Flip Flappers is a story about the cautious middle-schooler Cocona, who meets the mysterious and outgoing Papika, and together they travel to a variety of different worlds in an alternate dimension called Pure Illusion in order to collect amorphous fragments for the mysterious Flip Flap organisation.
Cocona is fairly typical of the protagonist of a story with some coming of age themes, being a young teen who tries to be responsible and fit in, and is uncertain about future goals and where she belongs in the world. Papika is perhaps a little too sure of herself and overbearing in her friendliness, and isn’t really great at considering others around her. As per usual in a magical girl show, the two learn about the strengths of each other’s life philosophies and the power of friendship through their shared adventures. Honestly, it may be sappy and clichéd but I can’t get enough of the value of the power of friendship as shown in anime, so this is fine with me. Also of note is Cocona’s childhood friend, Yayaka, who had helped Cocona up to this point and runs up against Papika both in the real world and also in Pure Illusion.
Most of the supporting cast didn’t get nearly as much time spent fleshing out their motives and characters, and in some cases the reasoning behind their inclusion in the story was Pure Vagueness. Nyuu in particular showed up and didn’t really seem to contribute to the story in any way, or even add any comic relief to the final few episodes of the series. The three main girls were really the sole focus of the series, and they did receive development throughout the run of the show, but at times it felt like it was at the expense of the relatively expansive supporting cast.
The visuals in this show were Pure Delight. There was lots of vibrant colours and dynamic movement, and the animation was strongly part of the storytelling, being full of symbolism and a variety of references (which I perhaps would not have seen on my own and am indebted to the anime community for picking them up and writing about them). I loved all of the different worlds of Pure Illusion and how they felt unique and beautiful in their own way. There was a snowy wonderland, a desert world which I know others likened to Mad Max, but to me had strong nods to Dune, and a futuristic city with mecha among others. I still have a pretty strong inner child and the idea of exploring a different magical world never grows old. We also got some great magical girl transformations (it is still a great mystery to me why magical girl transformations all seem to involve nudity in the intermediate stage, but it’s an established expectation), and lively action sequences.
The soundtrack didn’t stand out to me in any way, I guess it was Pure Unobtrusiveness. I think that it must have done its job reasonably well as I never noticed the sound being jarring at any point, but conversely, there weren’t moment where the sound made me sit up and pay attention to it alone. I do feel the need to give a mention to the charming and haunting ED, Flip Flap. Its mysterious and uncanny feeling given by the minor key and haunting lyrics helped to complement the mysterious nature of Pure Illusion, and it was something I looked forward to each week.
Despite all of the various worlds explored and all of the symbolism contained in the earlier episodes, the ending was Pure Plainness, and a very straightforward conclusion to the show. It does tie up the main plot threads but there are still some questions left unanswered about the more symbolic and philosophical aspects of Pure Illusion. It seems these may have been left ‘as an exercise for the viewer’.
While I do not object to ideas-driven or allegorical works, I like them to have a clear message contained within them. To me, Flip Flappers felt as though it built up a world full of symbolism, but while in some ways this could be considered deep and I read various excellent speculative and interpretative blog posts throughout the series from some very talented writers about the use of colour and symbol, overall I didn’t pick up on a specific consistent message. To me it felt deep and multi-layered merely for the sake of being deep, obscured information solely for the sake of obfuscation, and didn’t make use of all these layers and references for a cohesive purpose. The trouble with going into a work without prior knowledge is that you don’t have any real idea what direction it will take, and Flip Flappers did succeed at keeping its viewers guessing up until the final few episodes as to the rationale behind Pure Illusion and the overall direction of the show. I personally would have enjoyed a straightforward magical girl show far more, but these seem few and far between in this day and age. This isn’t so much a failing of the show as a failing of me as a viewer to choose a show more tailored to my interests. It was not Pure Disappointment, but at the same time, it’s not the sort of storytelling which I prefer. I’m usually pretty straightforward and really enjoy simple story-driven pieces with a charming story, or shows which help me to learn or make me laugh, and Flip Flappers achieved none of these things.
Overall, Flip Flappers was not a show which I think I would have chosen to watch if it had been complete prior to me hearing about it. I do think that it’s a show which some people may enjoy, and I would suggest it if you enjoy shows with unique visuals and enjoy series which are driven by symbolism and speculation as opposed to plot. It’s a show which may be Pure Disappointment for some, but Pure Charm for others.