SPOILERS for the entire series of Flip Flappers.
0:02:15 Experience with Flip Flappers
0:08:03 Wealth of content
0:11:12 Impressions of early episodic portion
0:16:00 Themes of developing queer sexuality
0:22:17 Change in writers
0:23:24 Yonic imagery and rejections of yuri
0:37:18 Multiple perspectives and character freedom
0:41:36 Portrayal and restrictions of queer romance
0:48:36 Importance of queer representation and the sexual tightrope
0:54:41 Bu-chan and Nyuu Nyuu
1:02:25 Mimi, femininity, and the faces of motherhood
1:12:23 Cocona’s conclusion
Recorded Saturday 25th June 2017
Music: Open Those Bright Eyes by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
DEE: Hello and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. I’m Dee Hogan, a writer and editor for AniFem, as well as the owner of the anime blog, The Josei Next Door.
VRAI: Hi, I’m Vrai. I’m a contributor and editor at Anime Feminist. I’m also on Twitter, @WriterVrai; or you can find me all over the internet by googling “Vrai Kaiser.”
PETER: I’m Peter Fobian. I’m an Associate Features Editor at Crunchyroll and a contributor and editor at Anime Feminist. My Twitter is @peterfobian.
DEE: And we also have a special guest joining us this week.
NATASHA: Hi, my name is Natasha. You also may know me as illegenes on Twitter. I am a writer for the blog Isn’t It Electrifying?, and am very happy to be here to be joining all these wonderful people.
DEE: [crosstalk] We’re excited to have you as well, yeah!
VRAI: [crosstalk] Glad to have you.
DEE: And today we are going to be talking about the ambitious, flawed, stunningly animated, and delightfully gay coming-of-age series FLIP FLAPPERS.
DEE: Just to give you guys some quick background information before we get started: Flip Flappers is an original series from the studio 3Hz. They’re a pretty new studio. I guess they’re most well-known work before this would be Dimension W, which probably not a lot of people really think about anymore.
It’s directed by Oshiyama Kiyotaka, who has mostly worked on key animation before this project and unsurprisingly did a lot of the key animation for Flip Flappers as well. And normally with these intros I don’t go too deep into the staff credits, but the design of the alternate worlds in this show are just so good that I do have to give a shout out to Tanu, who handled the concept art. And they killed it. So. Well done.
And then as far as synopsis goes, for those of you who maybe need a refresher since the show aired in the Fall—or if you’ve not seen it before—the series follows two adolescent girls, Cocona and Papika, as they journey through Pure Illusion and collect fragments known as Amorphous, which are supposed to grant wishes. The story spirals into a lot of exciting directions, both in terms of character development and plot twists, and we are definitely going to spoil the hell out of it for you. So if you haven’t seen the show yet, you have now been warned.
And that’s pretty much everything I have as far as the introduction goes. So I guess to start off, let’s just give a brief overview of everyone’s personal reactions and interactions with the series. Like, did you watch it week-to-week, did you binge it? What drew to it? And during this, feel free to plug any writing you did on it as well.
VRAI: You wanna go first? You did—like, this show was your life for a little while.
DEE: It was, that’s true. Yeah, I can start. I picked this one up and did weekly commentary for it on Anime Evo, and it was kind of a gamble because I really liked what it was doing, but there were so many pieces up in the air after three episodes that I genuinely didn’t know if it was gonna be able to pull them all together, or if it was gonna fall off a cliff, or end up just being a lot of cool stuff that didn’t mean anything.
Thankfully, that was not the case, and my instinct that there was something there wound up being true, so I had a really good time with it. A lot of things to talk about in terms of analysis and then just kind of a nice, straightforward emotional story about some girls growing up and their developing relationship.
VRAI: I watched it this week. [laughs]
NATASHA: Oh, wow.
DEE: Yeah, Vrai’s a newcomer.
VRAI: Well, because… When it was airing, I knew that Dee was covering it, and that was probably a pretty good mark in its favor because she tends to pick shows that are at least interesting, if not always ultimately successful.
Then, after it was done airing, literally everyone I knew was like “Hey, this show checks off everything on the list of things that you like: it’s very surreal and gay and weird.”
VRAI: And so then I said, “You’re right, I should watch that.” And then I didn’t for… [laughs] until I had to for this podcast because I’m very bad about starting things. [pause] I really, really liked it.
NATASHA: That’s really interesting because, I think out of all of us, you’re probably the only one who marathoned it? And I’m assuming. ‘Cause I know I watched a week-to-week, and Peter also might have watched it week-to-week.
PETER: [crosstalk] Yep.
NATASHA: But no, that’s actually really cool. I wonder…
VRAI: Yeah, the back half is definitely better for binging than the first half, where it’s more episodic adventures in Pure Illusion. It did… there’s something I do wanna talk about on that front, where me watching it as a binge led to one thing that twigged me kind of weird and sent me spiraling off into an odd direction as to how I was supposed to read things. But it didn’t ruin the show for me. I thought it was still a very sweet, successful romance that gave me many feelings.
PETER: I… I guess I watched the preview when it was coming out before Fall season started, and I just had a really good feeling about it. I couldn’t really tell you what it was. Just maybe the animation, or I guess they showed some of the backgrounds that they were putting together. I just had this feeling that it was gonna be really good.
And then I watched the show, and I guess, uh, I feel I was right. It was a really amazing show. I studied psychology in college and they have a lot of Jungian cognitive spaces, collective unconscious, kind of ideas in the show, which… the part of me that likes psychology really enjoyed that aspect of the show.
And then the overall narrative is, like, the self-actualization, “deciding to live” kind of thing. That really resonated with me. I feel like it shares a lot of the same themes as Evangelion in that respect, with Shinji’s journey. So it kind of just hit a lot of things that I really enjoy about storytelling and themes. And had gorgeous backgrounds, which I’m also… I have a couple of gigs’ worth of those on my computer, so…
NATASHA: For me, I actually also watched the preview. It was vague enough that I thought it would be interesting to watch. I also didn’t know what direction it was going to go in. It was also at a very busy and very good season of anime, so I actually didn’t watch it ‘til—I think, like the fourth or fifth episode had been airing by the time I actually started it.
It was on my list to watch, but I just never got around to watching it until a lot of people were like, “This is very much your thing and I highly recommend it.” And I decided to give it a try and I ended up binge-watching the first four or five episodes.
DEE: I think I remember your Twitter reactions. I think I remember enjoying those on…
NATASHA: They were pretty good. I mean, it consistently got gayer, which is always a good thing in my book, personally speaking.
NATASHA: But I really loved how… I mean, everything, from the beautiful Studio Pablo backgrounds to the animation… but also to just the way it handled a lot of interesting concepts. As Peter mentioned, there’s a lot of psychology stuff going on. There were some excellent posts about art theory; that was really good.
For me, it was more of the emotional core about Cocona’s growth and her queer coming-of-age story, which I really resonated with. I ended up writing a post on that for Crunchyroll. But yeah, no, after, I think the fifth or sixth episode, I watched week-to-week, of course, and… Yeah, it was a fantastic ride from start to end, for me.
PETER: You bring up—there was a lot of good content going around. I really enjoyed your weekly pieces, Dee.
DEE: Oh, thank you.
NATASHA: Oh yeah, those were fantastic, yeah.
PETER: Your piece was great as well, Natasha. And Emily wrote some great stuff, too. So it was… not only was the series enjoyable, but I could trust that there would be two-to-three pieces a week about the series that I could read and it just made the show that much more enjoyable at the time.
DEE: Yeah, I really enjoyed reading the work that was coming out at that time. Like you said, through Crunchyroll and then through some individual blogs as well.
VRAI: It is one of those shows that has a lot going on in the background without… like, things that are just background stuff you can dig into, but can also enjoy the emotional throughline without, but that doesn’t feel pointlessly pretentious.
