Welcome, one and all, to another thrilling instalment of Matt Doyle Media Dot Com’s yearly tournament, Crunchyroll of the Dice. As always, before we begin … the rules!
- The series must be picked at random
- If it has multiple seasons, I go with season 1
- I have to at least try to watch the episode, no matter what show I get
- I then compare the shows in various categories, and the series that had the episode with the highest overall score advances to the next round
With last month’s battle between Miss Koboyashi’s Dragon Maid and RWBY, things are off to a fun start. This time around, we’ve ended up with another odd pairing: Flip Flappers and Plastic memories. Let’s begin.
I don’t know much about Flip Flappers other than that it seemed pretty popular when it was released. There are a lot of GIFs floating around Twitter too. It looks kinda like a magical girl series to me, but we shall see. Anyway, we open with an artsy shot of two faces showing ‘Time Remaining’ and a countdown from 20:30. A young girl is writing answers on a mock exam and looking relatively emotionless about the whole thing. Meanwhile, an alarm goes off somewhere else and a red-haired girl called Papika is seen running, carrying a surfboard. According to a group of people in a mysterious lab, she is looking for a candidate of some sort. A robot attacks Papika and she rides the surfboard through the air, escaping whatever tunnel she was in. The exam girl stares out a window, maybe noticing something, and we cut back to Papika who spots the bright lights of the city and sails off towards them.
Techno beats in the opening give way to a poppy sort of song. The visuals on the familiar world are all grey and miserable looking, but all the shots of what I’m assuming is somewhere else the two girls will visit feature some more colour. Bouncy theme though, and the animation seems pretty smooth thus far. We return to the episode and exam girl is dreaming about being in a boat with a mysterious girl. Ah, exam girl is named Cocona. Thanks granny! Cocona speaks to Granny and ponders where she should go, but the conversation is short lived and she heads off to school. While waiting at a train crossing, she spots Papika surfing through the sky, though no one else seems to notice. Papika notices that Cocona noticed and that puts her off, causing her to fly into a yellow robot and fall.
Cocona and her friends get on their train and we see Papika standing atop a bus stop. She notes Cocona’s name and a pair of twins spot her. The boy asks if she’s a chimney and the girl calls him an idiot, after which, Papika disappears. That makes me wonder if they couldn’t entirely see her, like maybe she’s affected by a visual anomaly of some sort? Anyway, Cocona is still unsure where to go, which it turns out relates to her future in general, be it a job or a school. Cocona is distracted throughout the day, and is agonising over her lack of direction in life. She goes for a walk in what looks like a pretty awesome agricultural area of the school grounds, and finds a blocked off storage area in a bush. A few steps later and it’s clear that it’s not a storage area but a dump of some sort. She settles in on top of a pipe and starts pondering her future again, when Papika pops up.
Papika is very interested in what Cocona is doing and has apparently waited for Cocona forever. She starts to sniff Cocona, freaking her out, and then exclaims that they should ‘go together’. Cocona asks where and Papika has trouble remembering the destination’s name. but she thinks it may be Pew. The yellow robot that she crashed into appears and confirms that she means Pure Illusion. It then captures both girls and we cut back to the lab where the leader decides to test them out as partners. The robot leaps into the pipe, creating an explosion of black liquid and dragging the girls with it. They go through some sort of technicolour trippy thing, before ending up in a black and white world. Cocona is, of course, concerned, but Papika is all for exploring, and they soon end up in a snow-covered world. Papika is happy to embrace the world and just enjoy herself, but Cocona is unsure how to react, much less understand where she is. The robot explains that this world is Pure Illusion and Papika jumps on Cocona. She seems to have undergone some mad costume change. Her surfboard is still intact though, so she grabs Cocona and flies off.
