「ピュアコンバータ」 (Pyuakonbāta)
“Pure Converter”

Despite Flip Flappers‘ being, visually, an acid trip all around, this second episode actually played a lot of things by the book. Not the ‘sucked into the surreal world of the sci-fi vacuum cleaner‘ part, of course, but the general strokes of the story may actually be familiar, especially to those of who have watched a fair deal of anime, of the magical girl genre in particular. ‘Familiar’ in more ways than one, for here’s the strange-animal-mascot-thing that is a staple accessory for any aspiring magical girl. Now there’s one for each of our protagonists—a brain in a jar for Papika, and sentient moss for Cocona. Unconventional mascots, to be sure, but there they are all the same, like a proper magical girl anime. They’re even used in familiar ways, in a plotline about chasing down a lost pet that would normally be completely uninspiring. Meanwhile, Papika literally sounds the Call to Adventure, and Cocona literally rejects it. This is every story ever, right? In that, at least, Flip Flappers is very straightforward.

To see if Flip Flappers has more under the surface, though, to find real depth, I think we need to look at its influences, for that is where its commentary lies. Obviously this episode was heavily inspired by Alice in Wonderland (down the rabbit hole they went), but that’s not too surprising since Japan as a whole seems enamored by Lewis Carroll and many is the anime that will toss in a reference for no real reason. Flip Flappers, though, seems to go one further, injecting an absurdist spirit into its entire setting. Pure Illusion is definitely dream-like, but even outside there are things that are just strange without explanation. How much of that is a deliberate design choice and how much is that is a lack of deliberate design choices is hard to say, like with modern art, but at least it’s interestingly crazy either way and we should all just nod thoughtfully and pretend we get it. To be fair, there does seem to be a method to the madness. While Alice in Wonderland was arguably intended to be an entirely meaningless affair, as absurdism is oft, Flip Flappers does string some coherency together in both plot and themes. As far as I can tell, anyway.

So, what do we have from Flip Flappers? Alice in Wonderland, fairy tales, and magical girls. These all come from roughly the same place, really—children’s stories. Amongst all the magical girl offerings this season I think Flip Flappers is about magical girls as children’s stories, or at least frames itself as one. Perhaps it’s not instantly recognisable in that form, considering flat out bizarre it likes to get from time to time, even dark and creepy, but a lot of fairy tales are also rather bizarre and dark and creepy. The sanitised, Disney versions less so, perhaps, but the Brothers Grimm certainly had no qualms about shocking the kids. Take Hansel and Gretel, which Flip Flappers had quite obviously alluded to. It has a cannibal witch living in a house made of sweets. Nightmarish? Definitely. But kids are going to be saddled with abstract fears regardless, so why leave them out of their stories? And so fairy tales, which are often also morality tales. Rather than pretending witches and monsters don’t exist—children know witches and monsters exist, especially under their beds—they teach that, with wit and character, they can be overcome. And so it is with Flip Flappers. Cocona acknowledges that adventuring is scary and dangerous. Flip Flappers says: go anyway. It’s hard not to see some Ghibli here, since we’re talking about anime and children’s stories. As I noted last week, Spirited Away plays with similar themes too. All that Japanese folklore stuff is actually pretty spooky. But hey, builds character.

Or perhaps I’m just blowing smoke and have no idea what I’m talking about. Flip Flappers certainly has no shortage of ideas that one can pick at and guess at some meaning from. For example, there’s also a theme in this episode about instinct vs reason (the urge to gnaw, embracing insanity vs resisting the flow, Papika vs Cocona, anima and animus) that one can make plenty of hay out of, but we can debate what it all actually means until we’re blue in the face. Flip Flappers is certainly in no hurry to explain anything itself. We’re left to wonder by ourselves about last week’s robot mugging, about whether it was all a dream. Cocona finally gets to meet the adults, who are usually supposed to have the answers, but if anything it’s led to more questions. Perhaps Flip Flappers will be more forthcoming next episodes, or further down the line, but for now we’re mostly left to discuss it amongst ourselves. Well, at least that’s sort of interesting in its own way.




  1. So far Flip Flapper is my favourite show this season and I can hardly say why. While watching it I’m most of the time unimpressed, but then you’re thinking about it afterwards you notice how good it actual is. For example this episode I was “Aha, the have an urge to gnaw on hard thing”


    Later: “Wait they have an urge to gnaw on hard things!”:


    BTW: Utskull is my favorite charater in this show.

  2. about whether it was all a dream.

    Only if we assume that Cocona is still dreaming. The first thing Papkia asks Cocona is if she’s all right, and if those guys did anything bad to her. Upon getting Cocona’s angry “I’m fine, stop bothering me” reaction, she considers the subject dropped and we hear no more about it (yet), but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Unless you want to argue that all of this stuff isn’t happening.

