Flip Flappers was developed as a project drawing from topics which interested director Kiyotaka Oshiyama, and among those topics were the various branches of psychoanalysis, especially those of both Freud and Jung. As a work very directly about the psychosexual realm and its impact on development, specifically through the lens of queer awakening and the role of relationships in subject formation, the influence of these thinkers, as well as other works which drew upon them, like Neon Genesis Evangelion, is startlingly clear. Yet simply analyzing the series along psychoanalytic lines misses something; the show’s powerful pushback against many aspects of psychoanalysis. Cocona’s story, while certainly one of sexual awakening, is not a cut-and-dried Freudian or Jungian process of therapy and actualization. Mimi, despite clearly resembling an image of the Oedipal Mother, is not so simple. Rather, through both narrative and animation, Flip Flappers elaborates a view of the world and the mind which is much less singularly-focused than the thought of either Freud or Jung, telling a story which encourages us to forge connections and improve ourselves through an understanding of our fluidity and status as assemblages of disparate elements.
It’s key to establish a few essential points in regards to my perspective here before we begin. First, I interpret Flip Flappers as a queer text, and believe any reading which doesn’t do so is disingenous at best. This analysis will make no attempt to justify or prove the queerness in the show, just as it will make no attempt to justify or prove Papika’s existence in it.
Second, this is not a moral critique or a review. Yes, the show has objectionable content, including a number of unnecessary shots which sexualize the characters. While much of the sexualization in the show is important in conveying the adolescent discovery of sexuality, not all of it is, and some of it is quite jarring. Having admitted that, I have no interest in discussing it further.
Lastly, this analysis, while less personal in nature than many of my videos and not intended to comment on the quality of the show, should be interpreted given the following facts: Flip Flappers is my favorite anime, something I learned after beginning my fifth watch of it just a few months ago. I relate heavily to Cocona, and her relationship with Papika served as an important point of clarification when I began my current and only relationship. In other words, I am very personally invested in the series, and whether that information leads you to believe I’m interpreting it to fit my own ends, or makes my interpretation even stronger, it does seem worth pointing out. Now, with those out of the way, we can return to the scheduled program.
Part 1: Freudianism-Jungianism
In an interview, Kiyotaka Oshiyama explicitly mentions his desire to insert psychoanalytic elements into Flip Flappers, saying that “Pure Illusion is fairly similar to the idea of the Umwelt, and one of the themes of the show is the multi-faceted nature of the internal world we each have, so I felt like psychology would be pretty relevant”. Broadly speaking, most analyses of the series break down into two primary camps, if you exclude those which come at it from a vague, personal approach rather than one informed by specific theory. On the one hand, there’s queer analyses, specifically looking at what the show says about queerness and sexualized or gendered difference, often focusing on Cocona’s journey as one of breaking heteronormativity. On the other, we have psychoanalytic readings, generally of a Lacanian bent. These modes of analysis are not in contrast, and in fact a number of pieces on the show dabble in both, but as a result of the series’ clear priorities, they have gained some level of dominance in the discourse.
In order to understand the series and the ways in which it challenges psychoanalytic thought, therefore, we need to look at psychoanalytic thought, and how the series is generally believed to engage in it.
Broadly speaking, Freudian psychoanalysis can be seen as a focus on sexual development. Essentially, Freud was concerned with how the sexual development of human beings impacted their mental processes, and broadly discovered that this development was primarily determined by early environment, alongside innate biological drives which also fuel the unconscious. Perhaps as a result of being a bourgeois man from Vienna, this led his analysis to primarily center the family, in particular the parents, as the ultimate cause of most complexes and disorders. Lacan added far too much to summarize in full, and I’m hardly educated enough to do so in the first place, but some of his important contributions for the sake of this analysis are a renewed focus on ego or subject formation, the reintroduction of the Other in a Hegelian move, and the conception of desire as created by lack, separate from the needs of the drives, and dominated by our existence in the symbolic order of society and language. Another Freudian concept is obviously the tripartite model for the mind of the id, ego, and superego, but attempts to connect these structures to the main trio are spurious at best, produce little in the way of interesting analysis, and don’t account for their development across the series.