Like, at one point, the cult referring to the central Tower of Amorphous they’ve got as “Asclepius,” which is of course the Rod of Asclepius, which had to do with the founding of the Hippocratic Oath, and was also a cult related to the twinning of healing and poisonous delusion, which is really interesting. Like, that kind of stuff. And just facts, like, “Okay, okay, we’re doing the Evangelion parody episode.” Because there is always one. [chuckles]
DEE: Yeah, there’s a lot of nods to other films and anime and different genre bits. Like the desert world is kind of a Mad Max thing. And then the creator gives little homages to those towards the end because there’s… in the last episode, when Cocona wakes up in that room, there’s movie posters all over the walls, and there’s a Mad Max, there’s a Ben Hur, there’s a Sailor Moon. And you’re like, “Oh this is you going: ‘Here are some things that inspired me along the way.’” Which was pretty cool, too.
PETER: Yeah, Sayuri has great taste.
DEE: Yeah. I always felt like—and obviously I didn’t have the time to dig into this—but I always felt like you could do an entire series of blog posts just on every single allusion or reference that gets dropped throughout the series. But at the same time, none of that is essential to the story, so you can still…
You can appreciate that the rabbit is named Uexkull—which I probably butchered the pronunciation of—and that he came up with the theory of umvelts, which is, like, personal self-worlds, and how the Pure Illusion is basically an umvelt. And so you can appreciate those allusions and those references, or you can just watch a—I shouldn’t say “just”—or you can enjoy a really sweet story about some girls growing up and going on adventures. Which is nice, too.
But because of what you were saying, with, there was a lot of work people could—there were a lot of things people could talk about with it—putting my Note Prompts together for this podcast was tough, because there are so many places I feel like we could start because there’s so much going on in the story.
This is an Anime Feminist podcast, so we should probably focus on the female characters and the more feminist-relevant elements to that. So, maybe a good place to start would be those early episodes. Was there anything in there that really stood out to you as a personal favorite, when they were doing the little episodic arcs; and, like, why that spoke to you?
VRAI: It is strange that—like I said, I binged it this week, which is mostly true. But actually, I watched the first episode like three months back and I was like, “This is good. I will get back to this.” And then I put it down for a couple of months, because those early episodes are very pretty and interesting and promising, but they don’t have the hook of what it ultimately becomes.
And also this is an anime that has a problem where it’s mostly a story about agency and coming-of-age and making decisions for yourself, even when it’s hard, and then also lovingly drawn cameltoes in the magical girl transformations.
DEE: Yeahhhhh. It is not without its problems. And we’ll definitely get into that, too.
Natash: Yeah. I mean, I actually really loved the episodic format the show first went for, just because I felt like that was a very nice and gradual way of getting to know the characters and the abstract world that they interact with.
So—one of the things you guys mentioned is—one reason why Flip Flappers is such a fun show to get into is not only the variety of things it delves into, but how those concepts are not necessarily tightly intertwined with one another to the point where it feels heavy.
And so what I really enjoyed about those first couple of episodes was the different worlds were just completely different from one another, but they always had the similar heart of Cocona and Papika’s relationship development. So you could easily find yourself immersed in the environments that they found themselves in, but you could also start to get invested a little more in their relationship, in their characters.
Specifically Cocona, because she starts off as this very awkward girl. These first five episodes are a great way for her not to just slowly, gradually develop into a more relaxed, at-ease character; but you also get a sense of how she views the world around her, including Papika. Which sets up for the main story arc in the second half. But yeah, I just… I love how free those first episodes were.
DEE: Yeah, and I tend to… even though I think Flip Flappers pushes against a lot of genre lines and—apparently, fun fact: the director initially conceived it as kind of a space opera?—
DEE: —Which is not the term I would use to describe it, but it’s kind of neat that that’s where it started from. But I tend to call it a “magical girl fairy tale.” And I think those early episodes really have that feeling of—that kind of episodic, “going on an adventure”-style of a magical girl story and then that same short, concise little fairy tales that give you a little bit of a lesson or teach you something about the characters throughout the episode.
And it also gets to drop bread crumbs in those early episodes that come together to form this really interesting picture the further you get into it in terms of Cocona’s journey and then the world at large, which I think is really nice for those early ones.
I think it was around… ’cause in the second episode, there’s that whole thing where they turn into rabbits, kind of?—or like, anthropomorphic rabbits—and there’s the whole “chewing on stuff because it feels good.” And it’s very much painted in kind of a… kind of a sexual way, like to the point where it’s not too much of a stretch to say that it’s kind of a metaphor for masturbation? Because Papika is like, “Let’s do it, it feels nice,” and Cocona is like, “No, you can’t, it’s lewd, you shouldn’t do that,” kind of thing.
And I remember in episode 2 being like, “Okay, either this show is doing something really interesting with awakening female sexuality or it’s gonna turn out to be super creepy.”
DEE: And, again, it definitely has some flaws—and we’ll touch on that as we go, for sure—in terms of how successful it is along the way. But then, I think it was around episode four and five, between them hanging out on the island, and then especially the Yuri Hell episode, where they’re trapped in that school?
DEE: [crosstalk] Which is such a good episode!
NATASHA: [crosstalk] God, sooo good.
DEE: Yeah, I definitely wanna spend some time on that. But I think that was the moment I went: “Okay, no, they are definitely doing a story that’s not just about Cocona coming into her own. It’s not just a standard coming-of-age story about making your own decisions; it’s also very honestly looking at sexual desire as a teen and especially queer sexual desire as a teen.”
And so having those little bits dropped along the way was a really kind of… satisfying and exciting way to tell the story, I think. And it’s one of the reasons I always encourage people, like, “Give it four to five episodes because it takes a little while to figure out what it’s doing, but once you know, it’s really… it’s very good.”
VRAI: Yeah. I will say the first time I did twig early on that it had some good thoughts in its head was actually that desert episode, where Cocona gets kidnapped by that—God, she has a name, doesn’t she?—the Succubus?—but it’s the “Villainous Tempting” speech.
VRAI: But it’s not just that. It has this deeper subtext, that this is somebody who is clearly a monstrous representation of abusive, violent, villainous queer sexuality, and trying to tempt Cocona into: [intimidating] “You enjoyed this, didn’t you? This is what you should be.”
Because that’s what the majority of media depictions are, so that’s where you start out as seeing yourself the first second that you have any kind of indication that maybe “Oh, you’re attracted to this.” ‘Cause she blushes and gets awkward. But then that’s not who she is, despite the fact that outside forces are trying to force her into that. And that was my first moment of, “Okay, show I’ll follow you down on this.”
DEE: Yeah, and she also [unintelligible under crosstalk]
PETER: [crosstalk] “The Queen of Masks,” is what she’s called.
DEE: I think that’s—is that what she was called? I thought that was just a nickname I gave her.
PETER: Oh. Maybe, yeah. [amused] Maybe it’s your fault. Yeah, every thinkpiece I see on it now has “Queen of Masks.” That’s interesting. Maybe… maybe that was you. But, uh—
DEE: Or I caught it somewhere and just didn’t realize it. But, yeah. Sorry, what were you gonna say?
PETER: She was super interesting ’cause she was also, like, a representation of the Jungian shadow, which are usually a transformative-destructive kind of liminal, and usually are closely tied to human sexuality and appear as black figures like that.
PETER: I know there were a couple other things that were really resonating. But she was kind of like Cocona’s… maybe her darker desires or her more base urges.
PETER: Which she automatically… well, they established she was sort of rejecting that aspect of herself for a long time before this narrative [of] starting to break down her own barriers starts in, which is another interesting part. I really liked the, uh… she’s very defined by barriers early on. I think Nick Creamer was talking about how she was always framed in windows and things. But then she also had barriers where she would push Papika away whenever she tried to touch her, ’cause she wasn’t comfortable with that.
PETER: Which, I mean, some of the barriers are good, some of the barriers are bad. But as she grows closer to Papika, those start to fall down and she grows more accepting of certain aspects of herself. Like, with the Queen of Masks—I guess is what we’ll just call her [crosstalk] unless somebody can—
DEE: [crosstalk] Sure!
PETER: There was sort of an aspect of, where… there was obviously some villainous aspects to her, but I also think that when you consider later on, the way she was presented to her, she wasn’t wholly evil, I guess is what I wanna say.
