Flip Flappers’ tenth episode opens with Papika in a mood we’ve basically never seen her in – insular and depressed, crouched alone in the dark, reflecting on this mysterious “Mimi” figure. It’s an appropriate starting point for an episode that essentially tears up Flip Flappers’ status quo, abandoning its largely episodic structure and setting pieces in place for the grand finale. This is far from Flip Flappers’ best episode, but unlike episode eight, that’s not really its fault. This is an unabashed transition episode, and though its turns aren’t all the most graceful, it’s all working in service of the great cataclysm to come.
This episode’s board-flipping is most clear in its tangible narrative twists, as FlipFlap is literally attacked by Yayaka’s shadowy organization. The battle between FlipFlap and Yayaka’s allies is fairly satisfying in base dramatic terms, but also offers some of the most direct Evangelion allusions the show has offered yet. From moments like Salt’s “hold them off somehow” echoing Gendo’s classic “take care of this, Fuyutsuki” to the individual shots used to illustrate this conflict, Flip Flappers is intentionally echoing the apocalyptic imagery of Evangelion generally, and End of Evangelion specifically. Many anime crib from Evangelion simply because Evangelion is an iconic show full of great ideas, but Flip Flappers’ goes beyond that, setting up a direct conversation with its most relevant ancestor.
While the FlipFlap organization is waging its most desperate battle yet, Cocona is dealing with a familiar personal struggle. After successfully fighting to keep her friend Yayaka within their base, Cocona finds herself returning to that familiar dream, where the girl in the boat at last reveals herself as Mimi. Upon waking, her uncertainty is intensified by Papika, who still seems preoccupied with this strange girl in Cocona’s head. Cocona demands answers from Papika, but like usual, Papika isn’t really able to express her feelings in direct dialogue. And so we get a harsh reversal of one of Flip Flappers’ most enduring images, as the clasped hands representing Papika and Cocona’s union are torn apart.
Having lost her hard-fought trust in Papika, Cocona then turns to Yayaka for comfort and friendship. And in the first of this episode’s exposition-spilling segments, we learn a bit more about Yayaka’s own history, and how she was essentially forced to cling to the organization that tormented her. Yayaka’s motivation was simple: she believed in the mission because she didn’t want to lose her home. But then, after Cocona comforts her with the simple “I’m glad you’re my friend,” their own bond is shaken – the twins arrive, revealing that Yayaka was deceiving Cocona from the very start.
That’s essentially the last straw for Cocona, though it takes one more mention of Mimi for her to break. Demanding to be let off Papika’s hoverboard, she bitterly reflects on how she’s been deceived by everyone – by Yayaka, by Salt, by Papika. Cocona’s fear of making the wrong choice was only ameliorated in the first place by the fact that she’d learned to trust the people guiding her on new adventures. In truth, Cocona herself is still a scared girl afraid of falling off the right path; and having learned every single person who led her away from home was lying to her, she’s no longer willing to extend her trust.
That anger leads Papika to finally reveal some of her history with Mimi, in a lengthy flashback that recontextualizes a great deal of what we know. We see Papika in a sterile uniform in some scientific facility, using shots that are seemingly intended to imply a link between the place Papika grew up and the place Yayaka was contained. This facility comes across as a far more professional version of FlipFlap; the same impersonal monitors and focus on finding Pure Illusion partners, but a far more imposing overall structure, and a far harsher approach to experimentation. While Papika seems the same age as we know her, and Mimi the same as she’s appeared in Cocona’s dreams, we also run into a version of Salt who’s as old as they are, presenting seemingly unsolvable new mysteries. And in this unfriendly world, we witness the first experiments with Pure Illusion.
This flashback tries to create a great deal of dramatic intrigue in very little time, and basically does the best it can in an impossible situation. Papika’s genuine concern for nearly everyone is as endearing as ever, and Flip Flappers works hard to build up some sympathy for Mimi across her brief appearances. The show leans on its consistent plant and flower motif to emphasize the contrast between these characters – in contrast with Cocona’s wilting pot and Yayaka’s ramshackle but vibrant flowers, Salt lives with a plant in a glass cage, and Mimi has never witnessed flowers at all. But ultimately, this is still a messy transition into the show’s final act, resting on new emotional touchstones that should have been seeded long before episode ten. Things like the relative incoherence and irrelevance of Yayaka’s organization can be excused because they have no bearing on Flip Flappers’ emotional center – things like this speedy segment are less excusable, since they directly inform our understanding of key characters like Papika, Salt, and Mimi.
The episode concludes with Cocona being stripped of all remaining lifelines, as she rejects Papika’s concern only to learn that even her “grandmother” was deceiving her. And in the end, Cocona’s despair awakens something new and terrible in her, birthed in a red light recalling Mimi’s forbidding eyes. As it turns out, Mimi’s first appearance echoing the duel image of the young girl and the old lady was a vital clue; Mimi was actually Cocona’s mother, and the reason she inherited a natural talent for entering Pure Illusion. Having rejected all the messy relationships that gave her strength, Cocona now falls into the arms of the long-suffering Mimi, Pure Illusion’s ambiguous muse.