“Pure Equalization”, “Pure Echo”, “Pure Play”, and “Pure Component”
Thursdays 9:00AM EDT on Crunchyroll
Cocona and Papika continue to investigate Pure Illusion and find themselves being pulled into darker, more twisted worlds in their race against Yayaka and her team. Also Iro makes his grand anime debut.
First of all, my sincerest apologies that it’s taken so long for this post to go up. Unfortunately a combination of a lot of work, some unfortunate real world circumstances, and good old-fashioned illness have kept me from writing too much. With that said, a lot of really interesting things have happened in Flip Flappers since we last checked in. It’s traded in the air of whimsy surrealism it possessed in the opening episodes for a much more dark undercurrent, one that’s become increasingly focused on character development and the relationship between our two leads. That suits me down to the ground, since it’s exactly what I felt this story needed to propel itself forward rather than being lost in its own quirkiness.
Of the four episodes we’ve got here, the first (“Pure Equalization) is definitely the most conventional of them, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing seeing as it was the follow-up to the utterly absurd third episode. It’s also a much-needed breather that gives us a chance to get to know the characters and explore their relationship to each other in a more grounded setting. ‘Grounded’ for Flip Flappers of course means a deserted tropical island, but it’s pretty mundane compared to the madness that’s come before. It’s probably the most typically ‘anime’ episode of the show yet, complete with tropes like new uniforms, eating lunch together and some unfortunately gratuitous bathing fanservice. What’s important about it though is that it shows Cocona finally fully accepting Papika as her friend, and also shows Cocona that her muted, solitary approach to life isn’t really a cure-all. She’s been annoyed by Papika’s go-getting attitude, but here the pink-haired girl proves that sometimes that’s actually what you need to overcome your problems, and that she’s surprisingly competent underneath her manic exterior.
By contrast, “Pure Echo” is a clever inversion of that idea. Papika is absolutely happy living in the endless loop of time that the pair find themselves trapped in, and it’s only Cocona’s suspicion and scepticism that allow them to break out of their creepy existence. Well, that and a healthy assist from Yayaka, who’s rapidly proving herself more of an anti-villain than an out-and-out baddie. She also acts as essentially an audience proxy when she puts forward a notable question – why exactly are Papika and Cocona collecting the fragments of Pure Illusion? It’s something that the story has dodged answering in exact terms so far, with only Salt and Papika’s vague allusions to their true purpose. Of course, Yayaka and her KKK-esque bosses haven’t exactly disclosed their own motives either, but it seems clear they’re much more in the know than our core pair.This episode also shows Flip Flappers‘s ability to effortless bend genre conventions and visual stylings, as it adopts a terrifically creepy Shining meets Silent Hill vibe for most of the episode only to shift into Escher-esque three-dimensional madness for the final battle.
Of the episodes we’re looking at here, Episode 6, “Pure Play” is the one that got everyone talking, and rightly so, since it’s an outstanding melding of visual and narrative storytelling that probably ranks among the best 22 minutes of anime that you’re going to see this year. It’s also the least like any other episode of Flip Flappers, and effectively functions as a ‘bottle episode’, telling a story that’s almost but not quite entirely unconnected to our main narrative. Child abuse and neglect are some of the toughest subjects to handle sensitively in any form of media, but the show does a tremendous job of communicating the two side’s of Iro’s existence through the clever storytelling device of attaching our protagonists to opposing sides of her psyche and then colour coding the results. It’s visual storytelling in its purest, most raw form and it works devastatingly well in this setting. The final shot of Iroha is a beautiful payoff for everything we’ve seen her go through, and overall its just a wonderful episode, hands down the best the show has yet produced.
One thing I really like though is that Flip Flappers doesn’t then proceed to treat this as an unambiguously happy ending. Instead, it proceeds to actually ask questions about what poking around inside someone’s psyche would actually do to them. Sure, Iroha now seems a much more friendly, social girl who isn’t haunted by her past, but she’s also lost the passion for her art she once had. Did her tragedy in some way define her as a person? The show uses these questions to spring into another bold new abstract idea in “Pure Component”, setting Corona alone in her thoughts with a plethora of different manifestations of Papika to explore what exactly her relationship with the other girl is. It’s the kind of delightful high-concept character study you can only get away with in a fantasy setting and the show does a really good job with largely playing it for laughs but also doing a little digging into what Cocona actually thinks of her erstwhile partner. There’s even some not-entirely-gross adolescent sexuality undertones buried in there, and the ending is a delightful mixture of the energetically bizarre (pipe spaceship!) and the soft, surreal beauty that first marked out the show as sometime to watch. That’s not to mention the increasing hints towards an overarching plot arc, what with Yayka exposed as just a third wheel in her operation to the mysterious twins, and the presence of the unidentified adults who are almost certainly the lost parents of one of our heroines.
In the time I’ve been away from writing about the series, Flip Flappers has changed and morphed a lot as its gone through its various episodes, but that has proven part of its ineffable charm. It continues to be a story that is impossible to second guess or pin down, packed full of clever ideas big and small, and backed up by a formidable visual presence. in short, it’s still absolutely the show to be watched this season, and only continues to get better.
- Reaffirming the animation team’s reputation as movie buffs, there are shots that reference The Shining and Stand By Me, while Cocona on the empty train is a pretty clear Evangelion shout out.
- Episode 5 contains a metric ton of unsubtle Yuri references, particularly the recurring Lily motif which pops up everywhere.
- My only major complaint about Episode 6 is that there’s a break in the ‘Iro’ sequence, which damages the audiences immersion considerably.
- In episode 7 M.A.O. plays every one of the alternate Papikas, all of whom are credited under very slightly different names.
- I love Yayaka and her team turning up in episode 7 and then just peacing out, reminding us that there’s another story happening behind the scenes.