Re:Creators – 03

The Gist: The conflict between the good guys and Magical Slayer Mamika is quickly broken by the arrival of an unnamed medieval woman (or onna-kishi if you will) riding a quasi-Pegasus. While Mirokuji Yuya could probably have defeated the new arrival, she retreats almost as quickly as she appears.

Thus follows a lengthy exposition sequence where Yuya and team good guys have a bunch of food at a family restaurant. Celestia is still wounded but not so much that she doesn’t want to learn more from this quasi-bad guy and he’s not so bad-a-guy that he won’t accept a free meal. Especially if it includes a tasty ice cream parfait.

During their exchange, we learn that the Military Uniform Princess approached him along with an old man, who is most likely the detective with a gun shown in the opening credits. However, Yuya saw through the MUP’s request and immediately blew her off. After all, her idea of modifying their worlds via their creators strikes him as unimaginative when that same line of thinking could give them so much more power in their own worlds…and that’s ignoring the fact that their own worlds are not much more than cages.

Yuya would rather live in our world and experience all the fun after all. He’s not even mad that his world is ‘messed up’ for our enjoyment—he’d even like his friends (and enemies) to be in our world, to share in all the fun…

Later, Team Good Guy experiments with what Yuya mentioned: can Mr. Matsubara change Celestia’s abilities by writing about them? What about having Celestia’s illustrator, Marine, make an illustration? The answer is a masterfully done ‘No’, including a great use of sound design…but it brings the group closer together, including Celestia telling Souta he has time to learn how to be a better and more confident illustrator.

Also, Marine has a contract with Meteora’s development company and offers to take her on a tour of the building…

Elsewhere, the Military Princess talks to no one in particular about her need to destroy the world. It has something to do with Setsuna, no doubt her creator and the girl who committed suicide in the opening of episode one, and who has some relationship with Souta. Mamika watches on silently from the sidelines…

The Verdict: The balance of action, character and exposition was tighter this week, and the depth we gained from the characters added charm and nuance to their being. That said, not a lot happened—again—and it presented another boatload of sometimes clunkily-delivered exposition.

In the end, sound design, charm, production values, and the ongoing mysteries earn it my recommendation. While Yuya was kinda annoying, and talk-heavy, his not-entirely-evil personality and pragmatic outlook on the world was enough not to drag the story down. I also greatly appreciated his annoyance at how slow Team Good Guy was to realize all the things they could try to benefit from.

 

Re:Creators – 02

The Gist: Meteora directs much of the opening story and through her, we learn that the creation effect is not limited to one art form nor main characters. She is an NPC that begins the ending section of an RPG Souta remembers enjoying, after all.

A great deal of eating and exposition later, Souta helps locate the company that created Meteora and the individual that created Celestia. One Mr Matsubara, who agrees to meet them in public. To Celestia’s chagrin, he does not live up to her expectations as a god, let alone a clever man she would associate with.

Then Magical Slayer Mamika shows up, apparently having been sent at them by the ‘Military Uniform Princess.’ (AKA Gunpuku no Himegimi) As a ‘Sailor Moon’-themed creation, she isn’t especially reasonable to negotiate with, nor intelligent, nor ready when her magic attacks cause pain and blood…but she is seriously strong. Much stronger than Celestia without her mech.

Fortunately (or not), Mirokuji Yuya shows up at the end and shrugs off Mamika’s attack with ease. According to Souta, he’s the final boss villain of another game called Exclusive Underground. Where this is going, exactly, and how it will not result in at least one of these characters quickly getting killed off, remains to be seen next week.

Dun dun duuunnnn…

The Verdict: The concept, sound design and animation continue to be top notch this week. Mamika’s magic sound, which is like a cutesy popping bubble, was delightfully bizarre and great contrast to the ‘cool’ designs of the other characters. I loved the music in the opening theme and throughout the episode as well.

Unfortunately, all the exposition around the concept and connecting the cast with Mr Matsubara came at the expense of good pacing. The opening two thirds dragged and the ending third felt rushed. Additionally, while I loved the opening theme, it immediately spoiled several characters appearing in the show to come. That didn’t do Yuya’s extremely short and clunky introduction any favors.

Ultimately, setting the stage for a fanfic mashup world should provide a good series in the long run (22 episodes, to be exact—ed.), but the speed at which thematically discordant characters have been thrown together, and uneventfully thrown together, just didn’t work this week.

