Mai GotoTadashi MiyazawaChisato MoriHanae Okubo
Also known as: Pupipo
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2014: P-Q
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2014
Director: Kaoru Suzuki
Original creator: Rensuke Oshikiri
Actor: Chisato Mori, Shiho Sasaki, Hanae Okubo, Keiji Fujiwara, Kotomi Otsuka, Mai Goto, Misao, Setsuo Ito, Tadashi Miyazawa
Keywords: anime, fantasy, ghost
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 15 four-minute episodes
Website category: Anime 2014
Review date: 30 June 2015
pupi poo
It's a nifty short-form anime series about a girl who can see ghosts. It's cute, funny and enjoyable, but I have mixed feelings about its ending.
The characters are:
1. Himeji Wakaba, the protagonist. She's eleven years old, like all the other non-adult characters. She can also see the dead. This has made her withdrawn and anti-social, because Wakaba's ghosts are obnoxious and often dangerous bullies who are capable of assaulting people who come near her. She herself doesn't get attacked, but she does have to put up with their jeering and harassment. Meanwhile she's also getting bullied at school by louts who call her a witch and say that anyone getting close to her will get cursed. (This is actually correct and the bullies are completely in the right, except that they're still unpleasant people who take pleasure from picking on Wakaba.)
Wakaba seems to be cool with this, though. She gets on with life. You'd never call her cheerful or smiley, but you get the impression that she's not too bothered about what losers might choose to say about her. At least they're not ghosts, after all.
2. Reiko Azuma, a geek who loves ghosts and the occult. Azuma is fantastic. In a universe where every other child is either a bully or a gloomy gus, Azuma is a nuclear furnace of enthusiasm and misplaced self-confidence. She's a nerd with bad hair and milk bottle glasses, but she thinks she's "dangerously good-looking". She thinks ghosts are great. She thinks Wakaba's great. She tries to play eleven-year-old matchmaker, she pushes around Dark Lords of the Underworld and, crucially, she's comfortable in her identity. When offered the chance to rewrite her life and edit anything she doesn't like about herself, Azuma says she's happy as she is, thanks. Wouldn't she like to be 16 instead of 11? Don't be silly! Who's going to compensate her for those missing five years?
Admittedly she's also a freak who'd never had a friend before glomping on to Wakaba in ep.1, but I admire her. She's not fazed by being stuck on a train to hell with the ghost who'd sent her there. She enjoys everything. She's awesome, in her dorky way.
3. Yuuki Naoya, a boy who's like Wakaba, but gloomier. He thinks he's doomed to be alone forever. He hates his gift and would love to be able to throw it away. He's a nice chap, but he's best imagined with a raincloud over his head.
4. Po, a pink blob with ghost-fighting abilities. When ordinary people hug Po, they can see ghosts too.
The resulting show is fun, funny and cute. It's a bit kiddified, but in some ways that's a good thing. I was surprised when one of those goofy cartoon ghosts threw someone in front of a car and sent them to the next world. It's a light-hearted show, but Wakaba and Azuma are up against monsters that can kill you and might even sometimes succeed. (It's possible to recover from that, but only with the help of friends who've followed you to some bad places.)
That slight kiddification has downsides, mind you. Wakaba's dad is annoying and can piss off. (He's clearly meant to be a loser, even becoming the butt of his wife's jokes, but I found him hard to tolerate.) The show also conforms to the trope of "bad people are ugly", although on the upside we also have the dorky, badly dressed and splendid Azuma. Curiously, all the bullies have slanted eyes of a kind that in the West would have looked like Japan-bashing racist stereotypes. Obviously that's not the case here, but it's still odd.
I also liked the show's themes. Yuuki hates himself. He's hostile to his own powers and he'd like nothing better to discard them and become normal, like everyone else. That's one extreme. On the other hand, though, we also have Azuma, the poster girl for embracing difference and being proud of what she is. She's a cheerleader for everything. If being able to see the dead were a disease, she'd be trying to catch it. That's the other extreme and somewhere between them lies Wakaba, neither as chipper as Azuma nor as self-hating as Yuuki. What will she choose? Faced by the possibilities of a spring of reincarnation, will she learn to accept herself like Azuma or will she become another Yuuki and retcon her own identity?
...she chooses the latter.
I'm not keen on this. I think it's a negative message and a regrettable conclusion to an interestingly developed theme. Of course the show's free to say whatever it likes and I wouldn't want everyone to agree with my own personal views, but I was still startled.
That said, though, I should also point out that the show comes up with a solid gold, 100% unarguable reason why Wakaba's choice was the only possible option under the circumstances, while at the same time doing emotional things with Po. There's a Po revelation that I really hadn't seen coming. That impressed me.
Overall, it's a pretty cool show. I'd definitely recommend checking out an episode or two. At four minutes, what have you got to lose? You'll probably like Wakaba's dad more than I did, while there's an unexpected badass factor in seeing an eleven-year-old riding to the rescue of her friend on a train across the River Sanzu. (Think of it as a Japanese Buddhist equivalent of the River Styx.) Sometimes it's silly, but it's far stronger in almost all departments (plot, theme, characterisation) than you'd expect given its running time. I'm still not happy about the ending, though.