Luring us in with a captivating and vibrant design, John Lee’s Pupa is about a young boy undergoing the initial onset of puberty. And this boy does not like what he sees. He not only sees the effects of aging on himself, but also starts to see the monstrous effects it has on others. One day he awakens, looks into the mirror, and finds a gash on his forehead.What lies beneath the gash introduces the viewer into the wonderful and imaginative psyche of the young boy. Pupa illustrates the boys fears of aging with beautiful and clever animations of characters around him. As he ventures out into the world, he begins to see his fears manifest onto others. The boy fears that one day that the monster that lies within his head, beneath the slit, will emerge and take over his body.
The artistry of Pupa is astounding. From character design to background design Pupa is truly remarkable. The color palette is appropriately illustrative of the imaginative nature of a child’s point of view. The character animation of the boy is subtle yet narratively effective, allowing the visual high point of the film to really pop out as additionally impactful. The monster designs are perfect projections of the type of creatures a child might envision. The monsters are conceptually scary, in that they are monsters, and by their very nature scary entities. But the design of these monsters is appropriately juvenile, allowing us to look at the monsters more as exciting and imaginative rather than horrifying and disgusting.
There are a few aspects of Pupa that stand out. First, it is incredibly imaginative. Second, the colors are hypnotically vibrant. Third, monsters. And fourth, the topic and the manner in which it is addressed is peculiarly rare. In many ways this film, when boiled down, is a film about beauty. The majority of short animated films dealing with beauty address the current state of ones beauty. We often see films about how attractive a character feels in comparison to others. What makes Pupa distinguish itself is that rather than dealing with the concept of ‘I am,’ it deals with the concept of ‘what am I becoming.’