Japanese animated tv series (2016). Studio 3Hz. Directors include Kiyotaka Oshiyama. Writers include Yuniko Ayana and Naoki Hayashi. Voice cast includes Mao Ichimichi, Ai Kayano, Ayaka Ohashi, Minami Takahashi and Kenjirô Tsuda. Thirteen 24-minute episodes. Colour.
In a Near Future Japan, reserved schoolgirl Cocona (Takahashi) meets the enthusiastic Papika (Ichimichi), a member of the agency FlipFlap; accompanied by the Robot Boo-Chan they visit the worlds of "Pure Illusion" to collect fragments named "amorphous"; Cocona also has one of these embedded in her thigh. There is a rival scientific agency (with greater resources) called Asclepius, whose agents include Yayaka (Ohashi), a schoolfriend of Cocona who resents Papika for weakening that friendship. Cocona and Papika can transform into "magical girls" to get themselves out of scrapes; Yayaka and her companions rely on Technology.
Pure Illusion's worlds are varied in setting and tone: human settlements buried in snow whilst herds of vast white beings traverse the landscape before plunging into the sea; a futuristic City controlled by a tiny Scientist is threatened by a giant Monster (recalling Japanese Monster Movies), to which Cocona and Papika respond by forming a giant Mecha from the scientist's Inventions; the friends experience a fellow student's childhood relationship with an old woman who develops dementia; they become caught in a Time Loop at an eerie boarding school for girls. Cocona begins to notice that their experiences in Pure Illusion alter our world.
Cocona's mother is Mimi (Kayano), whose connection to Pure Illusion made her a research subject at Asclepius; her romance with the Director's son, Dr Salt (Tsuda), led to the birth of Cocona. After testing a new device (ELPIS) the Director becomes obsessed with using Pure Illusion to control our world (Salt forming FlipFlap to forestall this). We learn Amorphous is the fractured Mimi: several collected pieces form an all-powerful version of her who wants to control Cocona, but another fragment (presumably her embedded piece) tells Cocona to make her own choices. Breaking free of over-protective Mimi, she declares her love for Papika (who has declared hers for Cocona many times): together they defeat her mother with somewhat anti-climatic ease.
Initially a series of apparently random, surreal episodes built round a loose plot, the story gradually coalesces to reveal its depths. For example, Cocona's (rather unsettling) rabbit is called Uexkull after scientist Jakob von Uexkull (1864-1944), originator of "Umwelt" (the study of how animals differently comprehend the same experiences/world), reflecting Pure Illusion's being a dimension of Pocket Universes shaped by various individual's Perceptions – reminiscent of Philip K Dick's Eye in the Sky (1957).
The unambiguous treatment of lesbian relationships is unusual for Anime (indeed, the boarding school episode is partially a Satire of a genre known as "Class S"). The art style is varied and interesting. More popular in the West than Japan, Flip Flappers is a memorable series: it has flaws – not everything is clearly explained and there is some Fan Service, albeit cake-and-eat-it Parody – but there is much to enjoy. [SP]