Later, Cocona tries to call her Gran, but cannot find a signal. Papika belts her with a snowball and invites her to play, but Cocona is having none of it. She gets a bit clumsy and falls face first into the snow, discovering that it’s sweet. The two girls eat a little and Cocona starts to reluctantly lighten up a bit, building a bulbous snowman. She cuts loose and laughs for a moment, then remembers herself and regains her composure. Next thing we know, the girls are on the surfboard again, and Papika asks if what she sees below them are ghosts. Cocona explains that they’re not ghosts but frosted trees. She’s quite impressed because she’s never seen one before, so Papika takes them down to have a look. As the girls go off screen, two of the trees ominously move. Years of damage, or are they alive? Maybe we’ll find out.
Down on the ground, Cocona is marking the path with something, but Papika is eating the trail. It starts to snow again, and the girls are forced to build shelter for the evening. Papika is still full of joy for life, but Cocona is worried. She doesn’t understand where she is or what she’s doing. Papika is fine with it though because she has Cocona and the robot with her. She says that they should go on a treasure hunt because somewhere in Pure Illusion is something that makes wishes come true and smells good. She’s very scent focussed is Papika. She says that the thing smells like Cocona and Cocona pushes her away. Outside, trees are falling. The robot, Bu-chan tries to go take a look, but gets whomped and crashes to the ground. Oh, he has an actual brain. That’s cool.
The girls narrowly escape being crushed by some sort of shadowy thing that rampages through and takes Cocona’s glasses. Papika, being the reckless one of the pair, surfs right on in to get the glasses, and another load of monsters turn up. They’re all heading to the water. Papika gets Bu-chan to hold on to Cocona and goes on a glasses rescue mission. The monster, or the frosted trees as it happens, also has tentacles and starts whipping Papika in the face, drawing a small amount of blood. Papika, despite Cocona’s insistence that she should leave the glasses, pushes on. Cocona is worried that Papika is going to die. Papika grabs the glasses just as the tree that she’s riding dives into the icy water. Cocona is very upset that Papika may be dead and her emotional outburst causes some sort of magical reaction in her thigh, which is odd. The reaction makes her glow, grows her hair and gives her some crazy speed and strength. She runs straight though the ice (the water has frozen over already) and hauls Papika out. Papika loves how awesome Cocona looks, and Cocona suddenly notices her change in appearance. She panics and the pair fall again, but the robot creates another black pool, sending Cocona back to her world. She awakes holding a blue gem and wanders off to see Papika waiting for her. Papika returns the glasses and says that they should go adventuring again, but Cocona says no.
And so ends the episode. The ending theme is whimsical and features some simplistic animation that looks like a children’s book. It quite like it, actually. That was an interesting story, and definitely leaves you wanting to see more. Ooh, there’s more. After the credits, we return to the girls. Cocona is insistent that she won’t go again, and Papika is begging her. Cocona wants to know if Pure Illusion is a dream or a parallel world, but Papika gets distracted by the glowing stone. We jump back to the lab and the guy in charge is smoking and holding his own fragment of stone. Some … either robots or armoured people show up and grab the girls. Well now I’m even more intrigued!
Onto Plastic Memories. I think that I may have read a review for this before. I’m vaguely familiar with the concept of the story, which I think is pretty cool, but this is my first time seeing it. Right then, we see the male lead running to get to a fancy building. He thinks about how he’d handle it if his lifespan was pre-determined. We see a girl with red eyes crying, and she turns to see the boy staring at her. The boy remembers that at that point, he had already fallen in love her without even knowing her name. Seeing a girl crying is enough to make you fall in love? Maybe there’s some sort of hero complex going on there. She’s clearly in a bind, I must save her, and so on.
No opening theme it seems, but we cut to the lead in a suit as he heads to work with the Terminal Service Department of the building. His name is Tsukasa, and he doesn’t seem impressed with his office or colleagues. That’s OK though, they aren’t overly impressed with him either. He has no idea what his job is other than that it relates to androids called Giftia. It looks like everyone that smiled at him is a Giftia and the grumpy ones are human. We learn that Giftia have a lifespan of 81,920 hours, or 9 years and 4 months. Once that expires, their personalities disintegrate. The department goes to retrieve them, pairing one human and one Giftia for each mission. With no advance warning, there is no Giftia for Tsukasa though.
