pupa Ep. 4: Afflicted

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Wow, what amazing animation! Just to be clear, I believe most of this week’s events occur before last week’s events. So to take stock, Yume underwent her transformation at the park and attacked a bystander. Afterwards, Utsutsu tried to approach her, but she attacked him too. Maria and her people recovered Utsutsu’s body, but he broke free and killed two scientists in the process. Maria lets him go so that he can serve as live bait. Then, this is what we see in last week’s episode: Yume feasting on her brother’s flesh in the restroom. Again, I just wanted to recap things so we know where we are in the narrative.

Anyway, I don’t think I have any grand analysis to add this week. I feel as though this week’s episode merely reinforces what I’ve been saying thus far. A couple notes:

• We see Maria and some faceless scientist observing the siblings. This adds to the idea of a surveillance state as well as the idea of the modern iteration of the Panopticon.

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• One of the first things Maria says to Yume after the latter turns back into her human form: “A girl can’t sit around looking like that forever.” Maria’s referencing Yume’s nakedness, so there’s an implicit affirmation that sexual shame is the most important crime here. Consider how other matters of concern are avoided are hardly mentioned, i.e. the loss of life, Yume’s own physical and mental health, etc.

• Maria hammers home the idea that Yume ate Utsutsu despite the fact that the he continued to refer to her as his sister. There’s a duality to the shame here. First, if we see her transgressions as sexual shame, then to put it bluntly, she had sex with her brother despite knowing that it’s her brother. A young girl’s sexual desire is therefore seen as uncontrollable, dangerous, potentially incestuous, etc. We can also think of her transgressions as part of the cycle of abuse. She hurt her own brother despite the fact that it is her brother. It is perhaps very similar to how her father hurt his family despite his family’s constant protestations that they are his family.

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• Maria: “To be precise, he didn’t ‘die.’ You killed him.”

• It is perhaps not a mistake that in the background of Maria’s secret laboratory, you see silhouettes of rabbits. Sure, rabbits are common test subjects, but why not rats? Or monkeys? Maybe it’s because rabbits have an innocent look to them but we also know they procreate like mad.

• Utsutsu is now afflicted with the virus as well, but will he turn into a monster? How come the other victim at the park didn’t also come back to life? Perhaps things are too censored for us to even properly analyze the story. In any case, if Utsutsu never turns into a monster despite being afflicted by the same pupa virus, it says a lot how the anime views young girls and their burgeoning sexual desires. And how did Yume become afflicted by it in the first place anyway? Or was she always a potential carrier?

• Maria: “Its hosts are granted miraculous powers of recovery, and are tortured in exchange by an unbearable hunger.” It’s almost like a forbidden fruit in a way. You gain something invaluable, but in return, you now have the capacity to sin.

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• Here, I suppose the siblings have traded their innocence for immortality. In a way, this is true. If we never procreate, our bloodline will end. If we do partake in carnal acts, however, we sin but we nevertheless live on through our progeny. Unfortunately, what our siblings choose to do is a perversion: by depending upon each other, they are simultaneously sinning and rendering themselves mortal at the same time.

• Utsutsu: “I won’t let you people make Yume into your plaything.” But clearly, it should stay within the family instead.

• The idea that Utsutsu will now become “live bait” for his sister, and allow her to feast upon his flesh day in and day out is hardly the sacrifice that it probably seems to be in his head. Rather, he is preserving their way a life. This is something he literally says at the end of the episode: “I won’t be like my father. I’ll protect our daily lives.”

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•But he is becoming his father. Instead of allowing Yume to grow up and become her own sexual creature, Utsutsu is so hellbent on keeping the family together that he will unhealthily become her sexual partner. Then he can suffer abuse at her hands and claim to be the martyr when it is really him who’s abusing her. He’s using her guilt to keep her from straying, i.e. she should only feast upon him.

As always, I can only imagine how interesting this story might have been had it been given a full adaptation rather than the half-assed effort we got from Studio Deen.

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3 thoughts on “pupa Ep. 4: Afflicted”

  1. Agreed on all fronts, and though the symbolism was very blatant at first, it’s great to see smaller signs hidden in the background and snide dialogue of the wicked Burnt-Face Widow-Scientist (I…don’t have a good nickname for her yet).

    However your ending bit on “But he is becoming his father.” was really the most interesting. Whatever’s in the manga aside, your take on this was really interesting, mate. I had thought that, in his refusal to be like his father and “abandon” her, he was instead taking on a role akin to their mother. On the surface that’s true, but thinking it over it IS very much an act of manipulation, even if it’s born from warped but well-meaning intentions. Instead of allowing his sister to go her own way he is willingly becoming her nigh-eternal living feedbag, and not entirely just to keep her from going berserk and getting killed, but primarily because he wants to keep the status quo and “protect our daily lives”.

    It really makes me wonder what kind of lives these kids would have if they grew up without the pupa virus or mysterious panopticon organization. At some point adulthood is inevitable. With these two relying solely/primarily on one another and sticking so close to their “roles”, how would they cope with it? Bills, work, etc. All the normal stuff an adult has to deal with. How would these two possibly have become adults?
    Maybe, in a sick way, this “pupa virus” was the best thing to happen to them. After all, now that they’re trapped in a twisted physical stasis, they’ll never have to deal with real life: just the grim, bloody, symbolic facade of it.

    1. Regarding the role that Utsutsu plays, I don’t think anything has changed. It doesn’t matter who you are, you take bits and parts from your parents to make up a part of your identity. Within me, there’s a bit from each of my parents. The question, then, is how much? We should strive to establish our own individuality even if our parents’ influences are undeniable. As such, Utsutsu resembles both of his parents. So in saying that he’s more like his father this week, it doesn’t mean that what we said of him in previous weeks are suddenly untrue. He is simultaneously the mother who suffers the abuse, and the father who cannot let go of his “family.” Neither interpretation necessarily has to contradict the other. The problem for our siblings is that they have had to play these mother-father roles at such a young age, that they’ve come to internalized their parents flaws. We are the product of our upbringing, but it should not completely define us the way that it does with these kids. And thus, they are troubled youths in need of mental help.

  2. To be honest, watching a bit of the series (since I am into horror-based things and), I decided to read the manga and…

    Well…

    As much as I don’t wanna admit it, I don’t really like the art direction in the anime and how this is just all 5 minutes at a time. And the odd thing is that the art in the show reminds me so much of the opening scenes in Usagi Drop where it’s all water colorlike and all. I did not feel uncomfortable by the blood and the gore and the huge scary monster and quasi-incestuous lunch time… It was the color technique reminding me of Usagi Drop that make me all, “oh jesus…that don’t feel right”

    Also, the gore feels more or less tame and the scare factor is… tame. And sincewe only get 5 minutes of this we don’t get enough time to seep into the creepiness. It’s just aww kawaii BOOM GORE. The end.

    And the fact that the manga style made the characters totally more…well.. unsettling makes me wanna drop the anime entirely.

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