“Just write down where you want to go.”
-School counselor to Cocona, Flip Flappers, Episode 1
The first time we see the painting, it’s in Cocona’s periphery as she walks down her school staircase. Her school counselor’s words are heard while she walks. The painting is prominently lit — the only object in the scene that is highlighted — by light from a large, multi-paned window. Shadows from the muntins disappear before they reach the painting, giving it the highest priority in this scene.
Cocona spends most of Flip Flappers undecided and lost. Different choices are presented to her throughout the series. Flip Flappers primary narrative is that of Cocona’s maturation. She discovers where she wants to go and makes a definitive choice to be there.
As early as the first episode, Flip Flappers is trying to point her in a direction. Putting the painting in a position of prominence as Cocona mulls over why she is so afraid of choosing the wrong place for her own future lights the path towards her family, specifically her mother Mimi. Later, in Episode 4, Cocona opens up to Papika and admits that, if the amorphous they’re collecting grant wishes, she would wish to meet her family.
In the series’ final episode, Flip Flappers reveals that the painting is of Mimi in her own Pure Illusion world, floating among lily pads in a dark pond surrounded by trees.
Having swapped with the protective side of herself, Mimi also remains here, lost and floating until Cocona and Papika break through the illusion and defeat that protective personality facet. Their victory effectively sends that piece back to the whole of Mimi, where she wakes up in the middle of the pond.
Cocona and Papika’s final words to protective Mimi are, “Don’t you dare get in the way of our adventure!” Upon waking and reuniting with that aspect of her personality, Mimi realizes that she was the one in the wrong. She tells herself to return to the days where she eagerly awaited her daughter’s birth. Ultimately, what Mimi truly wants is for Cocona to be able to choose where she wants to be — a luxury that Mimi herself was not afforded for the entirety of her life.
The painting additionally reflects the Pure Illusion landscape that Mimi creates for Papika and Cocona, before she sends them away and presumably splits into the amorphous gems. Mimi leaves Cocona with Papika, but seals Papika in a tree.
Watching the trees grow up around Papika, containing her until her age coincides with Cocona’s, is reminiscent of the Sleeping Beauty or Little Briar Rose story. Although Cocona’s maturation is the series’ focus in it’s primary narrative, here Papika is the sleeping beauty, preserved until Cocona, her princess, arrives. For her part, Mimi takes the role of both the antagonist — the witch who tries to keep Cocona and Papika apart — and benevolent fairy who protects Papika and Cocona until they come of age by creating an entire world for them.
Flip Flappers also touches upon the Sleeping Beauty story in Episode 5 — the Class S yuri school — where Cocona pricks her finger with a needle and Papika sucks on it to stem the bleeding.
When Cocona first stops to look at the painting in Flip Flappers‘ second episode, she has already been to Pure Illusion once. Previously, it didn’t catch her attention, but it was present in the background while she walked down the stairs, thinking vaguely of her own future. Once she’s traveled to Pure Illusion and unwittingly met her mother, the subject in the painting, Cocona pauses to look at it.
She is joined by art club senior Iroha Irodori, who presses Cocona for her opinion on the painting. Cocona responds that “It’s scary, but . . . ” and trails off while thinking of Pure Illusion. Iroha presses Cocona for a firmer answer, telling the younger girl that she too loves this painting. The painting, much like its subject Mimi, is scary but also familiar. It helps lead Cocona to her chosen destination.
Amazing insight as per usual. Long time reader first time poster, so I thought I’d just say now that you’re easily the most perceptive anime analyst on the web right now as far as I’m concerned. Keep it up
Stuff like that always makes me wonder in this show: Does this make the show self-reflective or just more obvious than it needs to be? After all, this “world in the painting” Cocona lands in isn’t just a reference to the painting but reflects Cocona’s fears of a mundane world without any fantastic adventures (the color-palette reflects that, too). And with Cocona coming to realize that what she really wants isn’t to stay safe “on her boat” but to go on adventures with Papika, this absolutely mundane world becomes a burden/personal hell for her.
But I didn’t feel like I needed to see that bit to understand that. It’s just a reference that visualizes something that is already implied by Cocona’s behavior.