The third episode of Flip Flappers was a turning point for viewers and in-universe characters alike.
Kiyotaka Oshiyama’s Flip Flappers is often been compared to Shinichiro Watanabe’s Space Dandy, which Oshiyama himself worked on as an animation director. Flip Flappers has been similarly praised as an “animator’s showcase” since its premiere, and marks Oshiyama’s highly-anticipated directorial debut.
Episode 3 cemented this idea in many viewers’ minds. Storyboarded by Kazuyoshi Yaginuma (who has done everything from Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise to Rolling Girls) with animation from Chief Animation Director/Character Designer Takashi Kojima, Naoya Wada, and a transformation sequence courtesy of Yumi Ikeda, the episode is an absolute feast for the eyes.
Dubbed “the Mad Max: Fury Road” episode for its post-apocalyptic setting, this episode embodied everything that a fan of animation as a whole could ask for — a beautiful setting from Studio Pablo, gorgeous animation, and a fun, concise romp through an imaginary world. Flip Flappers had already made it apparent in Episodes 1 and 2 that this would be a story of two girls exploring alternate realities together while collecting amorphous fragments hidden inside each world. Episode 3 sealed the deal and stamped it with the most beautiful seal imaginable.
This episode had a completely different effect on me personally. This was the episode where I fell in love with Flip Flappers for its two leading ladies: Cocona and Papika.
When I say that Flip Flappers is more than an animator’s showcase only, I’m not deriding Space Dandy. Instead, I’m reiterating that Flip Flappers is trying to tell a larger emotional narrative across its span of episodes, rather than using them in a more standard episodic format. More than exploring worlds and going on adventures together, this narrative is what draws me. The more I return to Flip Flappers‘ early episodes, the more of this story is revealed, hidden in details along the way. Cocona’s development in this specific episode was what hooked me. From Episode 3 onward, Flip Flappers was a weekly must-watch, rather than a fun and well-animated diversion.
Not much in this series is explained up front until later episodes — a friend once joked that Flip Flappers is an exercise in subtext — but Cocona’s interactions with both Papika, and the being spawned from the amorphous fragment that created this Pure Illusion world hint at greater things to come. Upon arriving in this world, Cocona is separated from her partner Papika and confronted by a blonde-haired seductress, who slaps a mask onto Cocona that takes over her body.
The seductress tempts Cocona. She berates Cocona for having nothing — no strong opinions, no sense of self — and then whispers sweetly that the mask only amplifies feelings that the wearer already has. Cocona was the one who truly wanted to fight Papika. Cocona was the one leading her raiding party and subjugating other people, Cocona was the villain. She presses further — this is the only role that Cocona has “shone in,” won’t Cocona join forces with her in order to find a sense of purpose or achieve a goal?
Cocona’s answer is no. Almost every episode, Cocona is teased with something forbidden, unknown, and/or unhealthy. Most of the time she waffles, before pushing back with surprising resiliency, even against her own mother in Episode 11. Episode 3 is the first time we see Cocona turn down a tempting invitation in order to press forward towards her own emotional development, leaning on her growing relationship with Papika for support. She later apologizes to Papika because she recognizes that a part of her really did want to hurt Papika directly — for fear of the unknown, dragging her recklessly into other worlds, or being separated from her, Cocona never says. However, admitting fault and apologizing to Papika is the first step towards her own emotional advancement and journey through adolescence.
Flip Flappers Episode 3 has something for everyone. I can certainly see why people hold this episode near and dear to their hearts for the wonderful animation. Ikeda’s transformation sequence alone is one of the most stunning pieces of animation I’ve seen this year. Yet, I’ll remember this episode, the much-famed “Mad Max episode,” as the one that hooked me on Cocona’s personal growth and well-being.