doubt with more barrages of fast-paced exposition. Why hasn’t Papika aged over time? Who is the third ‘amorphous child’? What is with the evil organization acolytes dressing up like Klan members? And why did the creators bother to tack a convoluted plot onto a show that really didn’t need one? I enjoyed Flip Flappers most when it was pure episodic fun; it’s clear that the director’s heart isn’t in the dramatic narrative stuff. To quote Mark Twain, “never let the story get in the way of a good cartoon.”


JimmyGnomebiggerJimmy Gnome (@jimmygnome9)

“For me, dummy characters engaging in blank-faced drama with each other doesn’t make for a good time.”

I took a bit of a break from Flip Flappers shortly after it started moving in a new direction to see if I could approach it with a fresh mind, and so here we are at episode 10. Having caught up now I’ve come to terms with the fact that I misread the show. Being a huge fan of Oshiyama’s Space Dandy episode might have colored my impressions along with various similarities between Flip Flappers’ approach to narrative and the works of Kunihiko Ikuhara, a director whose shows I dearly love to dissect the minute details of, but this anime is absolutely different from either of those. Flip Flappers is a story of characters above all else, not of worlds or themes, and so it’s natural that this most recent episode places character backstory in the forefront of everything else. Still, it is an unfortunate realization that the series is far more conventional than I had initially believed.

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Judging Flip Flappers as a character drama is difficult. I’ve stood fast to my judgement of the main romance between Papika and Cocona being cold and unconvincing, and while the past few episodes have made some strides to remedy that I feel it might have been too late. It spent so much time on illusion after illusion that the shift to what would have been a disappointing plot twist episode in any other traditional series is made even more eye-rolling. It simply doesn’t feel heartfelt, there’s no soul to it. For me, dummy characters engaging in blank-faced drama with each other doesn’t make for a good time.

Furthermore, the twists this episode reach the point of offense. Perhaps you can somehow empathize with the hammy and clichéd laboratory specimen backstory, and if you’re particularly invested in Dr. Salt, who might as well have been an android or alien for all he’s worth, perhaps you’ll find value in finding out he was a well-meaning child. Perhaps learning why Pure Illusions happen is more important to some folks than experiencing them. It does seems to be the common consensus in the anime community that anything mysterious should be explained to the viewer no matter if revealing the mystery undermines what makes the concept interesting in the first place, and so here we are. But really, making Cocona’s grandma an agent of Asklespios is just lazy writing.

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I don’t believe there’s much of interest left to be found in this anime. For those of you who are able to invest in the character drama, I hope you enjoy it to the end, but for me personally it’s become one of the biggest disappointments this season.


fR2BruO4_biggerCJ Hitchcock (@cjhitchcock)

“It’s like the story and the animation are two completely different entities in this series, constantly fighting  with each other like siblings.”

As we begin to reach the series conclusion, Flip Flappers is starting to show more chinks in the armor. Once again, the problem comes down to its weak narrative and not enough support from its visuals to back it up. It surprises me how often this show flips between jaw-droppingly amazing to mind-numbingly dull. It’s like the story and the animation are two completely different entities in this series, constantly fighting  with each other like siblings. The animation is the older sibling who knows what’s best, while the story is the bratty younger sibling who won’t shut up and ruins the experience for everybody. Instead of melding together into one harmonious experience, we have to deal with one or the other. The only time these two have come together nicely is with episode 6, but besides that we’re either given this beautiful feast for the eyes with very little substance, or we have to deal with melodrama concerning Yayaka and her mixed feelings about loving Cocona and being a part of the cult.


The narrative is bland. While buried under these convoluted layers of techno babble and multiple personalities, it’s still a pretty basic science fiction story. Scientist are playing around with dimensional travel, they create a mess and they split into two warring fractions who are fighting over Cocona, the key to fixing the problem. Yayaka is a double agent who fell in love with her target, and Papika is the pure soul who wants to save Cocona from being used by either side. And that’s pretty much it. While Cocona and Papika are interesting characters, they’re stuck inside this poor excuse of a dime store novel.

