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F / San Francisco
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Posted 3/23/14
Written by eclipsed_oblivion

Among all the lighthearted series that flood every anime season, even the most basic horror series are a rarity, and ones filled with gory, taboo content are nearly impossible to find. Luckily, there is one series that reverses the shortage of fear this season: Pupa. Though only four-minutes per episode, Pupa utilizes the benefits of its short runtime while maintaining a disturbing atmosphere, which it accomplishes through pairing opposite elements together for bizarre effects. Even so, the subtle portrayal of the loss of innocence is where Pupa truly shines, as it is able to convey such an unhappy transformation so effectively while reserving its valuable minutes of runtime for the plot.

The plot details the story of siblings Utsutsu and Yume Hasegawa, high schoolers whose lives change when Yume is infected with a virus that literally turns her into a flesh-eating monster. However, when Utsutsu also becomes infected, his symptoms instead manifest into regeneration abilities, which give him the chance to save his little sister and suppress her monstrous form in one way: by allowing her to feast upon his body whenever she desires. With themes of cannibalism and suggested incest, Pupa is undoubtedly a more mature anime, but due to its bite-sized format, still remains digestible.

While there have been some complaints concerning Pupa’s extremely compact episodes, Pupa does utilize the benefits of its short runtime, and this digestible quality is simply one of many. The multitude of distinctly dark, taboo content doesn’t last so long that it becomes too difficult to sit through, yet at the same time, it doesn’t have enough time to desensitize the audience either; four minutes of horrific content per week isn’t long enough for it to become dull over time, so each episode still feels as unsettling as the last. While such a balance makes every episode’s atmosphere consistently disquieting, it also results in Pupa being something not only horror fans can enjoy, but non-horror, albeit more mature fans can as well. As long as one can tolerate, even if not fully appreciate, gore and taboo elements, Pupa is just disturbing enough without being overwhelming.

The way Pupa manages to be so disturbing, yet also bizarre, is not just through its shock factor, but also in the way it pairs taboo content with completely opposing elements. For instance, Yume is first shown as an innocent little sister, but then transforms into a disgusting, cannibalistic creature, which is extremely uncomfortable and unnatural to see. If that wasn’t unsettling enough, her metaphorical transformation into a monster is even worse, for seeing a pretty high school girl initiate such grotesque acts is so unconventional it is disturbing. This pairing of opposite elements doesn’t focus just on visuals, but forays into other aspects of Pupa as well, such as the audio. During some of the darker cannibalism scenes, the audio consists of awkwardly upbeat music that doesn’t nearly match the scene, and there is barely any dialogue to mask it at all. It is so incredibly bizarre that it is disturbing, and this disturbing feeling is the ultimate way Pupa honours the horror genre.

Pupa honours the horror genre in other ways as well, but the one method that truly makes the series stand out is in its subtle portrayal of the loss of innocence. This story of unhappy change is not directly told, but is rather conveyed quietly without sacrificing any runtime, and one way in which it does this is with teddy bear symbolism. The teddy bears, representative of the main characters, start out in perfect condition, but progress to being bloodied and shredded with their stuffing strewn about them. To see innocent figures reduced to such sad states is heartbreaking, and that is exactly what happens to the main characters. The loss of innocence is also obvious through the childish, watercolour art style of the backgrounds. As these innocent backgrounds become stained with blood and human meat, the childlikeness of them also becomes tainted with sin, just as the main characters do. Most telling, however, is the name of the series itself. Pupa is a life stage in some bugs, most famously the butterfly’s chrysalis stage, and this itself points to a transformation not from human to monster, but from child to adult. This inherent loss of innocence is such an important theme throughout Pupa, and the subtle telling of it is definitely one of Pupa’s most outstanding features.

While only four minutes per episode, Pupa capitalizes on the benefits of its short runtime so its disturbing content is neither desensitizing nor too uncomfortable, which allows both horror fans and non-horror fans with a strong stomach to enjoy the series. It’s not just the content of the series, however, but also the atmosphere that is disturbing. Pupa pairs some of its darkest content with strangely upbeat, innocent elements to create a very bizarre feeling. One of the series’s strongest elements, however, is its ability to so subtly tell the tale of two siblings’ loss of innocence while devoting its runtime to the plot. Ultimately, Pupa is a series unafraid of delving into forbidden territory, and it certainly makes a delectable journey out of it.
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20 / M / Somewhere
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Posted 4/7/14
Awesome review - and also the first one that wasn't particularly nit-picky about the short episode lengths.
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Posted 4/7/14
But that is the show's biggest problem. I am not a fan of horror but, I did think Pupa had an interesting story. 4 Minutes was long enough to maintain it's eerie atmosphere and certainly not enough to adequately telling the story on a week by week basis. By the time you got into the episode, it was already over.

The story would probably be better when watched one after the other in the roughly half hour it would take to watch the series. Also the individual show length created some pointless episode, like the one where you watch the sister eat the brother and you listen to the brother yelling in pain or how about the episode where the mysterious female doctor, who helps the kids, is suddenly 9 months pregnant, which is never explained or touch upon again.

If this show's episodes were 8 minutes or 15 minutes in length, it would have been much better and the story would have been much quicker.
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24 / Canada
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Posted 4/15/14
I had the pleasure of being able to watch all the episodes edited together, bookended by one opening and one ending, uncensored, and in 720p. It made me see the series in a whole new light and I ended up enjoyign it far more than watching it week to week. I highly suggest it over the individual episodes.
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18 / M / Canada
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Posted 4/15/14
And where did you find this?
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29 / F
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Posted 4/16/14
I tried to watch this show. I'm not particulary against horror show, I saw some like Corpse party, and that's was interesting. But here, 4min, that's so weird. Like the "we just give you horror thing to see and don't give you a proper story". And well after 3 episodes I didn't want to see more.
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31 / M / Georgia
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Posted 4/16/14
I read the manga which is really good and I have to say that the show bc of the short run times left out allot of important aspects of the story! for instance the abuse the two siblings suffered is mentioned and shown to an extent but they left out most of the riveting scenes which show why the two are so close and horrible their childhood was! If they made a 24min 12 episode show which displayed all of the manga content it would have been on par w/kill la kill! Instead they cheapened the story the mangaka wrote by leaving allot out! The art and voice acting was great but the content was beyond sub par!
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