It’s not hard to see how this view of psychosexual development makes itself known within the narrative of Flip Flappers. While Cocona is not a boy, and thus not the classic example to be used in the well-known Oedipus Complex, Mimi, her mother, remains cast in that light. Cocona desires her mother’s presence throughout the series, and once she arrives is overjoyed at finally meeting her. In spite of feeling embarrassed at doing so, she identifies with her, taking on her appearance, though this is to a large degree due to Mimi’s insistence. To some extent, there is even a sexual tension in the scenes between the two, though not one which rises to the surface at any point; the intimate body language is well beyond what we’d normally accept for a parent-child relationship, and the animation in the series conveys a lack of borders between the two that clearly harkens back to an earlier stage of ego formation.
During this period in which Cocona and Mimi are together, Mimi occupies Cocona’s body in the “real world”, signifying the association between the two. Through a psychoanalytic perspective, this can be seen in two key ways. In many works, it would reflect the traditional example of a “healthy” result to the Oedipal relationship, identifying with the same-sex parent and moving beyond a desire to kill them. However, the fact that Mimi attacks Salt, Cocona’s father and her husband during this period rebuts this: if anything, it’s the father Cocona(because remember, it’s her body) wants to kill for taking her mother. Her Oedipus complex is, of course, a homosexual one. However, not all Freudian thinkers cling so strongly to this directly binary and heteronormative understanding of the complex, and some have encouraged us to see it as happening in all genders and as a phenomena directed at both parents. Where, then, does that leave us? Clearly, it establishes the fact that Cocona, despite being a middle schooler, has not properly formed a complete ego; she has not passed through the “healthy” stages of development in full. She exists and has a self, but she has not yet disentangled said self from the need for validation from her mother through identification with her, and having failed that, her sexuality is confused.
A great deal of evidence exists to provide support for this reading. Throughout the series, Cocona demonstrates herself as someone without a clear idea of who she is, often behaving more as an object to be acted upon than a thinking subject herself. She exists primarily through her relationships with others, and relies on Yayaka and then Papika for direction, even as she often protests where that direction leads. A sterling example of this is provided in the scene wherein Cocona is discussing high school plans with Yayaka. She rejects Yayaka’s choice, given its status as a boy’s school, in many ways objecting to the androgyny of queerness that Yayaka has already accepted in herself, and yet she is not herself able to formulate another idea. Her desire is occupied by societally-enforced needs for a “normal life”—she is, after all, an intelligent and diligent girl—but her need for love and sexuality, particularly of a queer sort, is entirely unconscious. And yet when it seems as if Yayaka wants to kiss her, she readily accedes. As a result of her incomplete development, it’s easy for those with cruel intentions to get her to move as they wish.
In this Freudian reading, what frees Cocona from her complex is ultimately an overcoming of desire through association with Papika, essentially moving her sexuality beyond the Oedipal target of her mother. The symbolic marriage with Papika demonstrates this more clearly than anything else could: marriage is, representationally, the leaving of the parents for another, and the “natural”, “healthy” end-result of sexuality. Cocona’s psychosexual development completes itself at the end of the series in this reading, and she no longer needs to venture into Pure Illusion, a world of dreams, in order to rectify her complexes and psyche.
But, this reading presents a problem. Not only does it treat sexuality and the family as the only valuable site for analysis, but it ignores the fact that the ending of the series is not one of departure from Pure Illusion, which is in many ways a reflection of Mimi herself, but in reality a return to it, as Cocona and Papika learn to venture there for their own enjoyment. If one wished to remain within a psychoanalytic framework to solve this conundrum, they’d have to turn to Sigmund Freud’s prodigal disciple, Carl Jung, for another mode of thinking.