Hopefully, the remaining characters will get more time to breathe on their introductory episodes. Otherwise, the crispness of the production and the curious premise will lose their shine quickly.

 

Re:Creators – 01 (First Impressions)

The Gist: Souta Mizushino has pretensions of being a creator. He has the software to draw and sources of inspiration litter the room and world around him, but the spark hasn’t quite hit. He’s only a high school student after all.

Then, while watching the most popular anime of the season on his tablet, he finds himself transported into that world. Right in the middle of a fight that is not going well for show heroine Celestia Yupitilia and her ornate mecha. But the enemy isn’t what Celestia has come to expect from her world and, eventually noticing Souta, they aren’t in her world for very long.

Back on Earth, neither character quite knows how to act. Celestia quickly understands that, to some degree, she is a fictional character and, to some degree, Souta is not responsible for whatever has happened. Just ask quickly, her previous opponent has joined them on Earth and clearly has a grander understanding of what is going on.

Mystery, car chases, a third fictional character with magic rocket launchers appears, and a trip to the convenience store ensues. This. Show. Rocks.

You absolutely should watch this show because it takes all the conventions that could be cliché and does them so right. While we don’t know what exactly is going on and how, there’s a strong implication that human creation is the source of other worlds where people face the triumphs and hardships we imagine, and that even though magic from that world can carry over to our own, Souta himself (and humans in general) are not gifted with magical properties. Nor does Souta get the Re:Zero / Konosuba other-world adventure.

Souta describes himself as the Narrator and, right from the get go,  Re:Creators makes the point that this is the story as he remembers it, full of consequences, action, and thought.

But what really lofts Souta and Celestia above high above expectations is how they respond to their situation visually and through dialog. Anime is full of confused male leads who just repeat whatever ‘unexpected thing’ they hear right back as a question, and confused leads who ask idiotic questions or take an absurd amount of time to accept what is going on around them.

Sure, Souta spends a lengthy walk with his mouth hanging open in shock with a confused look, and has no particular goal moving forward, but he gets what’s going on around him, which lets the world show itself to us, without being overly expositioned in the process.

Celestia fares about the same, processing the evidence she sees and moving through a range of reasonable emotional and tactical responses until some of it is obvious. Her behavior just makes sense, and that makes me tremendously happy as a viewer.

The Verdict: Solid writing, fantastic voice work and music, extreme density of content (especially in the epilogue-as-prologue, where a mysterious girl commits suicide by train), and top shelf animation put this very very close to a perfect 10. It only falls short in comparison to my other 10s (Re:Zero’s emotional roller coaster or the pure splendor of Fate or the originality of FLCL). Give it time though, it may just get there.

For now, go right now and watch it!

Chou Shounen Tanteidan Neo – 02

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The Gist: Inoua and Noro join the club, rounding out the generic Leader, Girl, Muscle and Brains slots of the group. Meanwhile, their mentor has a nightmare that his shadow murders him and then commits suicide, which leads into un-approved security upgrades to their rented building space and a quick escape by helicopter-backpack from the landlady, who doesn’t speak but may or may not be pissed.

Later, 20 Faces puts a plan into action via a hologram emitting party invite. The club doesn’t really fall for the ploy and 20 masks is further undermined by not knowing how to turn off the projected image.

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The Verdict: I imagine these style could be enjoyable if you were high. Paying attention or understanding what is going is optional. It’s all about a atmosphere and it succeeds for the most part. I smirked and chuckled with its effective use of timing and I found the colors and shapes pleasant.

But I’m not a stoner and the wandering nature of the show isn’t going to hold my attention forever. Not as a reviewer anyhow…

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Chou Shounen Tanteidan Neo – 01 (First Impressions)

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The Gist: Neo is a short format kids humor show, vaguely in the vein of the original Power Puff Girls. Neo features a club of young detectives and a mentor, who has a criminal mastermind nemesis. It’s set in a pleasant scifi future world, but the imagery and gadgets is stylized enough that the setting doesn’t really matter.

There is a plot, both for individual episodes and across the season’s arc, but it does not feel especially important. This time around, a cockroach interrupts the cast reading a 100 year old newspaper, followed by a gun fight with the cockroach who isn’t as indestructible as he thinks. Later, we learn he was an agent for the villain.

