First Impressions Digest – Pupa, Mahou Sensou

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In the immortal words of Jerry Seinfeld, this is going to be a shame.

Pupa – 01

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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

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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.



  1. Z

    Couldn't really get through Mahou Sensou. It screamed generic at every corner down to the OP track.

    As for Pupa, all I'll say is that proper OVAs need to make a comeback.

  2. l

    If I wasn't already on the manga, I probably would have given Pupa a go. Some of the best anime I've seen have been shorts (mostly the old Studio 4°C offerings), so who knows, this might turn out to be decent enough.

  3. t

    still haven't touched mahou senso so I'll say something about it later.

    as for Pupa. well ever since fall everyone waited for this. and truly, when I heard it's gonna be on winter, I knew to lower my expectations. especially if it's 4-5 minutes anime.
    the short length is the biggest advantage for the show. with OP&ED sequence together, there's barley room left for only 3 minutes of episode only. and sadly this is a big mistake because you lost the effect.
    that's why, if you ask me, the best option is a marathon. marathoning 10-12 episode isn't even 1 hour! and this enhance the effect of Pupa.

    true, it's not like this is prefect horror I was expecting to. there are still problem here with the way they convey horror, which is damaged by the short length, still, regardless to this, the horror is still not giving the vibes I wanted.

    hopefully it might get better, again, maybe under marathon.

  4. t

    well I watched mahou senso.
    and truly there is nothing much to say. yes, its mediocre and all with the too much LN style and all. but let's not jump into conclusions. sure, nothing that brilliant will come out of this, but there is potential to pull out something decent enough.

    I do must say that it doesn't completely look like madhouse. animation isn't at all like madhouse, and having so much projects is affecting madhouse's quality. they are doing this season 4 TV series parallel: HxH, Hajime no Ippo (with daughter studios vap&mappa), DnA(along side IG) and of course mahou sesno. not to mention that up until recently they worked on HxH movie and now are working on 2-3 series of 2014 (2 of them are this spring). simply put, even for experienced studio as madhouse, this is a bit too much, and it was felt strongly that something here in animation isn't the madhouse I know about…

  5. G

    After watching 2 episodes of Pupa I'm heartbroken. As someone that enjoys horror anime I think its criminal that this show is only on for a couple of minutes. So much wasted potential.

  6. m

    Just the fact that there's all the talk about incest and child abuse regarding Pupa was enough to keep me from watching it. I never really bought into the idea that showing things like that in a dark way was somehow artistic or edgy. Its just weird and gross for the sake of trying to be. To quote Peter Griffin "It insists upon itself" and really in the most annoying way possible. Like the way ending of Oreimo threw out entirely the who premise of the show before the last few eps just to go down the incest route. It's not edgy portraying those types of things, and it can really be only done well inn very rare circumstances (Koi Kaze apparently being the exception tho I haven't watched it for the same reasons)

    I like Mahou sensou, certainly not to the degree of NNA, Silver Spoon, HxH, or really anything I'd call a great anime. But it has the making of your typical mindless action shounen mangaish show that's entertaining enough to watch, but won't ever be something you get excited about. I at least like that it didn't go the route of Maken-ki/Highschool DxD with the heavy fanservice and cartoon nudity (which can I just say is super weird. It's fine if its part of the story to depit a romantic relationship, but to have it bc "guys like naked girls" is super weird bc its a cartoon) which is what would be most likely to ruin a show like that for me. As long as it avoids too many of those clichéd scenes I think it doesn;t have to do too much to be entertaining enough to watch all the way.

  7. e

    There's abuse, more so passed parental abuse their father was quite the asshole, but there isn't any incest. They have a really strong bond though but that's mostly because of how they grew up they only had a each other. It gets sort of demented because of the virus though as akin to "You hurt my brother/sister and I'll kill you"
    So it's suggestive but not incest as far as the manga has gone anyways.

    I also don't get how portraying incest = wanting to be dark and edgy.

