Written by: Tera Kirk
I really wanted to like Pupa. It wants to be a story about love; in fact, the tale can only be horrifying with that love as a foundation. However, the series is so short and badly paced that, in the end, we don’t really care about the characters these awful things are happening to.
An anime produced by Studio Deen, Pupa is the story of Utsusu Hasegawa and his younger sister Yume, who both contract a mysterious virus called Pupa. The disease turns Yume into a flesh-eating monster while giving Utsusu superhuman healing abilities.
In short, Yume eats her big brother over and over again.
There’s a moving story of sibling love and devotion here, but unfortunately, the anime is far too short to do that story justice. Clocking in at less than four minutes, each episode is just long enough to shock and disgust the audience, but not to accomplish much else. There are hints of the siblings’ backstory: abused and neglected by their parents, they’ve cared for each other their whole
lives. But after 13 episodes, we still don’t know much about them. What do they do for fun? What private jokes do they share? Does anything nice happen to them, ever? Without a real sense of who Utsusu and Yume are without breathing room for them or for us before the next Terrible Thing hits them& their predicament loses its horror.
To be fair, this lack of horror isn’t all the pacing’s fault. Some of the blame falls to the lackluster animation. When Yume lifts her monster-hand in front of her face or chews her brother’s flesh, there aren’t enough movements for her actions to be fluid; she looks odd or even silly rather than scary.
Despite these complaints, I’m intrigued by the story Pupa didn’t have time to tell: a brother and sister against the world, so devoted that one literally gives himself to sustain the other. Perhaps Sayaka Mogi’s original manga focuses more on who Utsusu and Yume are and why we should care about them.
Pupa is available on Crunchyroll.