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The Verdict: CSTN’s style is quite pleasant, possibly even unique with the insertion of classic illustrations amidst the hyper simplified shapes of the characters and environments. The character expressions are wonderful too, in an unexpectedly abstract way.

Less engaging is the story, humor and characters themselves. Despite being quick and full of frantic animation, not much happened in the story and the humor is child-friendly, in a safe way not meant for me as an audience. I would suggest this for younger audiences, except we live in a post Adventure Time world, and Neo has nothing approaching that level of thoughtful structure and dynamic characters.

Over all, I think I like it but I’m not sure if I will stick with it for an entire season. Depends on how quickly I tire of its opening theme, which is, for now, a delightfully 8-bit jingle. It reminds me of playing Sonic the Hedgehog on a Saturday afternoon all those years ago…

What an odd sensation?

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Flip Flappers – 13 (FIN)

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The Gist: Flip Flappers’ bloated smoldering corps belches its last into the new year. The power of love between Cocona and Papika and Papika and Mimi eventually defeats Evil Mimi. Salt shoots his alternate self in the face to hold onto his memory of being a screw up. Yayaka x Oxkull (yay?) and the Amorphus children and Salt’s Staff …hang around

In the end, we get a fake-out sad ending, where Cocona is trapped in a gray world without access to Pure Illusion, where Papika is trapped. Except Cocona is the one trapped and Papika rescues her without fan fair shortly afterwards.

Then they fly off into the sky with some giant butterflies, happily ever after.

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The Verdict: by the end, no amount of pretty animation and cheerful Papika quirk could save FliFla from a common trap of a generic villain that infinite power but is undone by the power of love. It’s shallow, under developed, and far less interesting than the world hinted at half a season ago.

Over all, I’m torn over my considerable enjoyment of the early and mid season verse the feeling of utter pointlessness having watched it all the way through. I’m not sure knowing how this mystery turned out was really worth it?

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Flip Flappers – 12

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The Gist: Papika and Yayaka trudge through the ‘greatest hits’ of Pure Illusion, getting pummeled by Mimi along the way. Yayaka learns to transform during the sand-world fight, Bu-chan is upgraded with the M.U.S.C.L.E. satellite, and Salt makes it back to his father’s lab in search of the original machine that made his father crazy.

In the ends, a splinter of Mimi saves the day by convincing Cocona it’s okay not to know what you want or how to get it as long as you have a little courage and try. So Cocona and Papika mega upgrade and demolish bad Mimi’s monster. Roll credits, for now…

The Verdict: It’s not terrible but it’s no longer good either. What began weeks ago feeling like important building blocks of story were missing has morphed to pure contrivance for narrative sake (Splinter good Mimi) or completely disposable (everything Salt and crew have been up to)

At the end of the day, Flip Flappers remains a very pretty, energetic show, with fun characters devoid of believable character traits and scenarios. The story, which has become more and more shallow as it’s gone along, is just happening in a conventional way with our heroes down one moment and then up, along with climbing music the next.

It’s effective but, compared to the open ended mystery about a world of shared mental scapes that knit the whole cast together, and the stories that could be told through the consequences of helping (or changing) those characters, Flip Flappers’ broken mom uses magic to control her daughter plot is a tremendous disappointment.

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Flip Flappers – 11

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The Gist: engage backstory exposition mode engaged! Salt’s father’s mind was destroyed by an experiment to project into pure illusion… or maybe control the destination or a dive? (It has something to do with the stone gate Cocona and Papika used to change Art-Senpai)

Salt got Mimi pregnant, but didn’t know until she and Papika ran away for a year and later brought back by Salt’s father’s army(?) at which point shit hit the fan and Mimi and the lab are lost.

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Meanwhile, Salt has been telling Mimi this (I guess?) while aiming a gun at her at the site of the old lab. Mimi puts him down and returns to pure illusion, where she has Cocona trapped but is slowly absorbing parts of reality.

Meanwhile Meanwhile Meanwhile Yayaka and Papika join forces and go to rescue Cocona. Also, the 3rd child is hanging out with Team Salt because reasons…

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The Verdict: So yeah… info-splaining Cocona’s backstory in one quick swoop, while setting up a final showdown between Mimi and Cocona’s friends is one way to make an episode. It’s not a particularly elegant way and, despite the striking compositions and a few imaginative backgrounds, it wasn’t especially attractive by Flip Flappers’ standards either.

