Thursdays 9:00AM EDT on Crunchyroll
The two girls somehow end up in a post apocalyptic wasteland and become separated from each other. Papika tracks down Cocona but discovers she’s become the leader of a crew of bandits.
If you were one of those people who was frustrated that Flip Flappers was being a little too slow and cryptic for its own good, then boy do I have an episode for you. This installment of the show featured one of the most abrupt tonal and stylistic shifts that I’ve ever seen a show undergo, as it transforms from surrealist magical mystery to balls-to-the wall shonen magical girl battle show. It’s all a little overwhelming, so let’s try and break it down as much as possible.
As much as I was a fan of the first two episodes’s gentle, slow drift, with a run of only 12-13 episodes it was pretty clear we’d actually need to get some story going at some point, and this week delivers on that point emphatically. Probably the biggest and most surprising revelation was the presence of Cocona’s friend Yayaka as the head villain in the field/dark magical girl. I predicted last week that she was bound to have a role in the ongoing proceedings, but I expected that role to be purely real-world based and focused on character drama rather than, you know, wearing skintight bodysuits and blowing up evil goo monsters. In addition we finally get the introduction of the bizarre KKK-esque baddies that the show’s OP has been hinting at. Their sparse aesthetic and weird pseudo-religious cult trappings are a nice religious to the hyperactivity of everything that’s happening elsewhere, as is their stark black and white aesthetic.
Elsewhere, it’s hard to deny the incredible, hyper-kinetic visual impact of this episode. Though Flip Flappers has excelled artistically so far, it’s mostly been in peerless design rather than all-action animation. Here it happily takes on both as it takes an established visual style (the Fist of the North Star/The Road Warrior desert post apocalypse) and still manages to put a unique spin on the whole thing. It’s difficult to deny the glorious weirdness of gigantic flying galleons or weird S&M themed monster tar pits, and yet the action, when it comes, is a fluid and elastic as a Kill la Kill or Dragon Ball. The animation team flex more muscle than ever before as they homage and pastiche an enormous mix of styles, from watercoloured backgrounds to tributes to classic magical girl shows, from grody horror monsters to slick sci-fi tech. Even in a year packed with delightful animation, this may be the single most incredible gathering of scenes yet put on screen.
Is there any downside to this opening of the floodgates? Well, for all the incredible work the production team are doing with their visual storytelling, it seems they’ve kind of neglected their actual storytelling. To call this episode confusing would be a severe understatement, to call it totally baffling would probably hit closer to the mark. The storytelling is completely erratically paced, starting in media res and yet giving no clues or flashbacks to establish what happened before. Huge chunks of story seem to come out of nowhere, most notably the girls’ magical transformation abilities, and the entire thing feels very much like the inmates (in this case the animation team) are running the asylum. This total narrative confusion arguably only adds to the complete insanity of this episode, but it’s not a good look for the long term story and I think it’s important a lot of what happens here gets explained or at least clarified in upcoming installments. The switch to total bombast also erases a good deal of the surreal, mysterious atmosphere which the first two episodes so relied upon.
In the end, Flip Flappers continues to delight and dazzle, but there are serious issues over the direction of everything that isn’t purely visual. The show is still worth watching purely as a showcase of the astonishing work of its artists, but my hope is we can perhaps slow down a bit more next time out and get a few more insights into the hows and whys of all this gorgeous, gorgeous madness.
- Yayaka’s allies are the two creepy white haired twins glimpsed very briefly in the opening of episode 1.
- The transformation sequence is an obvious homage to Sailor Moon, even down to mirroring a few exact shots. Also worth noting is that when transformed Cocona and Papika switch hair colours.
- Another nice touch – Cocona’s clothing is visibly darker when she’s possessed.
- There’s an awful lot of insane technobabble in this episode but the mysterious leader of the evil hood dudes refers to Papika as both ‘Papikana’ and ‘one half of the Direct Drive’. Another ‘superweapon in the form of a girl(s)’ plot?