Flip Flappers (Cert 12)

2 Discs DVD / 2 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 296 minutes approx.

Magical Girls. Don’t you just love ‘em? Anime needs more of them, don’t you agree? No? Well how about a show that spoofs them? If so, Flip Flappers might be the show for you – if indeed it is spoofing the magical girl subgenre. A bizarre mix of Madoka Magica, FLCL and The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine movie, it is really hard to tell what this show is trying to say or achieve.

Cocona is you average schoolgirl who lives with her grandmother and is at a crossroads in her life, needing to decide what she wants to do in the future. Before she can make this momentous decision, Cocona is whisked away by a mysterious girl named Papika and her robot TT-392 aka Boo. Papika takes Cocona down a tunnel and to an alternate world called Pure Illusion to search for treasures.

During this journey, innate powers awaken in Cocona on a par with Papika’s although she is slow to understand why. After another wildly surreal adventure, Papika takes Cocona to the organisation she works for called Flip Flap, meeting the mysterious leader Salt, goofball scientist Hidaka and his assistant Sayuri. Salt pairs the girls up permanently to search the Pure Illusion universe for amorphous fragments that can grant wishes.

It all sounds conventional but Flip Flappers is anything but on many fronts. From the opening shot of a cartoonish looking Cocona with her extra large eyes and simple design, the aesthetic is temporarily distracting, setting the tone for what is to come. If you like your art to be bursting with vivid colours, imaginative tableaux and psychedelic imagery then you are in for a treat.

An original series from Studio 3Hz, the outlandishly eye-catching visuals might be the best thing about this show for many viewers but may not be enough to keep them watching after the first episode. Unlike other series with a linear and sequential plot that want to hook the viewer from the onset, Flip Flappers isn’t so forthcoming with such considerations in the first few episodes, likely to deter people from staying the course.

This is a regular folly of TV anime series that remarkably hasn’t been picked up as the counterproductive practice it is, and in the case of Flip Flappers the rewards for staying the distance begin to reveal themselves a few episodes in. As impressive and appealing as the visuals are, along with the zany comedy and infectious personalities of the cast, the density of the writing leaves the audience largely baffled by what transpires.

Being an orphan with no direction in life, Cocona’s only wish in life is to meet her parents, about whom she recalls very little. As Papika has awakened Cocona’s ability to enter Pure Illusion and become a magical girl – Cocona is Pure Blade and Papika is Pure Barrier – Cocona now has a direction in life yet she yearns to be normal. However she becomes close to Papika, creating a conflict in her desire to stay at home and to be with her new friend.

New elements are gradually introduced into the plot, one being Cocona’s childhood friend Yayaka whose jealousy towards Papika is revealed as stemming from the fact Yayaka is also a magical girl working for Asclepius, a rival group also searching for the amorphous shards. How this never came up in conversation before isn’t explained but it does place Yayaka and Cocona on opposite sides despite their friendship.

At least this lays the groundwork for the overarching plotline that eventually blooms in the last few episodes when Papika inadvertently calls Cocona “Mimi”. Who? Well, I’m not going to spoil this surprise but the mysterious Mimi becomes a focal point of the second half of the story – only true to form, a lot of it is hard to follow and logic seems to have taken a holiday when this was written.

There are twists and turns to be found but if you can make sense of them then maybe you can fill the vacancy left by Stephen Hawking’s passing. The obtuse approach towards the narrative and storytelling may not make this as satisfying as it should be but with the climax being a typical “everything including the kitchen sink” blow out anime is very good at it is enough of a spectacle to distract us from these complexities.

One accusation that can’t be levied at this show is being dull. The energy level is hyper most of the time, driven by the ludicrous situations and absurdist influenced worlds Cocona and Papika find themselves in. The frantic comedy takes a back seat to some heavy and occasionally dark emotional drama in the second half to give the show some much-needed weight but the silliness is not always too far away.

Nor is it short on ideas, be it the wonderful esoteric locations visited or their bespoke inhabitants, creating a veritable gallery of unique individuals and places that could star in their own show. On the creative versatility front, one could liken it to the vast array of beings met by the stars of Space Dandy, it is that eclectic.

Studio 3Hz are relative newcomers to the anime game, formed in 2013 with this series being their third of just six outings thus far. Being an original work they got to start from scratch with the designs and artwork yet influences from shows like Kill La Kill and Panty & Stocking With Garterbelt are felt in its loose aesthetic and irreverent attitude, extending to older abstract works such as Dead Leaves.

Regrettably I don’t feel I have sufficiently conveyed what Flip Flappers has to offer in this review since it is truly one of those show one needs to witness for themselves to appreciate exactly what makes it such a unique show. It is unconventional enough to appeal to those with wider tastes but too impenetrable for mainstream fans, but is unequivocally an experience not to be forgotten.

 

Extras:

English Language 2.0

Japanese Language 2.0

English Subtitles

Disc 2 Only:

Clean Opening Animation

Clean Closing Animation

English Credits

Trailers

 

Rating – ***  

Man In Black