The girl from the elevator walks in and it is suggested that she team up with him, Her name is Isla and she was previously number one in retrievals. She agrees to join up Tsukasa. Kazuki, the woman in charge of fielding Tsukasa’s questions is pretty protective of Isla. The new pair begin to converse, and Isla starts to glitch a little. Michiru and her Giftia turn up and notice that Tsukasa kept holding Isla’s hand. They warn Isla off him, saying that he’s having dirty thoughts, but Tsukasa denies it. Michiru is here to train him, though she’s a year younger and has only been in the department for a year. Tsukasa asks why humans and Giftia pair up on missions, and Isla explains that they’re set up as marksmen and spotters. Tsukasa is a spotter, who must stand around and make sure that Isla does her job right. He’d like a manual really as he knows nothing. Isla gives him a book and says that the job is never rewarding as they’re ripping apart memories. The book is Isla’s diary. Random.
They arrive and the Giftia’s head off to the target. They are to negotiate a retrieval. Michiru’s Giftia, Zack, immediately turns on the charm. The Giftia, Edward, is now in a chair of his own volition. There’s some tears with the him and his owners (who seem like they have a parental relationship with him). He places a ring on his finger and touches hands with Zack (who’s wearing an identical ring) and we get some flashy stuff to show that they’re working on a machine level. The Giftia is terminated and packed away. The owners have to be present during the process so that they can ensure privacy when memories are wiped. While there were no physical signs of damage, his memories were already failing.
We cut to another retrieval and the team are making a third attempt to retrieve a Giftia called Nina, but the owner is having none of it. Michiru says that Tsukasa and Isla can deal with the next retrieval. Isla freezes before they can ring the bell and starts to glitch again, so Tsukasa has to ring the bell. Someone inside the apartment runs across the shot and Isla suddenly realises that the target and their owner are trying to escape. Isla leaps off the building to give chase and crashes down to the ground. Later, we learn that Zack caught the fleeing pair, and that Isla caused some damage. Kazuki grabs Tsukasa, gets all scary, and orders him not to push Isla so much again.
Tsukasa asks Michiru if Isla and Kazuki have a history together and it transpires that they used to be partners. Michiru also agrees to explain to Kazuki that it as her fault, but only so thet she doesn’t seem like a deficient trainer. There’s an argument about whether Tsukasa thinks he drew the short straw, and he’s then asked to pick an assignment for tomorrow. They end up with the one where the owner won’t talk, but Isla thinks that she’ll be able to fix it. It turns out that the plan involved offering tea, then tea and cookies when that failed, and then a honey treat. A few days pass, and they’ve gotten nowhere. Isla is watering herbs and Tsukasa thinks that she may be upset about what’s happening. She says that she’s fine, and Tsukasa reminds them that the next day will be Nina’s time limit. Isla mentions that as long as she’s working, she has a reason to exist, and says that she has an ace up her sleeve.
The ace was a selection of cakes and burgers. Michiru is heading over herself later, and wants the pair to hang in there until then, but it’s not going well. Isla resorts to scaling the wall with the intent of ensuring that the tea is drunk. She finds Nina and offers the tea and the owner turns up, mad as anything. Nina wants her to stay for a little and refers to her owner as Gran. Isla is allowed to shower and Gran tells Tsukasa that they must leave afterwards. He panics and starts reeling off options to the Gran, such as upgrading Nina’s OS so that she can continue in the same body. Nina would still lose her memories with that option though. Gran is mad again. Nina is her only family now, and she intends to live with her forever. She would rather die than lose her.
Isla is finished in the shower and Nina is drying her hair. Nina does the same for Gran, but Gran doesn’t like to admit that she’s getting old. Nina apologises that Gran got in the way of Isla’s work, revealing that she knew that Isla had come to retrieve her. Nina isn’t sure if she’s scared of losing her memories, but Isla is very scared. Nina is happy that she got to be part of Gran’s family, and while she’d like to stay forever, she knows that she’ll break soon and cause trouble. That would make Gran sad, and in turn make her sad. Gran overhears the whole thing and agrees to sign the retrieval papers. She would also like Isla to make tea for four. They all have a drink and Gran decides to share some snacks.