Jung spent much of his early career following Freud’s lead, but with time he came to a decisive break with the man, feeling that he over-centralized the sexual aspects of desire and disliking the formulaic analysis it resulted in. Jung went on to found the discipline of analytic psychology, which while accepting of some of Freud’s ideas took a radical departure. Primarily, Jung based his theories on the idea of instincts and imprinted tendencies from evolutionary history, and developed the theory of archetypes and the collective unconscious. For Jung, while we all have an individual unconscious which makes up a part of ourselves, alongside our conscious Ego, we also have the collective unconscious, an aspect of thought common to all humans. While we can not directly grasp this collective unconscious, we can see its effects work themselves out in various ways. For instance, Jung used examples such as the commonality of Messiah figures across the planet, or other such archetypal figures to argue that deep within us exist primordial ideas about saviors, a sort of conceptual instinct. For Jung, we must grapple with these archetypes and the dreams in which they express themselves in order to self-actualize and free ourselves of complexes and mental illnesses, to live a good life.
Pure Illusion itself is, through this framework, a representation of the ways in which the collective unconscious merges with individual consciousnesses in order to create people. Take episode 3, where Welwitschia—yes, that’s the name of the BDSM girl—acts quite obviously as a representative of the witch archetype, and yet drawing from Sayuri’s thought processes gains an appearance befitting a Mad Max-style world; though Cocona’s desire, always brought to Pure Illusion’s fore perhaps by Mimi’s influence, is also an obvious factor in her existence. Similarly, OO-303 is a variation of the mad scientist or witch doctor archetype.
In this reading, Cocona would likely be diagnosed as having an introverted thinking type personality—yes, Jung inspired Meyers-Briggs—though one that’s significantly held back by her failure to self-actualize. It’s through meeting Papika, a sort of misfit who breaks through her bubble, that she’s able to free herself from that, associating in a healthy way with aspects of her shadow, or the parts of herself which her ego previously attempted to avoid identifying with, while adopting a less harmful persona, one which does not stifle her so heavily, as shown in her willingness to enjoy herself freely in Pure Illusion by the end of the series. To return to the earlier point about Yayaka’s mentioning of a boy’s school, Cocona is able to accept the androgyny of her queerness here, or, in Jungian terms, she is able to more heavily identify with her animus, embracing her feelings for Papika.
But this reading, too, seems as if it’s missing something. For one thing, it’s not entirely clear that the archetypes of Pure Illusion are responsible for her change. Of course, casting the series’ players as archetypes themselves, for instance, describing Papika as a wild child who disrupts the harmful status quo of Cocona’s life and thus allows her to engage with her problems, does something to rectify this, but even then it feels wrong to treat all figures aside from Cocona as mere representations of instinctual trends in human psychology. And while the question of why Cocona returns to Pure Illusion in spite of self-actualizing is answered under this framework, it’s just as set of a framework, and like orthodox Freudianism, will only ever produce an analysis which boils down to one thing: for Freud it may be sexual development in the family, but for Jung it’s simply an inability to properly reconcile the ego with other parts of the capital-S Self without the help of archetypes. No, I don’t think either of these analyses are sufficient, even if they’re useful for certain ends, and I don’t believe the show does either. But how is that, when it so clearly draws from them? Well, for that, we’ll need to discuss a series with deep intertextual relations with Flip Flappers, one it draws upon heavily in both visuals and narrative: the one and only Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Part 2: Altering the Gospels
We all know Neon Genesis Evangelion, the seminal 1995 anime wherein Ikari Shinji is led to pilot a giant being known as an Eva which—spoiler alert—is actually his mom. It changed everything, without it shows like Flip Flappers simply couldn’t exist as they do, and it cribbed heavily from psychoanalysis. Like with Flip Flappers, there’s a great deal of hare-brained analyses attempting to tie each individual character in Eva to a specific Jungian archetype, or to a structure in Freudian thought, but those aren’t worth discussing. What’s actually interesting is that we know that Anno got deep into psychoanalysis as he worked on the show, and this came about in the thematic priorities of its second half.
