Flip Flappers – Episode 2

Flip Flappers’ second episode begins with Cocona waking up in her bed, as if her adventure with Papika were all some strange dream. The sequence of shots here directly echoes the last time she woke up, further emphasizing the unreality of the moment – and even her glasses are intact. But beyond just casting doubt on the reality of the previous episode, this opening’s sequence of precisely repeated shots emphasizes Cocona’s sense of complacency in this life. In comparison with the first episode’s dreary tone, the frightening excitement of Pure Illusion now makes her everyday life seem like a kind of comfort.

And then Papika arrives, and so much for all that.

The next act of Flip Flappers’ second episode mostly involves Cocona repeatedly denying Papika’s various advances. What we learn of Papika’s character comes through in small, incidental details. Like in the first episode, Papika seems to be a person who learns through doing, and who second-guesses almost nothing. That doesn’t mean she’s fundamentally stupid or inconsiderate (she’s clearly worried about Cocona, for one thing), but from Cocona’s perspective, that doesn’t really matter. Journeying to Pure Illusion scared Cocona deeply, and as we see in her attempts to maintain normalcy here, Cocona is fearful of anything that threatens her everyday life.

After repeatedly denying Papika’s requests to go on an adventure before school, Cocona finds that even her school isn’t safe. Cocona’s body language repeatedly indicates her fundamental comfort zone – huddled within herself, safe within an accepted school place or just the comfort of her own arms. Papika constantly invades that space, not only physically pressing against Cocona, but actively undermining her assumed anonymity within the school. It’s only when Cocona finds herself standing before an ominous painting that we learn there’s some ambiguity to her feelings. Pressed to offer her feelings on the painting, she replies that “it’s scary, but…” to which her friend replies with “I love this painting too.” Cocona’s actions are a default response to being pushed out of her comfort zone, but there’s clearly an allure to the great beyond.

Things come to a head when Cocona’s rabbit Uexkull (named after a biologist who contributed to the “unwelt” theory regarding the biological foundation of communication and perception) gets sucked into a strange vacuum cleaner. Finally turning on Papika, Cocona lets out everything she’s very understandably built up over the episode. Papika has been inconsiderate, and even beyond her immediate actions, their past adventure was terrifying for Cocona.

“You’re wild, pushy, and have no sense of danger. What if you die? It’ll be too late for regrets then!” Cocona’s words are reasonable, but they speak to more than her feelings towards Papika – they’re also a direct reflection of her own fears, the paralyzing awareness of consequence and finality that keeps her from taking any real actions in her own life.

Then the two girls are sucked into the vacuum themselves, and another adventure begins.

The first thing worth pointing out about this new world is jeez, it sure is visually wild. Cocona’s new trip prompts a palette shift that starts with her own character, extending out to a pastel wilderness of amorphous shapes. This new world is a one of vaguely defined but evocative, blobby objects. You can’t necessarily assign clear meaning or context to any of them – unlike the first fantasy world, these shapes lack human contextualization, provoked from a, well, unwelt that is very dissimilar to our human systems of value and organization. Given the fact that Cocona grows rabbit ears and a tail when entering this world, you may have some inkling of where they’ve actually gone.

Yep, this is the world of Uexkill’s mind. The show won’t actually make Pure Illusion’s psychological nature crystal clear for a few more episodes, but given I’m doing these deep-dive writeups, I can’t really avoid revealing that here. In the mind of a rabbit, most objects are simply shapes, defined largely through what Cocona seems to perceive as texture or color – likely things that signify “threat” or “food” or whatever else in Uexkill’s mind. And when Cocona comes across Papika, it becomes clear that Uexkill’s nature and psyche don’t just dictate the physical reality of this place – they impact our protagonists’ psyches as well.

Papika, being a person who couldn’t quite fathom the word “regret,” immediately embraces this world’s demands. Rabbits chew, and so Papika chews, an action that works equally well as reflection of Uexkill’s mindset and as a continuation of this show’s general focus on sensuality into oral fixation territory. In contrast, and like everything else in her life, Cocona rejects the urge to chew. Covering her mouth just like the last time she accidentally had fun, Cocona seems ashamed of her own desires. The sexual-awakening undertones of Cocona’s rejection is far from accidental, and is directly underlined by the close focus on lips and teeth. In the middle of her adolescence, Cocona’s denial here comes across as just one more act of fearful repression. Cocona is afraid of who she is, afraid of what she wants, and afraid of who she might become.

Pursued by her own desires across this vivid world, Cocona ultimately finds herself in the belly of a great machine. The vague details of this building-machine make it seem likely it’s inspired by a very recent villain – and just at the moment Cocona finally succumbs to her desires, Papika accidentally flips the switch. It’s only Uexkill’s self-image-enhanced-self that rescues her, but once again she’s forced to embrace her desire in order to escape.

In the end, Papika saves them both, by awakening to that same strange power that rescued her last time. Papika’s acknowledgment that “it only works when we feel the same way” is echoed through her own awakening, as both an acknowledgment and echoing of Cocona’s fears allows her to save her friend. Pulling Cocona out of certain death, she promises “I swear I won’t let you go.” It’s unclear if Papika understands just how much those words mean to Cocona – defined by fear, Cocona could never move forward without a hand holding her own. But Papika’s words are given weight both by her subsequent heroism and, more importantly, her ultimate apology. Going on wild adventures together is one thing, but a friend who truly respects your deepest feelings is something much greater.

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