First Impressions: Flip Flappers


How in the world should I begin…? Well, with this, perhaps: by “first impressions,” I don’t mean “here are the results of the three episode test.” I finished Flip Flappers just a few days ago, and to be honest, knowing who its primary target audience was, I didn’t think I’d have much to say about it. Furthermore, fantastical stories about middle school girls aren’t really my cup of tea. But after pondering it for a while, and reading two interviews with director Oshiyama Kiyotaka, the one paragraph that I’d started constructing for my “Fall 2017” post somehow exploded into three. In fact, I think I might be in for a rewatch at some point—after I’ve had a chance to read the books on psychology that Oshiyama talked about. So, by “first impressions,” what I really mean is that I will probably return to this one day. Though hopefully it won’t be the 9 years and counting that a certain other series has endured!

In any case, against all of my expectations, there’s something about Flip Flappers that I find quite fascinating. It’s the fact that how viewers read this show reflects who they are. At it’s core, this is what Flip Flappers is about—identity. Or at least, that’s the impression I got by applying some of the things Oshiyama said to what I noticed myself thinking during certain points of the series. For example, there were several episodes that I felt spoke to the “societal expectations” that I’ve previously written about, the expectations that play an oversized role not only in Japanese culture, but also in other Asian cultures. This is something I’ve been thinking over a lot over the last few years, so I’m not surprised that it was the first thing that came to my mind upon watching the episodes in question. And after looking through some of the commentary written on Flip Flappers so far, I’d argue that a similar phenomenon happens to everyone who attempts to read into this show.


This bears out what Cocona’s voice actress, Takahashi Minami, said in an interview published just before the final episode landed: that she expects viewers to come up with a whole lot of different interpretations about what Flip Flappers is about. And going by what he’s said in the two interviews I’ve read, I believe Oshiyama deliberately left everything open to interpretation. I’d gone into them wanting to find out exactly what he was trying to do with Flip Flappers, but in saying that he won’t discuss which of the Pure Illusion worlds belongs to each character, the director indicated that he (and the rest of the creative staff) wanted to leave it up to viewers to interpret the show as they wish. Hence, I’d argue that the show has been constructed in a way that allows viewers to read themselves into Cocona—basically, rather than necessarily reflecting what Oshiyama and his fellow writers think her journey is about, your interpretation reflects your own journey of self-discovery. In fact, that this is my current hypothesis also embodies this very idea.

You may also notice that I am crediting just the director for this seminal idea, pretty much ignoring any of the other writers. The reason is that Flip Flappers is almost certainly Oshiyama’s baby, something that he ‘just filled with stuff he liked’. Whilst producers contributed certain ideas that they wanted to market the show around, and although he allowed his writers—Ayana Yuniko, Sekine Ayumi, and Hayashi Naomi—to add a few things they liked, the story and themes appear to be things that are quite dear to his heart: the notion of the self, illusions, and so on and so forth. But Oshiyama, being an animator, actually had another important goal: he wanted to create a series that gave the production staff plenty of freedom to do what they liked, right from the art design through to the camera work and the individual cuts. He wanted to see how far he could go, and what he could accomplish, if given the lead—if you’re Japanese-literate, you can read more about this in his roundtable with character designer Kojima Takashi and journalist Oguro Yuuichirou in Animestyle 011. And going by Flip Flappers, I do think that Oshiyama is someone we ought to keep an eye on in the years to come.

About karice
MAG fan, freelance translator and political scientist-in-training. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

2 Responses to First Impressions: Flip Flappers

  1. “Read themselves into Cocona” is a great way to describe it. A lot of my favorite looks at the series have been from other people who experienced it from a queer perspective, and that aspect of Cocona is really integral to those experiences.


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