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  • 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 thatPure 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 thereal 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 “healthyresult 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 thehealthystages 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 girlbut 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 thenatural”,

  • healthyend-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 Welwitschiayes, that's

  • the name of the BDSM girlacts 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 personalityyes, Jung inspired Meyers-Briggsthough 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 whichspoiler alertis 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 thereal Mimiwould 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