It’s very rare for me to review something that I DON’T recommend. However, I might have to make an exception, just this once. It’s kind of unfortunate how this anime turned out to be, since its original manga by Sayaka Mogi (from what I understand) was well-received by the horror genre community.
I have a tendency to review things by defending bad titles as well as criticizing good ones, but this one is frankly very hard for me to do either one. This is the worst anime I have ever seen.
Pupa is about a girl named Yume Hasegawa and her brother Utsutsu; and their… interesting familial relationship. I’m sure some people might immediately throw this into the “incest” category, but it gets weirder. Yume becomes infected by a virus allegedly called “pupa” (not to be confused with the phase name for moths and butterflies in their adolescent stage, though also an interesting parallel). This infection apparently only affects Yume and Utsutsu: Yume turns into an anthropomorphized cannibalistic monster of an insect while Utsutsu turns into her regenerating feeding host. Sounds simple, right?
But despite what some might think, I didn’t have a problem with the premise and themes of this series. You can get those very easily by reading the manga. But since this is an anime review, I will be critiquing elements of the anime adaptation; and they are terrible!
There are plenty of reasons why this anime is appalling, but I have decided to shorten the list of reasons why it’s bad down to three.
1. It’s too short
For such a powerful horror story in the manga library, Pupa‘s anime adaptation is only 12 episodes long, each one being only 4 minutes apiece. This was short enough to keep fans interested in simulcasting or even barreling through a binge watch, but that’s all we get! Some of the episodes attempt to give us plot development, but end abruptly. Other episodes, like the one where the screenshot above comes from, are completely unnecessary and otherwise too long to portray a single scene.
I get it, Yume loves her brother so much, she will literally eat him up! Why make an entire episode around this, as she bites into his flesh, subtly yet sadistically calling out for her “Onii-chan?” So boringly grotesque!
2. Unnecessary and inconsistent censorship
I understand that there are things that, by law, cannot be shown on television, both in Japan as well as when it streams on licensed US distributing websites. But frankly, I question the reasoning for which this series’ touch-up editor was thinking when leaving things out. The scene above shows a censorship of a knife that this generic background character pulls out, which I guess is disturbing to some audiences? But then in the second cut (no pun intended), we can now clearly see that it’s in his hand!
I’m sorry, what?
And this isn’t the only example of this inconsistency either. They also appropriately censor stabbing, biting, and reaction faces of the alleged “monsters” of our protagonists, but for whatever reason, they forgot to censor severed limbs, some mutilated corpses, and one profile boob shot.
3. An unsettling ending
You know what, forget what I said about this anime being too short. If it was any longer, there would be even more unnecessary scenes like this one. After the climax, the series follows up with what would likely be a wrap-up point to tell you everything will be okay, right?
That’s great and all, but the wrap-up is not an epilogue, but a prologue to Utsutsu’s and Yume’s life before they became infected by the pupa virus. And if you were expecting something horrifying or suspenseful like the rest of the series was, you will be utterly disappointed.
Honestly, I’m still trying to figure out where 48 minutes of my life went; or rather since I rewatched the series in order to review it, the count is now up to 2 hours of my life (give or take breaks to take and edit screenshots). And don’t be fooled by the screenshots I ultimately chose to post here. Despite being made for TV, this series is clearly not safe for work.
Again, I do not recommend this anime, but if you are REALLY compelled to watch a grotesque horror anime that is also utterly disappointing, then knock yourself out and watch Pupa. But seriously though, just read the manga.