Note: Review copy provided by MVM Entertainment.
Title: Flip Flappers
Anime Studio: Studio 3Hz
Publisher: MVMV Entertainment
Genre: Adventure / Magical Girl / Yuri
Released: July 9th 2018 (Blu-Ray) / August 13th 2018 (DVD)
Language: Japanese / English
Running Time: 299 mins
Extras: Clean opening and closing, English credits, Trailers
A little fantasy never hurt anyone, but pure illusion can be deadly.
As a middle school student, Cocona has been trying to decide what to do with her life. Magical Girl, however, wasn’t a career path that she’d ever considered. When suddenly a strange girl named Papika thrusts her into a secret organization called Flip Flap, Cocona ‘s outlook does a radical flip-flop. Her views start to change when she is dragged into an alternate dimension called Pure Illusion where she is charged with gathering crystal shards and fighting strange creatures. Now, between running missions and facing off against a rival organization, Cocona doesn’t have much time to consider alternate career choices. What are these shards and why is gathering them so important? There is a mystery to be solved and multiple worlds to be saved.
Flip Flappers is a series that gained a lot of steam in terms of word of mouth when it first aired, and a lot of that is more than justified. There are some issues for me, but we’ll get to those later. First, let’s look at the plethora of things that the show does well.
The art direction of Flip Flappers is phenomenal. First of all, the contrasts between the real world and Pure Illusion in the opening credits is one that is clearly designed to prepare audiences for how the actual show will play out in that regard. While exaggerated in the credits by showing real life in grey hues, you certainly get a feel that Cocona’s life is fairly ordinary up until Papika turns up, and even then, she does try to cling a little to the mundane. On the flip side, Pure Illusion is chock full of vibrant imagery, with each and every trip there providing a new world to explore. And that really is literal; one of the things that amazed me with this is that each land is wonderfully varied, with no two trips feeling like copies of each other. Everything is colourful, the set pieces are fast, frantic affairs, and the things that we get shown are clearly designed to invoke the thought “this is what would have happened in Yellow Submarine had not been about The Beatles, but been a magical girl anime full of visual nods to older series.”
Then there’s the key characters. Cocona herself takes a little while to warm up, but her journey throughout the series is a fun one to tag along with. Meanwhile, Papika is the perfect foil for her, and has an overly positive, hyperactive energy to her that is pretty infectious. Okay, so that’s not a highly original set-up, and Amanchu! does it a bit better with Teko and Pikari, but the execution is good. Much like the aforementioned diving show, we also have a romance blooming between the two leads. What sets Flip Flappers apart in that regard is that it does not dance around the subject, but presents what is at its heart a sweet little love story. There is no attempt to hide it, no hint at it being a phase, and it never gets reduced to potentially being ‘just friends’. This is a yuri romance which, thanks to Cocona’s arc, has a degree of emotional depth, and that is great to see. On top of that, the secondary character Yayaka does a great job of balancing an early villainous edge with an eventual cool factor. She may not get the same amount of focus as Cocona and Papika, but she’s important to the overall plot, and is given plenty of opportunity to impress.
That’s not to say that this all romance based though. The action sections are well thought out, and the overall story is pretty good, but it’s the more hard-hitting moments that really make it a good watch. And we’re not just talking about the occasional blood here. If you like anime to tackle some very real problems amidst the fantastical elements, then you’re in luck. We not only get to watch the effects of domestic abuse unfold on screen, but also see the heartbreak that a loved one developing dementia can cause. As someone who saw a close relative go through just that, it really does hit home.
The soundtrack is also decent, with much of the insert music doing a good job of fitting with the events on screen, even at times when it isn’t enhancing it. The opening song is good too, but it’s the ending theme that really stands out thanks to it’s laid back melody and the whimsical storybook style art that runs alongside it. Voice acting wise, there’s nothing here that will leap out at you as being a truly great performance, but equally so, nothing grates, and everyone pulls their weight.
So, with all of this praise, why am I not going to give Flip Flappers full marks? Well, the problems that I mentioned earlier are such that I cannot in all good conscience give this a higher score than I will. You see, one thing I like about the character designs here is that the lead girls are middle school aged and are drawn to look so. Without the addition of certain large assets that crop up in anime on a regular basis, you’d expect things to be fairly tame in terms of fan service. But no, it all takes an unfortunate turn. I can accept the near detail-less magical girl transformations, they’re pretty much par for the course and really don’t step too far outside convention in that regard. It’s the rest of the fan service that causes the series to stumble. For one, Papika spends a fair amount of time naked without much of a reason. Then there’s the tendency for the camera to focus on the girls in a way that makes it all far too suggestive given their apparent ages. Oh, and there’s the plot twist when we learn about who Papika is. I’m sure that the idea seemed fairly clever when it was conceived, but it really just feels unnecessary.
Yes, I am aware that if you are a loli fan, then the above isn’t going to bother you one jot. Unfortunately, fan service of that nature is an issue for me. What makes it so frustrating is that the series is otherwise really good. If the quality had been average or less, I’d have switched off, and it certainly wouldn’t have placed in the top four in Crunchyroll of the Dice 2017. But it simply isn’t that mundane. It had a real shot at being what I would define as a true modern classic.
What you get with Flip Flappers is a great series that is dragged down by its reliance on unnecessary camera angles and states of undress. The overall substance of the show works wonders to ensure that it is fondly remembered by many though, and that is something that shouldn’t be overlooked. So, it seems fair to score this 3.75 out of 5. The negatives are such that I would normally deduct more from the score, potentially even dropping it to a 3, but the positives of this show are such that it weel wrong not to give them credit where it’s due. If you’re not put off by the fan service though, you can ramp that score all the way up.
If Flip Flappers sounds like it might be something you’d enjoy, then why not click on the affiliate link below? You can grab the DVD or Blu-Ray, and I’ll get a small commission.