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[Pupa]
AKA: ピューパ (Japanese)
Genre: Exploitative experimental drama
Length: Television series, 12 episodes, 4 minutes each
Distributor: Currently streaming on crunchyroll
Content Rating: 18+ (frequent and extreme graphic violence, disturbing images, incest)
Related Series: None
Also Recommended: Kemonozume, Flowers of Evil (watch instead)
Notes: Based on the manga by Sayaka Mogi. This series was scheduled to air in Fall 2013 but was pushed back to January 2014; according to some sources, it was originally intended to be a 24 minutes-per-episode series.
Rating:
 

Pupa

Synopsis

Having grown up with an abusive father, Utsutsu is highly protective of his younger sister, Yume. One day, Yume sees a red butterfly and contracts the strange Pupa virus. She begins to sprout grotesque wings and indiscriminately attacks both animals and humans. Hoping to find a way to stop the advance of the virus, Utsutsu seeks out Maria, a black-clad researcher who knows the secret of Pupa. He decides to sacrifice his own body as live bait for the sake of saving Yume. (Adapted from ANN)

Review

Note: This review discusses graphic content in some detail. Proceed at your own risk.

I am not opposed to depicting graphic violence in principle; I have always been skeptical that watching violent acts automatically implants upon one the desire to perform them (context is important), and in some cases, Texhnolyze coming to mind as one of the best examples in anime, it serves an irreplaceable thematic purpose. Not so with Pupa, whose exploitative depiction of violence with little underlying rhyme or reason makes for its most reprehensible use possible. I am torn, really, between declaring that this series is revolting and merely declaring it incompetent and brainless, but I am not torn on my conviction that it is profoundly bad and best forgotten. I will urge you now to ignore whatever might seem interesting about this and instead watch Kemonozume, since that series has a similar premise and every bit of potential this had and yet runs away with it gloriously while this one stumbles and chokes on its own vomit.

Let us start with Pupa's depiction of violence. I am not especially squeamish, and yet even with the large and frequent censorship bars present in Crunchyroll's broadcast I often found this show to be too much to watch. Its acts of violence are so disturbing that scenes of eyes being gouged out become routine and almost tame compared to the extreme dismemberment that other characters go through, often while still alive.

Probably the absolute worst consists of an episode-long scene devoted to Yume's eating her brother's innards while reciting "Onii-Chan" in a suggestive manner; if incest is bad, necrophilic incest is worse. I saw no point to this episode and can't say I saw much point to the show's other scenes, either, and I must give a small spoiler and admit that this adaptation ends on an irrelevant flashback, sidestepping any attempt at explaining its own purpose. If I did not discuss this, I might mistakenly give you a reason to watch it, and I assure you that there is none; the episodes are over before they start, leaving only enough time for some revolting act of violence to occur and for the characters to make traumatized-looking facial expressions.

If you are hoping for sympathetic characters, meanwhile, you will instead receive cutouts with only the most basic of "I must protect her"-type motivations or the generic aura of the sinister, mysterious, and amoral figure whose role is never explained; indeed, Maria's longest scene amounts to this show's attempt at a hot springs episode. The visuals, while not atrocious, fail to fill in the gap that the sparse dialogue leaves, the character art being rather drab and the background art never amounting to any successful symbolism. If the best they can come up with is "red butterflies transmit evil flesh-eating disease" then I cannot imagine the people responsible for this ever fared well in their surrealist art classes, and to even consider calling this surrealist or "experimental" is a disservice to those genres. It is more accurately described as being crap.

The bottom line is that I have seen very few anime that are as incompetent as this and hope not to ever again. I am vaguely aware that the manga is supposedly better (it's rating on MAL is somewhat higher, at least), but even with the short length there's absolutely no reason to waste time on the anime version. You have been warned.

Exploitative, shoddily-written, and best forgotten. Nick Browne

Recommended Audience: ABSOLUTELY not for children. There are enough disturbing acts of extreme violence per episode to make Gantz look like Chi's Sweet Home, and the sexual overtones of certain scenes invoke incest.



Version(s) Viewed: crunchyroll.com stream, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Pupa © 2014 Sayaka Mogi/EARTH STAR ENT/Pupa Committee