When faced with the danger of becoming lost in a snowy, Pure Illusion forest, Cocona takes a page out of Hansel and Gretel, placing small snacks to mark her path in the snow. Papika trails behind, eating the snacks one-by-one to Cocona’s dismay.
Snacks are all that Flip Flappers gives us — and Cocona — for the first nine episodes. Only in Episode 10 do the pieces scattered throughout the series begin to come together. Even after Episodes 11 and 12, which are much heavier in exposition than anything that precedes them, the series still deals primarily in small, now additive pieces that collect and accumulate like the Pure Illusion snow.
What I’m about to say will sound laughably obvious, but it’s not something that people mention all too often in their daily lives — particularly those that live in colder climates and are used to snow as a regular occurrence.
Snow changes the way the world looks. It changes the way the world sounds.
Sharp objects like tree branches, pine needles, and protruding architecture are made soft. The presence of snow deadens sound. Accumulating snow rounds edges, changes the color palette, and affects the way you perceive light, shadow, and depth. The first Pure Illusion world is the snow-covered ruins of Cocona’s hometown — later echoed in the snow that blankets the town in Episodes 10 and 11 when Pure Illusion begins to blend with reality.
Upon first entering Pure Illusion, Cocona and Papika travel through a long tunnel before exiting into a snow-covered world, reminiscent of C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It’s Cocona’s hometown, but also nothing like it as familiar landmarks are toppled and scattered through snowdrifts. The colors are brighter during the daytime with the snow as contrast, but far more muted once the sun sets and snow starts to fall — the same town, but different to our, and Cocona’s eyes. We can only see one place at a time.
Their quiet walk through the woods also resembles the Pevensie children’s first walk through Narnia together with Mr. Beaver. The Beaver warns them that the trees could be spies, and Cocona looks upon the trees in Pure Illusion with the same distrust and skepticism despite expressing initial delight at seeing frost-covered trees. By contrast, she also later cries to Papika is desperation, asking for reassurance that everyone is hiding from them and they’re not alone in this world. Later these same trees become giant snow monsters that stampede towards the sea.
Even if Papika hadn’t eaten her trail of snacks, the snacks and their footprints would have been covered in snow by morning. Cocona has no lamppost to guide her. Her only compass, so to speak, is Papika, who stands out in relief against the backdrop of this snowy world.
The “witch” in question is Cocona’s mother Mimi. More precisely, it’s the protective facet of her mother’s personality. Later, Mimi makes the snow fall in Cocona’s “real” hometown while the two return to the snow world of Pure Illusion, blurring the fabric of reality and making the two worlds one and the same. This piece of Mimi first uses clovers — symbolizing betrayal and revenge for broken promises — to cover the world and then uses snow. The end result is the same — a change in a familiar landscape, making everything wholly unrecognizable.
Mimi also travels in a small boat with a lamp shaped like a bellflower, which represents unchanging love. Although Cocona has only met one piece of her mother face-to-face, this is another reminder that the “witch” of Pure Illusion is but one facet of Mimi’s personality.
Throughout the course of the season, Mimi appears in Cocona’s dreams as the “young woman, old woman” optical illusion — an image used to show perceptual ambiguity. The brain can perceive the image as a young woman, or an old woman; however, the human eye can only perceive one of these images at a time. The red line can be a choker around young Mimi’s neck or the smile of an old crone. The most visible part of flesh can be an obscured face or a large, hawkish nose.
Just as we can only see the young woman or the old woman at a given point in time, we only perceive Mimi in facets. She is presented as young, but is old enough to be Cocona’s mother. Part of her is fiercely protective, stifling her daughter just as she herself was shut away from the world. Part of her wishes for Cocona to have the freedom that she did not have, growing up isolated in a laboratory. As one piece of Mimi rails against Cocona having a choice — saying that she’ll make all decisions for Cocona going forward — another approaches Cocona and assuages her daughter’s fears, reassuring Cocona that everyone is afraid of failure, and that it’s okay to be indecisive.
Above all, Flip Flappers shows us, and Cocona, that one part of a person’s personality doesn’t encompass the whole. It’s important that Mimi, the same person who is fighting against Papika and Yayaka, is also the person who helps Cocona realize her own agency. We, and Cocona, can only see one facet at a time. Both, along with a myriad of other pieces, make up the whole of Mimi.