The real shame is this is starting to feel like a missed opportunity. They established this perfect universe for going on all types of adventures, and instead of jumping on that, they decided to stay in reality. To go back to my sibling analogy, it’s like the animation and the story had two completely different goals when starting this project. The older sibling wanted to create a piece of art that could be both fun to experience and make you think and ponder. The younger sibling thinks it’s telling this really deep and complicated tale that’s never been told before, when really there are a dozen other stories like it. Instead of coming to a compromise, they just decide to do their own thing and create this very disjointed show. Which is a shame because I really like this show a lot, I just hate it’s story.

8 Comments

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  1. Ok, while I’m not going to talk about every part of this post that I dislike, I would like to say that for people who are paying so much attention to the visuals, you are really good at not understanding at all what is going on. Flip Flappers is not a convoluted story. It is in fact a very straightforward story, and has been so from the beginning.

    It however does not, in general, thrust these explanations in your face. But to completely misunderstand the final scenes of the episode just makes me think you weren’t paying attention at all.

    But what I would like to discuss is this:

    [quote] enjoyed Flip Flappers most when it was pure episodic fun; it’s clear that the director’s heart isn’t in the dramatic narrative stuff.[/quote]

    This is almost insulting to Oshiyama. Everything that has happened, all the things that are claimed to be confusing and out of nowhere have been almost painstakingly set up from the very first episode. To claim that Oshiyama isn’t interested in this “dramatic narrative” is to basically ignore half of his job. He’s not making this show just to wave around some fancy animation tricks and clever storyboarding, he’s telling an actual story. This story has been present the entire time, but you (collectively, I quoted ibcf but all three of you expressed similar objections) have been so laser focused on the animation that you’ve completely ignored what that animation was for.

    Now, was this episode as much of an “animation showcase” as previous episodes? Well, no. You could count that against the show, I suppose, but it demonstrates what seems to be a complete disinterest in engaging with the characters and story. Which fine, you don’t have to like the characters and story, but its almost risible to suggest that they are an afterthought to the animation.

    And yes, Flip Flappers is, and always has been, a story of characters. This is Cocona’s story. It has been Cocona’s story since the moment she looked up in to the sky and saw a girl flying by on a surfboard. There is no Flip Flappers without Cocona and Papika. To suggest this is a flaw, that the show should have just been a series of pretty set-pieces with no grounding in the characters is to ignore an entire facet of anime and animation as a medium.

    Flip Flappers is not perfect, there are things I would change about it (like a good chunk of episode 8…) but its doing something that virtually no other show, anime or otherwise, does. And it does it while looking spectacularly gorgeous and with incredible attention to detail and incidental world building.

    I may come off as somewhat curt and snippy in this post. I’m sorry. But I so completely disagree with the very foundation of your analysis of the episode and show. I think you are fundamentally wrong about everything but the explicitly visual analysis.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks for the comment! I admit to being kind of a nut when it comes to visuals. Yes, I prefer visual-oriented shows over story-centric ones. But I tried to give this episode its due. Good animation is good animation, even if it’s in service of a weak story. I talked about the visuals in part of my piece because I thought they were the strongest part of this episode. The other half of my piece addresses the story itself. If I have “disinterest in engaging with the characters and story,” it’s because I think they’re poorly written. I’m not confused by what’s actually happening in the plot, I’m just baffled by the show’s creative decisions. If Flip Flappers really is a story of characters (I know it’s trying to be), why is there so little character acting? Why are Cocona and Papika almost devoid of characterization beyond the most formulaic stereotypes? Do Dr. Salt, Sayuri, or Hidaka strike you as complex characters? How about the twins? Obaa-chan? The pervert robot? Even Yayaka’s a fairly typical tsundere. You say I’ve been ignoring the story in favor of the animation, but you haven’t countered any of my specific points.

