Monday, January 13, 2014

First Impressions: Engaged to the Unidentified, pupa

: Way back when I glancing over the Winter Season to get a feel for what was airing, Engaged to the Unidentified (Mikakunin de Shinkoukei) stood out as one of the only shows that I felt a genuine excitement for. Sure the premise sounded a bit iffy, but it also had the potential to adorable. Thankfully, my worries have, for now at least, been put rest, as this first episode turned into my favorite of the season so far (I haven't watched that many mind you) and I can't wait to see more of this adorable little show.

Kobeni Yonomori discovers on her sixteenth birthday that not only had her deceased grandfather chosen a fiance (Hakuya Mitsumine) for her, but that said fiance and his little sister are moving in with her. Though she's not quite buying into her arranged marriage just yet, Kobeni takes her new housemates relatively quickly and discovers that Hakuya, especially, may be starting to grow on her.

I think the thing that amazes me the most in terms of this premiere episode is how much I grew to like the cast over the course of the episode. Kobeni is, admittedly, a bit average and her amnesia shtick is a bit cliche, but she's also an endearing character. She had a good head on her shoulders and tended to handle things in a relatively down to earth manner. That said, she's a teenage girl and this is a romance, so she had her fair share of blushy moments. In terms of her love interest,Hakuya, despite spending most of the episode hanging around the in the background, grew on me pretty quickly. I loved how he would pat Kobeni's head to comfort her and say the right thing when she was feeling a bit down. In terms of these two together, I'll admit that I had a ridiculous smile glued on my face the entire time and I can't wait to see how their relationship develops in the future. Hakuya's little sister, Mashiro, the dutiful future-sister-in-law, was absolutely precious. Despite often acting like a responsible older sister to her brother, I love how her childishness was still able to come through. Kobeni's mother and sister were also fun to watch, Benio especially in terms of her teasing of Mashiro.

In general, I really liked how the episode looked. The character designs were adorable and the bright colors matched the lighthearted tone of the show. Sound-wise, I honestly can't remember that much, but I'm sure it wasn't too bad.

As you can probably tell, I really liked this first episode. Sure the premise isn't the most original and this isn't a show that everyone is going to love, but it hit all the right notes for me. I smiled the entire episode and almost all the jokes hit their mark. I have been thoroughly and pleasantly surprised by how my expectations were met and perhaps even exceeded.Though I can only hope that the show manages to keep the act up for the rest of it's run time, I'd wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone looking for something a bit on the "warm and fuzzy" side of the anime spectrum.

Maggie: A cannibalistic love story between brother and sister? I'm in.

While everyone was hyping Space Dandy, I had my sights set on the horror series pupa. Based on pupa's , I was sure that this series would become a sleeper hit for this anime season, the must-watch show that nobody saw coming. Until, that is, I saw the first episode, and the disappointment came flooding in. The first episode gets very little right and a whole lot wrong.

The watercolor background does provide a suitably creepy and ominous feel to the series, but it's hard to really get into the mood of pupa when the episodes are only 4-5 minutes long. Which isn't to say that it's impossible to make a horror series short, but it's execution here leaves a lot to be desired. The censorship is heavy-handed, and for a show that has so little run-time, the shock-value from the gore is going to be its primary way to draw in viewers and get its point across. Instead, shielding its viewers from the main action of the episode (exploding dog; exploding human), we are forced to glean as much information as we can from the reactions of bystanders, which, in the end, is very little. We get that some mysterious red butterflies are the trigger for Yume's transformation into a flesh-eating insect monster, but that's about it. No real indication of why Yume is a monster or any history between her uniquely disturbing relationship with her brother.

By the end of it's short 4-minute duration, pupa's first episode is choppy and baffling. It feels like the show isn't quite sure what direction it wants to take. If it relied on the grotesque elements of its story and character design, then it could be a decently shocking short series, but the show continually decides to look away from its own horror value at the last second and detracts from its potential visual impact. Instead, pupa sets up this first episode like the beginning of a longer, traditional 25-minute episode and ends abruptly without much exposition (not that there's time for any) or enticement for further watching. Unfortunately, pupa is an example of a show that becomes its own worst enemy: it has a good premise, but fails to live up to its own potential. And committing fatal errors this early in the season will be nearly impossible to recover from.


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