DEE: Mm-hm. Like, at first, and then she, kind of, becomes more a straightforward villain. I think this is really interesting how we took the character from different angles, but still the ultimate… it all boils down to the same kind of destructive concepts. ‘Cause Vrai, I hadn’t thought of her in those terms before, and I think that’s really fascinating. I think I was more—and I didn’t know about the Jungian thing, so that’s awesome that you brought that up, Peter.
‘Cause I definitely saw it in a similar way, where the Queen of Masks is this, like, pure instinct. Like, “Well, it feels good, so do it and who cares what anyone else thinks, including the person you’re doing it to.” Which is definitely, I think, a part of growing up, and ties a lot into Papika’s journey, which a lot of people… [tentatively] don’t talk about? So I’m gonna talk about it real briefly here.
VRAI: Well, I did wanna add one more quick thing and then yes, absolutely, we should talk about Papika. But with the Queen of Masks too, like… There’s the fact that “Ooo, S&M is scary,” whatever, but I think it’s interesting that all of her devotees are masked and gagged. Because so much of Papika’s struggle is “someone else make this decision for me.” And I remember as a young queer person, very much having that fantasy of: “Oh, if somebody just does this to me, then it’s not my fault.”
DEE: Ohh. Okay.
NATASHA: Yeah, that’s an interesting point. I think that actually ties in a lot with the whole arc, right? Like, what do we consider “active” choices? In letting things happen to us, are we… do we still, in letting that happen, do we have a responsibility? And I think a lot of the last half of Flip Flappers really addresses that with Cocona’s awakening—or specifically Mimi’s awakening. And we don’t have to go into the final parts until later.
But yeah, going back to that, there’s a lot of cool stuff that you can go back to when you finished Flip Flappers. And those first three—I’d really say five to six episodes—really lay out a lot of interesting little tidbits that become a bigger part of the story in the second half.
DEE: Yeah, I agree with that. I also—the other thing I really like is how the first half feels very much like Cocona kind of figuring out what she wants.
DEE: And then the second half is Cocona figuring out how to get that. So, they do end up coming together really nicely, but there does feel very much like there’s a direct line halfway through the show. Which is partly because they changed lead writers halfway through the show, but—
DEE: Yeah. The first—interestingly, the first half is written primarily by… [distracted] a woman who’s name I wrote down… somewhere… um… Ayana Yuniko. And then the second half is written pretty much exclusively by Hayashi Naoki, who is a guy.
DEE: Just a fun fact for the show that I think maybe explains why the first half feels a lot more focused on Cocona’s sexuality and that more physical aspect of her relationship with Papika, whereas the second half is framed more in kind of a “magical girl love story” kind of way, that’s a little bit more innocent, I guess?
‘Cause according to—there’s an interview that got translated, thankfully, with the director, and he even mentions that Ayana’s an experienced hand with yuri. And so that was very intentionally working those elements into the early half of the series quite a bit.
VRAI: There is a point in the early going, where I did just about die, I was crying laughing. I think it was the island episode, where they decide to bunk together and there’s a scene—like, the yonic imagery in those early episodes is off the charts. In that episode, Papika—or, Cocona goes to stay with Papika who’s made her [crosstalk] home in the woods—
PETER: [chuckling] Oh, the tube?
VRAI: Who’s made the tube nice. So she crawls into the tube, parts these big—the hole in the center of these big, fluffy pillows, and enters the magical Wonderland inside where her gal pal is.
VRAI: I died!
DEE: [through laughter] Oh, man. I did not pick that up. That’s pretty great. That’s wonderful. No, I do… Not even realizing that, I like a lot of what that episode does in terms of pushing Papika and Cocona towards an understanding with one another.
I also think it’s interesting that it sits between the Queen of Masks episode and the Yuri Hell episode. Because I kinda see those two episodes as almost, like, extreme ends of the… “lesbians depicted in anime” model, I guess—and also the extreme ends between instinct and desire versus propriety and chastity. ‘Cause you get to that Yuri Hell School and, boy howdy, it is kind of a perfect representation of everything that’s kind of scary about the yuri genre.
VRAI: The fact that they immediately bleed out and die the second they try to leave the school might be my favorite thing about that episode.
NATASHA: [crosstalk] Oh, it’s so good.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Like, cold.
NATASHA: Yeah, episode six—I think episode six was really the turning point for me, where I was like, “This is something…” Not episode six, sorry, episode five.
DEE: [crosstalk] The Yuri Hell episode?
NATASHA: The Yuri Hell episode. Which was like—it was just phenomenal, because it really intertwines so many stories we’ve seen time and time again, in this really creative sphere, where it’s part, kind of… you know, making a point about all these yuri stories we’ve been accustomed to seeing, but it’s also a little tongue-in-cheek about how Cocona feels about herself and her relationship with Papika.
And then on another hand it’s just… Personally, for me, it’s very hard to create a horror atmosphere in anime. For me, I think, the last episode—or the last episode of any anime—which really made me feel terrified was a particular episode of Shin Sekai Yori. But you really have to establish the right tone and the right kind of atmosphere to really make someone terrified. Because it’s not easy.
There’s nothing in episode 5 which has exactly scary moments, but the entire oppressive atmosphere where something is just not right; you just know something is wrong. And then the school girls, and their laughs—everything about it was just incredibly well set up.
Very strong episode, overall. And obviously a great addition to the development of Cocona’s character. But also just more-or-less like… for me, it definitely resonates as someone who grew up feeling different because she was queer, but not really understanding the idea of queerness at the time. It’s that out-of-feeling sensation where something’s not right. Is it you? Is it someone else? What’s going on? Etcetera.
VRAI: Yeah, I think key to what makes that episode so successfully unnerving—’cause you’re right, horror anime is so hard to pull off successfully—but it’s the progression wherein eventually Cocona realizes something else, but Papika is still very much under the influence of it, so she’s so desperately alone in it and sees that she keeps falling back into it and can’t stop.
NATASHA: And then there’s that added layer where Yayaka is very much—or attempting to be—in control of herself in that environment.
VRAI: [pained] Oh, Yayaka… Help her!
NATASHA: She’s a fantastic character. One of my favorite things about Flip Flappers is honestly Yayaka’s development, which we could probably get to a little bit later. But I feel like that’s really the starting point, when she obviously interacts with Cocona and tells her to kinda get a handle on herself. But, you know, contrast that with later episodes.
And I feel like episode 5, or “Yuri Hell Episode,” does a lot to establish the slow background of Yuyuka—I mean, Yayaka—who you just know her as a side character at that point. But I feel like that episode just does such a good job of establishing—or, setting the background of her feelings for Cocona. ‘Cause she is so… She’s so bent on restraining herself in every way, to the point where she tells Cocona “You need to be in control of yourself. You need to have a better handle on yourself.”
And that, for me, personally, once again, resonates. So many people saying, like, “You need to… whatever you’re feeling at the time, like, whatever queer identity you seem to be having needs to be restricted; you need to internally hold it.” And so I feel like, from Yayaka’s perspective, she seems to be doing Cocona a favor, but obviously that backlashes later on when she’s forced to make very difficult decisions.
VRAI: You were gonna talk about Papika before I derailed you, Dee.
DEE: Oh, it’s totally okay. Cocona’s also a tremendous character and I definitely wanted to touch on Yuri Hell before we bounced into other stuff because I think that’s a very excellent episode; one of the better kind of rejections of the yuri genre that I’ve seen. So no worries about the derailing there.
No, I think the show does a really—and kind of talking about Yayaka yelling at Cocona, “You need to get a hold of yourself in this world”—I think you’re right, Natasha, about how it does play into that idea of: “Well, just tamp down those feelings ’cause you’re not supposed to be having them.”
But at the same time—and this is kind of the very delicate balance that I think Flip Flappers does pretty well over the course of the series—at the same time, Cocona and Papika are very much getting sucked into this cycle and the way this world works, because it’s—the allure of that Class-S yuri genre is, like: “Oh well, I can…”—how do I put this?—“I can act on those feelings I have within certain rules.”
