Project PAPO -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B-

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  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: A+
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: All
  • Region: A - N. America, S. America, East Asia
  • Released By: GDH K.K.
  • MSRP: 7,140
  • Running time: 67
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Disc Resolution: 720p
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Project Papo

Project PAPO

By Chris Beveridge     November 09, 2006
Release Date: November 03, 2006

Project PAPO
© GDH K.K.

What They Say
PAPO is a mysterious robot that also functions as a speaker. People who become mesmerized by PAPO's mystifying music experience various bizarre but unique events. What could the true identity of PAPO be?
Project PAPO was distributed through in 2000 as a webisode animation series, attracting one million hits. It is a new-type animation title in which sound and image are combined and rendered in 720p high-resolution video and high-quality 5.1 surround sound.

The Review!
The first animated title to hit the Blu-ray format in Japan, Project PAPO turns out to be quite a surprise.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The disc includes two language tracks, a Japanese 5.1 mix and a Japanese 2.0 mix. In listening to the 5.1 mix, it was one of the stronger ones I had heard in recent memory and a surprise considering it was something that was intended for web viewing. The entire soundstage, front and rear, get a good workout overall but the most impressive part was just how much use the subwoofer got. If you don't have a subwoofer, listening to it will be a very different experience as it's not quite so involving. The 5.1 mix overall is quite solid though and it's a very immersive piece. We didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally distributed through in 2000 as a webisode animation series, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. It is encoded with MPEG-2 and has a resolution of 720p that was upscaled to 1080i. While it will be easy enough to claim that this isn't exactly anime, it does fit into that experimental style and has plenty of roots within the western view of what anime is that in my mind it certainly qualifies. Having watched some several thousand anime DVDs in the last eight years, I can say with a firm certainty that I have never seen a transfer look so clean and problem free. The additional bandwidth provided by the format, even with MPEG-2, has created such a smooth looking presentation that it's in a sense the culmination of what I've wanted for years. And that's just a 720p first-launch title at that. The show has a lot of areas of bold strong colors and numerous shades of black and all of them are completely free of noise and macroblocking. It simply doesn't have any visible compression artifacts on our setup. Other areas that we typically see such as cross coloration, aliasing, ghosting and chroma noise are simply not visible. There are some very detailed areas and some fast motion scenes and it holds up beautifully.

Presented in the standard blue case, the cover art for this release with its style and particular angle makes it look more imposing than the actual design is itself but it lets PAPO take the center stage and simply look menacing. The style of the show is very much evident in the cover art here, though it's not the kind that will really leap off the shelves and sell itself. The back cover is a standard layout which has a background image of PAPO that's more accurate than the front cover along with a brief summary of the premise and its origins. A number of stills are below it and the technical grid and copyright/production company information rounds out the bottom. My only issue with the back cover is that it does not list the actual show resolution anywhere, something that is very much a standard on US releases. The reverse side of the cover has a shot of various characters from the show in a dancing line. With it being behind the blue, it doesn't exactly work the best since the colors don't come through but this is an area I suspect will find itself changing over time and as clear cases start coming to the market.

The release is presented with both a top level menu and a pop-up menu. The menu layout is not automatically loaded as it goes right into the show but it does go to the top level menu once the program is over and can be accessed at any point. It's a good looking menu that has a night time sequence from the show with a dark and menacing look. The selections are lined horizontally along the lower right side and this is what is retained for the pop-up menu in-show. The pop-up menu is nice and simple with just the navigation titles and a little PAPO head to the left that turns to the viewer when the control is moved to it. The scene selection is very basic however in that when selected, it draws up the 26 "cases" for the episodes and just has a black and white slim image behind and underneath the case number. It's not a piece that will sell the format but it does allow for very quick instant access to anywhere on the disc at any point. The pop-up menus had no lag time to them and were quick to appear and disappear.

The only "extra" available on the disc is some staff credits.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Project PAPO is part of the first wave of releases in Japan to kick off Blu-ray and is the first "traditionally" animated show to hit the HD format I believe. The only thing that comes close right now is Corpse Bride but that's a different kind of animation. As noted above, there will certainly be some qualms about this qualifying as anime but web-based anime shows have been around for a bit now and we've had at least one or two licensed in the US before. I'll readily admit that it's not the greatest example to use for the first anime release but what this does show is just how amazing it can all look. And that look has me salivating.

Project PAPO had me concerned due to its web roots and the fact that it wasn't subtitled but I was very surprised to find that both of those concerns were non-issues. It may have aired on the Internet but the source materials are actually very detailed, well animated and lushly colored. The other advantage is that it has very little dialogue, with maybe four or five lines total, and most of the text in the show is in English. I had no problem figuring out this show in the slightest and it turned into a very enjoyable experience since it was so easily accessible.

The premise is quirky at first and almost too easily repetitive. We're introduced to a young man who orders a new music player online called Project PAPO. PAPO is a small robot whose stomach section is essentially a speaker. Probably no more than two feet tall, it looks a little chubby and its head is positively alien looking " even without the headphones that are over where its ears would be. Once put together, the diminutive unit starts playing some sweet sounds and its body rocks out to it. As does the young man who put it together. But not long after that, the music drives the guy nuts, his eyes pop out and the skin comes off his bones. PAPO is quite deadly.

Over the course of the next dozen or so episodes, all no more than three minutes each, PAPO ends up in different situations where he's either actively causing trouble or trouble just seems to be around him. Be it a group of rowdy punks interrupting and old man listening to his classical music or on stage with an innocent pop idol, PAPO finds himself causing the deaths of many people. It's all done in a very comical style and has some very amusing little tweaks to how they present it since it's a mix of cel and computer shading. PAPO isn't doing all of this own, though you do wonder how he ends up in all these different locations and situations. Behind the scenes is the Royal Arms Laboratory who is seeking to create a new music based weapon and is field testing PAPO before applying him to other applications. Imagine using something like this attached to a helicopter or unmanned drone? But like any robotic creation in a series like this, it's not long before its creators aren't able to keep it under control.

Project PAPO has some very similar vibes to the recent US release of Panda-Z, both in animation style (though not exactly) and runtime. The differences is in presentation. PAPO doesn't suffer from repeated opening and closing sequences and it's all on one disc. The Japanese DVD release, due six weeks after the Blu-ray release, is spread across two discs at about thirty minutes each. Of course, it's also half the price. One of the things that hurt the Panda-Z release was its lengthy release schedule and that you could watch an entire disc in 15 minutes. This one runs just over an hour and is all together. Though there are similarities, they're definitely very different shows.

In Summary:
I had no idea what to expect going into this but it turned out to be a very surprising show and was far more enjoyable than I had predicted. It's not a title that will grab a huge new mainstream audience, but it is something you'd imagine seeing in between shows on Adult Swim. This release isn't quite what a lot of folks were wanting to launch the anime side of HD releases, but if a show like this can look stunning in 720p through MPEG-2, it gives me high hopes for how anime in general will be looking as experience and tools grow with it. Project PAPO has already made it very difficult to watch DVD now since every flaw is something I can see not having in the future when bandwidth and other limitations aren't as severe as they are now.

Japanese 2.0 Language,Japanese 5.1 Language,Staff Credits

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD10 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.


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