Strange and disturbing, and yet oddly fascinating at the same time. But only in small doses.
What They Say
Pretty boy Kataro finds himself stranded on a remote tropical island with no memory of how he got there. Now under the questionable care of the young Papua, Kataro begins his new life of bizarre adventures in a world of transvestite fish, fruity pink dinosaurs, and hallucination-inducing poisonous mushrooms. And an army of assassins aimed at kidnapping him!
For this viewing, I took in the English dub, which is offered in 5.1 surround. A Japanese track is also available in 2.0. Though getting the 5.1 treatment, directionality is minimal, but the channels are balanced well, allowing for dialogue, sounds, and music to all come through clearly with no dropout. I also really enjoyed the variety of voices used. Each character, no matter how minor, had his/her/its own distinctive voice. It added a lot of life to an already lively series.
The transfer for this colorful series looks pretty nice. Lining is clear, and the colors are bold and distinct, which is particularly good for a series like this where there is always roughly 700 things going on at one time. If there is anything bad about the video it is that the animation is a little uneven at times, but that can be forgiven for a show that has no logic behind it.
The packaging for this set is about as basic as can be. The main case is a double-wide, clear amaray case with two double-sided inserts to help contain all six discs. The front has a picture of Papuwa and a few of the other main characters set against a yellow tinted montage of images from the show. The back contains screen shots and a summary, with technical details along the bottom. Overall, the design is not that bad, but it is pretty basic for a collection.
I like the menu for Papuwa, even though it is pretty basic. The background has an animatic of Papuwa walking on a hill, or to be more precise, he’s walking in place and the hill is rotating under him while the opening theme plays. At the end of the animation loop, he stops to look in the sky as a Ganma Army ship flies overhead. The episode selections are placed in the sky, designed like the hand fans Papuwa is always holding, with a star to indicate the current selection. Selections for languages and extras are placed side-by-side along the bottom. A simple design, but fun.
Each disc has the same selection of extras, though the content is a little different. Besides the clean opening and closing, each disc also has a character art gallery and translator notes. The translator notes are pretty nice for this series as Papuwa plays on a lot of Japanese stereotypes and cultural themes.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Papuwa is the second anime series based on the manga of the same name, though only this one has made it stateside. It follows in the tradition of whacked out anime such as Excel Saga and Puni Puni Poemy, but it takes the whack and multiplies it by roughly 652, give or take. While there is a plot that drives the series forward, enjoyment is really based on a never-ending stream of completely ridiculous jokes, characters, and actions. In small doses, it makes for some fun times, but it should not be taken in all at once.
On Papuwa Island, there are two magic stones: red and blue. In a switch from how it usually works, the blue stone represents power and aggression, while the red represents hope. A few years previous, the youngest son of the Ganma Army leader and inheritor of the blue stone, Kotaro, lost control of his power and sunk Papuwa Island. The residents escaped to a second Papuwa Island and Kotaro was put into hibernation.
Now, four years later, Kotaro has woken up, sans memories, and with a strange voice in his head. Following the voice, Kotaro escapes the Ganma Castle and steals a boat. Despite the entire Ganma military chasing him down, he is able to get away, but just as his escape seems imminent, his boat is sucked down into a whirlpool. When he awakens, he is on second Papuwa Island.
Upon awakening, Kotaro finds himself in the home of Papuwa and Liquid. Unbeknownst to Kotaro, Papuwa controls the power of the red stone, and both he and Liquid recognize Kotaro for who he is. In an effort to keep Kotaro from remembering his past, and potentially repeating past events, they convince him that his name is Rotaro and that he is a normal boy.
Sounds relatively serious so far, right? Well, what if I told you that the reason Kotaro’s boat was forced into the whirlpool was a legion of fish with legs in fishnet stockings? Or that the second Papuwa Island is actually a sunny paradise under the ocean? Or that Liquid and Papuwa are the only “humans” on Papuwa Island?
The rest of the residents on the island are talking animals and plants. Most prominent are Tanno and Ito. Tanno is a transvestite fish, also in fishnet stockings, while Ito is a hermaphroditic snail with a penchant for sprouting children from his/her side every time he/she gets excited. Also making regular appearances is Komoro, a poisonous mushroom whose spore cause hallucinogenic visions. He also likes to peer pressure others into smoking, so he works well as a role model. My favorite island resident, though, would have to be OshodanI: a drum playing sea otter who is on a lifelong search for the perfect drum. As such, any hard surface he comes across acts as a drum for him.
Other humans do show up on the island, but they are just as ridiculous as the residents. At various points, Kotaro’s father sends people to the Papuwa Island in an effort to bring Kotaro back. Members of the Ganma Army, the Elite Battle Unit, and even the legendary Shinsengumi all make the trip, but once arriving, they find that there is no way back. Each person of the Ganma Army and the Elite Battle Unit have their own special attacks, from Arashima’s fire attack to Miyagi’s “Brush of Literation” (whenever he writes on somebody with his giant brush, they become whatever he has written), but their attacks always backfire, and many of them spend their time as inanimate objects as Papuwa has a tendency to use Miyagi’s own brush against them.
If any of this sounds crazy, then you have the general idea, but no amount of writing can really do the insanity of Papuwa justice. It is a tour-de-force of lunacy. It is really a case of it must be seen to be believed. As such, this is a title that you really have to be in a certain frame of mind to enjoy. Even if you enjoy something like Excel Saga, there is no guarantee that you would find Papuwa enjoyable too. It is a similar brand of humor, but even more psychotic. Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo is a little more on the same line as this, but I am not sure even that comparison does Papuwa justice.
Unfortunately for Papuwa, I could see the setup and style as being something that would appeal to kids, but the humor is very adult. Most of the humor would completely go over the heads of children, as much of is sexual and/or based on double entendres. Just the presence of Tanno and Ito alone would make one pause before showing it to kids, but then add in the very masculine Umako’s chase for Liquid’s heart and the various homoerotic misunderstandings between Liquid and virtually everybody else, and it goes way over the top.
Overall, I think this is a title that would appeal to a select audience. If you enjoy shows like Excel Saga then it might not be a bad idea to give this one a shot, just do not expect to necessarily like this one the same. Certainly, I would suggest taking this one slowly. I watched this in two sittings, and while I liked the first few episodes, I was worn out by about the halfway point. By the end, I felt as if my brain was beginning to unravel. Taking it in at an episode or two at a time might be the more prudent choice, and I might have enjoyed it more if I had. As it is, I just have a headache somewhere behind my right eye.
Papuwa is a title that is hard to describe in words. The madness contained in these 26 episodes defies anything resembling logic. As such, check it out with care. It seems to be a show that you will completely love or completely hate. Give it a shot if it sounds amusing, but do not say you were not warned.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Character Artwork Gallery, Translator Notes
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Memorex MVD2042 Progressive Scan w/ DD/DTS (Component Connection), Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System