And so for Cocona and Papika at that point, who are really just kind of starting to figure out how they feel about each other, I think there is kind of a… what’s the word? They’re sort of drawn to the safety of that school at first. And Yayaka helps snap Cocona out of the fact that—helps her look around and go: “Oh wait, ultimately, this is kind of meaningless. We’re doing the same thing every day.”
It cannot exist outside of these particular rules and walls and this idea of femininity where you, like, you cross stitch and drink tea every day, kind of world. And so I think the show does a really nice job balancing that sense of instinct and nature and being true to yourself, while also being considerate of others and aware of your surroundings and not letting yourself get pulled along with the flow, which is Cocona’s main conflict there.
Which is, in a way, my way of shifting a little bit towards Papika, because I think a lot of people see her as a character who is pretty much fully formed at the beginning of the story, and I really like the way she moves… If Cocona kinda moves from this world of like, “Well tell me what to do and what should I do” to “Here’s what I wanna do,” I think Papika moves the other direction and gradually starts to be more considerate of Cocona’s needs, rather than just pushing her own ideas and wants onto Cocona like she does in the early episodes when she just drags her along on these missions.
By the end, she’s fighting for Cocona’s freedom. Not like, “I want Cocona to be with me,” but “Cocona should be able to make her own choices.” And I think that’s a really nice arc for her as well.
VRAI: It’s… well and it gets a little bit sticky once you get into the fact that… once she recovers her memories and then her character very obviou—like, it changes, but it doesn’t in certain ways, where one would think it would be obvious? Like, what is just “the way that she’s been growing” and what is, “I am now remembering this past life.”
Which brings me to the major question that I have, which is seriously twigging—which seriously affects, like, how am I supposed to read this: Were Papika and Mimi dating?
PETER: Papika and Mimi?
PETER: What, you mean Papikana, back in the day?
PETER: Uhh… I, I think so. I mean, she was basically the kid’s dad.
VRAI: [frazzled] Because, like, that is—
PETER: Yeah, the whole short hair thing going on. Raise the kid together.
VRAI: Well, yeah, like they very obviously—when I was watching those flashbacks, the emotional truth of it to me just—“Well, obviously Salt and Papikana are both romantically involved with Mimi.” And because Papikana was brave, she got a chance to be reborn and meet Cocona, and Salt had to atone for what he did.
Which is why I still don’t think the show is ruined if Papika and Mimi were involved, because at least once she meets Cocona they are developmentally of an age and she’s a new person. So it’s not, like, creepy in the way that the ending of KareKano is, where it’s like, “I couldn’t date your parents, so I’m waiting for you to grow up!”
NATASHA: [crosstalk] Ugggh, that’s… awkward.
VRAI: But it still makes the ending a little bit weird and awkward to me, because then it’s like: All right, so Papika is supposed to decide “Do I want Mimi back or do I want Cocona the back?” And she doesn’t decide! [pause] Like, she says—
VRAI: And that’s weird! That’s weird. Are you dating them both now?
NATASHA: Well… It’s been a while, so correct me if I’m wrong, but I do remember specifically in like… not the last episode, but the episode before that, where Yayaka confronts Papika on how she feels about the whole scenario, she kind of mentions that she sees Mimi as a friend. But she uses this specific phrase continuously throughout series, where she’s like, “I like like like like like you,” to Cocona.
DEE and NATASHA: “Dai-dai-dai-dai-daisuki.”
DEE: [fondly] Yes.
NATASHA: Which is, like, very endearing. But, like, in the third episode, she really emphasizes it. She’s like, “I really really do really like you.” And you never see that emphasis verbally on Mimi and Papika’s relationship. So, I think… It’s obviously not definitive, but I would argue that nothing in Flip Flappers is truly definitive. It’s all very abstract.
But within the scope that is Papika and how she interacts with people, the way she interacts with Cocona is very different than anyone else she interacts with. And that includes Mimi, and that includes Yayaka.
PETER: And I think we saw a lot of that in the… I can’t remember which episode it was. Was it seven? “Pure Component,” where she splits into the many Papikas?
DEE: [crosstalk] Yes! That’s a really good one too.
NATASHA: [crosstalk] Ahhh, that’s my favorite. That’s my favorite episode.
PETER: Yeah. And that’s the one constant among them, where they all loved Cocona.
DEE: Well, there’s two constants: They all love Cocona and they all want her to break rules.
DEE: They all represent some kind of a transgression. Which I think says a lot about both of their characters and the arc of the story, to. ‘Cause Cocona goes along with all of that, too. Like, she’s like, “Let’s cut class; let’s get into water fights or smash sand castles ’cause it feels —because it’s fun.” And Cocona was like, “Yeah, let’s do it!” Which she would not have been, like, two, three episodes prior.
But… sorry, Peter, that was kind of a side point about Cocona’s overall arc. What were you gonna say about the many Papikas? And how they all love Cocona?
PETER: Yeah, their emphasis was all on Cocona. I know that episode was doing a lot because I think it was kind of the counterpoint to “Pure Echo” with the Yuri Hell, kind of building their relationship. I think the transgression part is a really fascinating aspect of it as well.
Yeah, it also highlighted the fact that Papika is kind of, um… I don’t really know how to describe her. At that point, she’s not, like, a whole person? ‘Cause in the Yuri Hell episode, she also very quickly gets wrapped up in the routine. So it’s like, wherever they are, she’s very susceptible to becoming part of the dream. Whereas Cocona has more of a self-identity.
VRAI: Which I guess makes sense since she was reborn in Pure Illusion. That’s where her new self is based. So her arc, I guess we could argue, is finding “who does she want to be out of infinite possibilities.” You have to pick one.
NATASHA: Right. And Papika is a very free-spirited individual. And I would say one of Flip Flapper’s weak points is never really delving into Papika’s side of things except for the flashback she has.
But the whole… [amused] twisted scenario of her being kind of the same age as Mimi, but then she regresses into a child and has these adventures with Cocona, I think are more-or-less just a way of… I don’t know if I would say “second chances,” but I believe it ties into Flip Flappers’s idea that you can never be restricted to one thing.
I don’t mean that in like, one life or one way, but like… One of the beauties of Flip Flappers is the multitude of ways you can really look at it, right? There’s so many lenses which you could apply to Flip Flappers. And I feel like that’s kind of its whole point, is the multitude of ways you can perceive a relationship.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be completely romantic, it can be intertwined in something else, but that’s never necessarily a bad thing if you take—or [if] you get the most out of it. And you shouldn’t restrict yourself to certain definitions, because abstraction in its own way is a freedom that people should embrace; not just in art, not just in psychology, but in relationships and identity.
VRAI: No, yeah, I think that’s definitely true and important and intrinsic to the part of the series; that idea of freedom. And yet at the same time, the show very definitively hits on that point of having them declare their love for each other.
NATASHA: Oh, yes.
VRAI: [annoyed] Which is something a lot of anime doesn’t bother to do. When they’re like, “It’s ambiguous!” really just means “The straights can read it that they’re friends!”
NATASHA: Yeah, no, absolutely. And I think… I think that’s precisely why it’s so important that they do establish a relationship for each other, because that freedom can be dangerous. It allows them to explore other worlds, but it also allows them to be very highly influenced by other people’s actions and decisions.
Like, for example, for Papika, it was Yuri Hell; it’s the world that she decides to really get involved with. For Cocona, it’s her parents, her mother’s decisions, in the same way that… If she’s free, if she’s so abstract, she doesn’t have her own identity, so she lets her mom to decide things for her. And then for Yayaka, it’s the freedom of, “Oh well, I am my own person, but I’m actually really bound by these rules and regulations that I don’t really wanna follow and have second thoughts about.”
So I think there’s that double-sided sort of freedom that is established in Flip Flappers. Freedom is good, and freedom is essential for imagination, for growth, but too much freedom can lead you to be lost. And you always… you need some kind of guidance, some kind of relationship, whether it be… you know, like with Yayaka, her… Cocona’s love for Papika, they all kind of culminate in this final decision where she is finally able to make her own decisions in life.