  3. Okay, now I’m bothered partly by the story because of how much it doesn’t really elaborate how events transpired from the last episode and how stuff is happening now. Like outside of a line or two, you never see a full continuation from the capture last week. But this episode, you see Papika fly by that tram full of people, Yayaka asks a question and…they move on. Papika disguises herself to join the school, Yayaka asks a question and…they move on. These are seriously the least interested students I’ve seen in a while.

    Also, this spooky painting hangs here, this character is probably foreshadowing stuff, but no time, moving on. They spend no time developing this world that I’d like to know about. And also, that instance with Cocona doing her “I’m mad at you, no more adventures” anger deal, it feels weird for her to do it this early in the show’s run. I think the show thought so as well, because it gets resolved not long after that.

    Those are things that bugs me because it reminds me a lot of that Sucker Punch movie which did a similar thing with its focus on style, but because it focused so much on making the effects look crazy and having a not real strong story, I got bored a half hour into it even if the action looked cool. It’s just that if you don’t have substance to back up the style, then it feels like I’m watching a Windows desktop effect. Interesting for a bit, but it grows stale.

    That’s something that really concerns me about Flip Flappers, it looks nice, but because it wants to be a little avant garde with its style and animation, even though it looks really nice, most of it is really coming off as fluff and “Let’s do this just because.” Nothing wrong with a little of it, but if that’s all it is, then it loses me. But that’s just me, maybe that’s something other people are looking for, and more power to them. Me, I’m a bit hesitant if it keeps on the route it’s on now.

    Fuwa Fuwa
    1. I dont mind stories that dont directly elaborate right out the gate. Flcl is one of the best anime of all time and it doesnt elaborate so soon. The conceit of this show is pure visual immersion. There’s quite a bit being told to us, it’s just a matter of parsing it all, which i can understand doesnt appeal to all people

      1. I’ll admit the show has done clever ideas with throwing in nods to optical illusions, but I just feel a concern that it treads that line of clever and pretentious, and it can easily falls into the latter category if it throws in this imagery just because. But it’s still early on, and it can still go to places with these ideas they have.

        Fuwa Fuwa
    2. I agree about the whole danger of straddling the line between clever and pretentious that’s why im going to give it some time to show its true colors. Right now i lean more on clever

    3. I wasn’t bothered as much by the lack of explanation because, as sonicsenryaku and you yourself note, it’s early in the series, and I personally enjoy holding onto a pile of clues. It seems, to me, that Flip Flappers is not really interested in the traditional world building as much as constant sensory stimulation. There are plenty of things that are weird in this setting, but are taken into stride, and I think that plays into the general surrealism of the show. Whether that amounts to anything is something we’ll have to see further down the line, of course.

  4. A lot of foreshadowing this episode, from other characters that might get involved later, https://randomc.net/image/Flip%20Flappers/Flip%20Flappers%20-%2002%20-%20Large%2009.jpg
    to concepts that might be clues as to what’s to come.
    Let’s wait and see if Flip Flappers intends to build upon them. Because the show established interest in both the real world and its inhabitants and the acid trip that’s Pure Illusion.

  5. This season has turned out to be much stranger than previews foresaw.

    Am pleased .There’s quite a bit of cleverness in this show; currently it’s all in the tiny things. I see enough tiny things to hope it will rise above merely clever.

      1. Like you i suspected it was the nurse’s office that smelled bad to papika; as if she was smelling the “unwellness” of people who go visit the place. If it was yayaka she was smelling, wouldnt she have reacted all those couple times she was around?

  6. I like how this ep used the ideas of Jacob von Uexkull (who cocona must have named her rabbit after) an early 20th century German biologist who suggested the concept of umwelt, a theory that suggests that the reason why lifeforms perceive the world differently from another is based around the importance of that of which they imprint on, i.e what they mark as important in their environment. Von Uexkull purported that humans werent all that different from animals in how they imprint on the world and this ep of flipflappers makes a nod to that notion by having the girls and uexkull dance between the realms of human and animal when in pure illusion. It was a clever way of highlighting the occurring notion of perception that has been alluded to these two episodes and using it as a vehicle to make papika develop a tad bit as a character and solidify the cast a bit more. Stuff like this is what i mean when i say that the visuals speak for the narrative. There’s something definitely cooking underneath all this and ima keep a close eye out and rewatch eps to get a better idea of what’s going on in this narrative

    1. Thank you very much for the additional info about Uexkull. While watching the episode I have thought that there must be some real world connection because the name choice for the mascot pet character seemed strange, even factoring in all the visual and thematic bizarreness. I really enjoy this series, I could even say that I enjoy this the most in this season so it’s good to see that there are others who appreciate this kind of storytelling and visual symbolism. I think it has the potential to be something along the lines of Mawaru Penguindrom or Concrete Revolutio in telling a multi-layered story through symbolism with a heavy accent on visual perception, so I have high hopes for it.

      Faolin Eye

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