From a structural standpoint, all of the pieces fit, but there aren’t many surprises. Cocona being Mimi’s daughter was not only spelled out last week, it’s been strongly implied all along. Seeing that Salt is Cocona’s father, and seeing specifically how Salt’s father became crazy and caused Mimi to dissappear into pure illusion (and eventually spit Cocona back out?) is not a particularly important detail, given that Salt had nearly no character building to this point and Salt’s father’s role in all of this was already implied last week.

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In shorter words, last week’s implications were enough. I’m not even going to talk about the Third Child, who appears to be part of the good guy’s team now, nor the Twins, who only make an uneventful cameo. It all culminates in the same thing: mostly unnecessary retreading and/or abrupt plot advancement for the finale’s sake.

I guess I’m puzzled most by the decision to over explain what was very nicely implied last week, but under explain other elements like Mimi ‘switching places’ with …herself?… at some point, not unlike Papika and Cocona did during the stone gate adventure. :/

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Flip Flappers – 10

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The Gist: The backstory rolls in this week and its not the only gut punch for our heroes. As the cult invades Dr Salt’s lair, an injured Yayaka has to stand off against the Twins, who are there to collect Cocona. (the target) Unfortunately, their relationship gets torpedoed as the Twins describe Yayaka’s mission to make herself Cocona’s friend.

Later, mid escape, Cocona throws a fit and demands Papika spill the beans, which she does via un-narrated flashbacks. At least a decade ago, Papika was one of many candidates to be Mimi’s partner. (Mimi being the only known person who can dive Pure Illusion) Salt is there — as a young boy — and the three of them have a bit of fun under the watchful (and sinister) eyes of Salt’s father.

What happened to Mimi is not clear, but Cocona is broken by the idea that she is only loved as a target or a replacement for another girl. Double unfortunately, Cocona’s grandmother turns out to be evil as well, and uses Cult soldier robots to pin her granddaughter down… only for the house to be destroyed by a resurgent Mimi, who refers to Cocona as her daughter!

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The Verdict: We finally get somewhere with the ongoing hints of Mimi on the boat, Papika calling Cocona Mimi, and a confirmation that Grandma has been an evil SOB from the beginning. All of these revelations are delivered beautifully and, thankfully, without too much exposition.

I really love the reveal that Papika is way older than she looks, as we can infer from Salt’s current age. (The lines on his face look late 30s at the youngest) It also gives greater context for Salts motivations and his cold persona.

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As always, Flip Flappers is a treat to look at and, Cocona’s angst aside, everyone has an interesting personality to investigate. But above all things, the fact that Flip Flappers retains many mysteries — what happened to Mimi? How did she transition to Cocona? What does the cult want? What does Mimi Want? — is smart and keeps my appetite drooling wet for more.

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Flip Flappers – 09

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The Gist: Yayaka’s fall has been building but, until now, we never had a clear sense of her relationship hooks to Cocona. This week paints them as having met long before school, in the hospital full of faceless men in lab coats. Yayaka is waiting for some painful tests, while Cocona is waiting for her own grandmother. The girls’ temporary escape is warm and their connection understandable amidst the subtly creepy setting.

Meanwhile, our 5 adventurers dive into a gigantic empty space. Cocona and the Twins spend a portion of it trapped in a room, while Yayaka tries to beat Papika to death. The twins treat Cocona almost like a big sister and since we know they are partially connected to Pure Illustion themselves, and that Cocona carries a fragment in her thigh, this does not at all bode well.

In the end, Cocona escapes of course. No matter what she says, she does care about Papika and wants to protect her. Likewise, Yayaka can not turn her back on Cocona and is brutally put down by the twins for stopping them from cutting open Cocona’s leg…

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The Verdict: This show is a master of the daylight and flowers vibe still oozing nervous dread. Dread in bright empty spaces too, where no immediate threat is obvious beyond the characters that know each other.

This week was not especially deep, nor were the various betrayals and reveals of backstory surprising. They were tender all the same and, yadda yadda extremely well animated, framed, and paced. Since the characters are enjoyable to watch, and the mystery remains… mysterious… I remain hooked!

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Flip Flappers – 08

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The Gist: this week, we dive the mad scientist of Team Salt. Unlike previous experiences, his mind world is very straight forward — he’s a tiny man who thinks he’s the king of his TRON’esq world. But something has invaded, and all the girls have to team up and use his combining mechs to take it down.

