I can’t imagine this is what Mochzuki Tomomi had in mind when he signed on to direct Pupa for DEEN. We’re talking about one of the most respected directors in anime, doing what amounts to, after OP end ED, a three-minute anime. And this is not the sort of series that lends itself to the format – it seems very clear that Pupa was derailed (maybe more than once) from the original destination because of its dodgy content.
What we’re left with here is a show that started out as one of my most-anticipated series for Fall being part of a digest post in Winter, and one that I couldn’t possibly blog even if I wanted to. That really is a heartbreaker – this is the first series Mochizuki-sensei has directed since the sublime Sarai-ya Goyou, and one that had a chance to be really interesting in a disturbing way. As is, the format robs the material of any chance to be emotionally involving and leaves it with just gore (and heavily censored gore at that) to make an impression.
I haven’t read the manga and I’ve heard some wildly contrasting opinions on it, but I don’t think it much matters at this point. A little girl infected with a disease spread by red butterflies is turned into a flesh-eating monster, and her siscon brother makes himself the main dish voluntarily. There are also suggestions of incest and child abuse, though I don’t know how deeply the series gets into that – in any event Pupa was always going to be a challenging show to embrace. But I’m utterly pessimistic that even Mochizuki can make anything impactful out of it in this format. Besides the matter of three minutes being nowhere near enough time to built the narrative flow Pupa needs to be really disturbing, there’s the fact that he’s limited to less than two full-length episodes of total material – effectively an OVA – and there’s no way he could have adapted the manga in that amount of time in any coherent fashion.
I will watch this for now, and probably for the length of the series, but I don’t see much point in blogging it. I think there was a time when material like this would have been a perfect candidate for an OVA series – that’s exactly what OVA series used to be for – but those days have passed, and OVAs are now almost entirely side stories and fanservice episodes of TV series. It’s too bad, and I hope we see Mochizuki return to television with a full-length series before another four years have passed.
Mahou Sensou – 01
I always agonize a little whenever Madhouse produces something as generic and visually mediocre as Mahou Sensou appears to be. The fact that the main staff worked on one of the first anime I ever loved, Pita Ten (though most of the credit there goes to the manga) makes the fact that I didn’t like this premiere much even more disappointing.
If anything, I’d say that the premise – while hardly revolutionary – was modestly ahead of the execution. It does have a very LN feel to it – normal(ish) high-school boy has his life turned upside-down by a magical girl – but there are a couple of interesting quirks to it. But despite a pretty good cast (3/5 of A-Drei’s team is reassembled here) the character interaction is quite stilted, and the exposition is clumsy and awkward. It doesn’t help that the overall look is a bit washed-out and dingy and the animation is clearly outsourced on the cheap, either.
None of the characters really stands out much. We have a lead, Nanase Takeshi (Mamoru Miyano) who’s a kendo whiz wishing he could escape his house “even to Hell”, seemingly due to problems with his brother over an accident he caused. Osananajimi Ishoshima Kurumi (Asami Seto) is the one who comforts him. The mahou shoujo is Aiba Nui (Touyama Nao), who has a hilariously cliched and awful run-in with Takeshi in the nurse’s office, and in the course of the episode seemingly turns he, Kurumi and Takeshi’s friend Ida Kazumi (Suzumura Kenichi) into magicians by the end of the day. There’s also a gang of rival magicians led her Nui’s brother which includes Fukuyama Jun and Hosoya Yoshimasa. These are all fine actors, but their characters are so flat that none of them has much definition at all. Kazumi is the one who probably comes closest to having a real presence.
I’ll give this another week, because this was clearly the setup episode and in truth, it was more mediocre than truly bad (apart from that scene in the infirmary). Next week we go to this show’s version of Hogwarts, and in theory at least things could get a little more interesting. But in a season that’s so far full of pretty uninspiring first episodes, here’s another one to add to the list.