Saturday, 22 October 2016

Welcome to Our Drug-Tripped Wonderland: A Review of Flip Flappers Ep. 1 (2016 anime)

Flip Flappers resembles Utena with a sugar rush. I don’t mean this in terms of plot or aesthetic, but how Flip Flappers heightens reality. Like Utena, it has a post-modern umph, which, nevertheless, does not eradicate sincerity. Even putting aside its thematic dimensions, Flips Flappers is giddy fun.

Cocona cannot decide which mock exams to take. Papika is a manic pixie secret agent. Papika meteors into Cocona’s her school life, and hurls into the world of Pure Illusion. Who is Papika? Why is she here? How are these girls connected? Whether or not the show will answer these questions, this first episode sprints forward.

Flip Flappers rams two opposing tones together, and has them jell. The humdrumness of Cocona’s school life is not so humdrum. Papika may stand out in the banal world, but it does not feel like she’s from a different show. Cocona’s city has a fairy-tale hint to it, narrowing the gap between it and Papika’s world. The city contains modern buildings and infrastructure, but also buildings evocative of European fairy-tales, a clean medievalism. 

Although it has a mix of the two, the show favours Papika’s mania over Cocona’s shiftlessness. The episode’s seat-of-your-pants propulsion prevents the story seeming humdrum to the audience. The show evokes the banality of Cocona’s school life with an exam scene. This lasts a few seconds before smash-cutting to Papika making a daring get-away.
From banality -

- to bombast

Given this is the first episode of a surreal series, future episodes may disprove any thematic analysis I attempt – But I’ll give it a go:

The first episode implies a coming-of-age story, where what separates childhood and adulthood is the will to face choices, rather than retreat from them. Cocona has still to choose which mock-exam she will take. She has still to choose which high school she will attend. She has still to choose what she wants from high school. Then Papika crashes into her life, whisking her into the world of Pure Illusion. Pure Illusion is a wonderland, where the snow tastes as good as it looks. Right at the cross-roads before adulthood, Cocona falls back into a childish fantasy. Yes, not all is saccharine in Pure Illusion. Titanic, over-eyed, cow-things start a stampede, or migration, or something – ultimately trapping Papika beneath an icy lake. While this is peril, it is not a choice. Cocona has a difficult task to achieve, but there is only one task to choose from: save Papika. In the world of childhood, they tell you to fight the dragon; in the world of adulthood, they tell you fight the dragon or don’t, do anything or don’t. Pure Illusion presents Cocona with a win-state, something life does not.

As of now, I’m unsure of Flip Flappers’ audience. I mean, watch it because it’s a good show. There’s a bit of skeeviness peeping through, though. When Cocona turns Super-Saiyan (spoilers) a bruise on her inner thigh glows. Alone, that’s not much. Were I directing, I wouldn’t have included it; it’s a distracting detail. That said, it’s just a detail, which one can ignore. But this is the first episode, and what starts small can grow large. Were it not for this moment I could recommend this to an all-ages audience sans restraint. Because of Cocona’s glowing thigh bruise, I’ll wait till the series’ end before I decide who I’ll recommend it to. But, yes, despite that element, Flip Flappers is an eminently accessible show. [Addition: Just watched episode three; probs don’t show this to kids]

 Flip Flappers is fun without lacking depth, silly without being stupid. As of the first episode it’s shaping up to be an unconventional coming-of-age. Well worth watching.

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