I was looking through some of the concept art for Flip Flappers the other day, and I must say, it made me appreciate the show just a little bit one. For one, the art’s gorgeous—that goes without saying, no?—but one can also see in them, perhaps, the process by which Flip Flappers was created. It seems to me, almost, that what the production team did each episode was throw out a piece of concept art and just run with it. The script? Probably something they leave until later. Sure, there is something of an overarching arc to Flip Flappers, something which they attempt to explain more and more with each episode (sometimes by way of Wikipedia), but for the most part the forays into Pure Illusion are self-contained, and also where most of Flip Flapper‘s entertainment is to be found. Each episode’s Pure Illusion is a different ‘monster of the week’, so to speak, and I think first and foremost designed around an aesthetic. You can just imagine how the planning for, say, episode 03 went, right? Someone enjoyed Mad Max a bit too much, had a thought about crossing their magical girls with Fist of the North Star, and then away they went. It’s just the general air of whimsy underlying Flip Flappers. Look how easily it implies stories left off-stage that could easily have been just as crazy as any other episode. And I don’t really care how they got there. I’d watch it.
The other advantage of the fluid world of Pure Illusion is that it allows Flip Flappers to basically change genres as it pleases to keep things fresh. And so Flip Flappers decides what it really wants to be was horror, and off it goes. Perhaps not in a complete genre shift, for Flip Flappers still adamantly remains a magical girl show, with this episode being the one where the protagonist magical girl (specifically in our case it’s a duo) actively confronts her ‘rival’, and perhaps starts to build a rapport. But this is all interpreted through a markedly shifted aesthetic. After giving us a closer look at Cocona’s weird but still oddly charming school last episode, this week Flip Flappers turns off the lights and tries again. The horror is not in the plot line, per se, but in the aesthetics. Flip Flappers trots out basically every single campfire horror story or monster B-movie trope in both camera work and setting design. We’ve got the random blood, the creepy doll, the ominous rooms, and more besides. In fact, it’s so overboard that, like in episode 03, it’s not always easy to tell if it’s not all just a massive parody. On some level, it probably is, but I don’t think that’s the main goal. It’s still sometimes serious, and still overall rather unnerving. The point, I think, is to run the magical girl story through a different filter every week. Again, imagine that the team started with two pieces of concept art—say, the school after dark, and a world of clockwork—and the challenge is to bespoke the story to these concepts. And this is the result.
Overall, it worked pretty well, in my opinion—but then again, I love a bit of a psychological unease in any story, and clockwork is plain cool. I’ve been finding the episodic adventures consistently entertaining at least. The overarching plot, I’m not as sure about. Flip Flappers gets more technical with its plot as it goes, needing to explain its own jargon and mechanics, but it’s hard to place the need for such exposition when there’s, y’know, magic. And the more Flip Flappers explains the more questions arise anyway; for example, why do they need to bring a totem into Pure Illusion all of a sudden? Because Cocona is transferring to Hogwarts? And so at some point I just let all the explanation go over my head and stop paying attention to it anyway.
More important than explanation, methinks, is simply putting things into place. Next week, more of tea-and-paint-Senpai. We don’t need anyone to explain that she’s an important character; we know simply by her showing up more than once. And the less they explain of her appearances, the more important she feels. It’s the power of mystery. And I think Flip Flappers is best when it never tries to explain anything.
Full-length images: 20.