Directed by Tomomi Mochizuki
Voice cast: Ibuki Kido, Nobunaga Shimazaki, Koji Yusa, Kyoko Narumi, Kenjiro Tsuda, Mamiko Noto, Mariya Ise, Shiori Mikami, Yurika Kurosawa
Studio DEEN, Earth Star Entertainment
Air dates: Streaming Thursdays at 2:30 PM CST on Crunchyroll
Japanese horror is a unique genre that touches on themes of possession, haunting, and psychological terror. Another recent phenomenon I’ve seen, particularly in the ONA, or Original Net Animation genre, is the under-five-minute format. The best series that are in this format have the ability to tell a compelling story in less time than it takes for the first act of a 24-minute show.
The series Pupa, now streaming on Crunchyroll as part of its new winter lineup, takes the horror/gore genre and combines it with the under-five-minute format, creating one hell of a mash-up.
Based on the original manga by Sayaka Mogi, Pupa tells the story of two siblings, Utsutsu and Yume Hasegawa. Brother and sister both bear a tragic past of abuse and abandonment. As a result, Utsutsu is extremely protective of his little sister.
One day, while walking home from school, Yume encounters a strange woman who warns her to get home before the red butterflies appear, but it’s too late. Yume is attacked by the Pupa virus, turning her into a ravenous demonic beast. Utsutsu finds Yume and is quickly overwhelmed by the same virus; only instead of transforming into a monster he gains the power to regenerate his own flesh. This sets up a situation where one must give while the other must take in order that both might live.
I have to admit that this series very much surprised me. It is well written and produced, and like a kind of horror haiku, tells a compelling tale of possession, degradation, love, and sacrifice in a fast-paced, highly condensed format.
I would recommend this series, but be warned. If you do watch, don’t be surprised if you suddenly find that you’ve developed an aversion to red butterflies and walking through parks all alone. Pleasant viewing!