The style is wonderfully retro, wonderfully fluid in animation, and continues to creep Yayaka closer to being a part of Team Cocona. She even has to shout Flip Flap to help transform the mech!

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There’s always a bigger mech

The Verdict: If not for the top shelf visuals, you could be forgiven if you considered this a step below previous Flip Flappings. There wasn’t anything wrong with it, but the story was rather straight forward and we didn’t learn much about the world. On the contrary, it raised more questions.

Why is Pure Illusion attacking one of its own entities? What impact did defeating the invaders have, if any, on the mad scientist? If nothing changed in him, and I’m hard pressed to identify a change, what was the point of showing us this set piece in the first place?

If the only point was to push Yayaka farther away from the Cult/Twins, so be it. Simple or not, there are few visual experiences worth this much to otherwise fill your time!

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Flip Flappers – 07

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The Gist: Cocona and Papika’s relationship hits another down note and they enter Pure Illusion semi-separately. Rather, Papika is there, but more of an aesthetic overlay for many different friend archetypes for Cocona to interact with.

All of them love her, in a way, from the had hitting tom boy, to the delinquent that convinces her to wear a classic sailor, to the cute boy, to the horned seductress that Cocona may very well have had sex with. However, at the end, these Papika figments leave as Yayaka and the Twins collect this particular illustion’s fragment and Cocona is plunged into darkness.

…Only to be saved by the real Papika and Bu-chan riding the concrete pipe like a submarine. Their friendship is saved, at least for the moment.

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The Verdict: While I am starting to find Cocona’s personality a little annoying — she’s a bit whiney and indecisive — it’s still easy to understand her perspective. It’s not like she has any idea what is going on and pretty much everything in her life is efing with her perception.

I absolutely loved the weirdness of all the Papika projections. That they say ‘no matter how much you change, I’ll still love you’ is extra special creepy, especially as they/it probably ‘died’ in the background when Yayaka showed up.

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I have to revise my previous review in that I am not sure each episode — each dive into illusion — relates to a specific character’s mind scape. This episode doesn’t fit that model because it would have to be Cocona diving her own mindscape or some distortion of Papika’s, and even then, none of the experiences lead either character to a different place by the end (unlike the senpai in the art room)

Figured it out or not, this was another lovely visual feast.

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Flip Flappers – 06

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The Gist: Papika and Cocona’s normal adventure/battle with Yayaka in Pure Illusion is interrupted when they ‘break through the ground’ of their battle zone and discover a Stone Henge’like gateway deep below.

What follows is a lovingly rendered and constructed tale of Papika and Cocona living another girl’s life up to the point of tragedy. That girl is Irodori Iroha, the upperclassman in the art club that the girls have encountered since the beginning.

The tragedy is Iro’s dear Auntie falls into dementia and Iro, as a child, ran away from her instead of keeping a promise to reintroduce herself each time. This arc is wrapped with a warped home life, whispering neighbors, and a duality of perspectives because Cocona and Papika are inhabiting an individuals memories at the same time. But it all ends with the girls going back and correcting the ‘wrong’ on Auntie’s death bed…

Which carries over into the real world, with Irodori-senpai being much happier and finally able to wear the nail polish her Auntie had given her years ago. The polish she had, until recently, said she did not deserve to wear…

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The Verdict: Wow. Just ****ing wow. The range of art styles, starting with a painterly style of this week’s initial Pure Illusion that implied there was a connection with Irodori, to the soul crushing world of parents fighting at home and how well its colors and line work and point of view and figure distortions captured the emotional state of the child Papika and Cocona were inhabiting… this is easily the most artistically thought out episode of all shows this season!

However, what earns this episode’s master marks is its greater impact on Flip Flappers as a whole. Pure Illusion clearly connects to the minds of the world’s characters and it can greatly effect those minds. That construct absolutely makes me want to go back and watch the previous 5 episodes and see if I can tie previous dives directly to a cast member and see if tangible changes apply to those characters after the fact.

Because this ‘twist’ is delivered in such a matter of fact way — not even Papika nor Cocona respond to this as a twist or as anything surprising at all — it de-“what a twist!”s the entire experience, which makes it feel genuine. I cant name a single show that’s pulled such a feat off.

Almost retroactively makes All of the previous Episodes a 10!

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