pupa, Vol. 1
Written and Illustrated by Sayaka Mogi
Genre: Horror/Fantasy/Science Fiction
Published online in English by JManga
Originally published by EARTH STAR Entertainment
599 points ($4.80-5.99 based on points plan)
Horror, in all its forms, isn’t exactly my favorite thing. Half way through Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I decided it would be a better time if I watched the wretched film The Replacements, (happily, even Keanu Reeves was better than Chainsaw). I’ve never watched SAW, and I’m not big on any of the scholocky horror of the mid-80’s either. So pupa, a horror manga about a little girl who turns into a monster and eats human beings, isn’t really my cup of tea to begin with. Still, the price point was fine, and every once in a while, I try to things I have previously not enjoyed.
pupa is the story of Utsutsu and Yume Hasegawa, two children practically orphaned after the death of their mother and the negligence of their abusive father, who encounter a strange woman warning them of red butterflies. The two do not heed the warning, and tragedy soon follows.
The following chapters show us that Yume and Utsutsu have been infected with some unknown virus that causes people to mutate into gigantic monsters with a lust for human flesh. Utsutsu has not awakened as a monster, but can spontaneously heal any wounds, making him the perfect snack for his sister Yume.
Despite the horror elements of pupa (which are darkly drawn, bloody, and violent), I dislike Yume and Utsutsu’s relationship even more. Utsutsu’s friends comments make it clear that she is an obvious object of affection, and no one is enamored more with her than her brother. This was icky at first, but got worse when she is literally eating his flesh saying lines like, “Big brother your meat is so good!” and he is somehow relishing it. Creep signal, activate!
Other issues with the series is its fairly inconsistent artwork. I’m not a big fan of the way that Sayaka Mogi illustrates the darkest scenes. Likewise, character illustrations are disproportional in certain scenes, and profiles of each character a real sore spot. The character designs don’t have a whole lot of reasoning to them either – having your main character have a dark scar running down one of his eyes and things that are supposed to look like cigarette burns on his arms makes him stick out, yes, but he looks like a garbled mess.
The story also leaves a lot to be desired. The opening (the abusive father, the tragic family history illustrated with teddy bears) really has no bearing on the rest of the story. It feels superfluous. I can suspend some of my disbelief regarding the whole monster thing, but there are a lot of questions left hanging from the first chapter that aren’t ever mentioned again (why red butterflies,etc.) Ultimately, the mystery of the horror, and the tension of the unknown is just so dull that it doesn’t really work in the context of the rest of the comic.
There is one scene in the entire volume that really hits home for me – it’s a scene with a cocoon that’s been smashed – a character calls it a “sloppy mess.” My only thought was – yep, this scene, and every other one in pupa. I’m sure there is an audience for this kind of “entertainment,” but that audience isn’t me. The lack of consistency in art and storytelling, the big brother little sister relationship, and other factors make this a no go for me.
For Fans of: Attack on Titan, Those skeezy little sister anime shows
Verdict: Not Recommended