Movie: One of the benefits of reviewing is that I get to see a lot of stuff I wouldn't otherwise have picked up for one reason or another. That freedom from the budgetary constraint most fans have is somewhat empowering as it lets me explore titles of questionable value, often with the result of finding a hidden gem or two among the multitude of crud passed off on unsuspecting consumers. One such gem I encountered not long ago was Popotan 1, a show about three sisters and their maid as they travel for some mysterious reason in search of something they lost. The premise of the show was a bit vague on the first DVD so I looked to Popotan 2: Enigma in order to fill in some of the blanks I had about what was going on. Here's some background from my first review to clear up what the show started as:
Much like the Magical Play series I reviewed not long ago, the show was a bit difficult to pin down. The action centered on a group of young gals, Ai, Mai, Mii, and Mea, that travel around helping others in need as they collect their precious "popoptan", essentially dandelions that power their efforts. Each gal had their own personality but the show's deliberate pacing didn't unveil all the cards at once with each of the first four episodes focusing on one of them in turn more than the group as a collective whole. In the opening episode, Secret House, the oldest sister, Ai, dealt with an intruder of sorts with a special quest. In the second episode, Friends, Mai made the most of her situation at school (people that move around a lot could probably identify with her). The third episode, Magic, had the youngest sister, Mii, figuring out that she wanted to be a "magical girl" like her television anime hero as she assisted a dying young gal. The final episode, Alone, dealt with Mea, the maid, as she tried to figure out the mystery behind a lost little girl in need of her doll being fixed (or was that all she needed?).
This time, the show started off with a bit of fan service in the form of a bikini contest and march to some hot springs for relaxation in 5: Hot Springs as the gals listened to a popotan in order to continue their so-far hidden quest. A lot more was unveiled in 6: I'm Home when the house did the usual disappearing act only this time leaving behind Mai (the middle gal) and the maid, Mea. The dynamics of the vanishing act were finally revealed and it led the sisters to some interesting events that propelled the story forward very quickly. Then, in 7: Things That Cannot Be Said, the story focused on a return character, Daichi, from the first volume, who was all grown up with a family of his own. Again, this helped explain some of the background of what was taking place but it also left many questions unanswered. Lastly, in 8: Christmas, Mii was again the focal point of the story in a story dealing as much with religious issues as with the generation gap when an old man clashes with his young granddaughter over celebrating a holiday that conflicts with his beliefs.
For me, the middle two episodes made the disc shine since I was very curious as to what was taking place in the series (there's only a single disc left to wrap things up). I might've enjoyed the series as a light, fluffy little change of pace otherwise but the bigger picture slowly started coming into focus as it handled matters that were behind the scenes previously. The show itself is not going to appeal to everyone but fans of lighter comedy mixed with a kind of fantasy aspect might find as much reason to rate it as Recommended as I did. Heck, some of you perverts out there might even enjoy the animated nudity of the cast although it wasn't overly frequent in the show and the adult themes present really didn't need it to make a point.
Picture: Popotan 2: Enigma was presented in an anamorphic widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio with a wonderful array of colors and visual effects. Rather than just make it a brightly lit, sharp contrast style of anime, the original releasing company, SHAFT, went with an offbeat approach that fit the material far better than what I usually see in anime these days. The style managed to supersede the minor limitations of video noise and occasional compression artifacts giving it a slightly unique look.
Sound: The audio was presented with the usual choices of either the 2.0 Dolby Digital Japanese or the equivalent English language dub; both with the option of two separate subtitle streams (one for signs only and the other for the vocals). I really liked the English dub a bit better this time and while the separation between the channels was noticeable only when the music played, it wasn't bad. The dynamic range of the show's audio was pretty good too but it wasn't as fully realized as it could have been. I actually liked the music enough that I'd buy a CD of it were I to find a decently priced collection of music from the series.
Extras: The only real extras this time were some trailers, a paper insert with character information, a double sided DVD cover, a clean opening, and a short art gallery from the series. While I'd have preferred more, most shows these days seem to have settled on providing these basics as standard fare.
Final Thoughts: Popotan 2: Enigma was aptly named in terms of what it had to offer. It had some nudity, a group of gals living on their own terms without any men around, and a gentle spirit designed to appeal to the lighter side of life as the characters went around assisting people in need. The mysterious quest the gals were on was only just coming to light and the main thing I got out of watching it was a warm fuzzy feeling that contrasted tremendously with a show I really liked (watched them both on the same day in fact), Mobile Suit Gundam Seed: 6. I've tried to keep from spoiling the show for you while providing enough background on what took place but if you're in the market for a nice change of pace, this was definitely something to look into.
If you enjoy anime, take a look at some of the recommendations by DVDTalk's twisted cast of reviewers in their Best Of Anime 2003 and Best Of Anime 2004 article!