Let me just say this: The things I do for you people. SMH, reader, SMH.
Popotan is a 2003 anime series about three magical sisters and their maid, who travel through time and space in their mysterious, enchanted house. Every time their house phases out of the physical realm, it jumps into the future by about five years, finding a new location with an ample supply of dandelions for the girls to extract more magic from. They can communicate with these dandelions, but they also make time to communicate with the people… They live in whatever area the house landed in, carrying on normal lives in society until they need to leave again.
Why don’t they wait for Dandelions to die and be replaced by new ones, which should happen in fairly quick succession considering the short life span of a dandelion? Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Our main character, at least in the anime, is Mei, the middle child. She’s a tomboy, as well as the emotional center of the story, who is always forming the tightest social connections outside of the family. Her insistence that they should quit their journey and settle down leads us to several revelations throughout the show, and while I’m glad they used this plot device instead of endless exposition dumps, it’s still generally information that they… And we, as well… Should have known from the beginning.
Her older sister, Ai, has giant breasts and glasses. And… She probably has some sort of personality.
Her little sister, Mii, is a hyper little moppet who loves dressing up as a magical girl and is obsessed with poofy-poofies. She likes to snuggle Ai’s poofy-poofies, and makes remarks about Mei’s poofy-poofies being too small.
I’ll give you five seconds to figure out what ‘poofy-poofies’ are, and if it actually takes you that long, you should go bash your head against something.
They’re looked after by their devoted maid, Maya, a long-suffering sarcastic woman who cares deeply about her charges. A lot of people theorize that she’s a robot, but since she’s shown eating take-out on camera, I’d say that’s unlikely.
So, based on what I’ve just told you, you’re probably expecting me to say that Popotan is some dumb, wacky little comedy. I mean, with the Drifting Classroom style house, the dandelion-flavored plot, and the cliched characters, you probably expect this to be full of wacky randomness in the vein of Magical Play. After all, that’s why Magical Play works… It has a quick pace, and the joke-a-minute delivery fits the gleefull randomness to a T.
The truth is, Popotan isn’t like that at all. The pacing is slow, the story is played completely straight, and the tone of the series is more along the lines of sentimental and atmospheric. This is a great choice of execution for a serious coming-of-age story like Beck, but when juxtaposed with Popotan’s ridiculous… Everything… It’s not so much a match made in heaven as it is a match made in Shou Tucker’s basement. When you combine this tone-deaf approach with the constant fan-service, Popotan’s attempts at emotional depth just come off as incompetent, insincere melodrama.
Speaking of which, when I was only half-way through this show, I noticed that MAL listed it as Rated R for ‘mild nudity,’ and I flipped out in the forums. Compared to Popotan, the average Playboy magazine only has ‘mild nudity.’ There is at least one bath scene in every episode, and all four of our main characters… As well as several side characters… Get in on the action. And there’s no convenient fog here, folks, oh no. Every single nipple is meticulously and painstakingly drawn in, even for the little girl Mii. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no prude… I love Strike Witches, and even have a soft spot for the clunky This Ugly Yet Beautiful World, Gainax pretense be damned. Those shows have more to offer than just nudity, which I can’t honestly say about Popotan.
The nudity really is the only thing this show has to offer, and even taking that into consideration, the characters are so poorly designed and badly drawn that it’s like looking at a horny twelve-year-old’s sketchbook. And that’s saying nothing about how creepy the fan-service is. This show’s pedophile vibe is so intense that it makes UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie look innocent by comparison.
The artwork and animation suck… I won’t go any deeper than that, just trust me… and the stories of the individual episodes aren’t just badly written, but in a way that could actually be considered dangerously irresponsible with the message they try to send. The relationships that our cast form are sophomoric at best and unhealthy at worst.
The strongest relationship that Mii forms… Aside from her metafictional relationship with pedophilic viewers… Is with a little Shinto girl who wants to celebrate Christmas. The idea on it’s own doesn’t sound like anything bad, but the way it’s pursued is bafflingly ignorant. The strongest relationship that Ai forms is with a little boy whom she bathes naked with, and then kisses full on the mouth later on. And the strongest relationship that Mei forms is so deeply wrapped up in contradictory bullshit and disturbingly damaged human behavior that I’d have to spend an entire paragraph of spoilers just to explain what’s wrong with it.
And on top of that, get this: We never find out anything about the plot. We never learn basic pieces of information like how the girls got their powers, why they decided to start traveling, what they’re trying to accomplish… The only answer you ever get is a big, fat ‘play the game,’ to which I can only respond ‘screw you.’ You should never have to check out the source material just to enjoy the adaptation. That is the absolute worst kind of crutch a story can lean on.
If I had to say some positive things about this show, I can name three off the top of my head.
1: Anna Cummer does a decent job playing the voice of Maya. It’s a subtle and nuanced performance, but if I’m being honest, somebody more talented like Michelle Ruff would have blown her completely out of the water. Then again, compared to the rest of her co-stars, Anna might as well BE Michelle Ruff.
2: There are a handful of ways this show could have been worse.
3: Umm… I think I may have grossly overestimated my capacity for complimenting this show.
All in all, I would rather kill myself with a spoon than recommend this show to anybody. Even if it doesn’t offend the everloving daylights out of you, there’s nothing good about it… At all. In fact, the only reason my friends are currently borrowing my soon-to-be destroyed copy is because they asked for it, to see what kind of series could piss me off this much. Popotan is just so insidiously bad that it may actually be bad FOR you, as a person.
Over the years, I’ve given a handful of 1/10 reviews, with my general reason being that as crappy as they are, there’s something good about them… Maybe there’s a decent voice cast, or a few good characters, or some good action, or maybe it’s just so hilariously bad that it would be fun to watch while drunk. But Popotan is just a dreary, off-putting experience that I can’t imagine any amount of alcohol saving. For the first time in my reviewing career, I’m giving Popotan a 0/10. Avoid at all costs, and you’ll thank me later.