I saw Moana yesterday with some of my friends. It’s a wonderfully colorful film, imbued with rich traditions and culture while also focusing on a heartfelt female lead who journeys on a voyage to save her people and discover more about herself. It’s got great songs, a fantastic sidekick, and some genuine relatable scenes about learning who you are and what you want to be instead of letting others decide your identity for you. I walked away thinking a lot about it and why I personally connected so much with it – and somehow, the latest episodes of Flip Flappers bubbled to the surface in the process.
I love Flip Flappers for a number of similar reasons that I enjoyed Moana: the bright, inventive worlds, the stunning animation, the genuine symbolism and gestures to other pieces of work, and the unfolding relationship between its main two characters. The show is a gem that reminds me so much of why I enjoyed anime as a kid, and continue to enjoy anime years later on as an adult. But at the heart of it all, I love Flip Flappers for the coming-of-age narrative about Cocona, as she discovers more about herself, who she is, and who she wants to be. All of these things play a critical role in the last arc of Flip Flappers, which seems to switch from its episodic slow-burn pace to a more condensed and plot-focused one as it reveals more about Papikana, Mimi, and Dr. Salt and takes a backseat with our blue haired and quiet protagonist. It makes sense, after all. Cocona’s not even there.
But like everything in Flip Flappers, there is a set of layers, and she is, in more ways than one.
In Episode 11 of Flip Flappers, Cocona wakes up to find herself in Pure Illusion, on the same boat she has dreamed of many times. That boat is the link between her mental world and Pure Illusion, as she comes face to face with her mother and they journey through the worlds she previously explored with Papika. At first, Cocona is emotionally vulnerable. She has never met her mother, despite always wanting to, and cries not only realizing that she’s getting to know Mimi for the first time, but also realizing that there is still someone in the world that loves and cares for her. Her interactions with her mother begin awkward as she tries to stifle Mimi’s oppressive attitude, but as time goes on, Cocona weakens, and eventually sleeps in the same boat she woke up from so many times before. The feisty, daring Cocona we once saw in Episodes 8-9 is now replaced by a lost and empty child.
It makes sense, in the context: Cocona has been betrayed by everyone she knows. Her best friend turned out to be a traitor, and the person she loves is revealed to be someone deeply connected to her mother. The trials she has faced in order to finally believe that she has a home to come to have been blown away as meaningless and fake. Cocona is no longer defined by the positive relationships in her life; they are broken promises now. What else would be a better opportunity for her mother to rear her head from the shadows and take control, as she too, has experienced nothing but false promises?
And so for the majority of two episodes, Mimi reigns over Cocona’s body, seemingly robbing her of choice and responsibility. Pure Illusion becomes corrupted as the world mingles between dreamscapes and reality and innocent civilians are drained of life. From this perspective, Mimi is consciously wrecking havoc on the real world while keeping Cocona safe at harbor, but as Flip Flappers has always shown us, there is always more than one face to every human being. Considering that Mimi can never give Cocona something new in Pure Illusion, steals its creations for her own judgement, and we can come to the conclusion that the aggressive Mimi we see is more or less a subconscious fear festering in Cocona’s mind, now brought to life as Cocona feels as if she has been left alone.
Of course, Mimi is still Mimi: we see flashbacks of her past, her relationship with Cocona, Papikana and Dr. Salt, and her eventual demise as she resolves to throw away everything to save her child. She still retains many of the natural fears a parent would have for their child as they go out into a new, strange world that they can no longer be a part of. Her rage, loneliness, and bitterness though – all of that is shared through Cocona. Whether it’s the powers she uses, or the cage she creates; they are all mental images seen by Cocona’s mind, and thus giving her the choice and power to determine what she wants for herself. Cocona wasn’t invisible, even in this arc. She was there all along.
It is easy then, for the people that Cocona truly longs for – Papika and Yayaka – to fight her warped imagery and eventually wake Cocona up from her intense anxiety and depression. It is not their words that change her mind in the end though. It is yet another version of Mimi – the kind and forgiving mother that Cocona never knew, yet always inherently shared – that tells Cocona that she’s free to be whomever she wants, despite the risks and responsibilities that come along with it. Cocona instantly lights up, looking to the person she loves, and confidently blasts away any images of doubt. Her own worst enemy is gone; all that’s left is to fight the parts that were never hers to begin with.