      I felt from the start that the show had saddled itself with a potentially clunky story. I don’t see how the evil organization or the science fiction backdrop contribute anything of value. They didn’t need to set the stakes so high to make the story interesting. The show’s time could have been better spent focusing solely on Cocona and Papika, and maybe giving them some personality. I would’ve preferred to see a simple, low-key fantasy adventure as the show seemed to promise early on, like “the moment [Cocona] looked up in to the sky and saw a girl flying by on a surfboard.” If the whole show was like the scene you described, I would’ve enjoyed it a lot more.

      If you enjoy the show as it is, that’s fine. I don’t want to spoil that for you. I wish I could like it more, but I have to express my honest opinion.

      Liked by 1 person

      • >If Flip Flappers really is a story of characters (I know it’s trying to be), why is there so little character acting? Why are Cocona and Papika almost devoid of characterization beyond the most formulaic stereotypes? Do Dr. Salt, Sayuri, or Hidaka strike you as complex characters? How about the twins? Obaa-chan? The pervert robot? Even Yayaka’s a fairly typical tsundere.

        First of all, there is plenty of character acting. Its not like, KyoAni level, but literally nothing else is. Papika’s almost entirely been defined by character acting from the very beginning, and the shift in that acting in episodes 9 and 10 (as well as 11) has been noticeable and important.

        Cocona has similarly consistent (though more subdued) character acting, and episode 11 features a shift in it for Reasons.

        As for that list, no. Sayuri and Hidaka are not complex characters, neither is grandma or the twins or literally anyone but Cocona, Papika and Yayaka, really. Every character in a show doesn’t have to be deep and nuanced. To even throw that out there is either highly disingenuous or demonstrates a shocking lack of understanding in how stories are told.

        Salt is an interesting case. He is very deliberately under-characterized and under-used, specifically to bring us to this episode. Cocona has largely ignored Salt, and Papika similarly has very little interest in him. And since they are our viewpoints for something like 95% of the show, he’s just not important. Until suddenly now he is. We didn’t need to learn more of him before now, because he’s a plot device. The story isn’t about him past him being Cocona’s father, but as we will see next time, that doesn’t really give him any special right to deal with what has happened. his fuckups lead to this situation, but he’s not the one who’s going to fix it.

        We’ll leave the twins and NyuNyu aside since their roles are still unclear, but they aren’t fully realized characters, but they are enough to make their actions in any given situation clear and understandable. Episode 9 should be proof enough of that.

        But this show only has three fully realized characters, Cocona, Papika(na) and Yayaka. To be honest I have trouble responding to how you describe them because it is so entirely outside my experiences with them. From the very start the show has carefully used its art and animation to reflect Cocona’s mental state. Her feeling trapped by her life, but then scared when Papika shows up to offer her a ride into adventure. She’s shy and withdrawn, but wants to open up. But she’s scared. She’s scared she’ll be hurt. She lashes out at Papika, verbally (episodes 1 and 2), physically (episode 3), she blames her for messing up her life (episode 4) but Papika is still there, believing in Cocona. Papika’s belief in Cocona starts to bring her out of her shell. She starts to believe she does in fact have self worth. (Believe in me who believes in you etc etc you know the routine)

        But its fragile. Always fragile. Papika told Cocona she loves her. Explicitly. Not with hints or dodges, but with those very words. Cocona doesn’t believe she’s worth loving. Episode 5 traps them in an eternal loop of endless ~friendship~, “romantic” but in a safe, pure way. Episode 6 has them experiencing a woman who’s all alone, rejected by society for being different. How? Why? Well, they don’t say, but its fairly obvious what the implications are. Cocona becomes completely absorbed as Iro, her sense of self almost vanishing. While Papika maintains much more self-awareness. Episode 6 is a nightmare for Cocona, one that she overcomes with Papika, who has promised to always be by her side.

        Episode 7, Cocona is rattled by what they did to Iroha. She realizes that their adventures in Pure Illusion have real impact on the world. She rejects Papika again, scared. She ends up having to confront many Papikas, all of which are Papika, but not the whole Papika. Not the Papika she needs, the Papika she’s beginning to love.

