Flip Flappers Episode 1: Shelter from the Storm

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From the outset, Flip Flappers is an extensively kinetic show – the first minute or so shows the boundlessly energetic Papika crashing through a tunnel with her robotic companion in tow. This contrasts wonderfully with the more sedate, anxious tone seen in the scenes with Cocona, who spends her time on a test rather than engaged in the art of play and freedom. This sort of contrast works beautifully for the show – Cocona feels uncertain about herself right now, as she dwells on the present, but Papika enjoys the moment, the thrill of adventure. It doesn’t become clear from the outset, but Cocona has reservations about her life – the episode opens with a close-up of a digital clock showing how much time she has to complete the test, and it has two stylized human heads facing each other, symbolizing both the fateful encounter she will have with Papika and her gradual awakening to a new world and new possibilities, where she is free to pursue the fantastic at her leisure without the worries of school life.

 

With this opening approximate minute of animation, one gets to see two entirely different “worlds” at play; Cocona’s world is one of drabness and constraint, as the classroom is gray in tone and somewhat oppressive and intimidating in aspect. By contrast, Papika’s world is open, far less confined to a single space – she literally crashes through the tunnel, carefree and whimsical in her appearance as she surfs the sky in a joyously kinetic atmosphere. Compare this to Cocona – she is constrained in her movements, and worried over her test more than anything. This sort of worry and restraint continues in the next scene; Cocona doesn’t exactly know what to do, and it takes Papika to break her out of her social bubble through a chance encounter.

 

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As the world opens up, Cocona can be seen wondering about her place in the world – the place is more vibrant, but Cocona doesn’t take much notice of the things around her. Before Papika’s formal introduction, Cocona leads an average life; she worries about her mock exam and her future prospects, like any average middle-schooler. What makes her situation unique, however, would be the dream sequence that immediately follows the opening segment – she is on a boat with a faceless girl, who welcomes her back. This means she had this dream before; what it signifies has yet to be determined, certainly, but it bears noting.

 

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When Papika enters the scene, the episode becomes more lively; TT392, the robot, captures them and sends them into Pure Illusion, a liminal space that seems to have its own set of rules. This reminds me of how the kami world is interconnected with the human world; one could traverse from one space to another with relative ease, given that you can find a place where the kami, ghosts and/or other unusual residents live. Papika happens to bring a quasi-kami world to Cocona through her “test;” the exact nature of the test goes unrevealed, but it allows Cocona to visit an unusual realm beyond that of the everyday.

 

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By episode’s end, Cocona obtains an awakening – her powers manifest, and she saves Papika from a watery grave; Cocona realizes who she is, and her saving of Papika is the first step in her awareness of her true self. The broken glasses seen at the end of the episode mark the point when Cocona realizes the extent of her adventure with Papika – she can no longer return to the average life she led before, as she now is ensconced with Papika and Pure Illusion. Pure Illusion, speaking of, hearkens to the kami world of Shinto belief; I mentioned this before, but a bit of detail might be necessary here. In Shinto, nature has numerous facets, and the gods represent one of them; Cocona’s experiences in Pure Illusion echo the strange encounters people have with the kami, and it helps her awaken to her own personal identity. Only through Papika could Cocona have fully understood herself.

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