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Episode 1 | Episode 2 | Episode 3 | Episode 4 | Episode 5 | Episode 6 | Episode 7 | Episode 8 | Episode 9
“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.
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.
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.”
Jimmy 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.
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.
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.
CJ 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.