        I could go on, but lets talk more about Papika. Papika seems to be a “Manic Pixie Dream Girl”, but thats sorta missing the point. Papika is everything Cocona isn’t. She’s outgoing and bold. She believes in herself and she believes in Cocona. Why does she believe in Cocona? Why does she love Cocona? Well, its not because she loved Mimi. The way Papika talks to Cocona in the present is very different from how she talked to Mimi in the past. There are similarities, of course, but there is an intimacy that wasn’t there with Mimi. Thats why Mimi is her “Taisetsu no Tomodachi” while Cocona is the one she loves.

        Dismissing Papika as just hyperactive and annoying, to say she has no characterization, it ignores virtually everything she has said and done for the entire series. Papika is honest. She always, always says what she means. She isn’t going to equivocate or dissemble. Go back and look at how Papika interacts with people. Not just with Cocona. People like her almost immediately. She’s fun and outgoing. She makes friends. She gets a little confused on details sometimes, but she’s not dumb. She can tell when Cocona is upset, though she doesn’t always recognize the cause.

        But then we learn about the past. How she’s really “Papikana”. In this episode she’s regained her memories. She remembers everything about her past, about Mimi, about Salt and about Cocona. She wants to tell Cocona, she tries. But for the first time since perhaps episode 1 we really see her scared. She’s scared that what she has to say will make Cocona sad. But she tells her anyway. Because she can’t not do it. She needs Cocona to understand. But Cocona doesn’t. For many reasons. Because Cocona is sad. Because she’s scared. Because she’s hurt.

        Why is she hurt? She’s hurt because her entire life is a lie. Literally everyone around her has been lying to her. Even Yayaka.

        Yayaka. Yayaka, sent to spy and observe Cocona but ending up falling in love. Yayaka who declares time and time again that Cocona and Papika are too weak to do what is necessary, but who herself is terrified of what she has to do. Yayaka, who lacks the powers of the Amorphous Children, and who similarly lacks the skills of Papika and Cocona. The only reason she still has a purpose is her connection to Cocona. A connection that she can never reveal, because she knows it will make Cocona hate her.

        So she watches. Watches as Papika comes and steals Cocona away. The Cocona she’s always loved and admired. But when it comes down to it, she wants to be a part of it. She wants to join with Cocona and Papika, but her own pride and fear stops her. And when the chips are down, and she must make a decision, whether she will follow the words she espouses or what she feels in her heart, she chooses her heart. She chooses the girl who would reject her as soon as she learns the truth, over the duty she’s lived her entire life for. She chooses because she has no other choice.

        >I don’t see how the evil organization or the science fiction backdrop contribute anything of value. They didn’t need to set the stakes so high to make the story interesting. The show’s time could have been better spent focusing solely on Cocona and Papika, and maybe giving them some personality.

        The mysterious society is irrelevant. Its window dressing. So is the FlipFlap organization. These could be almost anything. They are the connective tissue holding the characters together. They don’t get much focus because they don’t deserve much focus. Episode 11 will make this clear. To focus on them is to entirely miss the point.

        Other than the three girls, the only other character who truly matters, in an emotional sense, is Mimi. But that is a discussion for another time.

        Liked by 2 people

    • “This is almost insulting to Oshiyama.”

      Disagree.
      That it’s the story, the story was made up by Oshiyama, but not necessary is the most important part of the whole. Could be a “necessary annoyance” he had to make for the rest of the show to exist. I’m not saying that it is true, but could be in a anime like FlipFlap were the teasing was so much more fun and interesting.
      I like all that tease, all the “creativity” (even borrowing so much), but I was not liking were all of that was going and I’m hating it now. “It’s dumb”, “when they start explaining they don’t do a good job”, “this premise or that conflict was abandoned”, and so on.
      This episode game me a very bad feeling and the next one… It’s a disaster.
      Oshiyama made a mistake in dedicating a whole episode for the backstory, one that wasn’t so interesting as it seemed, and one that was not every well told with plenty of holes and incoherencies.
      FlipFlap will end as “Friendship and Love conquers all”, after all.