PETER: It’s like the Shinji Ikari: “You can’t do anything with a black canvas, but once you draw a line on the horizon, you have more boundaries to imagine yourself in,” kind of thing.
VRAI: Yeah, except it was actually in the narrative instead of a pretentious textbook lesson in one episode.
PETER: Yeah, that’s actually another thing I wanted to bring up as part of what we were talking about [with] our experience watching the show. ‘Cause we were… It was coming out at the same time as Yuri on Ice.
DEE: Yes, it was.
PETER: Which was obviously much more popular.
DEE: [delighted] They competed each week to see who could be gayer. It was my favorite thing about the fall season, was: “Which show will be gayer this week? Go!”
PETER: Yeah. But—I mean, I’m not surprised that people were rejecting the gay narrative, because of course they were. But I thought that the end point where—’cause they did a bunch of callbacks, like where… in episode three, Papika says “I dai-dai-daisuki,” and then Cocona says “dai-dai-daisuki” in… I think it was episode—was it 11 or 12?—I think it was the penultimate episode.
So I felt like they accomplished more with less in regards to that narrative than Yuri on Ice at the time. I couldn’t help but compare the two, as they were happening.
VRAI: Well, I mean, in fairness, what’s come out afterwards is that Sayo Yamamoto really had to push past censorship restrictions to even get the kiss in. The one kiss, never mind anything else. So there’s that factor, too, but…
NATASHA: I did not know that. Wow.
VRAI: Yeah, that came out recently, I think, in an interview that she did quite recently.
NATASHA: Oh wow.
VRAI: Yeah. I wrote a piece about it that may or may not be out by the time this podcast airs. We’ll see. [EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece was ultimately scrapped before publication]
NATASHA: Oh, nice. Awesome.
DEE: It’s really interesting to me the stuff that you kinda have to push through and the stuff that just goes. Because there’s a whole scene in that Papika Pieces episode where the girls are like, lounging around in lingerie, and… There’s no way you can’t read that scene as queer sexuality.
[Laughter in background]
DEE: And I guess they were like, “Yeah, no, it’s cool, go with it.” Whereas, like, [crosstalk] two people smooching…
NATASHA: I think it also has to do with the director, right? Like, being a woman pushing for this explicit scene of kissing. Whereas, you’re a guy, and many scenes have had that pervy, sexual content in anime before. So that probably gets a little more loose to go through.
Whereas if you’re a woman, you’re like, “Well, I really want these two guys who are in a really romantic relationship to kiss.” People are gonna be like “Fff”—as opposed to, like, “Oh well, it’s about this girl, she goes into this world where it’s kind of… kind of sexy, kind of lewd, [chuckles] a little BDSM-ish, but, you know, it’s just one of those episodes.” You probably get a lot more leverage and… [crosstalk] freedom to maybe do that.
DEE: [crosstalk] Yeah, maybe so.
VRAI: And I mean, Cocona and Papika never kiss.
NATASHA: No, they don’t.
DEE: No, that’s true, but they do express their love for each other very loudly.
NATASHA: [crosstalk] Oh yes.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Which I appreciate.
DEE: Definitely lying around in bed in lingerie together. [mutters] I’m just sayin’.
VRAI: No, yeah, definitely, I… It’s just this matter of: what’s okay to imply as loudly as possible, but what are these weird lines that you can’t cross, even though, like, a kiss would be far less explicit than the lingerie scene.
PETER and DEE and NATASHA: Yeah.
NATASHA: That’s probably one of my favorite scenes in Flip Flappers, is just that very short two-minute ending to—I think it’s episode 7.
NATASHA: Which is great. Actually, it’s—so, episode 7, I feel, is kind of part a follow-up to episode 6, which is when Papika and Cocona enter their classmate… I forgot her name. She’s an artist—
DEE: [crosstalk] Iroha.
NATASHA: Yes. And so they go and travel through her memories because Iro’s grandmother, I think, had Alzheimer’s disease?
DEE: I don’t think she was actually a relative. She called her “Auntie,” but I think she was just like a friendly neighborhood lady.
NATASHA: Yeah. And I mean there are… There was a lot of interesting implications that her—this aunt—was also probably queer. But there’s a lot of great stuff in that sixth episode about creativity, education, identity, art…
And then, so, both Papika and Cocona come out of that and it’s the first time they realize that, whatever they’ve done in Pure Illusion, has a consequence. It’s not, you know, just… The great thing is that they don’t—it’s not tailored as good or bad, it’s just a change. Because Iro, for example, doesn’t do art anymore, but she finds herself wearing that nail polish, right?
PETER: [crosstalk] She’s happier.
NATASHA: She’s happier, she’s more opened up to people. So, it’s a change. I love that Flip Flappers doesn’t say it’s a good or bad change.
But it kind of triggers this anxiety in Cocona and she looks into herself. Which leads to the seventh episode, where she finally comes to a point where she’s like, “How do I feel about Papika? We’ve been kind of working around the bush, we’ve had good times, but how do I really feel about her?”
And the way it climaxes into this final, very emotionally intimate moment between… I would say Succubus Papika and Cocona. But there’s this very honest question where she’s like, “I like you,” and she’s like, “But do you love me, like, not just [as a] friend? Cut that bullshit out. Do you really like me?” And obviously she never—she doesn’t express [the] confidence of saying yes; she has to get to that later.
But it’s a very prominent question I personally have had throughout my coming-of-age time, where I was like, “Do I really like this person? Maybe I do perceive them as just a sister or maybe it’s because she has tomboyish qualities that I might like someone like that.” But in the end, you really have—that whole episode really, finally establishes, I think, Cocona’s feelings for Papika. And it’s just done in such a relatable, well-done way.
PETER: And she didn’t really reject the act itself so much as… I feel like her objection was the fact that she wasn’t really sure if she was the real Papika.
NATASHA: [crosstalk] Yeah.
PETER: Because I think—I can’t remember what—they called her “Lustful Demon Papika,” right? Was that her name in the credits?
DEE: Yeah, they gave them all like nicknames at the end. I don’t remember which one that one was.
NATASHA: [crosstalk] Oh, that’s so good.
PETER: Yeah, she said, like, “Is there anything wrong with what we’re doing?” And then Cocona kind of just… She didn’t really say there was anything wrong with it, it’s just she didn’t feel comfortable doing it with that—I guess “creature”—’cause she wasn’t sure who she was.
DEE: [crosstalk] “Fragment,” I guess.
PETER: Yeah. So, I don’t know if that would’ve necessarily meant she would have been willing to do it herself, but I don’t think she was rejecting the act just as it was, so much as her uncertainty over Papika herself.
NATASHA: [crosstalk] The real Papika, yeah.
DEE: Yeah. “Which Papika am I hanging out with right now?” kind of thing.
VRAI: And that’s such a nice moment of relatively restrained exploration of what teen sexuality means. Which is not always consistent across the series. [chuckles]
DEE: No. And actually, that’s kind of a nice way to dovetail into, um… you know, I think Peter and I both named it our “problematic fave” of 2016—
DEE: —and I always, I tend to describe it as “flawed but ambitious.” And so I think there are some definite problems with it that we can talk about.
And one of them is that very careful line that—and, you know, I give them a lot of credit for attempting to walk it, because I think it is very important that we have stories that teenagers can look at that openly and honestly discuss awakening sexuality, and especially queer sexuality.
‘Cause like Natasha was saying, this series really resonates with her because it matches a lot of her own experiences. And I think that’s really good and really important, but it’s also very… You have to be very careful because, at a certain point, it stops being an exploration of sexuality and starts being sexualization.
Did anybody else find with the show that there were times when it seemed like they were maybe trying and failed…?
VRAI: I think it’s very interesting to me that—I think as far as terms and overtness of declarations of love, this show is essentially to me a more successful version of what Yurikuma Arashi was trying to do on that specific front.
