Flippin’ That Flap!

Welcome, all, again.  I first apologize for being late with this installment–Halloween just rolled around (Samhain, for those in the know!), and I’ve been very busy with and distracted by its happening.  That’s now past, but the reference does segue rather gracefully into this week’s discussion of Flip Flappers, set as it often is in a psychedelic dreamscape peopled with fantastic beings.  Our two protagonists, Cocona and Papika, repeatedly venture into this environment (called Pure Illusion) in order to find and retrieve mysterious fragments rumored to grant wishes.  But get ready, because things get progressively weirder!

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Cocona begins the series as an ordinary schoolgirl living with her grandmother (we later learn that her parents are deceased).  Being a quiet and introspective girl, Cocona has a habit of seeking solitude, even at school–but Papika’s sudden appearance is about to play havoc with Cocona’s routine!  Seeming to burst out of nowhere, Papika drags Cocona into unwelcome and seemingly random danger as they literally fall into a nightmare version of a winter wonderland, complete with giant stampeding creatures.  Cocona is bewildered and terrified, and finds herself clinging to a much more resolute Papika.  And if Papika seems nonplussed, then Cocona will come to realize the reason: Papika goes looking for these adventures.  She just needs a partner in order to continue and progress, and she’s chosen Cocona.

Cocona, however, isn’t interested in being chosen–or in flirting with mayhem and death.  She was properly panicked when she latched onto Papika, and afterwards wants nothing further to do with the girl or her alternate dimension[s].  At least, Cocona wants to want nothing more to do with Papika; trouble is, she has subconsciously been yearning for real intimacy with someone, and those life-or-death moments provided it.  And so she lets Papika explain about a place called Pure Illusion, about magical fragments rumored to grant wishes, and some vague expectation of her and Papika gathering those fragments.  But just who expects this?  Flip Flap, an organization to which Papika and her accompanying robot belong.  So of course they must return!

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And of course it’s not that simple.  For their partnership to work properly, the girls must be in sync emotionally–no easy task, given their wildly different personalities.  Cocona remains introspective, even as she tries to let others in, while Papika is a hard-charging adrenaline junkie with little to no self-awareness.  It doesn’t help that Cocona’s childhood friend (her only other friend), Yayaka, distrusts and dislikes Papika.  And things only get more confusing for Cocona when she discovers that Yayaka is already familiar with Pure Illusion–and so has a tangible reason to oppose Papika.  (Magical wishes will attact attention, after all.)  But when the girls are emotionally synced, they become virtual dynamos who are able to transform into magical girls with complementary powers (beautifully expressed by a cross-coordination of hair and eye color between them).

As for Pure Illusion, it is possibly the series’ main draw.  Constantly changing, it showcases the creativity of the artists involved in this project; I cannot think of another series which integrates so many different artistic styles.  In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that the inspiration for Flip Flappers was actually a drunken bet between animators.  But I can’t limit the artistic kudos to just the representation of Pure Illusion–check out the end credits.  Seriously, if you watch nothing else of this show, watch the end credits.  Because somebody needs to win a huge honkin’ award for that brief minute-and-a-half or so of animation!  It is surreal, mesmerizing, and strangely softly warm.  Kind of like it might be to wrap up in a shawl made of spider webs.  Yeah, that.  With a few spiders still moving around. . .

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And so Flip Flappers turns out to be something of a pleasant surprise.  Despite dumping stock characters into the threadbare plot of an overused premise, this series is rescued from mediocrity by visually arresting artwork that infuses an explosive energy into all its aspects.  Yes, we’ve seen all this before, but we’ve never before seen it like this!  Perhaps more than any other animated series, Flip Flappers reminds me of the slogan and rallying cry of the Decadent movement (late Victorian era) in art: Art for art’s sake!  This is a joyous riot of color and line, so sit back and feast your eyes on what is probably this season’s most fun-to-watch show.  And (if you’re old enough) maybe even have a few flashbacks, I dunno. . .