[Synopsis]: Cocona (Takahashi Minami), an ordinary and reserved schoolgirl, one day has her world turned upside down after meeting a carefree girl named Papika (Ichimichi Mao) who spirits her away to a strange and abstract dimension known as Pure Illusion. Because the two girls can only travel to Pure Illusion when together, Cocona becomes involved with Papika and the enigmatic organization known only as Flip Flap. On their behalf, Cocona and Papika partake in bizarre and fantastic adventures in search of the amorphous fragments said to be capable of granting wishes.
While Flip Flappers spends the bulk of its time busying itself with far more obscure and fanciful concepts than those presented by its characters, the modest cast of the show is none the less integral to its atmosphere and identity. The two central characters of Cocona and Papika speak to this quality most specifically. They themselves aren’t terribly complex or intricate however, in their minimalism, they offer such a charming and endearing core to the show. You don’t need to be a complex character to offer significant, thematic relevance.
This is clear by the first episode in how it introduces the viewer to the two girls. Cocona appears utterly mundane and trapped within the schedule of her daily routine whereas Papika is illustrated as being wild, carefree, and soaring high on her hoverboard – the quintessential image of freedom. From the very first episode it feels as if the two characters come from different worlds and this is one of the many elements that make their subsequent journeys into Pure Illusion so endearing.
Flip Flappers boasts an impressive array of themes, subtext, homages, and interweaving visual details but at the very heart of its narrative is a surreal coming-of-age story centering around Cocona. While characters like Papika are simplistic yet memorable because of their endearing and peculiar nature, Cocona’s own simplicity can best be attributed to her own lack of identity. This is one of her core traits and a great deal of Flip Flappers is spent extrapolating upon this through various psychological themes and developments. The story places a heavy emphasis on Cocona’s own self-image – what she means to herself and what she means to others which is why her relationship with Papika revolves so closely around the ideas of friendship and individuality. While Flip Flappers somewhat hamstrings its presentation of Cocona’s otherwise very intellectually compelling character arc near the end, it does offer a through line which the viewer can use to orient themselves within the ambiguity and fantasy of Flip Flappers’ story.
Cocona and Papika aside, the rest of the cast is roughly just as visually distinct and memorable though they don’t carry nearly as much significance in respect to the story. Yayaka is perhaps the sole exception to this because she steadily grows into her own character arc however her story is more self-contained than the rest of Flip Flappers’ more interlaced ideas and subjects. Characters like Hidaka, Sayuri, and Bu-chan really lend themselves well to the idiosyncratic atmosphere of Flip Flappers but where they falter and where the rest of the supporting cast falters is in there total non-relevance as the show reaches its conclusion. Characters like Toto and Yuyu are left feeling under-explored and purposeless despite Flip Flappers setting them and other characters up for something more. It doesn’t fully compromise their worth but it is very explicitly apparent that they could have been greater than they were.
The cornerstone of Flip Flappers‘ presentation is doubtlessly its stunning visual style. On every level, the art design of the show is spectacular and not only presents inventive and beautiful imagery but does so in such a way that each visual element feeds into Flip Flappers’ own greater interpretative content. While nearly ever-present, this prowess becomes most evident in its exploration of the fantastic and bizarre realm of Pure Illusion – a multi-dimensional amalgamation of unique worlds each gifted with their own distinct aesthetic and denizens. Flip Flappers’ creative vision can be seen no clearer than in these vastly different worlds ranging from dry, sand-covered wastelands to candy-colored, surrealist landscapes, and futuristic cities.
But this artistry doesn’t nearly encompass what Flip Flappers is about. Flip Flappers is defined not by its bright and flashy aesthetics but by its complexity and subtext and this too manifests within the show’s visuals. The frequent use of optical illusions and symbolic imagery both supports the dreamlike design of Pure Illusion while hinting at something more sinister beneath the surface. Though ubiquitous, these ominous qualities aren’t enough to distract from the show’s bright arrangement and whimsy. They are dark, suggestive, and disconcerting but they don’t steal the viewer’s attention away or disrupt the flow of each episode. Their unsettling nature goes hand in hand with Flip Flappers’ thematic complexity and various visual metaphors that make the show so interpretative and engaging. Along with these elements are a variety of artistic homages to movies, other shows, and famous artworks that each add another playful implication to the proceedings and further accentuate Flip Flappers’ creative vision.
To top it all off, Flip Flappers’ features some truly incredible animation. Fight sequences are more frequent than one might expect and between the thrilling animation and great choreography, they offer a significant visual strength to the show all on their own. The animation is just as expressive and inventive as the show’s other visual elements. The art quality, while incredibly crisp and consistent for the better part of the show, wavers in its final episodes. The flashy animation sequences aren’t as clear cut, the character design quality takes a noticeable dip in places, and the newer aesthetic elements don’t match well with what Flip Flappers introduced before. This significant drop in quality is one of several contributing factors that damaged the conclusion of the show.