Similar to Flip Flappers, Eva is a show deeply concerned with subject formation, taking a particularly Lacanian approach to the concept in using the theory of the Oedipus Complex as an early developmental form of the Hegelian struggle for self-identification. Like Cocona, Shinji is a character who’s incapable of proper development as a result of sexual and interpersonal complexes which keep him from going further. Just as Cocona uses the amorphous and Pure Illusion to connect to her mother on an unconscious plane of existence, unable to do so in the real world due to her Oedipal mindset, so too does Shinji pilot the Evangelion. And the shared trait of queerness between the two needn’t even be mentioned. Characters like Salt are obvious parallels to Gendo, and it would be hard to argue that Ascelpius, in their goal to unite Pure Illusion with the real world and break down the borders of human thought as it currently exists, does not bear some marked similarities to our friends over in SEELE.
These commonalities, along with many shots directly cribbing from the earlier work, were derided by those less fond of the series as it aired, treated as a simple usage of Eva’s powerful imagery without shifting its meaning in a way which added any original flair. However, I don’t agree with this judgement. Rather, I believe that the parallels exist for two obvious reasons: to remind viewers of Eva’s existence and thematic content, and then to actively subvert that content. Essentially, Flip Flappers relies on viewers making the Eva connections, as they play a key role in establishing that unlike Eva, this show cannot be boiled down to Oedipal impulses nearly so easily.
Let’s take a famous, or perhaps infamous scene in the show, one taking place in episode 11. Having occupied Cocona’s body after her daughter felt betrayed by everyone, Mimi meets Salt in the middle of a grass field. Throughout the series, Salt has, like Gendo, been a far-off father to Cocona, though unlike Shinji the girl is not aware of that connection. Salt points a gun at Mimi after she mocks him, a reflection of Gendo’s action against Ritsuko in End of Eva. We then cut to backstory, but sequentially speaking, he declares that the “real Mimi” would not have wanted this. It’s here that the differences from Eva begin to reveal themselves. While this reflects shots in Eva, they’re in a different context; Gendo never doubts Yui, and follows her plans to the last, even as he treats others around him, such as Ritsuko, as if they’re mere pawns. Salt, on the other hand, judges his wife for her actions, but crucially, he is wrong. While only some parts of Mimi support her actions here, they are very much real parts of her. Already, Flip Flappers is breaking down the concept of an individual ego with a singular motivation and essence. As Mimi says, all aspects of people are real. We are more assemblages of disparate parts that make up a unique whole than we are concrete, unitary, and inseparable existences. While Eva aligns with this to some degree, arguing that the versions of ourselves in others’ heads are real and yet different from our own self-perception, it still ultimately returns to a conception of solid individuals, hence the rejection of Instrumentality.
But back to the scene, Salt raises a number of monoliths meant to stop Mimi, arranged in roughly the same manner as those of the members of SEELE. Rather than a cheap visual riff, this too is key; Mimi easily disrupts them, and then Salt as well. SEELE and NERV are led entirely by men and represent a particularly masculine, if pathetic, form of authority, one which holds no power here. Eva is ultimately focused on Shinji, and uninterested in that story, Flip Flappers shows these masculine monoliths and figures trivially disrupted. The scene concludes, even, with Salt left on the ground after Mimi and Cocona depart, unable to change anything as Gendo was able to. Unlike the successful plans of SEELE, which led to Instrumentality, if an aborted form of it, there is only separation here, because this is not a world where men’s efforts are necessarily and always successful.
Similar examples of rebuffing Eva’s conclusions can be found in other locations. Take episode 7, where Cocona, having been asked the pivotal question of whether or not she loves Papika, stumbles through Pure Illusion, eventually ending up in a streetcar, as we’re provided a shot duplicating one that shows up in Eva many times. From a purely filmic perspective, this shot, which keeps Cocona seated on the left side of the screen, conveys that she is moving without purpose, passed by even and yet not totally still, more of an object than a subject.
