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 randomly starts attacking animals and people. Hoping to find a way to stop the advance of the virus, Utsutsu seeks out Maria, a 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)
Note: This review talks about graphic violence in some detail. Proceed at your own risk.
I'm not at all inherently opposed to depicting graphic violence. I've always been skeptical of the idea that watching violent acts automatically makes you want to be violent or inherently normalizes it; context is important (i.e. how is the violence framed), and sometimes, it serves a thematic purpose that can't be replaced, with Texhnolyze coming to mind as a great example of that.
Not so with Pupa.
This show uses violence in the most reprehensible way possible: exploiting the audience for shock value, with no underlying rhyme or reason to it. I'm torn between saying this series is revolting and just calling it an incompetent, brainless mess, but what I can definitely say is that Pupa is awful, awful, awful and best left ignored.
So let's dive into the violence. I'm not all that squeamish, but even with Crunchyroll's censorship bars I still usually found this show to be too much to handle. The violence is so disturbing that even scenes of eyes being gouged out feel routine and almost tame compared to the extreme dismemberment that other characters go through, sometimes while they're still alive.
Probably the absolute worst example is an episode-long scene of Yume eating her brother's innards while reciting "Onii-Chan" in a very sexually suggestive manner; it's not just incest, it's necrophilic incest. I couldn't see any point to this scene, and the rest of the show didn't really make much sense to me, either; hell, the season actually ends on a totally irrelevant (and anomalously non-gory) flashback, sidestepping any attempt to explain itself. If I didn't talk about this, I might, mistakenly, give you a reason to watch this, and I'll assure you, there is none. The episodes are over before they start, with just enough time for us to see some gruesome, revolting act of violence and the characters getting traumatized; there's no air of mystery or suspense to any of this. It's just....stupid, disgusting, and boring.
And if you're hoping for the characters to help, you're out of luck. We get the most basic of "I must protect her"-type motivations and a vaguely mysterious, sinister, antihero figure in Maria whose role never really makes sense (though the show does take time for, of all things, a hot springs episode surrounding her!). The visuals aren't completely atrocious, but they barely fill in the gap that the sparse, nonsensical dialogue leaves, and the background art never gives us any real symbolism or atmosphere. We have "red butterflies transmitting evil flesh-eating disease", and that's it; there's no real subtext, underlying theme, or layers of atmosphere here. It's as if it's trying to be edgy, surrealist, and experimental, but just ends up being a big, stinking piece of crap instead (and believe me, I'd use harsher words if this site's rules allowed it).
The bottom line? I've almost never seen anything as awful as this, and I really would rather not ever again. This show has a whopping 3.77/10 rating on MAL; just for a second, think about how forgiving MAL ratings are, and let that sink in. I'm vaguely aware that the manga's supposed to be a lot better, but the anime doesn't exactly give me a good reason to find out. Even if it's short, you'd be better off using the time to try out an episode of something like Kemonozume that actually does something interesting with the "gory monster movie" genre. Or, hell, watching Vanilla Ice videos. You've been warned.
Revolting, exploitative garbage that I never, ever want to see again. — Nicoletta Christina Browne
Recommended Audience: ABSOLUTELY not for children. Just about every episode has enough gory violence and dismemberment to make Gantz look like Chi's Sweet Home. Not to mention, there's incest (plus some generic hot springs fanservice, of all things).
Version(s) Viewed: Streaming on Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Pupa © 2014 Sayaka Mogi/EARTH STAR ENT/Pupa Committee
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