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  2. I totally disagree with the takes presented here. I think episode ten is fairly strong if you’re (a) invested in the characters and (b) have been paying attention to how they have seeded most of these revelations. They’ve shown the fragment in Cocona’s leg before, alluded to Papika’s amnesia, all but told us Yayaka’s meeting with Cocona was for the purposes of surveillance, and, during the course of the episode I found it pretty easy to put together that Mimi was Cocona’s mother and she was sealed inside the fragment in her leg. The only real shocker among the revelations presented here was grandma, and I don’t think we’ve seen that thread to its conclusion (same with the artist girl). I agree w/ Jimmy about not giving a shit about Salt, though.

    It seems a bit churlish to take the show to task for doling out narrative when complaints in the past were that it didn’t do this enough to support romance or character drama. I wish it had done this earlier as well, but the show started down this path a couple of episode ago. If it continues to play out this way, essentially half its runtime will end up being devoted to character stories. Though there were a bunch of revelations, I’m not even sure you can accuse this episode of being particularly info-dumpy.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for the feedback! I actually did want to see the show get back to its narrative, kind of. I thought episode 9 was a step in the right direction; the events unfolded naturally through the animation and the actions of the characters. But this episode was a mess. It seemed rushed and disinterested. The characters merely went through the motions dictated by the plot. Cocona and Papika’s behavior didn’t feel remotely human or believable to me. I wasn’t surprised by the revelations (expect for robogranny), but I was disappointed by the way they played out. Like the fragment in Cocona’s leg—how did she not realize it earlier? It would have been more interesting to see her discover it herself and have time to deal with the personal ramifications. Papika having amnesia—I knew it was likely to be the case, but I wanted to believe the writers could come up with something better. How much more intriguing could her character have been if she kept secrets from Cocona of her own free will? Mimi being Cocona’s mother, well apparently all Mysterious Dream Girl had to do this whole time was turn her head. And they put it right at the beginning of the episode for some reason. So much for a dramatic reveal. The whole dimensional travel/child experimentation backstory is just a load of tired science fiction cliches. And Cocona’s grandma being a robot, well, that was just dumb.

      So why did I criticize the show for having too much story when I complained about the opposite before? As CJ says, Flip Flappers really feels like two different shows. It seems like Kiyotaka Oshiyama’s natural urge is to create a self-contained, visual-heavy work that’s light on plot. I don’t just say that because of my personal preferences; I think it’s evident from the show itself. If you took away all the continuing story elements, the first 8 or so episodes could stand pretty well by themselves. The whole premise with the evil organization literally does feel tacked on. It’s easy to imagine a more elegant show without all the extraneous additions. Do the fantasy worlds need an explanation? Do Cocona and Papika even need a backstory? Since the creators decided they did, I hoped they’d at least commit to the idea. As you said, they’d already planted the seeds of the story early on, and they needed to make progress towards resolving them quickly (13 episodes isn’t a lot of time). If they could’ve delivered a narrative that justified the complications, sure it’d be worth it. But I’m sorry to say what I’ve seen so far hasn’t impressed me.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I guess it never felt rushed for me, mainly because all this has been seeded so well. The only moment I needed time to digest was grandma. The rest, as each thing was revealed or talked about, I was saying “More! Give me more!” The pace of it felt really good to me.

        I also think this episode had some good character acting. It was packed with emotion, to the point that I was anything but disinterested. The next episode ups the ante in this department.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Episode ten troubled me the same way as episode two did, though less so. I never quite bought Cocona’s sudden revulsion of Pure Illusion in the latter and here her rejection of Papika in particular comes across as artificial. The show does so much right in showing, not telling how Cocona feels and changes that when it fails to do so it stands out like a sore thumb.

    On the other hand, many of the revelations this episode had been carefully planted, like the fragment in Cocona’s leg, first shown iirc in episode 3, again shown in episode 9 when Yayaka was prepared to dig it out.

    On the gripping hand, Cocona should perhaps not have been so shocked by Yayaka’s secret as she should’ve seen it coming ever since she knew Yayaka travelled to Pure illusion too.

    Like

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