However, unlike in Eva, the lighting here, while still tinged with the literal shadow of doubt, leaves Cocona lit by natural colors, foreshadowing her hopeful turn towards accepting Papika’s feelings and her own at the end of the episode. While Shinji is lit up in his scene as well, it is by a harsh, orange light, one which represents his repressed and anxiety-inducing memories throughout the series, and where Cocona comes to a conclusion shortly after leaving the train, Shinji’s attempts to understand his own feelings or those of others are stifled. Both of them arrive on this train to think about how to relate to other people, but crucially, Pure Illusion, in allowing Cocona to encounter a number of different but all very real Papikas, opens space for a successful result of that, in a way not possible for Shinji until the very end of the series, if even then.
But why is it so important that this series challenges what Eva established? Because Eva is the psychoanalytic anime de jour, and any series employing those motifs must engage with it in some way; that’s what it means to be the tent-pole of an entire medium. Flip Flappers’ clear subversions, its use of parallel imagery made to say different things sends a straightforward message: as a work which comes after Eva, there are topics which must be readdressed, particularly in terms of method. Evangelion ultimately boils the extent of Shinji’s problems down to those caused by the circumstances of his birth and early childhood, accepting all that Freudian theory had to contribute. This doesn’t make it a worse work, it’s stellar, but it is a very particular perspective. Flip Flappers refuses to do the same, as while Mimi and Salt influence Cocona’s character, they do not define it to nearly the same degree, nor do any of the characters’ personalities stem so directly from their parental treatment or lack thereof as Eva’s do. No, the cast of Flip Flappers is far more fluid than that, and as previously stated, are treated more as assemblages of various parts which change across time. Without borrowing so clearly from Eva, these differences would not have been nearly so obvious. Besides, while it’s regularly claimed that the characters of Eva need some time in a psych ward, it’s pretty obvious the damage that’s done to the characters here.
Part 3: Living Amorphously
“You were a big girl before, and an old lady before that, and a baby before that. Now… you’re the same as me.” These lines, spoken by a young Cocona who has not yet left her mother’s home of Pure Illusion to a Papika who has similarly been sucked in, is the first moment of equal connection between the two, and the foundation of an eternal promise of love, the first point at which these two individuals, previously so different from one another, have themselves reached a point at which they’re able to meet. Three things stand out in this scene, all of which are necessary for understanding what Flip Flappers does believe about the world and human behavior within it. These three things are the quote itself, the barrier which divides the two, and Papika’s cage being a tree.
Cocona’s journey throughout the series is, of course, one of development, of knowing how to grow up. But is that so straightforward as one might first expect? The quote of Cocona’s puts that into doubt. Papika is not a character who had a straightforwardly “linear” development, and she has not aged in an ordinary way. While she progressed typically until adulthood, upon being sucked into Pure Illusion alongside Cocona and Mimi this changed. Pure Illusion itself disrupted the supposedly natural path of aging, causing Papika to bounce between ages, eventually ending up as a child like Cocona. Now, it could be assumed that Mimi is the cause of this, and did it to ensure that Cocona would have a friend. On some level, this is likely true. However, it can’t be wholly true. Mimi’s jealous, controlling aspects have already taken control over her conscious aspects by this point, and as we see, would not have approved of anyone growing too close to Cocona, even her best friend.
No, to whatever degree Mimi did choose this, it was a function of Pure Illusion’s inherent tendencies; that is to say, as she could not have consciously made this decision at the time, it must have been something she did unconsciously entirely because it was the “natural” thing to do within the space of Pure Illusion. Pure Illusion isn’t just free of the restrictions we face in everyday life but is fundamentally open in a way the real world supposedly isn’t.
The next thing we need to look at is the barrier between Cocona and Papika. Of course, this barrier likely is a conscious creation of Mimi’s, designed to keep them apart, a gambit which ultimately fails. However, the barrier represents more than a mere prison or divider. On a filmic level, it also establishes a lack of hierarchy between the two. Unable to interact with one another, they’re split apart, and yet as a result utterly equal. The room does not exist for hierarchy in such a space; at least, not one between the two of them.
