papika

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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Flip Flappers — Pure Illusion and the Painter

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“The weather’s so nice today, I can’t get any work done. Though, I can’t get anything done on rainy days either. Not many days come along that are just right.”

-Iroha Irodori to Cocona, Flip Flappers, Episode 4

Art club upperclassman Iroha Irodori has always been visible in Cocona’s periphery. She is the plein air painter in the shade of a tree as Cocona walks past in Flip Flappers‘ first episode, encounters Cocona in front of a large painting at their school in the second, and progressively grows closer to Cocona throughout the series. Come Episode 6, Iroha has an entire Pure Illusion adventure where Papika and Cocona explore Iroha’s past from Iroha’s childhood perspective.

Titled “Pure Play,” the episode tells a sad story of Iroha’s relationship with an elderly neighbor and how it shaped her life and art up to the point where Cocona meets her — the slightly-eccentric art club upperclassman who offers tea and a friendly ear. Not only does it offer a different perspective of Iroha herself, but it brings to the forefront a few more of Flip Flappers‘ thoughts on art and the human psyche. This is a series with many visual and named references — Cocona’s pet presumably named for Jakob von Uexküll is one of the more interesting ones — dealing with illusion, art, and human psychology. Iroha’s episode offers a bit more insight into these references, allowing her to step forward from the periphery and become a key component in the series’ narrative.

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