When you watch as many series as we do here at DVD Talk you begin to notice a trend in anime. Many shows lack inspiration, tend borrow from others, feed off clichés, and, in plenty of ways, are indistinguishable amidst the sea of Japanese animation. Every once in a while a show comes along that defies to be pinned down. It's refreshing to watch an anime that is different from the ground up, though just as you'd imagine this can be a good and a bad thing. Take Popotan for instance.
Popotan has a rather unique background. Originally the franchise was started as an adult PC game with sex scenes and plenty of naughty bits to go around. In many ways the twelve episode anime embraces these aspects. Ok, yes, there is no hardcore sex. However, with plenty of nudity mixed in with irreverent plotlines, quirky characters, and outlandish storylines it's safe to say that Popotan is indeed cut from a different cloth.
The entirety of the series revolves around a quant house with a Christmas tree atop of its ornately decorated roof. This Christmas cottage is the home of three sisters and their maid but there's still more to it than that. This residence and its inhabitance have the ability to travel through time and various locations. They do so at will, seeking flowers known as Popotan, which is a play on the Japanese word for dandelion. Along the way they assist people and discover who they are. Oh, and yes, the occasional boob does pop out in case you were wondering.
The four girls who star as the main cast are quite the eclectic cast to say the least. From oldest to youngest they are Ai, Mai, and Mii, with their maid, Mea, bringing up the rear. Each of these characters brings something unique to the table and there's no doubt you'll find a favorite early on. There is a great amount of development throughout the show for each of the ladies and with episodes focusing more on singular personalities rather than the group as a whole there's plenty of room for growth as well.
The show begins unsuspectingly enough with a young man named Daichi making his way to the Christmas manor to get some pictures of the ghosts living there. You see, the popular rumor going around the school is that this place happens to be haunted. Almost immediately upon checking out the house Daichi stumbles upon a startled Ai who, in good fan service, drops her towel. She just got out of the bath you see. All manner of heck breaks loose after that incident but the girls help him with fabricating ghostly images. That's what the Popotan girls do; they help people.
The next episode drops the girls off in a new town where they go around looking for Popotan. In particular the second episode focused on Mai's character and the revelation that she's sick of constantly traveling and making new friends. As you'd imagine this is a frustrating practice to be sure but what if you did it like every day? I'm sure you'd be sick of it too.
The show goes on to develop Mii as the haphazard personality you'd expect her to be. Her youth and energy translate to annoying character but fortunately Popotan skirts that stereotype and Mii actually gets to be kind of endearing before long. In the third episode she is focused upon as she unveils her desire to be a Magical Girl and helps a fellow youth in a hospital. Mea is the last of the four characters to get some development time as the abandoned house leaves her alone with a mysterious girl.
If you can't tell by now Popotan is a very episodic show. In each episode the girls (and house respectively) travel from one place and time to another. Therefore the story gets kind of annoying after a while and though development is nice throughout you're not going to see many recurring characters or plots. The only theme that runs from start to finish is the determination each girl feels to seek out Popotan and help people in the process.
During the course of the show we eventually learn why the Popotan is so important and what is driving the girls to search for them. Honestly, I didn't find the revelation to be entirely compelling. I suppose the point of this show isn't necessarily about the destination but the journey instead. In that regard there are many funny and touching moments found within these twelve episodes. Unfortunately the pacing suffers due to the episodic nature and things really drag at times.
If you're looking for a unique series with some interesting characters and a sense of style that is off the beaten path Popotan is worth checking out. I don't recommend it as strongly as it could have been though thanks to some poor pacing, episodic content, and random flashes of nudity. Well, ok, I suppose the nudity isn't necessarily a drawback but it certainly does seem out of place at times. In the end Popotan is an intriguing show with a decent hook and it's a series that many of you may have never heard of before.
Popotan aired during the 2003 season in Japan and Geneon has presented it on DVD here with an anamorphic widescreen ratio. The transfer for the show is very solid from beginning to end and really, there is very little to complain about. The picture quality is vibrant and clean throughout with very little grain and compression to muck things up. The show does maintain a somewhat muted look, if that's possible. Edges appear to somewhat softer than other shows but that seems to be a desired effect by the production company and not a result from Geneon's transfer. Overall Popotan is a nice looking show.
Considering Popotan was a somewhat unknown series when it was picked up by Geneon I'm not surprised that the DVD release here comes with 2.0 stereo language tracks. There just seemed to be very little point to putting forth the effort to create a 5.1 surround dubbing. As it stands the quality is on par with what you'd expect. Dialogue, sound effects, and music all stay on the front channels with no diversity in between. This holds true for both the English and Japanese tracks (the dubs are decent in both cases) and there were no technical issues to speak of.
Across the three discs included with the Popotan collection you're going to find some slim pickings in regards to bonus material. Textless animations, some art galleries, TV commercials, and trailers are the only things that reside on these DVDs.
Prior to checking out the complete series I have to admit that I never heard of Popotan. I didn't know what to expect and I think that actually helped my appreciation of the material. The show strays from the beaten path and really attempts to do its own thing with thoughtful stories and well-developed characters. The random bouts of nudity and episodic content did wear me down after a while and because of that I lost some interest in what was going on. In the end the entire show was fun enough that I'm going to recommend it but that's teetering on a rental suggestion.
Check out more of my reviews here. Head on over to my anime blog as well for random musings and reviews of anime, manga, and stuff from Japan!