Like, Dee, you and I fell into this deep, deep hole of discussion on whether Papika referring to Mimi as her “partner,” using the [English] loan word, what that meant specifically about how she felt about her. And the fact that she never calls Cocona her “friend”; she just says that she loves her. And stuff like that of: when are terms platonic, when are they romantic, when are they used to disguise or to obfuscate or to deflect romantic or platonic feeling. All the levels of that, I think the show plays with pretty effectively.
But then also, again: cameltoes.
DEE: Yeah, or… The moment that always sticks out to me is the episode where they’re on the island together. And there’s a lot done in that episode in terms of using nudity or clothing to talk about where the characters are in their lives.
Like, Papika sleeps in the buff and she’s more of an instinctive character very close to nature. Whereas Cocona’s very worried about propriety, and doesn’t even want Papika to peek around the corner of the bath when they’re taking that shower together. And I think a lot of that is done very well to talk about their characters and the show’s interaction between nature and society or instinct and propriety—however you wanna frame that.
But then, halfway through the damn—or, at one point in the damn episode, there’s a pan-up shot of Cocona taking a shower, and I’m like: [skeptical] “That was… you didn’t need that. You got the point across.” That just comes across as… I’m almost hesitant to even call it “fanservice,” because it feels like it was supposed to be part of the theme and tone they were working with, and they just failed.
NATASHA: It’s tough, because… I feel like episode 8 is really where that issue comes into play.
DEE: Yeah. The giant robot episode, where they’re in swimsuits?
VRAI: Just like the crotch-level shot of them in—of Papika in the robot.
NATASHA: Yeahh, yeah.
DEE: [crosstalk] Yeah I feel like some of the… like, some of the butt shots in that almost feel like they’re supposed to be funny. Like, “Oh they’re crammed in these tight little spaces; here’s some goofy shots of them crammed in there.” But they’re wearing—because they’re wearing those swimsuits, it’s… Yeah. [crosstalk] It’s really crass.
NATASHA: [crosstalk] Yeah. No, I mean, it’s…
PETER: That was done by another studio too, I believe. And I can’t remember if they said the director for those episodes is pretty well-known for being horny.
NATASHA: [crosstalk] Yeah.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Uggh.
NATASHA: I remember that a bunch of young animators worked on episode 8 and that they—you could obviously tell that they were feeling a little more impulsive to do certain types of shots? Which is unfortunate, because I honestly feel like Flip Flappers, for the most part, does a pretty good job of staying away from sexualizing minors. [chuckles dryly] Which sounds like such a weird and awful thing to say, but in the scope of anime is very normal, right?
But… yeah, episode 8, like you said, episode 4… There are definitely moments scattered across. It’s enough for me to… It’s probably because the show is so good at staying within its own boundaries that those moments, when they do come, kind of feel like little twitches or irritations.
NATASHA: That make them stand out all the more, than…
NATASHA: I mean, episode 8 is very overt. Like episode 8 is just… I do really like some parts of episode 8. Like, Yayaka getting together with Cocona and Papaka and making the robot transform. That’s fantastic.
VRAI: [crosstalk; excited noise]
NATASHA: Exactly! It’s great.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Yay!
NATASHA: But then you have shots like this, and then you’re just like, “Ahh…” It throws off the balance. So, definitely a very valid complaint I have with the show. Which, once again, I feel is kind of unavoidable when the show is, at least to a point, kind of dominated by men who write the show, animating the show, directing the show.
But I would definitely say—and I guess you could say this is a valid comparison or not—but compared to many, many other shows that tackle these same kinds of themes, or try to in some way or the other, the fanservice is… it’s more of a mild irritation than an active issue I had throughout the show.
DEE: Yeah, no, I agree with that. And it’s one of those—again, it’s one of those where I tell people, I’m like, “I get it if it’s a deal breaker, but I really hope you can push through it, because there’s a lot of really good stuff in here and it just happens to have these really kind of jarring moments.”
And actually the giant robot episode is a good place to bounce this from, too, because that one’s from within Bu-chan’s perspective—
NATASHA: [crosstalk] Yeah…
VRAI: [annoyed groans]
DEE: —And I think Bu-chan is also sort of— [starts laughing]
NATASHA: [crosstalk] Bu-chan, our favorite…
PETER: [crosstalk] Yeah.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Kill it.
DEE: [amused] Vrai’s groan. —Um, Bu-chan and then Nyunyu, I think, are also maybe sort of the glaring—
VRAI: [crosstalk] Why does she exist?
DEE: —kind of, “Why?” Moments in the series, is their purpose in the story.
VRAI: I mean, Nyunyu exists for that one episode to make Yayaka feel threatened and get her back in line, and then is completely useless to the plot but continues to exist.
NATASHA: [crosstalk] Yeah, it’s—
PETER: Yeah, and she was like a narrative device that had a bikini on for the rest of the show for some reason.
NATASHA: It makes me wonder. A lot of these things, like Papika being Cocona’s pseudo-mom, I guess. And, like, you know, all of these small things make me wonder if—and I need to go back, ’cause I actually have the blu-rays and there are some notes in there—which I can’t read, because I don’t know Japanese [chuckles]—but I would be very curious to see if this ties into the fact that there was a writer that—uh, whose name I can’t remember—but that female writer who was—
DEE: [crosstalk] Ayana, yeah.
NATASHA: Say her name one more time, sorry.
DEE: Um, it’s… her last name is Ayana; her first name—
PETER: [crosstalk] Yuniko.
DEE: [crosstalk] —I believe is Yuniko. Yeah.
NATASHA: So Ayana was on board for, I think, seven episodes, and then she left. And no one knows why, but I feel like that, and the kind of production side of Flip Flappers, may have led to this problem where there are a lot of interesting ideas they wanted to use, but maybe they couldn’t use, and that’s why they ended up being kind of stuck in the end.
And they’re kind of there, and you’re just like, “Why? Why are you here? I’m sure you had a greater purpose, but for some reason, you kinda got shafted and you just got [unintelligible] in the end.”
DEE: The best explanation I can come up with is: because the series is—like, in previous episodes it’s shown that it’s playing with the magical girl genre and the yuri genre—and so, I think you can kind of see Bu-chan with his eyeball zooming in and looking at people skirts ‘n’ crap, I think you can maybe, kind of, see him as a meta-joke on the textbook “male gaze.”
NATASHA: Oh, yeah.
DEE: And then the fact that he gets exploded and stepped on and beat up, like, every single episode, is kind of satisfying? But he’s still an unpleasant character for the most part.
VRAI: Yeah, he’s also the closest the show comes to making shitty trans jokes and I hate it.
NATASHA: Oh, yeah.
DEE: Ohhhh, in Yuri Hell?
VRAI: In Yuri Hell.
DEE: When he kinda gets pulled into it. Yeah.
VRAI: Yeah, I… That was the one moment of the show that I found honestl—like, the fanservice stuff is irritating, but that was the one joke in the show where I was like, “I find this honestly unpleasant.”
NATASHA: Yeah, yeah, no. I mean, Bu is definitely a character that… I don’t know. I think that episode 8 is kind of—on the one hand, it’s really interesting to look through Bu’s perspective and the scientist perspective. But then on the other hand, it’s all of this unnecessary overt—fanservice? sexualization—that just kind of throws, once again, the show off-balance.
And one of the great things I love about Flip Flappers is how easy it is to get immersed in the environment, the world, the characters, and you just dive in with them, and it’s a great, great sense of direction. But then it’s precisely these moments that jerk you out. And it makes the ride a little rocky. And, yeah, once again, I honestly feel more-or-less it’s more of a production issue, where they had these ideas for these characters, but they just never ended up going anywhere.
DEE: Yeah, it does feel like they maybe had a little too much for 12 episodes, especially with the side characters. I will say, though, it is… it’s almost worth it when Nyunyu—who’s been just, like, the useless moe character who’s not wearing pants—gets to shoot Bu-chan in the head. [excited] That’s pretty great.
DEE: It’s almost worth it. It’s not quite. Like, I still think you could remove those two characters and you would lose nothing from Flip Flappers. I do not think they really—they feel like they kinda just fell in. But that one scene, I was like, “Okay you know what? That was pretty great. That that’s how their little spontaneous friendship ends, is he’s grabby and she just shoots him in the face.” So that was kind of a good touch.