  8. m

    Oh ok, I must've heard wrong then. It's wanting to be dark and edgy bc no one writes anything that includes incest unless you're trying to do it for incest fetish ppl, or trying to do it to be edgy bc you're displaying something that's such a big social taboo. You can't seriously be asking me how portraying someing that everyone finds creepy would be a dark/edgy show. I just think it fails every single time. The reason it fails at doing so is bc incest is both unrealistic and just gross, not deep or touching. I have two sisters and know many ppl with siblings, and never once have I heard anything close to any of them doing something incestual. It's not like child abuse, which is very prevalent, incest isn't a problem anywhere. And the trend to show sis/brocons, cousins who want to get married, and siblings with strange relationship seem like could only be made/fantasized by ppl who don't have real siblings. B/c reality is nothing like that at all.

  9. e

    You do know that incest is only seen as creepy and gross because of societal norms but it inherently is really as bad as people make it out to be.
    Also saying that you don't see how anyone could have incest thoughts while actually having siblings is rather silly as evidence. You may not know anyone who thinks that way about their family members but that doesn't apply to everyone with a family. Not everyone has the same thoughts or reacts the same way to things as you do.

  10. B

    well that what horrible,i'm out. I think i'll just read the manga

  11. M

    Mahou Sensou could be a glimpse into neo-Madhouse's future once their current franchises run dry. Ridiculously bleak prospect, but this certainly isn't Madhouse of old.

    Pupa edgy onii/imouto relationship anime is where Madhouse should be pumping dosh.

  12. Z

    Neo-Madouse indeed!

  13. i

    One Strike the Blood is one too many as it is. Madhouse, I'm disappointed.

  14. R

    I feel pretty sad that this is what we get from Pupa and Mochzuki Tomomi, and I wonder why he would still take it on. Perhaps he's at the point where he doesn't really care much about building a track record of success but simply looking for extreme challenges, but still… I will still watch it, knowing that one of my hopes for the season has gone down the drain.

  15. I would bet when he signed on this was intended to be a full-length series, but that fell through for obvious reasons.

  16. R

    That's true, and there's a reason why the show was stalled last Fall. I don't know how the industry works and whether Mochizuki Tomomi's paycheck got cut big time, but kudos to him for not running away from something totally will put a stain on his record. Perhaps it's a promise that he made, and he's committed to delivering it no matter what.

  17. Z

    It's almost as if the executives wanted nothing to do with Pupa but they knew that it/Mochizuki wasn't going away any time soon. So they crippled the project and said here you go *evil laugh*.

  18. R

    It's clearly is…creative people submitting themselves to the cruel reality.

  19. y

    It's possible that the show was shortened. However, it's also possible that Mochizuki had no choice but to take Pupa as part of a double-project obligation (i.e. single payment for writing the 12 episode Rozen Maiden series, along with a short Pupa project to be written/directed at the same time). Where it's possible, studios are out to get their money's worth,

  20. H

    So sad about Pupa. See you in 3 months, I guess.

    Not so keen on DEEN's aesthetic to be frank, but I like that they committed to the design of monster at least. Time wasting OP/ED could have been utilized to introduce or hint some themes with stills at the very least.

  21. e

    I was really bummed out that pupa was only 4 minutes, without the opening, maybe if i keep hoping this will turn out to be just a promotion for the manga and someone will pick it back up for a full on anime

  22. y

    I'm not sure about the chances of a full anime, but the purpose of this project is definitely promotional. With the manga ending, the publisher wants one last crack at maximizing readership.

    In some way, the proliferation of 3-5 minute episodes is a reminder of what adaptations mean for manga publishers. Traditionally, they've produced full-length series as expensive advertisements (for manga and related merchandise), but the reality is that not all titles derive the same benefit from that level of investment.

  23. I

    I'm going to try watching Pupa like a dark comedy instead of a horror piece and see where that takes me. Still definitely sad it turned out this way though.

  24. Chin up – horror wise, Spring looks loaded for bear.

  25. H

    Is that Parasyte and Toyko Gouls for spring?

  26. And Brunhyldyr as well, and I feel as if I'm forgetting something too.

  27. H

    Woohoo. Party at yours in April! Early Halloween. Some can come as the script for Samurenco or even the bloodied Pupa Production Committee! :p

    In all serious, glad this kinda stuff is still allowed to get made… oh, and more JoJo, Yugioh and HxH, so what am I moping about?

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