In a world just beyond the borders of our own, mired in mystery and born of fantasy, the power of imagination resides. Illusions, pure as the driven snow, enticing the innocent and not, drawing them ever deeper into a realm that cannot possibly exist. Except it does and it’s totally off the walls bonkers. Like, the kind of bonkers that makes you worry for the mental health of those who imagined it in the first place. Especially that part with the creepy-friendly schoolgirls and that robot that has a brain in it. That was weird.
If there exists any hope to fathom the ridiculous series laid out before you, it lies within one’s ability to suspend their disbelief so far up there that they forget it even existed in the first place. What may also help is the foreknowledge that only roughly one quarter of the entire series is relegated to actually moving the plot forward, with the bulk being devoted to disconnected events that simply look cool. Okay, perhaps that’s a little grim, but it really isn’t too far off. With the in-built mechanic of Pure Illusion, a mysterious realm comprised of dreams, fantasy and all things trippy, the series is able to present a number of truly varied locales. Wherein one episode we find ourselves in a land of colour and rabbit ears, the next brings us a Mad Max dystopia. And that is a wonderful thing. To be able to freely shift between settings grants Flip Flappers a powerful tool, one that is mostly handled well. The problem arises in the in-between, in the insistence that a larger story connects these random adventures. In all honesty, there is a plot thread that weaves through everything we see, however the manner in which it is woven leaves much to be desired. With hearsay and guesswork left to drive our interest in the series, it isn’t until the final act that we truly learn anything and, when we do, we learn everything. The final three episodes of Flip Flappers are filled so thoroughly with plot that they feel like a different series entirely. Characters who have said a total of five lines thus far suddenly become crucial and those who have never existed even more so. A dark and interconnected plot springs from nowhere and, whilst retroactively explaining some of what has happened, leaves a little to be desired and carries the sense of being too little, too late.
Don’t get me wrong, the climax of this series is far and away the most intriguing part, however it can be tough to discern exactly why. Though the simplest answer is that we are finally garnering some level of cohesion, the more truthful one may simply reside in the sense of curiosity it invokes. Again, a strong asset to possess, yet it can feel somewhat underhanded given what has come before. In every episode prior, the core focus of Flip Flappers seemed to simply be spectacle. Plots held little meaning outside of acquiring mysterious Shards (supposed fragments of Pure Illusion itself) and letting a cavalcade of nonsense happen along the way. Come the end, we are expected to accept that each adventure held metaphorical meaning far beyond what we had already attempted to guess. The amount of time spent enjoying the scenery of each Pure Illusion locale also meant character development was never at the forefront. Yes, Cocona came to accept Papika’s wild nature and embrace the fun Pure Illusion could bring, but every episode after seemed to reinstate this same lesson over and over and over again. Cocona went from being happy, to sad, to accepting, to angry, to happy, to sorry in an almost frustrating loop, whilst Papika smiled, sniffed things and screamed Cocona’s name roughly twice every minute. True, emotions are fickle and Cocona’s mental state is understandable, but the back and forth simply robbed the series of any true sense of progress. This is especially true of when Cocona and Papika enter the memories of Iro, via a secondary level of Pure Illusion, and pivot on emotions to a surprising level.
Absorbed into a Pure Illusion unlike those seen before, Cocona and Papika are subsumed by the identity of a girl named Iro. Forced to relive her painful childhood, the girls seek to rectify a promise that they, as Iro, made to an ailing woman they regarded as family. Though a truly touching story that is surprisingly grounded in an unfair reality many are forced to endure, the repercussions of their actions are not handled in the same honest manner. With their actions having altered reality itself, having made real-Iro happier at the cost of her previous interest in art, Cocona ponders the righteousness of her actions. Was it right of her to change somebody on such a core level? Is Pure Illusion too dangerous if such a thing is possible? Valid questions, however her answer falls in much the same manner as the series proper: back-loaded. After spending an episode unsure of herself, Cocona suddenly decides in an instant that everything is cool and joins Papika in the slaying of the episode’s particular foe. She was not wrong to question her place, nor her actions, however her resolution felt more convenient than anything else, which is not what such a rumination deserved. Look, I know I’m being a little too focused here, but this sequence of events exists in a pattern that is repeated all too often in this series. I actually enjoy what Flip Flappers was going for in the end, I simply dislike the fact that the series could have been half as long and, as long as the last three episodes remained, nothing would have changed.
While I have you here and you’re either nodding your head, or shaking your fist, I feel as if I should mentions the hit-and-miss nature of explanation within this series. We’ve all seen anime before, it’s a crazy medium that contains everything from super-powered high-schoolers, to cats just looking for a place to chill. Still, we can watch such a variation because we are able to grasp what a series is presenting and become invested, learning along the way and accepting a world being built before us. Flip Flappers does this, I’m not trying to say it doesn’t…it just leaves out a few pieces of the puzzle. A few more pieces than necessary. Take Bu for example, the robot who follows the girls around every episode. Seemingly present because a lifeless compass wasn’t enough to wrangle and direct Papika, he mainly serves as a source of slap-stick comedy and insanity when outside Pure Illusion. This is escalated during the climax, wherein Bu receives a major upgrade and is promptly beaten up by a frightening monster. By itself, none of this is wrong or out of place. However, combine this with the plethora of rapid-fire questions and answers that fly at us towards the end of the series and suddenly we have no idea what to make of it. Is Bu’s existence also secretly important? Is he just a joke? Why did he transform? Why didn’t he before? Whose brain is inside him? Why did the scientist make him? Did the scientist make him? Who is the scientist? How did he get hired by Salt? Did he know about Pure Illusion before? Who is the girl with the headphones? What’s her job at Flip Flap? Why is it called Flip Flap? Did they name it after the girls transformation words? Why do the girls have transformation words? Why can the girls transform? Why does everyone act like the girls transforming was their goal at one point? If transforming was so important, why did it come out of nowhere? So many questions and so many more I could list. Fun to ponder, interesting to mull over, frustrating to remain unaware what is left purposefully vague and what was simply forgotten to later plot.
Well, that was unnecessarily long and unmistakably rambling. I do definitely wish to clarify that Flip Flappers is not a bade series, simply a series that perhaps relishes in its confounding nature a little too freely. Though the metaphorical realms and emotional high-points make for some truly interesting and impactful moments, they are often swept aside by the next helping of insanity and undermined by the underdeveloped characters used to convey them. Abstract thinking is a wonderful thing and the drive to understand the bizarre and indecipherable nature of the human psyche is an inherently engaging endeavour, however relying simply on intrigue, without devoting similar effort to the manner in which you convey it, results in a message even more garbled than it already is. Learn who you are as a person, accept and alter your flaws, grow and embrace what your heart desires, fear what scares you and linger on what does not. Hold your head high, fly your flag, name your pet rabbit after somebody who fathomed the extent and personal potential of perception. Fly a damn hoverboard if you can. Have fun. But also learn that, no matter how many soul-searching, heart-wrenching, mind-altering questions you ask, they really don’t amount to much if you skimp on answering them. Unless you have a cool soundtrack. You get a pass for a cool soundtrack.