Episode seven opens with the unexpected, unwanted consequences of Cocona and Papika’s emotional meddling. Having “solved” Iroha Irodori’s childhood trauma, it appears they’ve also stolen her passion for artistic self-expression. A need to create is often born in a desire to articulate and perhaps come to terms with your scars; with Iro’s relationship with her childhood friend now resolved without regrets, she currently sees no reason to paint, claiming her works “just take up space, anyway.” Cocona feels guilty for this shift, and the ambiguity of her feelings points to a greater general truth. We don’t need to be ashamed of our unhappiness or our strangeness or our trauma – those are all a part of us, and even if we can’t see anything positive in our pain, that pain may still contribute to our finest qualities in its own way. We shouldn’t fetishize suffering, but also shouldn’t be ashamed of being wounded or imperfect – a fact Cocona herself is only slowly coming to realize.
Flip Flappers’ sixth episode is about Iroha Irodori, Cocona’s painting-inclined classmate. It’s also likely the most emotionally searing interrogation of any of Flip Flappers’ mindscapes, and also one of my favorite episodes of all time. I can’t watch this episode without crying, consistently, at every new revelation and emotional blow. It’s about childhood neglect and the contradictions of self-expression, about the fragile necessity of loving and being loved, about the forms we contort ourselves into to survive, and the lingering scars those contortions leave behind. It’s for anyone who finds their heart in the things they create, and learns to love the damage that made them who they are.
Flip Flappers’ third episode introduced us to the barren world of Cocona’s psychology, an inhospitable place defined by the dichotomy of fierce self-denial and total hedonism. Cocona escaped that place, with the help of Papika, and seemed by the end of that episode to at least be able to acknowledge Papika’s friendship. In its fourth episode, we turned from Cocona’s world to Papika’s, where our two leads learned to trust each other far more completely than ever before. By the end of that episode, it seemed like Cocona was ready to accept Papika’s love, and perhaps even reciprocate.
Here in episode five, Pure Illusion offers a vision of what society has to say about all of that.
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.
Flip Flappers’ second episode saw Papika and Cocona entering the fanciful world of a rabbit’s mind. From their rabbit ears and tufted tails to the world around them, everything echoed the internal world of Cocona’s rabbit Uexkill, and even the girls themselves were not immune. An urge to chew on everything reflected both Cocona’s personal repression and the desires of Uexkill, while the landscape around them undulated vaguely, offering no more definition than Uexkill could conceive. After that wild adventure, the girls quickly jumped into another Pure Illusion – but unlike episode two, it seems like this world reflects Cocona’s own psychology. So what is Cocona’s mind like?
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.
Flip Flappers begins with a sharp contrast, a vivid illustration of two very different girls. We first meet Cocona, in a series of shots that speak volumes about both her specifically and Flip Flappers at large. The very first shot of the show is an hourglass optical illusion – it tells the time, but it’s also an image of two girls facing each other, and could even be interpreted as a womb. This strangely charged marker of time passing is followed by the reveal of Cocona herself, seated at her school desk, eyes dark. Cocona exists in a blue and silent world, a sterile classroom that feels far smaller and more shabby than most such spaces. Classrooms are ubiquitous in anime, and their prevalence as key settings means they’re often granted great personality, or staged as open and inviting places. This classroom is the opposite – cramped and cold, it tells us that Cocona’s world is a small and unhappy place.
Today we conclude our journey through the many worlds of Flip Flappers! This article ended up being more or less a two-part version of the sort of thematic breakdowns I used to cap off each season with. This half starts to stray away from breaking down worlds and get into analyzing Cocona, but that’s pretty much how the show itself works, so it seemed fitting to me. I hope you enjoy the piece!
And unsurprisingly, here’s my overall streaming review for the flip flaps. Flip Flappers was a standout show that I’d really love to see get more recognition, and the review monster is a hungry beast, so this was basically inevitable. Hopefully 2017 will bring us a few more gems of this level!
You can check out my full review over at ANN.
I’m still crushed under preview week at the moment, but the Why It Works show must go on! Unsurprisingly, I’m sending off the fall season with a two-part episode on Flip Flappers’ various mindscapes. It becomes much harder to map these worlds to specific characters as the show goes on, but they all reflect Cocona in their own ways, so I think I’ll manage. Here’s the piece!