In 2014, anime audiences were taken aback to discover that the studio that produced masterpieces such as Wolf Children, Akira and Kiki’s Delivery Service was behind something as unfathomably bad as Pupa. Anime may be a very free form of artistic expression in many cases, but sometimes, the stories are so bizarre or oddly executed that even seasoned viewers can’t make sense of them. Pupa is one of the most lowest-rated series of all time on both MAL and Anilist, but not simply because it’s underrated. Rather, the show is as messy as it gets, especially coming from such a classic and well-known studio.
Pupa is a short horror series spread across 12 episodes that are only four minutes long. However, the short run time is the very least of the show’s problems. Adapted from the shonen manga of the same name, Pupa is about a pair of siblings who get infected after meeting a mysterious witch. Although the plot sounds fine on paper, the issues with Studio Deen’s horror fantasy series run a bit deeper.
The Plot of Pupa Is All Over the Place
Utsutsu and Yume were living with an abusive father and a broken family until Yume came across a mysterious “witch” named Maria. The interaction with this shady character and the red butterflies about which Maria warns Yume transforms the young high schooler into a flesh-eating monster. Utsutsu is able to find his sister, but unfortunately, she ends up eating her brother. After this altercation, Utsutsu gains the power of regeneration thanks to a virus.
For episodes based on a four-minute runtime, it’s amazing how the show manages to squeeze in such a complicated plot. However, that’s exactly the reason why Pupa never lifts off. The series tries to cover too much instead of focusing on one or two aspects that could have strengthened the plot. At first glance, Pupa may seem promising because the storyline has potential for a solid fantasy/horror series, but the runtime and pacing explicitly ruin the show.
Pupa Relies On Its Most Grotesque Elements to Tell Its Story
One of the biggest reasons why Pupa received such negative reviews from the audience is its portrayal of cannibalism. This certainly isn’t the only anime series that covers the topic, but Pupa almost seems to endorse it. For instance, the witch tells Utsutsu that he’ll have to satisfy his sister’s flesh-eating cravings, which he happily agrees to do because his wounds can regenerate. This gives the theme a certain fetishistic quality, especially since the show sometimes depicts flesh-eating scenes through two teddy bears performing consensual cannibalism.
Pupa fails miserably to explain its plot, and the audience is almost never treated to any kind of reason for anything that happens during its runtime. Too many things happen at the same time without any origin story, and nothing makes sense toward the end. The show heavily relies on its eerier aspects to tell its story, which are both inconsistent and unwelcoming. Furthermore, the show was heavily censored when it aired on television, so its horror elements never really paid to begin with. The stomach-churning, flesh-eating scenes, paired with its low-quality animation, were just the final nails in the coffin for many viewers.