It’s time for Flip Flappers! Let’s explore… what is unfortunately, undoubtedly the worst episode of the series. Sorry to be a bummer, but episode eight just does not match the standard set by the rest of this altogether wonderful show. But exploring how things go wrong can be just as illuminating as exploring what they get right, and it’s not like this is a bad episode by general anime standards, anyway. So let’s get started on Flip Flappers’ biggest flop, and see what we can glean from its mistakes.
First off, episode eight’s biggest issue is that it’s an episodic Pure Illusion adventure that takes place after the narrative has already shifted away from such episodes. Exploring worlds like Uexkill’s in episode two was not only satisfying for its own sake, it first illustrated for the audience the nature of Pure Illusion, setting the stage for the episodes to come. From there, the show moved through episodes that, while satisfying as standalone adventures, also clearly pushed Cocona’s overarching narrative forward. With episode six, the show experienced its first major turn, as the fun of Pure Illusion ran up against the disturbing reality of messing with people’s minds. Cocona experienced a further turn in episode seven, where she came to acknowledge her legitimate love for Papika. That should have been the launching point for the show’s final act, but instead, we get one more episodic adventure, stalling the show’s overall momentum.
Tripping up the show’s pacing is an issue, but a relatively forgivable one. More problematic is the fact that this is far and away the most indulgent, fanservice-laden episode of the series. Generally, when Flip Flappers engages in sexually charged framing, it’s because the main characters are actually in sexually charged situations – the framing reflects the show’s emotional goals. In this episode, not only are the main characters stuck in fetishy school swimsuits for the entirety of their adventure, but those swimsuits are highlighted through incredibly voyeuristic shots that reflect nothing key to the characters.
Shots like these frame the audience’s perspective as that of a horny person salivating over the focus characters, staring at them in moments of vulnerability and in ways they clearly wouldn’t want to be stared at. No matter how the audience wants to see these characters, these shots imply the author doesn’t really care about their agency or feelings, and extends that lack of concern to the audience’s view. It’s frustrating, and inherently alienates audience members who don’t really want to see the characters this way, or who see themselves in the characters. A show can’t be compassionate towards its characters in a general sense, also pull this, and then expect to still possess a sense of emotional cohesion. Some shows can get away with this better than others, and many shows possess a sort of base level of horniness that tends to filter their overall perspective, but Flip Flappers is generally good enough about avoiding this stuff that it sticks out like a sore thumb here.
Episode eight’s fanservice isn’t constrained to the purely sexual kind, either. The actual narrative of this episode is quite simple: Cocona and Papika stumble into a cyberpunk Pure Illusion, they meet up with a diminutive mad scientist, and then fight alongside Yayaka to retrieve the fragment. The episode’s key emotional points are just as clear. For Cocona, this is the moment when she moves from simply following Papika’s lead to actively wanting to fight and defend Pure Illusion from the amorphous. On Yayaka’s side, this is the moment where she first admits she wants to save Cocona and Papika, even if that declaration occurs off-screen. Those simple narrative and emotional beats leave plenty of time for the rest of the episode to focus on… well, giant robots and laser beams. And so we get copious battle animation, and three separate robot transformation sequences (complete with theme song!), and a bunch of other hokey genre stuff that doesn’t really do much for what Flip Flappers generally is.
There is some textual explanation for this episode’s shameless indulgences. Cocona and Papika enter this particular world by crashing into Bu, and the various details of this world make it clear that Dr. Hidaka’s psychology also influences this place, and that Dr. Hidaka himself is represented by the diminutive Doc. Hidaka’s dialogue early on about the beauty of his overstuffed office map perfectly to Doc’s proud declarations about his custom-built city, and mirrored shots emphasize the symmetry of Doc and Hidaka’s homes. Given this world is built on the combination of a horny robot and an over-the-top mad scientist, it is somewhat fitting that the world they enter is horny, neon, and full of giant robots.
But while those facts rationalize this episode’s choices, they don’t really justify them. There are countless ways to imply that union of characters without filling your episode with fanservice shots and dedicating half its running time to watching robots smash. My ultimate takeaway from Flip Flappers #8 is that while anime’s collaborative nature is often a great boon, episodes like this demonstrate that giving storyboarders, episode directors, and individual animators this much leeway can also result in some awkward tonal mismatches. Fortunately, this truly is the show’s one and only misstep. It’s all endgame from here!
This article was made possible by reader support. Thank you all for all that you do.