Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Oct 6th 2006
DVD 1: Wild Things
Kotaro, a young man possessed of a mysterious power, is awakened from a four year slumber by a mysterious woman's voice and escapes from the facility of a mysterious military power, only to find himself mysteriously shipwrecked on crazy Papuwa Island. There he is introduced to a crazy, and badly drawn, youth known as Papuwa. Papuwa lives on the island with a bevy of crazy animal friends and his crazy man-maid Liquid. Together they must deal with the crazy wildlife of Papuwa Island, all the while fending off the various crazy military types sent to retrieve Kotaro. Crazy mysterious.
Someone once said that dying is easy, but comedy is hard. Be that as it may (and in my opinion dying is far from easy), perhaps a better saying would go thus: "Being funny is easy, but making a comedy is hard." The first volume of Papuwa is a perfect demonstration of this truism. Papuwa is often genuinely funny. But it isn't a good comedy. A good comedy has to have something beyond, behind, underneath, or driving the humor, be it a unifying theme or mood, a universal human truth, a sharp observation, lovable or intriguing characters, anything. It doesn't really matter what it is, as long as there's something there, some meat lurking beneath all the tangy comedy sauce. The problem with Papuwa is that there is nothing beneath that sauce. Without the meat, all the audience can do is keep on drinking that damn sauce until they do what anyone who is forced to eat nothing but condiments would do. They gag.
Not that Papuwa doesn't take a half-hearted stab at substance on occasion, but any move it makes in that direction is either contrived, silly, or is soon drowned in a sea of lisping, prancing homosexual stereotypes. Character is sacrificed in the name of humor on a regular basis. Papuwa protects and calls Kotaro his "friend" yet tries to eat him. Several times. A trip into Liquid's past soon devolves into a series of jokes about his "Fancy Yankee" image and the humiliation meted out by his army superiors. It's all reasonably funny, and all quite empty. There're some glimmerings of an overall plot, but these are squeezed into tiny gaps in the endless parade of weird creatures and pretty-boy tough-guys, little more than mere afterthoughts. So why watch? Why indeed. There is the humor, which, at its best (generally when walking the ragged edge of bad taste), can be laugh-out-loud funny. Successful jokes about cannibalism, murder, and pedophilia abound, but it's a tricky edge to walk, and as often as the show manages to tread it, it just as often falls off. A dinosaur that happily eats his own barbecued tail meat? Funny. A stampeding horde of hairy-legged transvestite fish? Gag.
The show is populated by a (human) cast that is 100% male, most of who (outside of girly Kotaro and the inhuman Papuwa) are square-jawed, broad-shouldered, Fabioesque hunks of man-flesh. The only way to distinguish any one man from the next is via clothing and hairstyles. The Papuwa Island inhabitants range from bizarre (Komoro the poisonous mushroom) to repulsive (those fish!), but, human or animal, none are impressive in their artistry. Backgrounds are static, cartoony affairs that demonstrate the same dearth of texture, originality, and atmosphere as the show itself. The color scheme is bright to the point of garishness, and the animation is on the low end of average, relying heavily on shortcuts—especially stills—whenever the action gets hectic, and is too devoid of invention or variation to be of much interest.
The music is as thoroughly unremarkable as the visuals, underlining the jokes and on-screen events without intruding or standing out, but also without having any appreciable effect other than filling in the silence. The opening is an appropriately lively pop tune, and will flee from your head the moment it ends, never to return. The ending theme is a somewhat catchier folksy little number.
ADV's dub is another thoroughly professional job; all three leads are well cast, and the comic timing of the ensemble is quite good. It's not a great dub, but then, that generally requires a great show. Purists will find plenty to pick at, but dub fans should be reasonably satisfied. The dub script is looser than is standard, but as a comedy perhaps this is inevitable. While some of the changes are suspiciously random, others are in place to solve hairy problems involving culturally-dependent knowledge and Japanese puns. The dub also gets kudos for attempting to translate the distinctive Japanese dialects of one quartet of characters into appropriate English dialects.
Extras for this volume are standard (art gallery, clean open/close), with the addition of on-disc translator notes.
Comedies that succeed by humor alone do exist, but even relentless gag-fests need a little something else to bring fans back again. So far Papuwa has none of that. It's fine for those looking to pass some time in a humorous manner. Just don't expect anything more. Papuwa has all the rewatch appeal of a beer commercial; some people may want to revisit it, but me... If I hear "m-baba" again even one day before the onset of Armageddon, it will be one day too soon.
Overall (dub) : C
Overall (sub) : C
Story : D+
Animation : C
Art : C
Music : C
+ Good for a few laughs.
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