Flip Flappers has explored Cocona’s feelings and general mindscape from every conceivable angle, excavating her self-image, interrogating her feelings towards Papika, and generally articulating the richness of her personal world. We’ve also received some insight into Papika’s character, who has expressed herself consistently and opened up to Cocona in spite of still being a relatively mysterious figure. But Flip Flappers’ third pole has never been granted the luxury of understanding. Yayaka’s character has been articulated largely in contrast; her suspicions towards Papika, her would-be rivalry with the two other leads. Yayaka’s feelings have been as assumed by the narrative itself as they often seem to be by Cocona; but here in episode nine, Yayaka’s world is finally the focus. So what lurks inside Yayaka’s head, what animates her most deeply held feelings?
Our first answer is “nothing.” Episode nine’s first several shots establish the language of Yayaka’s world in stark and impersonal terms. Standing alone in a cavernous white locker room, her home comes across as a sterilized, anonymous place, a place where self-expression is never welcome. Even the title gestures towards self-censoring, with the show’s audio-related titling conceit now landing on “Pure Mute.” And as we’ll soon learn, this colorlessness is something that has followed Yayaka all her life.
To this feeling of internal emptiness, Flip Flappers quickly add a sense of immediate displacement and desperation. Having consistently failed to truly defeat Cocona and Papika, Yayaka has finally been replaced by the ‘third amorphous child.’ “You’re useless now,” her former teammates tell her, underlining how even this unhappy life she’s been granted is highly conditional. While Cocona has struggled to find a path she wants to follow, Yayaka seems to have the opposite problem; an inability to escape from the one path she’s been granted. In a show that’s all about embracing the person you want to be and the desires you want to pursue, Yayaka’s utterly conditional home feels like the cruelest possible existence.
This twist also offers a fine illustration of Flip Flappers’ general messiness, and clearly, unabashedly lopsided priorities. The ‘third child’ who’s set to replace Yayaka ultimately feels utterly superfluous in this narrative, but the role she plays in backing Yayaka into a corner is absolutely crucial. As a narrative force in her own right, this third child is completely unnecessary; she’s basically just one more empty gesture towards Evangelion, one which has no place in this very different story. Fortunately, pretty much the entire organization Yayaka works for isn’t really a load-bearing element of this narrative – this is a story about emotional journeys, and their work is all thinly-written scifi gobbledigook. I personally have no problems with a story that lets its overt worldbuilding details get vague for the sake of its emotional throughlines, but it’s perfectly understandable how the vagueness and clear missteps of this particular thread might irk a viewer with different priorities.
Flip Flappers’ narrative messiness continues in this episode’s next act. The show has been very slowly seeding Cocona and Papika’s hidden backstory, but Papika accidentally referring to Cocona as “Mimi,” and Cocona taking this as an unforgivable slight, feels like drama created simply because the show needs drama. We’ve already reached the point where Cocona has articulated her love and trust in Papika, but the show needs one more minor conflict between them before it can approach its endgame, and so we spend a couple minutes on lazy arguments between them. Fortunately, things shape up the second the girls enter Pure Illusion, and see Yayaka’s world for themselves.
Yayaka’s inner reality mirrors the episode’s opening shots, presenting a white and sterile endless plane. Cocona’s internal landscape reflected her repression, but it also reflected her underlying desires and evocative view of the world. In contrast, Yayaka’s internal world is utterly neutral, reflecting the way she’s been forced to silence even her unacceptable thoughts. Instead of simply not knowing who she’d want to become, like Cocona, Yayaka has been forced to become no one or lose everything. Both Cocona and Papika are stunned by this place’s barrenness, but when the two are separated by a strange blockade, Yayaka’s cracks start to show.
Essentially every aesthetic choice and even physical shift in this world reflects something dear to Yayaka’s heart. Even the fact that Cocona and the twins are the ones who are trapped in a cage feels meaningful; after all, Yayaka’s most fundamental desire is to hold on to Cocona without losing her home, and that sentiment is perfectly expressed through “I’m not giving up on you or them.” Her conditional experience with acceptance is also reflected in her mind’s cage, which seems to demonstrate her internalized belief that anything she doesn’t hold tightly will be stolen from her. And inside that cage, Cocona and the twins find themselves in a mixture of a tatami bedroom and a European parlor, a stately, emotionally reserved setting that may well be an amalgam of Yayaka’s own cold homes.
Outside the cage, Papika and Yayaka lighten the episode considerably through some charming squabbling, demonstrating the strong rapport shared by all three of this show’s leads. Yayaka’s humanity is clear even in her pettiness, and her anger towards Papika is totally understandable. Things have always been easy for Papika; she does what she wants, when she wants, physically illustrating the seeming ease of Yayaka’s desperate desire to be both self-driven and loved. After Papika makes one more of her big romantic speeches, Yayaka fires back with the bitter “you just showed up, like, yesterday! I’ve been with Cocona since forever!” And at last, we return to the first meeting of Yayaka and her most important friend.
Episode nine’s central flashback carries on the episode’s sanitized hospital space motif, with Yayaka and Cocona first meeting in a literal hospital waiting room. We learn Yayaka was the first person to extend that crucial hand to Cocona, a recurring shot tethered to Flip Flappers’ belief in straying from the path laid out for you. This meeting was a wonderful thing for both Cocona and Yayaka, but as it turns out, their friendship was always planned by Yayaka’s menacing keepers. “Next to her is where you belong” is a resonant statement to a girl with no home; and so Yayaka has spent half a lifetime juggling the desire to genuinely be next to Cocona with the fear of losing her assigned place, pushing back against her friend but never finding herself willing to actually lose her.
The episode’s final act makes manifest the awful scars this life has inflicted on Yayaka. Breaking the sterility of her feigned desireless world, massive icy crystals rise from the ground, their contours reflecting the cherished memories Yayaka could never truly discard. Yayaka’s feelings for Cocona thus become a literal shield and prison, shattering as the two of them dance in battle. But when it comes to the final moment, Yayaka can’t follow through on her own cold words. After having constantly repeated that “the fragment comes first,” when Cocona is in danger, Yayaka moves without hesitation. The fragment tumbles from her hands as she cradles Cocona, hoping to shield her precious friend with her own body. Yayaka has made a lonely prison of her heart, but her fundamental kindness survives.
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