Review for Flip Flappers Collection
I’m cutting this particular release some slack. It’s a one-off, something I haven’t seen before, and unlikely ever to see again. This is an MVM authored release. They’re a company which as far as I know have relied on other distributors for their anime disc masters. A show or movie gets licensed by a US company who will dub it, subtitle it, and author the discs, both Blu-ray and DVD for the Region A/1 market. Then someone in Australia will licence the show, and they’ll re-author the discs for Region B/4 in some cases converting an NTSC DVD master to a PAL master. It’s a quick switch to flick to get a Region 4 PAL or NTSC disc re-authored for Region 2, and we can use Region B Blu-rays as is.
The problem is that this year, Sentai Filmworks in the US, who release about a third to a half of the anime in the US, stopped releasing new shows on DVD, moving to Blu-ray only. That hasn’t been too bad, as Madman Entertainment in Australia have been mastering DVDs from the US Blu-ray discs and releasing those, and MVM has still had those DVDs to release in the UK. So when they solicited Flip Flappers for release, a real fan favourite anime, they were confident that they would have both Blu-ray and DVD for the combo release. Only Madman have followed Sentai in pulling the plug on DVD for new anime releases. Rather than rejig the whole release schedule, MVM have taken on the expense of creating DVDs for the UK market alone. As I said, this is a one-off. MVM have now indicated that they are following Madman and Sentai Filmworks in ditching DVD for new anime releases, and we’ll be seeing fewer new MVM anime DVDs come 2019.
Papika is an energetic girl with a flying surfboard who works for the Flip Flap organisation, along with a robot called Boo-chan. Cocona is a proper school girl who lives with her grandmother, and only wants a normal life. A normal life isn’t going to happen, as together, Cocona and Papika’s hearts have the right impedance to open a portal to the world of Pure Illusion, and Flip Flap needs the girls to go through the portal and retrieve the Shards that are released when dangerous evils are defeated. Gather all of the Shards and a wish will be granted. The problem is that Pure Illusion offers a different reality each time they go through. The real problem is that there is a rival after the Shards as well, aiming for world domination, a rival that Cocona knows very well, or she thought she did.
13 episodes of Flip Flappers are presented across two DVDs as follows.
1. Pure Input
2. Pure Converter
3. Pure XLR
4. Pure Equalisation
5. Pure Echo
6. Pure Play
7. Pure Component
8. Pure Breaker
9. Pure Mute
10. Pure Jitter
11. Pure Storage
12. Pure Howling
13. Pure Audio
Flip Flappers gets a 1.78:1 anamorphic PAL transfer on these discs, with the 4% speedup that goes with it. The episode distribution is more like that of a Blu-ray, with a whole eight episodes on just one disc, and the image quality does suffer as a result. There is a fair bit of compression, and plenty of macroblocking, especially in darker scenes, and digital banding of course. It’s a shame as Flip Flappers is a singular animation, wacky and psychedelic at times, with the random nature of Pure Illusion allowing for several animation styles. The character designs are perky and cute, but comparatively simplistic. Flip Flappers has a GAINAX feel to the character and world designs, which suits the zany nature of the story well.
You have the choice between DD 2.0 Stereo English and Japanese with an optional translated subtitle track. The audio is fine, correctly synced and with no glitches or dropouts. The action comes across well even with stereo, and the music suits the story. As usual my preference was for the Japanese audio, but what I sampled of the English dub seemed fine.
The problems begin and end with the subtitles, which display all the failings of UK authored discs, issues I’ve complained about on many an occasion with Manga’s locally authored releases. This release uses a large white font for its subtitles, which normally wouldn’t be a bad thing, but as usual Sentai have created translation notes, and given the size of the font, a caption can fill up half the screen with text. And there’s no placement to the subtitles, they just appear at the bottom of the screen regardless of context, and cycle through, so when you get a conversation, interspersed with screen captions, interspersed with translator notes, interspersed with song lyrics (both romanji and English translation), it can get really messy. It also shares a problem with one of Siren’s earliest DVD releases, Iria with regards to unsynchronised subtitles. I can only assume it’s related to converting NTSC to PAL, as on many of the Flip Flappers episodes, the subtitles begin behind the audio, sync up by the middle of the episode, and then drift ahead of the dialogue by the end of the episode. It’s almost an afterthought that there isn’t a signs only track.
The discs boot to static menus.
The extras on disc 2 comprise the textless credits, a collection of English translated credit reels for each of the episodes running to 18:55, and trailers for Grimoire of Zero and Log Horizon.
There are some constants in the magical girl genre. There will always be some evil to defeat, which will leave a Maguffin behind for the magical girls to collect, a Maguffin that will grant a wish or something positive. There will be a rival magical girl also collecting the Maguffins for a more ominous purpose. In reality, the magical girl and her rival, or their alter egos will be best friends at school. It’s what a magical girl show does with this premise that will make it memorable and a classic or just plain disposable fare. Flip Flappers is definitely memorable, could very well be a classic, and even given its clichéd and well-worn premise, does things with it that make it feel fresh and original.
It begins in media res, with a girl on a flying surfboard encountering a schoolgirl who wants to remain non-descript, and then dragging her off on adventures to the world of Pure Illusion. There’s a whole lot of back-story to these characters, the Flip Flap organisation they work for, and the allies and rivals they encounter, but rather than an exposition dump, Flip Flappers ensures that you learn all this back-story naturally, as the episodes unfold. And the back-story, who these characters are, and where they came from very much lies at the heart of Flip Flappers, informing the whole narrative.
In this particular Magical Girl story, the evil that they fight, the Maguffins, the Shards/Amorphous that they have to collect all dwell within a parallel world called Pure Illusion, or rather parallel worlds. Every adventure that Papika and Cocona go on takes them somewhere new where the animators’ and storywriters’ imaginations can run riot. It can be a winter wonderland, a world where they are bunny girls, a barren Mad Max desert world, a spooky version of the real world, even time-travelling into another girl’s past, and more. There’s variety and imagination here that put me in mind of a cross between Space Dandy and Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi.
The characters are really interesting. Cocona’s a quiet girl who wants a simple life living with her grandmother, and at first doesn’t appreciate this energetic firecracker Papika showing up and dragging her off on adventures. They have to be together, as only their hearts resonating will open the portal to Pure Illusion, which is good for Papika, but not so good for Cocona. In the manner of such shows, there are mascots as well, a robot called Boo-chan who goes with them on their adventures, and Cocona’s weird green rabbit-thing called Uexkul. Cocona’s best friend is Yayaka, an outgoing and friendly girl who is hiding more than one secret (remember what I said about rival magical girls?). And there are organisations, plots and schemes behind the whole thing working against each other to collect the Shards.
I would really love to tell you more about the characters, who they are and how they interrelate, but for once in a show, the spoilers lie not only in the story, but in the characterisations. Flip Flappers is like a coming of age Magical Girl show, in that the adventures that Cocona and Papika go on, are key to them discovering who they really are. In this regard, Flip Flappers turned out to be a very satisfying show, despite all the distraction the visual excess could have posed. It’s very much a show worth watching.
As a first try, the Flip Flappers DVD is middling, but by this time, you really should have gone HD. Certainly, the next time I watch Flip Flappers, it will be on Blu-ray.