In the world of anime and manga, there is a website that most acknowledge as the sort of database for everything in the medium. A site that is toxic, full of terrible takes and critics, I’m of course talking about My Anime List, or MAL for short. When it comes down to my reviews I typically reference the site more than others, an example of this would be Gleipnir, MAL spells Claire, Clair, and her sister Elena, Erena. Why? I have no idea but using it as my main source I ended up writing that review, misspelling the names (so yes it was on purpose) However, being a source and overall shit hole isn’t my favorite thing about MAL, what I truly cherish is its ability to teach me about extremely obscured crap. Stuff like, ‘You Are Dirty, My Queen’ or, the grossly unpopular ‘Pupa’ which is rocking a very impressive 3.42 anime score with 6.11 for the source material. Curious about what could be so abysmal I decided to give Pupa a read, and honestly, it’s awful. Here is why.
Pupa follows siblings Yume and Utsutsu Hasegawa, two children damned to be born in a family that doesn’t love them. Their father, physically abusive if he is even around. Their mother, emotionally abusive to her younger daughter Yume, constantly claiming how she is nothing that should have ever been born. Feeling a strong urge to defend his little sister, Utsutsu confronts his mom’s abusive ways, breaking her emotionally. Losing her only son to what she claims to be a monster and marrying every bit of one in human flesh. She leaves, fundamentally orphaning her children. Alone but determined Utsutsu vows to do anything to protect his little sister as they try to get their life back to some sort of normalcy.
At this point in the story, I’m not really feeling anything. Even with the background story of abuse it doesn’t really explain or flesh out much of it at the start, all and all it is pretty cut and dry, and then it started to get weird. Being confronted by their father for the first time in years, Utsutsu takes it upon himself to make sure he stays away from Yume. What starts as a semi-normal interaction between father and son quickly devolves in Utsutsu getting the crap beaten out of him while his father plays it off as they “are just playing like old-time” It was clear this whole scene was supposed to cause tension, you are seeing a father beating his son, and he doesn’t even seem to be aware this is wrong. But I feel this whole instance did something else entirely, it starts a narrative that plays throughout the rest of the book. The Utsutsu is this guy’s kid, and because of that, he is just obsessed with violence and abuse, he will eventually do the same.
What is strange, it could have done this in the way of a cycle, something Sugar Happy Life did well with Shio’s mom. Years of abuse leads the abusee to become the abuser. It’s a thing in storytelling and sadly it is a thing in the real world. But it didn’t seem to me Pupa was trying to do that, if anything it seemed like it was trying to normalize this type of relationship by just shrugging it off. After some time we discover where Yume fucked off to. Alone in a park, she is suddenly surrounded by red butterflies, confused and missing her brother something happens within Yume that makes her hunger for flesh. Transforming into a giant monster she rampages, eating all the humans around her, making the park a gore mess.
Finally away from his father Utsutsu finds Yume in her monstrous form, but doesn’t fret, he has the power on onii-chan and he is sure he will be able to reach out to the sister that still resides in the beast. Then she eats him. Honestly, if that was it, this series would have instantly jumped 4 points on the meta score but nooooooooooooooooooo, we had to make more chapters.
At the time of writing this, I am deciding as the words flow onto this page if I am going to spoil this series or not. Mostly because, not a whole lot happens to be spoiled, or rather I am unsure what would be considered a spoiler as in the overall story is rather whimsical. Reversing back to a human, Yumen is overcome with guilt as she had killed her brother. Add a bunch of random adults bullying her for it she falls into despair, trying to go back to everyday life. One of those days she was out with some friends when the hunger return, terrified she runs away from her friends to protect them, doing whatever she can not to transform. But, as goes with these things, at the very last second she is saved by non-other than the boy she had killed, Utsutsu.
Tying this up as neat as possible Pupa is discovered to be a virus, and these two siblings have it. One turns into a man easting monster, the other has amazing regenerative abilities, a perfect match to be her food. From this point on the story doesn’t really do anything of interest, days go by sister eats brother, brother heals, adults get involved adding weird and confusing tension points. Dad comes back home, then pretty much leaves again, there is a little back story on the mom that was quite interesting but hardly enough to make up for just the generally uncomfortable imagery that is on the pages. The build-up isn’t great and the climax is even worse, putting a cherry on top of a story that, even for being bad, was bland.
Dance In Vampire Bun is the only thing that comes to mind when I think of something that left me with such a meh feeling. Granted I watched the anime and never read it but at the end of the series, I literally didn’t care. Much like page after page of a sister munching on her brother (even at one point just becoming a big dog?) I literally didn’t care. In short, don’t read this, if you really want to experience this series just watch the anime, they are shorts, and move on with your life.
As always, thanks for reading!