Note: This was originally written on January 21, 2014, before my WordPress was created. It was later reposted here, unedited.
Pupa was the series I was most looking forward to leading up to this Winter season, in part because it was originally planned to have aired during the Fall season, and I suppose absence makes the heart grow fonder. However, was it really absence if I never really knew what was absent? If what I’d lost and what I found were completely different, then I really haven’t found what I’d lost. However, have found something that may just blow my mind in the goriest sense possible. Today we harvest the first episode of Pupa.
I first saw Pupa by its poster on the Fall season chart. Not thinking much of it at the time, I decided it looked like some kind of supernatural Grave of the Fireflies, and threw it onto my to-watch list. It wasn’t until more recently that I actually watched the PV and realized that Grave of the Fireflies was relatively cheery. And this episode just took that shift and tripled it.
Right in the opening I was greeted by off putting music and artwork. The song was like a slower Fantasy Mythology (opening to Future Diary), and the scrolling pictures were like End of Evangelion meets the opening of Elfen Lied. Together they create a cocktail of anime horror and dismay.
Once into the episode itself, things are a little different. Most of the character designs, the dialogue, and the setting all scream slice-of-life. While the art style, most prominent in the background but also noticeable in the characters themselves, is still very off putting. It gives of this surreal mood, as if the normal slice-of-life atmosphere is just a painting, an artist’s fiction.
In this scene the main character are also introduced, Utsutsu and his younger sister, Yume.
Utsutsu seems like pretty normal high-school student (or middle-school student; it’s not specified), though he’s introverted and a little… well, how do I say this without sounding misogynistic or bigoted… he wears a four-leaf-clover band in his hair and it makes him look like that girl from K-On!. Apart from not-gay and not-feminine accessory, his only big identifiable feature is a thick scare over his left eye.
As for Yume, she looks even more like a K-On! character, so just picture someone bland and uninteresting. Her personality is a perfect match.
She wants to walk home with manly-straight-man, so he tells her to wait for him at the park. Being a good moe-woman, she just smiles and does what she’s told.
On the way to the park, she passes a woman dressed in black holing a cat that looks like it had the same owner as Beck. Said woman (cat included) is the first bit of animation that isn’t stylized. She warns Jailbait that she should leave before seeing pretty red butterflies, and then the camera cuts to a pretty red butterfly. And then more of them, now flying around Girl-Who-Doesn’t-Know-An-Omen-When-It’s-Told-To-Her.
She eventually looks down to see a dog walking up to her, and tries to see if it’s hurt. But it turns out, the dog is really a time machine, and by exploding into snake-like guts, takes the show’s animation back to the early 90s. The 90s anime horror guts attack Totally-Had-It-Coming-Chan, and we cut to high/middle-school boy, finally arriving at the park. This was about where I realized that this show was too special for the Winter season.
Not-Cool-Enough-To-Be-Seita is standing over Not-Cool-Enough-To-Be-Setsuko’s motionless body, not sure what the hell happened. I’m with you buddy. He has a flashback of the little one, when she was the littler one, getting hit by a man, and then rushes to her side. And then… there are no words. Basically, the last 2 episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion happen, but with less pointlessness and more horrific imagery that convinced me Chiaki Konaka was somehow involved (he’s not).
And once that nightmare is done we must count it as a dream, because by what I can only describe as ripping off her own skin, Yume turns into a bloody red, 90s anime demon gargoyle. And I love it.
Pupa could be something the anime industry has needed for a while, a wake up call. Between the animation, general creepiness, and how little conscious it seems to be of the audience, it’s not like anything seen in a long time. It’s got tons of potential, and seems like the production team’s fully behind that.
I already have my own theories about where it’s going, and what everything symbolizes, but I’ve judged this show too early before. For now I’ll save that stuff for the inevitable review, because there’s nothing this show could do to make me drop it.