Nina gets a ring and starts to remind Gran of a lot of different things. Nina ends up in tears and Gran reassures her. Nina says bye-bye and Isla leans in and whispers something to her, calming her down. The process is completed and the episode ends with Tsukasa and Isla driving off. He ponders that he didn’t do anything, and Isla says that she knows what he’s thinking … she needs a bathroom too. Apparently, she drank too much tea and may not make it.
There are some interesting concepts at play here, though I have to say, that ending ruined it for me. I know it was trying to lighten the mood, but after building the emotional stuff up so effectively, the comedy just felt out of place for me. Still, a decent enough opener.
Let the battle commence!
I will now compare each series on several different aspects. The winning series in each category gets two points, and both series get one point in the case of a draw. The battles will be: Best Opening Episode (in terms of achieving the goal of setting the series up), Best Character, Best Individual Scene, Best Storyline, Best Animation, and Best Soundtrack.
Being the most general category, this is often the hardest one to judge. The general idea is to choose the episode that most effectively set up the story and made you want to see more. Both Flip Flappers and Plastic Memories were very good at setting things up, and making it clear how things will advance, but I think that one stood out a little more in terms of making you want to see more. While Plastic Memories had some great ideas, the comedy felt misplaced. I would honestly rather that it took itself a bit more seriously and didn’t try to throw in silly over the top stuff. On the other hand, Flip Flappers feels like it has a good balance of charm and adventure, and that makes me want to see more of it. Best Opening Episode: Flip Flappers
As happened in the first battle of the year, this won’t be going to one of the leads. In fact, this one won’t be going to an individual, but rather the pairing of Nina and Gran. Despite appearing for less than half of the episode, they were really well fleshed out and provided a fantastic emotional kick. Best Character: Nina and Gran (Plastic Memories)
This was a close one, and I’ve been agonising over which scene to choose. In the end though, I didn’t go for Nina and Gran’s goodbye, but went instead for a brief moment during the battle between Papika and the frosted tree in Flip Flappers. When the tentacle whips out and smacks her across the face, the blood that is drawn is minor, but it still has a big impact. Up until then, the fairy tale style of things and Cocona’s belief that it may be a dream leave you with a sense of safety. That little bit of blood is enough to remind you that there’s danger here, setting a darker undertone into play. Best Individual Scene: Papika Bleeds (Flip Flappers)
Flip Flappers is clearly set to be a story of two polar opposite girls supporting each other, possibly with some yuri undertones. In some ways, it feels a bit like a magical girl Amanchu! thus far. Meanwhile, Plastic Memories takes a more philosophical approach by setting up a tale about a guy working with some heavy concepts based around artificial life. Both stories are very different, and both seem to be set up in a way to add something new to the underlying themes. That makes it too hard to pick between them. Best Storyline: Draw
This one was Flip Flappers all the way. Plastic Memories was fine, but fairly atypical for the teen market. Flip Flappers tried some different things though. The modern simplified colouring at different times gave way to higher detail when necessary, the style switch between scenes depending on where the girls were, the colour shades in the opening … they all combine to make it far more interesting than its opponent. Best Animation: Flip Flappers
As much as I enjoyed the Flip Flappers closing theme, Plastic Memories walks this one. The background music was really well placed, with the piano pieces in particular shining. Great job there. Best Soundtrack: Plastic Memories
Final Scores: Flip Flappers – 7 points, Plastic Memories – 5 points
And so, our second Crunchyroll of the Dice 2017 battles ends up with the same score as the first. If I’m being honest, both shows were enjoyable, but Plastic Memories’ comedy inserts just felt too far removed from the themes on show. That was a shame because it essentially wrecked the impact that the emotional moments had for me. Meanwhile, it’s easy to see why Flip Flappers is on the receiving end of so much love. Thus far, I’m impressed with the quality of shows in CotD2017. Can that continue? We’ll soon find out!
Thanks for reading everybody, I’ll catch ya later.