The Winter 2014 Anime Preview Guide
Rating: 2 (of 5)
Review: Anime sometimes comes up with some pretty disturbed concepts, but no series this season – heck, maybe no non-hentai anime series ever – has a concept more twisted than what Pupa does. With only 4 minutes per episode it only has time here to establish one major part of the picture: that Utsutsu's cute younger sister can transform into a supposedly human-eating monster, and does so for the first time in a park after seeing some red butterflies and encountering a feral dog that undergoes its own hideous transformation. The rest of the premise, which will presumably be established in the next couple of episodes, is that to keep his sister from continuing to turn into a monster, he is literally going to let her snack on him, because he apparently regenerates.
Yeesh. The first episode is gory enough that it gets a major censoring job in the scene with sister Yume transforms, and initial indications are that getting gruesome could be the norm. It also suffers mightily from the constrained time frame; this concept needs more set-up and time for follow-through, so a 7-8 minute length might have worked better. Pupa is being pitched as an ultimate act of brotherly love, so definitely know what you're getting into before you try this one out.
Pupa is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Rating: 2 (out of 5)
Pupa needs to be about twenty minutes longer. A horror story about evil red butterflies that cause puppies to explode and girls to turn into dragonbeasts, Pupa's first episode left me confused and not necessarily intrigued. While I will fully admit that part of that could be the exploding puppy, mostly it is because it engenders a “what the hell?” response, and not in a good way. Apparently there are two siblings who are fairly close, and the sister was abused as a child. Both have strange markings on their bodies, and this may or may not have something to do with the sister's transformation. One hopes that this will become clearer as the show goes on, but my general feeling is that for horror to be effective, we must know why we should be scared on an emotional level rather than just a physical one. To put it another way, there should be both horror (physical recoil) and terror (emotional recoil), and right now Pupa just has horror. If you like weird and gross for its own sake, however, Pupa does this pretty well, even if the most gory scene is censored by a black diagonal bar.
The art is fairly interesting, using the same watercolor feel as both Hozuki no Reitetsu and Onee-chan ga Kita, with the major exception of the red butterflies, who stand out impressively. The character design of Mysterious Lady with Cat is pretty cliché, but the strange markings keep the siblings from falling too far into that same territory. The horror scene that isn't censored (the puppy) has some good gory touches, such as dangling eyeballs, but if you're looking for lots of blood and guts, you'll have to wait for the physical release.
Basically, Pupa feels like an interesting story that deserved better than four minutes. This is a tease of a better, more developed horror show, and I think I'd wait until there were several episodes out and binge watch to see if it could be more effective that way.
Pupa is available streaming on Crunchyroll.
Review: In its own way, it's hugely ambitious to try and cram a disturbing psychological horror story into a run of tiny five-minute episodes. But that's what director Tomomi Mochizuki tries here, and it works alarmingly well. It's amazing just how much Mochizuki can horn into five minutes. We see enough to know that big brother Utsutsu has an unhealthy fixation on his innocent little sister Yume. That she was abused as a child. And that something very, very bad happens to her at an eerie park where she meets a cryptic witch and sees a flock of unnatural, blood-red butterflies. Before the horrified eyes of her brother, something nasty erupts from her body and she transforms into... something that's not her. Grotesque, unsettling, and surprisingly absorbing given its length.
Pupa is available streaming at Crunchyroll.
Review: Pupa is one of the few "short" anime this season clearly not meant to be a comedy. It's hard to say if trying to run a horror story three minutes at a time will expedite the pacing in a good way or completely ruin any attempt at a spooky mood, but this first episode does its best to command the audience's attention in the shortest timeframe possible, which is admirable.
The premise of Pupa has been talked up a lot, and an anime project for it delayed at least once, and most likely shortened in length due to severe discomfort with broadcasting its content. Without spoiling too much: Pupa is about perpetual, incestuous cannibalism. The three minutes that are broadcast do not dive directly into this content, but waste no time in setting it up, either, as a young boy covered in scars and wounds watches an insectoid Kafka-monster spill out of his little sister's guts and then eye him hungrily. The two minutes leading up to this moment are from the little sister's perspective, a series of nightmares about torn teddy bears and red butterflies, familiar horror anime territory. It's not purely cliche imagery, however, as the stuffed animal's "insides coming out" is obvious foreshadowing for the creature growing inside the little sister. And that's all we get for now. Interesting that shows glorifying and cutesy-fying incest get a full twenty minutes to explore rape and pee fetishism, and the one show that turns otaku fascination with sis-porn into something unique and horrific has to be sterilized and shrunk down to be broadcast. Admittedly, there's some clear reviewer bias present in this fascination with the macabre, but given the buzz for this show, I can't be alone in it.
The episode is noticeably censored at one point, during the scene where the demon bug explodes from the girl's chest cavity, and overall seems selectively edited to avoid addressing the reality of the premise and all the gore associated with it. If this is just going to be weekly snippets of heavy censorship, there's not much point in following it, but there's still some effective mood-setting and good, quick plotting in the snippet we get. So those looking for a disgusting psychological body horror vignette may yet have some good content to look forward to, provided it's not wholly neutered or just downright confusing in the future. (Now where's my Franken Fran anime? I demand a 3-minute Franken Fran anime!)
Pupa is available streaming at Crunchyroll.
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