Papuwa Vol. #1 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, August 18, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, August 08, 2006
What They Say
Welcome to Papuwa Island. Check your sanity at the door! Led by a mysterious voice, Kotaro awakens from a long slumber and comes to Papuwa Island, a tropical paradise hidden away from the world of man. However, as soon as he arrives, a traumatic experience causes him to lose his memories and forget the horrifying secret that binds him to the strange island. Now, under the questionable care of the young Papuwa and his maid, Liquid, Kotaro begins his new life of bizarre adventures in a world of transvestite fish, fruity pink dinosaurs and hallucination-inducing poisonous mushrooms. Plagued by the island's wacky inhabitants and an army of assassins aimed at kidnapping him, Kotaro struggles to keep both his life and his sanity intact. Get ready for fun, sun and hermaphroditic snails in the first, hilarious volume of Papuwa.
What the hell? No, seriously, what the hell?
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. While this is mostly a wordplay kind of comedy, there's a lot of action effects and reaction noises to what's going on that's well played across the forward soundstage. The track is pretty effective overall with some of the creative things they do with voices and making it fit the various situations. The English stereo mix is essentially the same though I think they manage to take it a slight bit further, in a good way, with a bit more variety to the accents and some of the sound effects with the voices. Dialogue on both tracks is clean and clear through and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2003, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The design for this show is very bright and inviting, almost too colorful at times, but it's trying to capture that entire south seas kind of atmosphere with the beautiful water and the lush island life. This is kept with the character designs as well which have a lot of life to them and bold colors and styles. The transfer for this captures it pretty well with only some minor video noise being visible in a few scenes that stands out. Some of the slow panning scenes introduce a bit of pixellation around the edges of the characters but these kinds of scenes are very few and far between and may be less noticeable on smaller monitors.
The cover art for this is deceptive as it's very bright and colorful and filled with (reasonably) cute characters and critters that you might think it's for kids. The TV14 rating should have found its way to the front cover somehow as well, though from what I listened to the English side it's not too pumped up. The front cover has a good number of the main cast of characters and really shows off their designs as they show up in the series itself so it's quite honest in its advertising but it's deceptive because it looks so childish. The back cover has a number of shots from the show that highlight the weirdness of it all while through the center is a decent summary of what to expect from the plot. The discs features and technical information are all quite easy to read and find though the production information is a bit harder with it being black on dark purple. No insert was included with this release.
The menu design for the show is one that we've seen before in a couple of other shows but it's using a slightly common theme from a lot of ending sequences. Using the animation from there of Papuwa walking over the round green hill, we get that here set to a bit of music while the episode selections are lined up over him in the sky and the rest of the navigation along the bottom. It's an effective and cute piece since it uses the animation itself but we've seen it pretty recently in another ADV Films title. Access times are nice and fast though and it's easy to navigate. Strangely, the player presets were ignored on the Samsung, which is a first with the discs from ADV for us, but it worked correctly on the Zenith player we double check things on.
The extras are good here as we get a couple of standbys and some more useful material. The clean opening and closing sequences are definitely worth checking out without the credits so you can see the details to it and the character art gallery is about as expected. What's useful is the translators notes which cover some of the more esoteric cultural and language references made in the show.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Over the years, almost all of the companies that release shows have picked up some really oddball titles. Some more than others and ADV Films has certainly had its share, from Excel Saga to Abenobashi to Super Milk-Chan. Papuwa, a sequel series to a 42 episode show of the same name done in the early 90's, falls squarely into the same category and feels like it's a mixture of all of those shows with a healthy chunk of Hare+Guu tossed in as well.
It is a show where I think there will be three main categories of viewers; those who adore it and cannot get enough of it, those who can't stand it and will drop within the first couple of episodes if not the first one, and then there will be those like myself who find parts of it amusing and curious but spend most of the time shaking our head in disbelief that not only did this get made, but that it's a sequel series. While it is a sequel, it looks as though only the animation company is the same as there's a different staff and cast to it but the storylines are tied together at least in some way.