But why a tree, and why is Papika in prison if Pure Illusion gives her the freedom to move through time in a less restricted manor? Well, it’s time to finally address the theorist I’ve been dancing around this whole time: Gilles Deleuze. For Deleuze and his partner-in-crime Felix Guatarri, a helpful way of looking at structures, of knowledge and other sorts, is through the form of the tree and the form of the rhizome. The tree, or the arborescent form, contains within it a clear beginning, and while it may branch out in many directions, all ultimately comes back to the central root, and ends at the top point. It’s a teleological way of thinking, or in layman’s terms, a method of organization which comes with an end-point baked into it, such as Christianity’s built-in belief that Christ will eventually return. A website that users access by connecting to one central server might suffice as an example. The rhizome, on the other hand, has no beginning or end, merely a center from which all emerges. While any given point on a tree can only connect to another point through the central root, any point in a rhizomatic structure can connect to any other point; peer-to-peer networks share at least some features with the rhizome, though it would be overly ambitious to claim torrenting is rhizomatic in all ways, or that anything can be.
Psychoanalysis traditionally has an arborescent structure; all ultimately derives from the family and the “main root” of sexuality, rather than understanding every aspect of ourselves as creating our own desires, as assemblages of various machines which form their desires in a system of flows, nothing fixed and everything determined at the moment.
So why is Papika in a prison? Because for whatever freedom Pure Illusion grants, and it clearly grants quite a bit, the tree is meant to stop it, or as a Deleuzian might put it, it is an attempt by the State, in this case seen in Mimi’s darker elements, to impose striated space on smooth space. The hierarchical nature of the tree makes it a fitting cage in this reading, and to go even further, you might say that psychoanalysis, as a discourse made use of by medical institutions, inherently bears similarities to the prison in a disciplinary society. Yet, given Papika’s shifts, it is not entirely successful. Even within the cage, Papika is not totally trapped by arborescent structure, as her visually and narratively non-hierarchical connection with Cocona demonstrates. Pure Illusion clearly does make room for methods of thought and organization that we usually can’t access. Why?
Part 4: Pure Imagination
If anything can be called rhizomatic, it’s Pure Illusion itself. While many of the various worlds and spaces within Pure Illusion are intruded upon and take more hierarchical structures, as a space in itself it is utterly free. Every Pure Illusion is equal to and, as Mimi shows, connected to all of the others, with no clear delineation. Furthermore, all the parts of Pure Illusion reflect on the real world, as the real world reflects on those parts. While I may use the phrase “real world”, it’s a bit of a misnomer, as Pure Illusion is no less real than the outside. Through this focus on the rhizomatic structure of Pure Illusion, a world of dreams, Flip Flappers encourages a broadening of imagination, a form of thought less tied to the power of the State and arborescent structures.
Now, one point could be raised to dispute this. Within Pure Illusion, or at least some of the worlds within it, is a “deeper level”, one accessed by Cocona and Papika when they accidentally become Iroha, or by Salt as he goes to confront his past self. However, while this is referred to as “deeper”, it’s questionable whether that’s the case. Rather, these “deeper levels” appear to be a hyperfocusing on individual people. While all worlds of Pure Illusion, on some level, borrow from the specific interests, hang-ups, and thoughts of characters within the show, and presumably other people in the world as well, the “deeper levels” are specifically about those people, and in the cases we see, their history.
However, this is not, in fact, the imposition of hierarchy through a more classically psychoanalytic framework, even if it may appear that way on first blush. First of all, psychoanalytic attempts to access it fail, but things are even clearer in Iroha’s world. Papika and Cocona both inhabit Iro, even fighting over who gets to be her at various times. This is not due to their fundamentally different brain structures, with one representing the id and the other, the ego. When with Iro’s Auntie, they behave the same way, showing little if not none of the personality difference which characterizes their everyday interactions. Rather, they are literally becoming-Iro, not transforming into her but taking on her form, the machines that make her up, borrowing traits from her in a rhizomatic, non-hierarchical way. Through this they alter Iro’s waking experience, yes, but it isn’t because they somehow go deeper; it’s because they enter into a relationship with her mind and memories quite directly. Yes, in a certain sense there is a “deeper layer” to pure illusion, but it is not deeper as in more true, but deeper as in closer. Given what we’re shown, “higher layers” of Pure Illusion are also able to change the outside world; they’re simply further detached from doing so. This is not 100% rhizomatic, but as I said, nothing truly can be.