We are coming up on an hour. It would be nice to, I think, end maybe on a more upbeat note. So is there anything we haven’t talked about yet that you guys really want to? Examples being: we haven’t really talked much about Mimi; Vrai, I know Yayaka is near and dear to your heart.
VRAI: [emotional] Someone help this garbage child! I love her!
PETER: Yeah, Yayaka.
NATASHA: Yayaka’s great.
PETER: She’s my favorite character.
NATASHA: She is so good. I mean…
VRAI: I just… [fondly] ahhh… And I love the imagery when they’re in the void-space where Cocona’s barrier is living—it’s webs, it’s mutable—and Yayaka’s is glass or ice and she shatters, and it hurts me. She’s just so repressed and fragile. But she ends up inheriting Uexkill at the end, so, with the sort of implication that she too can find her own inner-space and know who she is, and I just love her.
PETER: Yeah, “Pure Mute” is probably my favorite episode. I loved the dual-prison thing where Cocona escapes by calling out to Papika; and [Yayaka] tries to destroy her feelings for Cocona to escape from the prison that—like, her own psychic prison that she’s created for herself. But of course, that doesn’t work.
And the whole scene where she’s gonna steal the Amorphous from Cocona, I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be kind of a rape allegory. And then she withdraws at the last second. Like, everything about that episode was… that was probably the peak for the show, for me.
DEE: It’s very intense, for sure. And Yayaka’s journey is unique, but at the same time, similar to—like, every character kind of ties back into the same ideas, which is, y’know, good thematic work. ‘Cause she and Cocona are both afraid of making choices, but whereas, for Cocona, it’s more about just a general fear of mistakes, for Yayaka it’s very specifically: “If I don’t do this, I won’t have a place anymore.” And that’s very sad.
Speaking from that element of the show exploring queer sexuality, I think it speaks to a lot of people who are afraid to acknowledge those feelings or come out because of the fear that the people they live with maybe won’t accept them anymore. And so that’s… Yeah. Yayaka’s journey is very emotional and… yeah.
VRAI: Yeah, ‘cause Yayaka knows how she feels about Cocona. She just can’t admit it or do anything about it, because then she loses everything. She loses her place, she loses Cocona because Cocona loves somebody else… It’s so sad.
DEE: It really is. But! She comes around. She acknowledges her feelings, and even gets a transformation sequence. [crosstalk] Before all is said and done.
NATASHA: [crosstalk] Yaaas!
VRAI: [crosstalk] Yeahhh!
PETER: [crosstalk] Oh, that was the best! That was so the best!
DEE: Her little, brief experience with the Queen of Masks is really nice there at the end, when she’s like: “Buzz off.” I really enjoyed that, too.
Which… Okay, I don’t even care if we run late, we haven’t had a chance to talk about Mimi and I feel like we should talk about Mimi.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Yes.
DEE: ‘Cause we really haven’t discussed the last half of the show. So we’re just gonna run late, and—
VRAI: [crosstalk] It’s gonna be a long episode.
DEE: It’s gonna be great! Don’t worry about it! Just take a break if you need to, and you can come back. Just pause it. It’s all good.
I really like Mimi. I think her episodes are probably the messiest part of the show. I think the early episodes are a lot tighter. But I really like what they did with her character, especially retroactively, because when you find out that she is all of the Fragments, then that kind of means that she’s been both helping and hindering the girls, like, from day one, basically.
PETER: Yeah, in the same way that you find out that the worlds that they’ve been going to are the different psychologies of the different characters in the show, in retrospect. It’s like Mimi’s present in all of those places as well.
DEE: And she’s both, via the Fragments that both Cocona and Papika have that helped them transform and then the Fragments that they keep having to fight, she is simultaneously this character who wants to support them and who wants to stop them and lash out. And I really like, her because I think they were building up to her with the Iroha episode and then with the Papieces—as I like to call them—in terms of the concept of people having fragmentary personalities. And with Mimi that is very literally the case.
VRAI: Well, I really like that flashback episode because aside of one or two things that weird me out about it—like, I very strongly feel that this show should’ve hammered a little harder on how, or if, Papika’s feelings changed to acknowledging that “this is the past and I’m putting the past behind me, I still love you, but I’ve chosen Cocona”; and I think it leans towards that, but doesn’t like definitively hammer on it?
VRAI: But also the actual flashback is so satisfying? It genuinely got me, where I spent half the episode being like, “All right, what’s Salt’s deal?” And then half an episode before it told me, it clicked in a very satisfying way, and all of a sudden it felt deliberately planned in a way that I think a lot of shows can’t pull off without being super obvious.
DEE: Yeah. Yeah, I would agree with that, for sure. I really… One thing I really like about just—again, because this is a feminist podcast—I like how Mimi… the way they move from Mimi to Cocona in terms of… Mimi is trapped in this room that’s very, like, rigid forced femininity: it’s all pinks and ruffles and no one’s really—and she’s very much controlled by this male-oriented organization. And then at a certain point, when they essentially try to take everything from her as punishment for rebelling, she just loses it.
And I’ve always seen Mimi as this really—‘cause again, I see this series, mostly because the ending credits have all that fairy tale imagery in them, I see a lot of fairy tale elements to the series itself. And I like that Mimi ends up being simultaneously the Maiden character, the Mother character, and the Witch character.
And then how that sort of leads into Cocona’s story, where she has more freedom than her mom does. And her mom kind of simultaneously represents a lot of different elements of the older generation in terms of… you know, she simultaneously wants Cocona to have that freedom and that agency and empowers her with that gem that’s embedded within her; but at the same time, she’s also that parent-figure who ends up… going along with the world that she was raised in? And thinks that the younger generation also needs to be controlled.
So that conflict between the two sides of Mimi, I think, is really compelling and, again, speaks to the fact that all of these characters are female characters. And even though the show doesn’t directly talk about, like, “Well, you’re a girl. So, da-da-da,” I think those social elements are built into it. Which are really interesting to me.
NATASHA: [crosstalk] For sure.
VRAI: It is nice that… sorry, I, uh… go on, um… please. [crosstalk] ‘Cause we’re—
NATASHA: [crosstalk] No, no. I was agreeing with her.
NATASHA: I think the points you brought were excellent. Especially… It’s hard to say this because I don’t think, at least I have not watched a lot of animes that focus on motherhood or mother characters. And you can argue to a very good extent that Mimi isn’t really so much of a mother as she is a child confined by her own fears and her own anxieties. But I really do enjoy that backstory as just Mimi wanting to make her own responsibilities or have her own responsibilities as a mother.
And you know, I can speak as… once again, from a personal standpoint, but much of her conflict with Cocona is not just “This is my daughter and I see her, in a way, as my own property because I’ve wanted her for so long and now I get to have her and spend time with her.” But it’s more-or-less like: Cocona is someone who loves Papika and she doesn’t approve of it. She wants Cocona to be molded in the image of what she wants.
And I think that is such a good topic, because many times parenting—it’s not something that’s taught to you. And so many times we can mistake our children’s intentions as good or bad, but we try to give them the best or make them happy in what we think happiness is. And I think Flip Flappers does a really good job of doing that. It doesn’t just make her into this monster. This is like, tragic, confined mother. Mimi really does love Cocona.
NATASHA: But she loves her in the way that she thinks Cocona’s happiness should be like.
DEE: [crosstalk] Right.
NATASHA: Which is a very important distinction that I feel is very hard to see in anime and is especially hard to see in anime that tries to tackle with queer identity and queer coming-of-age stories.
PETER: Yeah and they also—they kind of mirrored Cocona’s encounter with the Queen of Masks with Mimi as well, where she meets her own shadow.
NATASHA: [crosstalk] Oh, yes.
DEE: [crosstalk] Oh, right! Yeah.
PETER: It just… It goes very differently, where her own shadow kind of emerges and she gives up her own control because the shadow promises that it can protect Cocona.
