Flip Flappers – Episode 4

After three straight episodes of wild adventures in Pure Illusion, Flip Flappers’ fourth episode sticks entirely to the real world. As our mad scientist friend details in the first scene, Cocona and Papika’s “impedance is all over the place.” Without a clear emotional bond and mutual understanding, it’s impossible to control their own journeys into Flip Flappers – to be in control in these emotional landscapes, you must first understand and synchronize your own feelings. And so the two of them are tasked with living together for a few days, in hopes of “understanding and accepting one another.” It’s essentially the Evangelion DDR episode, a chance for our two leads to actually bond.

Cocona objects to the idea, of course. Afraid of all change and anything that has the chance to go wrong, Cocona’s indecisiveness carries over even to the choice of what clothes to pack. But we can see through the progression of these early scenes that her general anxieties are beginning to ever so slightly thaw. Cocona initially foists her anxieties onto her grandmother – but when her grandmother immediately accepts her trip, a slight smile reveals that she actually wanted to spend time with Papika. And at last, Uexkull emerges just a bit from his cocoon, a rabbit-shaped barometer of her own emotional journey.

Of course, people can’t change their base personalities all at once. Cocona’s No Fun Allowed dictums are in full effect the following day at school, where she fusses over Papika’s uniform and makes sure to frame this trip not as a sleepover, but as an Important Studying Trip. Cocona also displays clear anxiety about reuniting with Yayaka, and instead hides away with her artist friend. When Yayaka actually does show up, Cocona can’t challenge her – still fearful of confrontation, she attempts to steer the conversation into bland, neutral territory. When Yayaka reaches out to Cocona, it’s Papika who steps in her way. And so, having thoroughly proven that she’s still the same person she always was, Cocona steps into Papika’s world.

It’s ultimately a bit misleading to say this episode doesn’t feature any realms of Pure Illusion. Cocona and Papika never jump into an invented world, but Pure Illusion represents more than magic and adventure – Pure Illusion has consistently echoed the personal worlds of the show’s various characters. With the most recent episode feeling like Cocona’s heart, the one before that purely Uexkull’s, and the first world likely comprising a melding of our two leads, this episode’s real-world adventure turns out to be a clear exploration of Papika’s world. Having at last admitted her own feelings, Cocona now crosses into the world of her friend.

That “crossing the threshold” is once again represented quite literally, as Cocona steps through a portal into Papika’s fort (a sequence that doubles as another echo of the show’s yonic/womb imagery). Once inside, she’s thrilled by all the strange trinkets Papika has collected, and carried away on an adventure in their own backyard. As usual, Papika second-guesses nothing – she happily forages for eggs and vegetables, and Cocona is forced to keep up or be left behind. Papika doesn’t know the names of the things she eats, but she knows they’re good to eat – unlike Cocona’s rigid academic knowledge, Papika has instinctual and practical knowledge, firsthand understandings that she’s built up over time. And though Cocona does seem to be trying to be more courageous, her actions later that night tell the real story. Lying with her back turned from the intimidating Papika, she ultimately leaves Papika’s home, sitting with Uexkull and wondering if this was all some terrible mistake.

On the next day, Cocona is drawn further into Papika’s world, as the two of them fly off to a deserted island. When their hoverboard floats away, Cocona’s worst fears are swiftly realized – she is now lost in a world where she doesn’t have any control, with no clear way of returning to her comforting routine. She soon loses even Papika, and finds herself alone in a dark forest (conveyed through an excellent low-angle shot, emphasizing the towering world around her). She attempts to mirror Papika’s confidence, but simply can’t. She is trying, but we can only do so much, only change little by little.

Papika’s return demonstrates the true competence of her character in the clearest possible terms. While Cocona simply assumed a vine would hold her weight, Papika firmly tugs on it, confirming its solidity before using it as a rope. While Cocona saw fruit and assumed food, Papika knows the true value of the forest’s bounty, and what isn’t good to eat. Papika’s inability to name her fruits and vegetables worried Cocona, but not knowing the names of things is not the same as being ignorant. Papika is reckless, but she’s accustomed to learning by doing, and she actually has learned a great deal. Papika’s behavior in Pure Illusion thus makes a great deal more sense – there is a logic and consistency to her behavior, even if it’s totally antithetical to Cocona’s way of engaging with the world.

Confronted with this truth, Cocona once again turns inward, lamenting her own uselessness. Of course, Papika strongly disagrees with that, and says so in the firmest terms she can. Papika’s vouching for Cocona isn’t necessarily the most convincing, but it’s very honest, and it makes Cocona feel better. Even if Cocona can’t believe in herself, it seems she’s coming to believe in her new friend.

Their new closeness is once again illustrated through a clear contrast, as the two spend one more night out in the wilderness. Perhaps emboldened by their adventures, Cocona asks Papika a very personal question – “what’s this wish you’re willing to fight others for?” Her question reflects both her growing faith in Papika and her own fears, echoing back to her inability to confront Yayaka. And when the same question is posed to her, Cocona opens up, saying she’d like to one day meet her family. That night they sleep comfortably, faces aligned, no reservations in Cocona’s mind. On the next day they work naturally together, building a raft and cheering as it crashes into the surf. They are on their way.

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