And this characterizes all of Pure Illusion. In episode 7, Cocona directly engages with Papika as an assemblage of various machines; as a little sister-machine, a temptress-machine, a hottie-machine, etc, all aspects that make up Papika as she is boiled down to simpler, more direct representation. Cocona is attracted to all of these aspects, but furthermore, understands that what she wants is Papika as a whole. This is not a denial of the multiplicity which is Papika, but a recognition that what she truly loves is that multiplicity. Having accepted that, much of the conflict between the two in the rest of the series is Cocona’s struggle to understand and eventually come to love the fact that, as an assemblage like all people, Papika is fluid and changes at all times. Of course, classically psychoanalytic forms do not necessarily deny that the characteristics which make-up a person are fluid, but in positing central, universal, and ultimately arborescent structures as the main factors in development, they can’t in practice engage with them properly. The rhizomatic structure of Pure Illusion enables Cocona, and by proxy, people in general, to realize that they are in a sense multiplicities, as are all people, and that embracing that in yourself and others doesn’t have to be an impossible thing, even if it can, at times, be scary.
All of Flip Flappers takes this position. The animation emphasizes movement both across spaces and between them, never privileging one over the other, or, to quote Joe of Pause & Select, “it suggests that movement between spaces is as valuable as within those spaces. There is no hierarchy.” The fact that this non-hierarchical structure exists in the animation as well as the discrete narrative of the script is vital. Even as production problems abound at the end of the series and the animation takes a hit, this is demonstrated. Mimi’s movements, for instance, tend to fill the screen, cutting off freedom of movement as is the hierarchical nature of the State; the trio’s animation, on the other hand, conveys speed, and most importantly, flight, the ability to move across space freely, the ability to flee. Mimi is trapped in Millais’ portrait of Ophelia, drowned as she’s surrounded by the arborescent structures which made her the way she is, the structures she, unlike her daughter, is not able to entirely escape.
And that, at long last, brings me around to my title, the end of pyschosexuality. It should be clear, at this point, that I was not referring to a conclusion as such, to some telos for the entire project of understanding how sexuality reflects itself in the psyche and development. No, Flip Flappers is a show which is very much about that, even if it pushes back against many of the psychoanalytic conceptions which surround how psychosexuality is understood. Instead, I mean it more in the sense of a geometrical “endpoint”, or perhaps even a “goal”. The most important arc in the show is Cocona’s coming to love herself, and much of her ability to do so derives from her mutual love for Papika and resulting acceptance of her sexuality. It’s notable, after all, that the most famous image from the series is the two of them holding hands while wearing wedding dresses, demonstrating the importance of connections between individuals(or perhaps I should say assemblages), of becoming-each other in a certain sense. But what Flip Flappers does is break the idea that it can be understood entirely through one lens, that development or human life can be reduced to a pat analysis of one’s parents and childhood. It’s a psychosexual show, but you might also describe it as a psycho-mechanical show, or a psycho-educational show, or a psycho-apocalyptic show, if you were so inclined. Flip Flappers focuses on the psyche and sexuality above all else in its characteristic surreal manner, without putting said sexuality in a hierarchy over the other things which affect our lives. And that’s what we should be aiming for.
2 thoughts on “Flip Flappers: The End of Psychosexuality”
Superb breakdown here. I guess that’s what watching something multiple times lets you see.
One clear and noteworthy repeated sequence you didn’t touch on (or I’m blind) was Mimi twice asking Papika who she actually wanted. To me, it felt like asking Papika who she (Papika) was now. What was her focus now.
Anyway, since searching for “explain Flip Flappers” brought me here, and I liked what you wrote, I’ll poke around a bit for a Utena review at least, for starters. I assume that has to be here, haha. 🙂 Good stuff.
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