We're introduced to the story that took place four years ago as we learn about the first Papuwa Island where a young boy named Kotaro who had a special blue stone had ended up destroying the entire island in a fit of emotion before finding himself sealed away in sleep. Someone else from the Red Clan had a similar stone and he had long since disappeared at this point but the net result was that everything was destroyed. Kotaro ended up being placed in a special chamber by the Ganma Army where they've watched him ever since. The Ganma Army is a weird group in itself where it's leader is Kotaro's older brother, Shin-chan, who had replaced their father as leader of the army a few years prior. His father continues to be involved though and he's now managing things while Shin-chan is off conquering some other country, which is good because Kotaro has suddenly awakened from his slumber.
Kotaro manages to escape, not quite understanding where he is, and swipes a motorboat and heads across the ocean as he hears a voice in his head calling him that way. It ends up leading him to a whirlpool that's started up in the middle of the ocean where he comes across the improbably; giant fish with human legs that wear fishnet stockings that run across the waves. Before Kotaro again knows what's going on, he's thrown overboard and starts sinking below the waves. Just as he figures he's dead, he discovers that there's an underwater island (or dimensional shift, who knows) and he's suddenly falling out of the sky and into the clutches of a giant bird that wants to eat him. It's bizarre enough as is but when some of the "people" passing by notice this and knock the bird out, Kotaro smacks into the ground and promptly loses his memory.
This is where a lot of the gags start coming into the show as when Kotaro wakes up, he's surrounded by bizarre creatures and people who all know who he really is " the destroyer of the first Papuwa Island, but the main normal male on the island named Liquid is intent on keeping this a secret out of fear that Kotaro will cause the same thing to happen again. As it turns out, Liquid used to work with Shin as a member of the Ganma Army but left for unknown reasons. His life is a lot more stressful now that he's trying to stop everyone from telling Kotaro who he really is but he's not exactly swift himself. He changes Kotaro's name to Rotaro and does his best to remove people who are going to spoil the secret.
Everyone around them is just different. The shows title character, Papuwa, is a stout little guy/child with clothing that's reminiscent of Lisa Simpson's outfit and he waves around little fans with the Japanese flag symbol on it. He's got a cute dog that's actually quite violent, there's a poisonous mushroom character that tries to be friends with everyone by changing his name to something they'll like and then there's a pairing of one of those giant fish and a giant snail that's doing a parody of a gay couple. Which is even weirder when the snail starts birthing tiny snails and Papuwa snaps them all up to make escargot. Tiny snail angels was not what I expected to see. The setup to all of this is weird but the plot early on here isn't all the strange as Kotaro's father back at the Ganma Army starts calling in a special assassination team to head to the new Papuwa Island to retrieve Kotaro before Shin-chan finds out that he's awake and gone.
The cast expands quite a lot over the course of the first episodes as we get to see not only the four members of the team that are slowly sent to retrieve Kotaro but also rival gangs and Shin-chan's group. The island cast itself is pretty varied so there's a lot of different creatures brought in throughout it that just boggle the mind. The one that just boggles me the most is Komoro, the really poisonous mushroom. It's a human sized walking mushroom with an almost old-man face to it and he tries to get people to eat him so they can get pretty messed up. Sometimes he'll just brush off his own head like lice onto food to infect someone. What makes this even more twisted is that it's voiced by Takehito Koyasu (who does two roles in this series no less) and it's just so completely off the wall that I spend most of my time shaking my head. So yes, I'm definitely in that category.
After five episodes of Papuwa I really have no idea what to expect. I mean, there is a plot there that you can see and people working towards it, as well as a lot of secrets being kept and people with agendas that aren't clear, but it's so completely wrapped up in this utterly bizarre package that I really don't know what to think. I liked parts of it, a lot of it left me unsure of what to think and there were parts I didn't care for. But I have no clear idea of what the show will really be. Comedies are hard in general but ones like this go even further with its style and play on so many cultural pieces mixed into it.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Translator notes,Character art gallery,Clean opening animation,Clean closing animation
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: B-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: TV 14
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2