OP: 「Serendipity」 by ZAQ
When I wrote the preview for Flip Flappers I thought that it’d be the more traditional kind of magical girl show compared to the other offerings this season, but it seems I was off the mark there. The better for straight magical girl seems to be, for now, Soushin Shoujo Matoi. Well, can’t win them all, and in my defense: I have no idea what I’m talking about. This is doubly true for Flip Flappers, which seemed intent on hiding its hand prior to airing and even for this pilot seems loathe to really go out of its way to explain anything. This is not necessarily a bad thing, since mystery is tantalising, but it does mean that when we’re just going through the various anime pilots of the season and pigeonholing shows for the purposes of figuring out what to watch, things get a bit tricky. Certainly, Flip Flappers doesn’t aspire to the same slow, familiar start that may define it as fundamentally of the generic magical girl formula, like Soushin Shoujo Matoi. Instead, Flip Flappers is, well, strange.
To be clear, it’s not necessarily the plot of Flip Flappers that is strange. Even here, there are still some genre conventions that it follows. It’s a coming-of-age story. The protagonists come in pairs: the stoic one Cocona/Kokona (Takahashi Minami) and the genki one Papika (Ichimichi Mao). This time the stoic one is the main character and the genki one is relegated to manic pixie dream girl, but the general shape is still there. Secret power, transformation, hair extension—that stuff we all know. So while it’s true that Flip Flappers never really stops to explain itself, the plot is not especially complex, so when characters-without-context pop up or Suddenly Doombots we can mostly brush those developments aside, accept the protagonist’s own confusion, and continue to follow along.
What does set Flip Flappers apart, though, is certainly in aesthetics. It’s not that, on the whole, Flip Flappers looks whack—the animation is crisp and I have few complaints, and the designs are distinctive and pleasant. It’s that, rather than a single, defining aesthetic, Flip Flappers seems to want to mix in many. To see this most clearly, just compare the OP to the body of the episode to the ED . Flip Flappers just will not sit still. Perhaps that’s what’s appropriate when we’re talking about surreal parallel dimensions (or whatever Pure Illusion is supposed to be), but there is simply a lot of visual data that flows in, without many clues as to what is noise and what is important. Regardless, it is what makes Flip Flappers interesting, and for the most part I enjoyed it and would approve more of it. This is the strength of the animation medium, right? Reality is flexible here, and I do think anime should be bolder about going a little crazy sometimes.
That still leaves us with the question, though, of what exactly Flip Flappers is and what it intends to do. Here, I think we must fall back on the aesthetics, for that is where I think Flip Flappers most strongly makes its case. Magical girls seeking wish-granting plot-devices is probably something you’ve seen enough to be bored of, surfboard action or no, but the storybook backgrounds and general adventure spirit speaks of something almost Miyazaki-esque. Reflexively, I’m reminded of Spirited Away and Nausicaa. The ED sequence wants us to think about fairy tales. And Papika is, I guess, Peter Pan. All taken together… er, I dunno. There ‘s a lot of ideas that could have been baked into Flip Flappers, but at this point how is one to know for sure? And, in any case, a bundle of ideas does not an anime make. What I do know, though, is that my interest has been piqued, and hopefully the creativity hinted in this pilot is not just superficial. I look forward to seeing more of what Flip Flappers intends for itself in the coming weeks.
ED: 「FLIP FLAP FLIP FLAP」 by TO-MAS feat. Chima