art history

#5 — Flip Flappers (2016)

In my Yuri!!! On Ice post, I mention how difficult it is for me to watch currently-airing series during the fall season due to my job. Yuri!!! On Ice was an exception.

I didn’t watch Flip Flappers right away or keep up with it while I was inundated with work, but once I watched the first episode, I was hooked. I couldn’t look away.

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Breaking Promises in Flip Flappers

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“But Iro is Iro. There’s always been only one.”

-Papika as Iro to Cocona, also as Iro, Flip Flappers, Episode 6

The key to understanding Pure Illusion is in Flip Flappers‘ sixth episode and the memories of Iroha Irodori.

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Who is Bu? Behind Flip Flappers’ Annoying, Ubiquitous Robot

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“Well, I don’t mind going with you every now and then. Only now and then. And if I feel like it.”

-Cocona to Papika, Flip Flappers, Episode 2

The initial setup of Flip Flappers resembles a standard magical girl story. Cocona, listless, directionless, and terrified to make any decision at all is swept up into the world of Pure Illusion thanks to Papika. Throughout the first four episodes, Cocona gradually begins to accept Papika into her life, and the fifth episode onward is where the meat of her emotional narrative begins.

Like all magical girls, Cocona and Papika come with their respective sidekicks.

Cocona’s is a green rabbit-like creature named Uexküll — a reference to Jakob von Uexküll whose ideas of subjective perception (umwelt) led to the field of biosemiotics. Uexküll’s namesake informs the Flip Flappers viewer, encouraging a closer look at the role of Pure Illusion and how Cocona and others interact with it.

Papika’s is an odd, perverted robot named “Bu-chan” that somewhat resembles a lawnmower.

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Flip Flappers’ Courtship of Cocona

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When Flip Flappers first introduces Cocona, she is trapped in a sterile classroom taking a test. The shifting of sand is heard rather than the ticking of a clock — an hourglass resembling a Rubin vase takes the place of a traditional clock face mounted on the wall above a white board.

Rubin’s vase — named after its creator, danish psychologist Edgar Rubin — shows two shapes only one of which can be recognized at any given time. You can see the hourglass, or you can see two faces with negative space between them. While your mind can recognize that there are two things to see available to you, your eye can only focus on one at a time.

This plays tricks with the way the human brain generally perceives objects — by establishing depth and separating figures or objects from the ground. Ambiguity, like the less distinct image of Rubin’s vase, allows our minds to take the lead in perceiving the object in front of us. Do you see an hourglass or two faces first?

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“Avant-Garde,” Revisiting Gatchaman Crowds Episode 1

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“Chaos and threat may not be the same. The judgment is yours to make.”

-JJ Robinson, Gatchaman Crowds, Episode 1

With these words to his G-Crew, JJ Robinson lays out exactly what Gatchaman Crowds intends to explore within the scope of its first season. They are written in each Gatchaman NOTE regarding the “nameless chaos,” which the G-Crew have dubbed “MESS” — the default antagonist of the series’ premiere.

Gatchaman Crowds‘ debut is titled “Avant-garde” — the first in a season’s worth of episode titles dedicated to art history or specific art terms. Avant-garde translated literally means “at the vanguard,” and within an art context identifies something that pushes the boundaries of what is socially acceptable, or calls out pre-existing societal norms and mores. Often the purpose of an avant-garde work is to promote radical social or political change to the current status quo.

For this reason, Gatchaman Crowds doesn’t open with its eccentric newbie, Hajime Ichinose. Instead, it begins with Sugune Tachibana’s morning routine, effectively establishing the status quo, giving it a character of its own within the series.

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