Portrait of the Young Imouto as a Monster

pupa ep 1

When getting one’s period really does turn one into a monster.

Alright, so I watched the first two episodes of Pupa. I’ll admit that everyone’s trashing of the show made me leery and resulted in me putting it off a while. However, I didn’t think it was all that bad, although the format seems questionable at best for the material, and I can only assume it has something to do with Studio Deen not expecting to make much money off of it, or that what we’re seeing is only part of what will surface on DVD, the difference being due to broadcast standards and censoring. That being said, I feel most inclined to pick up the manga after watching these two episodes – this seems like the sort of thing I’d like, but in three minute chunks it doesn’t quite work for me.

Really, though, I just wanted to post about the show because it seems fairly clear to me that Pupa is a reflection of audience terror at the prospect of girls growing into women and no longer being cute and pliable. The imouto craze is basically built around this idealization wherein you get to look at a cute, adorable, innocent girl constantly, and get to be her protector and whom she admires because you’re her older brother, so the magic of family ties makes it so with little to no actual effort on your own part. Magical girlfriends plummet from the sky into one’s lap; imoutos live with one their whole lives and are devoted from the get-go because one is the cool older brother (even if one isn’t all that cool in actuality). Girls turning into young women threaten this, though, because, holy crap, now they’re older and other people might start noticing them and they start wanting to go out with their friends and having their own lives, and before you know it, ugh, they want a boyfriend?! But what about onii-chan?!

So, in Pupa, the little sister doesn’t mature into a woman, she literally becomes a terrifying monster, and there’s much blood involved. The whole thought of this struck me as the ED rolled the first time and we stared at Yume in a flimsy white dress with blood splashed across her, particularly along her legs – oh, hey, is imouto getting her period here, hmm? And even the butterflies are red! Butterflies are traditionally symbolic of death within Japanese culture, and the cute, nonthreatening version of little sister Yume is itself dead; she’s no longer a child.

I can’t help but seeing the mother as a piece of the whole thing, either. It isn’t enough that the mother divorced their crappy dad and left, but she’s now messing around with younger men, and apparently can’t be bothered with her children because of it. The specification that the men are younger strikes me as curious given that it seems a superfluous detail – if she’s too busy with men to bother with her children, does it matter at all their age relative to hers? But she was already somewhat demonized to start with before that; Utsutsu coolly notes that their mother was quiet when their father beat her, and it seems an indictment of the women, that she didn’t fight back, particularly when paired with the information that the father became bored of it and moved onto the kids instead. In a way, its saying that, hey, if she’d been a more interesting victim, then he wouldn’t’ve had to bother with the kids!

Of course, it also does serve the useful purpose of making us feel sorry for poor, poor Utsutsu and Yume. Not enough that dad was a wife beater, but mom was shit, too! I’m being a bit prickly here about it because it seems sinister to introduce an abuse victim and then dismiss her actions as horrid without bothering to consider at all the psychological, emotional, and physical effects of abuse on her. I get that we’re supposed to be pulling for the kids here, and maybe the manga is able to dig into it with greater depth since it has the space to, but it bothers me here, particularly when one considers that the demonization of mothers is so common in anime (one of the refreshing things about Mawaru Penguindrum was that while Ringo clearly would’ve liked having her mother around more, it was equally as clear that her mother worked hard like she did in order to support herself and her daughter, and that Ringo’s psychological issues were tied to her sister’s death/disappearance and the effect that had on her family; they didn’t happen solely because Ringo’s mother had a job).

But I’ve digressed a good bit by now. Utsutsu is reacting to his imouto’s transformation by trying to draw her even more closely than she was before, and it isn’t exactly a secret that this will result in an incestuous relationship between the two – the PV depicts a shirtless Utsutsu with Yume in a slip leaning in to kiss him, clothes scattered on the floor, and Utsutsu biting down on a bedsheet, his face red. Yume has ceased to be the child she once was, which introduces the deviant aspect to their relationship, ultimately; as a monster she, anguished, tries to tell her brother to leave, stating that she isn’t satiated, she still hungers after something more. Driven by her desire, she bites his shoulder, injuring her beloved onii-chan because she can’t help it. This is the terror of female sexuality, that it cannot be controlled but will rage regardless of what harm it may cause. Thus the two will end up becoming sexually involved, not so much because its necessarily what Utsutsu himself wants but because Yume must be tamed and controlled.

Suddenly it all seems pretty creepy, and not because of the cannibalism.

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3 Responses to Portrait of the Young Imouto as a Monster

  1. This whole production strikes me as creepy and weak. Whether it be for the gore and girl becoming a monster aspect, or the just as creepy incest stuff. The gore and terror would probably work for me if this was done in a longer format, so as to soak up the atmosphere and the characters more. And the whole imouto craze was something I laughed at years ago, until it didn’t stop. It feels very much like an obsession in anime, just like idol culture.

    If there’s gonna be commentary on sexuality, I wish it would take place more often in a way that didn’t make it seem like people couldn’t handle basic human anatomy and functions.

  2. E Minor says:

    Butterflies are traditionally symbolic of death within Japanese culture,

    Hmm, I’ll make a mental note of this…

  3. Pingback: pupa Ep. 3: The Panopticon | Moe Sucks

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