2016 wasn’t the greatest year yuri anime has yet seen, but late in the year, we had a show sneak up on us that helped end the year on a high note. Of course, I’m talking about Flip Flappers, so let’s take a trip down the rabbit hole and see the last of what 2016 had to offer us yuri fans~
Indecisiveness is an issue for Cocona, with the latest instance being which high school she wants to attend, despite having sterling grades. Living a seemingly normal life at home with her grandma, things in Cocona’s life take a drastic turn towards the surreal when she meets Papika, a strange and affable girl who rides around on a flying surfboard. Together, they travel to the world of Pure Illusion, where fantastical adventures await them, though, there’s far more to the world of Pure Illusion than meets the eye… .
All right, that doesn’t sound so different, but since a synopsis can often be misleading, let’s start this off by saying that the story in Flip Flappers is probably its biggest strength, as well as its greatest weakness. For the first handful of episodes, the plot feels a bit random, and you’re left unsure of what exactly the show is going for. There isn’t enough explained, and even though the show is still very entertaining, not knowing quite enough about the characters and pussyfooting around its more ambitious story elements made me feel like there was some wasted opportunity early on.
The trippy, fairy tale-like world of episode two, the Mad Max-esque post-apocalyptic desert world of episode three, and the nightmarish, yuri-fied version of their school from episode five were all great, but there just wasn’t enough plot progression for my liking.
Around the midway mark, however, we see the story start to settle in and begin delivering more character development, as well as a clearer picture of what is really going on. There’s still much to be inferred, but at least there’s progress. From an emotional perspective, episode six was particularly strong, and from then on, it feels like this is sort of what Flip Flappers was aspiring to be all along. I think the final few episodes did a good job bringing everything together and proving that there’s a method to the madness involved in this show.
It may be a little hard to wrap your head around the story, due to the emphasis on metaphorical concepts, but the coming-of-age tale that’s hidden underneath the magical girl exterior of Flip Flappers is something that a lot of people can relate to and can probably appreciate nevertheless.
Rewatching this a second time helped me understand some aspects of the story a little better—and gave more meaning to the earlier episodes—but I probably can’t say that I was able to make sense of everything that happened. Still, from a storytelling point of view, this was a lot different than what we’ve become accustomed to as yuri fans, and even though there were some minor flaws here and there, the story is definitely worthy of some praise.
Sorry, Salt, Hidaka, Sayuri, Toto, Yuyu, and everyone else. Each of them had their own appeal and were perfectly fine characters, but this part of the review will pretty much be all about Cocona, Papika, and Yayaka.
For me, there was a big difference in how I viewed Cocona and Papika, at least early on. Cocona seemed like your standard anime protagonist, but I felt like she was overshadowed by the world of Pure Illusion itself. As has already been stated, the lack of exposition early on probably didn’t help matters any, yet it was impossiible not to instantly take a liking to Papika. Her carefree attitude may have clashed with Cocona’s safe and bland demeanor, but I thought that she was charming and perfect for the show.
Over time, I was able to warm up to Cocona, though, Papika is still best girl, as far as I’m concerned. And then there’s Yayaka. As Cocona’s longtime friend, she immediately butts heads with Papika, and as she comes to play a bigger role in the story, I kept liking her and her defiant attitude more and more.
Pretty much as soon as Cocona and Papika meet, the yuri sparks fly, and by the end of the show, their love for each other is essentially one of the overriding themes of the entire anime, so I think yuri fans will have a lot to like about this show. Lost in this Cocona x Papika lovefest is the fact that Yayaka obviously also has feelings for Cocona, so there should be no doubt that this show is pretty gay. From the downpour of yuri imagery in episode five, to nearly the entirety of episode seven, to so much more, I think Flip Flappers should easily be 2016’s flagship yuri/yuri-ish anime.
Probably the first thing one notices while watching Flip Flappers is that it looks good. Like, really good. Studio 3Hz is a newer studio that’s not as universally lauded for their animation as KyoAni and some of the more established studios, but they’ve been producing some quality work, with this probably being their best effort to date. Fans of sakuga will be in heaven, as there’s a wealth of highly-stylized, over-the-top scenes that are absolutely gorgeous to look at. In the short video above, you’ll see what I’m talking about. Nice, huh? Backgrounds and the general art style are also very nice, so, visually, this is an anime that just oozes style and is a visual tour de force the likes of which yuri anime fans probably aren’t accustomed to seeing.
Aside from the awesome OP and ED (both of which I think are the best of the fall season), the audio does an admirable job of trying to keep up with the visuals and do justice to the strange adventures that Cocona and Papika go on in Pure Illusion. The background music in particular is quite nice, and among the overall impressive production values, it’s pretty easy to overlook just how commendable the sound is. Simply put, it may not be as noticeable or impressive as the animation is, but the audio is another area in which Flip Flappers stands tall.
If you’re someone who’s been looking for something a bit different in your yuri anime, look no further. Flip Flappers takes gorgeous visuals and marries them to a metaphorically-rich story of adolescence that probably features more than enough yuri to satiate fans’ interests. It’s not the easiest anime to understand, so if you’re into Ikuhara’s works, this might be of some interest to you. By all accounts, this show is gonna completely bomb on the sales front, but at the very least, it still succeeds as a form of artistic expression.
All in all, Flip Flappers was a much-needed shot in the arm for yuri anime, and after rewatching this, if I could do it over again, I’d probably award this Best Yuri Anime over Amanchu!. Better late than never to realize that, I guess~