Pupa (Studio Deen) – Genre: Shonen, Horror, Supernatural(???)
Episode 01: Emergence
It was the moment horror fans were waiting for, the adaptation of the 2013 short manga series Pupa into anime form. On January 9th, the anticipated first episode arrived! AND. IT. WAS….. 4 minutes….
Actually, 3 minutes, if you don’t count the opening and closing themes.
I really can’t judge this series properly based off of what I saw. I felt like I should have waited for the episode to come back from commercial break, that’s how incomplete this episode felt. There’s no story arc like we’ve come to demand from an episode of any show ever on Earth. It had the makings of a beginning, we’re sort of introduced to the main characters (the key phrase being “sort of”), but there’s no real story involving the characters, no interactions beyond a few scattered lines, and barely a conclusion to the non-story we viewed.
You know what’s a bad sign for your first episode? When you can’t identify the genre with confidence. Is the protagonist the boy or his little sister? I wouldn’t know if I hadn’t read the synopsis beforehand. So identifying this as shonen anime was kind of a toss up without an outside source informing me. From the music and what little visuals there were, I got the sense that this was meant to be a horror series, so good job on Studio Deen’s part on convincing me that this story was meant to be horror. Now is the horror supernatural, science fiction, or something else? I couldn’t say. I kind of got the impression that the cause of the horrors is supernatural, but I could be wrong, hence the bit of confusion in my listing of the genres above.
For the sake of this article, I’ll try to analyze what little information is given in the episode, but to make things more entertaining, I won’t fill in any blanks with the information given in the pre-release synopsis or anything from the manga. I’m going to treat this like all I know about Pupa is the three minutes of show that they gave us. Here we go.
We’re given the teenage boy, Utsutsu, who has a weird facial marking(tattoo it looks like), dark marks on much of of his body, and a girly flower clip in his hair. All of these features are interesting, kind of wacky, and are treated naturally and are explained in no way, whatsoever. He kind of reminds me of Britney, the poorly designed character that Nagi from Hayate no Gotoku! drew for her crappy manga. Utsutsu’s in the episode long enough for us to see his silly face, hear a couple meaningless lines, then we see him at the end of the episode, finding his sister, but otherwise not revealing a thing about his character, or why his fucking face looks like that!
Then we get Utsutsu’s little sister, Yume, who arrives to do the usual little sister thing, waiting outside oni-san’s class to walk home with him. When he isn’t available, she goes off on her own. Walking through the park, she passes by a strange woman in black garb that warns her to not look at red butterflies or some shit. Yume decides to immediately look at all the red butterflies she damn well pleases, because why should she take advice from a complete stranger? Consequently, things turn into monsters, Yume is in danger, then she is found by her brother. She turns into a silly purple monster, a severed leg appears (who’s leg is this, and why does it matter to me?), and….the end. That’s it. End of episode 1.
From this episode, we learned nothing. We just saw stuff. There are cutaways, and they do just as little to illuminate this story. We see some imaginary scene(nightmare?) of Yume holding a creepy talking teddy bear. Then we see a flashback of Yume as a child getting backhanded by a man we’ve never seen or heard of before, and nothing is said about this afterwards. Do these cutaways have anything to do with the story in the context we see them? It doesn’t seem like it. From the three minutes of this episode, they appear to just be random scenes tossed in to give us a break from an already confusing scene.
Aside from bad editing, poor directing, and confusing writing, were the aesthetics good at least? Once again, it’s hard to judge from only three minutes, but I think it might also be terrible. The character art is pretty bland and unspectacular. The backgrounds have an interesting gritty effect to them, but feel flat and entirely separate from the characters, as though the characters are performing in front of a crappy green screen projection. The score reminds me of SNES games in its simplicity and overall low quality. If you told me the production company torrented a low fidelity recording of the 1993 game Doom and used it as their score, I would believe you.
If you would like to get into this series, I recommend watching the trailer rather than watching the first episode. You will literally come away understanding more about the story that way. Every aspect of the first episode feels like a slap dashed essay that a 7th grader put together the night before it was due. As such, I will not give it a failing grade, but instead mark it as incomplete. This is very disappointing. Please make an effort next time.
Pupa, episode 1 – grade: incomplete