What Flip Flappers is actually about is quite straightforward and that’s primarily because of how heavily it leans on its premise. Cocona and Papika undertake grand adventures in Pure Illusion in order to collect amorphous fragments for Flip Flap and its leader, Dr. Salt. The reason for Flip Flappers’ narrative simplicity is two-fold. Firstly, while it is not an episodic show and very frequently concerns itself with a more cryptic, overarching narrative, each episode of Flip Flappers is unlike the last. Each excursion into Pure Illusion has its own unique tone and feel. Some episodes are sentimental and emotionally-driven whereas others are fast-paced, and full of action and drama. This depends a great deal on just what kind of world it is that the girls venture into but the proceedings often mirror the inner turmoil of the characters as well. The way in which Pure Illusion reflects upon the characters and the characters reflect upon Pure Illusion is one of the many psychological and interpretative elements of the show.
The second reason for Flip Flappers’ straightforward narrative is because of just how subtextually loaded it is. The show juggles countless questions all throughout its run. What is the true nature of Pure Illusion? What are these amorphous fragments? What does Flip Flap want with them and what do those who seek the fragments aim to accomplish? Flip Flappers is very guarded with its mysteries and implications and it isn’t until the very end that many things become clear. It continuously eludes to certain ideas and themes through foreshadowing and provocative imagery but is very slow to actualize its answers. This approach works very well for the bulk of its run because Flip Flappers isn’t so much about its secrets as it is about the expressive and inventive content that surrounds them. Themes of adolescence, sexuality, happiness, and self-perception arise all throughout the story and not only create their own abstract dialogue within themselves but speak to Cocona’s journey as well.
For the greater part of its run, Flip Flappers handled itself delicately. Each episode featured a new adventure into a strange and abstract world and the meat of the show resided in its themes and character interactions. As the show neared its conclusion and it came time to pull back the curtain on many of its more cryptic story elements, justify its more ominous imagery, and bring its themes to a head – it fell apart. To be clear, it’s not that the mysteries and reveals didn’t make sense or that they weren’t good for the story. It was their presentation that was lacking. Information was provided in great, sweeping, flourishes of exposition, the newly realized antagonistic force of the show lacked any and all of Flip Flappers’ previous subtlety, and the visual quality of the show took a noticeable dive compared to what came before.
Up until this point, Flip Flappers was exceptional and different and suddenly it found itself resolving each of its story elements in a far too conventional and unfamiliar way. At the very least, the ending is thematically conclusive and several of the themes associated with Cocona’s characterization find their way home but the way it is all achieved lacks the original nuance and artistry that made Flip Flappers so clever and engaging. Though several aspects of its final 3 episodes were redeemable, the story simply lost its sense of direction. The majority of the cast fell out of relevance, some of the dialogue felt awkward, and a handful of the developments seemingly didn’t even obey the rules set in place by Flip Flappers’ world building. It was a rather disappointing ending to what could have been one of the most creative and visually engaging shows of the past few years though, by itself, the ending doesn’t nearly eclipse just how remarkable and imaginative the show was.
The soundtrack was quite strong. In every way that Pure Illusion was adventurous, strange, and fantastical, so too was the music. The soundtrack was fun, dramatic, intense, sentimental, and all the things it needed to be to support each tonal curve of Flip Flappers’ presentation and story.
[Final Thoughts and Rating]:
Flip Flappers was really a wonderful show. Every episode promised something new and exciting and practically every facet of its presentation fed into a highly engaging, interpretative, subtext. I don’t think that there’s any question that the final 3 episodes compromised the show but I think what they are more guilty of than anything is a resounding lack of elegance and creativity rather than their content itself being intrinsically bad. For some viewers, the ending of Flip Flappers will detract more from the show than for others and its easy to see why because of how many story elements seem to lose their way before the end. Whether you ultimately enjoy the show will hinge upon how appealing you find Flip Flappers’ various abstractions and concepts as well as to what degree you think its conclusion lives up to the rest of the show.
I gave Flip Flappers an 8 because of its impressive creativity, visual prowess, and layered meanings that kept it feeling invigorating and complex at every turn. Cocona and Papika were a wonderfully fun pair of characters, Pure Illusion was a fascinating visual and metaphorical construct, and the raw creativity of the story and its themes was exceptional. The ending of the show certainly stunts its rating compared to what it could have been but I think a lot of Flip Flappers’ value is so intrinsically possessed and episodically self-contained that even a poor conclusion doesn’t fully depreciate its quality.
I would recommend Flip Flappers to those who often enjoy more interpretative works, experimental visual styles, or creativity. It’s a very colorful and adventurous show and should appeal to anyone looking for something whimsical and different. The animation is consistently pretty incredible and so if that’s your thing, then definitely check it out.