DEE: Yeah, she kinda gives into those base, instinctual urges of “keep the child safe and nothing else matters,” kind of idea there. [crosstalk] Which is why—
PETER: It’s also super Jungian, too, with the different aspects of “The Mother,” which is—it’s almost, like, textbook really: both nurturing, but the negative side is you can be too controlling. Definitely saw a lot of influences there.
DEE: Yeah, for sure. And so it’s really—kinda like Natasha was saying—she’s not painted as a textbook villain who needs to be defeated. She’s more… she’s a bunch of different Fragments who they have to convince. And part of that is fighting parts of them, but then at the same time they’re being helped by other parts of Mimi, and then other parts are kind of standing to the side.
And so it’s really nice that the series doesn’t just have the girls, like, kill the parents and run off. Mimi does realize—she eventually does realize. She’s like, “Oh no, this is what Cocona wants and ultimately, to be a good mother, I have to be willing to let her make her own choices.”
VRAI: Well, and at the same time, she recaptures her ability to be what she always knew she wanted to be as a mother, but also she becomes a person again. ‘Cause when she accepts her shadow, she’s just Cocona’s Mother, and she’s not Mimi anymore, really.
DEE: [crosstalk] That’s a good point.
VRAI: She loses self-identity in that harsh, consuming role of motherhood that I think is somewhat expected to a degree. You’re not an individual person anymore once you have a child. You give everything for the child. I think… you know, something like Wolf Children: you are no longer a person; you are beneficent and self-sacrificing and you do it for your children. Your life is over now.
DEE: [laugh-sighs] Yeah.
VRAI: And she gets to reclaim herself with their help. Sorry, you were saying?
DEE: No, that’s a really good way of looking at it, too. I like that. Again, I like that the fragmentary nature of perspective and personality is so deeply baked into the show that there’s a lot of different ways you can look at pretty much every episode and character. And they’re all still functionally the same.
Like, I think that Papieces episode is a really good example, too, because you can look at it as Cocona trying to figure out how she feels about Papika; and you can also look at it as Papika trying to figure out what version of herself she wants to be and how she wants to make Cocona happy, because that’s important to her.
And so you see that again with Mimi here, where you have these different Fragments of her, and so she can reclaim these different aspects of herself and become a whole person by the time the series is over. Which is… just a nice ending. The ending was definitely kind of messy, I think, but I was cheering and smiling and very happy by the end of it, which I think is a success on the show’s part.
VRAI: I think that last-second feint to “Oh no, the magic is gone”—ehhhh, they don’t have quite enough air time for it to really stick. Because there’s so much time left in the episode—there’s so little time left in the episode—that it’s obviously a fake. But those last couple seconds are… sweet.
DEE: It’s definitely kind of rushed, but what I do like about it is it calls back to some of the other episodes where Cocona gets lost. But in this situation, she never gives up. Like, in the world with the many Papikas, she gets lost and can’t find the people she cares about and she ends up just sort of sitting down the edge of a bank, and then this hole of depression swallows her and Papika has to come rescue her. And in this final world, she keeps searching and she never gives up, and then Papika does help find her.
And so I—again, as rushed as that magic-less world is, I did like the idea that Cocona as a character… that it kind of put a capstone on her arc in terms of: she’s still gonna make mistakes and get lost and not—you know, she’s not a perfect human being. None of us are.
DEE: But she’s not going to give up and she has someone who cares about her and is gonna keep looking for her as well. So yeah. It definitely could have done with some more screen time, I think, but I really liked the ideas behind it.
VRAI: Yeah. And it’s just nice and it’s warm fuzzies. And I do love that ending credit sequence. It’s one of the only anime where I watched the ending every time. It’s so beautiful.
DEE: It is a lovely. It’s actually kind of neat, too—and I could definitely be overthinking this—but I think that the ending credits sort of parallel Cocona and Papika’s journey in terms of some of the different imagery they use.
Like, around the time when Mimi starts to show up, there’s this clawing hand reaching for Cocona; and then at the end, there’s a swan that flies off into the distance and it’s kind of like Mimi being freed… It’s great! I think that you could probably write an essay about that, too. but it’s also possible that I just watched the show so much that I way, waaaaay over-thought some of this.
[chuckles in the background]
DEE: I also really like fairy tales. So that’s probably part of it, too.
VRAI: It’s definitely—it’s not hitting on it as hard as Princess Tutu or Utena, but those themes are definitely strongly in there.
NATASHA: Yeah, no, I… It’s that final conflict and that final resolution; especially, of course, the butterfly wings part metaphor. But Emily, also known as AJtheFourth, wrote this really interesting post on this painting that appears consistently throughout Flip Flappers. I think it’s done—or, done, as in painted by, the previous Iro. And it kind of ties into the ending, where Mimi is lying in this pool, and she’s kind of coming to terms with, you know: “Have I made mistakes? Who am I? In terms of Cocona’s development and growth, where do I find redemption?”
And that obviously ties into that whole aspect of: you should accept yourself for who you are, your flaws and everything, but it’s… it’s just this really nice moment. And a lot of people give complaints about how Mimi—or, the second half of Flip Flappers is definitely messier than the first half.
But I can’t, once again, emphasize how unique it was—or how important it was—to watch a show that tackles queer characters both on the side of that character growing up, and the parents having to—or, the parent—having to kind of understand it or come to terms with it.
And it was just very refreshing not only to have Mimi embody Cocona’s fears and anxieties—I wrote a post on how Mimi, in a way—or the Mimi we see—is not necessarily just the many flashbacks we are exposed to, but also part-Cocona’s anxieties and fears when she feels like she’s been betrayed by everyone she knows.
NATASHA: So, in a way, you could argue that Mimi is kind of like the psychological aspect of Cocona: of betrayal, of fear, once again, of regression and returning to this shell. But it also does such a good job of tackling motherhood in a really—and, once again, as you brought up, within the confines of society: of how mothers are supposed to act, how they’re supposed to raise their children into what they think is best.
And the ending of Flip Flappers is satisfying because it gives Cocona an ending, it gives Papika an ending, and it gives Mimi a resolute ending. And I really, really love that. ‘Cause so many shows just shift endings for antagonists-ish characters into, like, “Oh, they either died or they’re no longer there.” But Mimi’s obviously going to be there. She’s going to be a part of Cocona’s life. And that’s very powerful and enriching in a way.
DEE: That’s probably a pretty good place to stop, actually. That last line of Natasha’s would probably be a good place for us to cut and bounce to the outro here.
Unless, is there anything anyone else wants to talk about? I know we didn’t get a chance to talk about Salt, who ends up being a surprisingly good character.
DEE: Or, like, some of the stuff with Asclepius and the twins and stuff. Did we wanna—we’ve already gone over, we might as well go all in! Did we wanna touch on any of that before we wrap it up, or should I, uh…?
VRAI: [weary] I don’t know. I think I’m tapped out of deep thoughts.
NATASHA: [crosstalk] Yeah, I….
DEE: [crosstalk] That’s totally fair.
NATASHA: The great thing about Flip Flappers is that there’s so much to talk about, but the bad thing about Flip Flappers is there’s so much to talk about.
DEE: Yeah. As we were getting into this, I checked the time at one point and I was like, [amused] “Oh man, we’re still talking about Cocona and we’re, like, 30 minutes in.” I was like, “Welp! This one’s gonna go long.” [chuckles]
VRAI: It’s a long one. It’s fine.
DEE: But I think that’s okay. And you know what, dear listeners? If you’re really craving more Flip Flappers content, I have 12 essays on it; Natasha has two or three?
DEE: Natasha has three, and Peter has another pair on Crunchyroll and maybe a third one eventually, who knows? So you have plenty of options for more, and I know we discussed other things in those as well. So there’s always more Flip Flappers writing.
And also, both Peter and Natasha mentioned Emily—AJtheFourth on Twitter—has written some really good Flip Flappers essays as well, so… check those out if you get the chance.
Okay! I think that’s gonna do it for us, everyone. We hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of Chatty AF. We were definitely chatty AF. So, truth in advertising, there.
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And that’s all I got! Thanks for listening, AniFam, and we will catch you next week.