Not long ago something happened on the Anime-Planet forums: after a simple buddy watch spawned an epic thread in a matter of days, an obscure series called Popee the Performer developed into a cult-like phenomenon. I dedicate this review to that brave group who sacrificed their very sanity to make it through thirty-nine episodes of the most brain-meltingly awful anime ever made.
In a deserted circus far, far away lives an eager young performing artist named Popee and his sidekick, Kedamono and this series follows their various antics. This all sounds innocent enough until you mention the fact that Popee is a psychopath in a striped jumpsuit and bunny ears, Kedamono is a purple wolf whose emotions are conveyed solely through interchangeable masks, they’re later accompanied by an equally psychotic (and somewhat homosexual) minstrel dressed like a sun, and their “antics” involve regularly assassinating each other, tormenting a resident frog, and finding new and innovative ways to outwit/brutally murder a visiting alien. Yes, step right up ladies and gents and welcome to the world of Popee the Performer.
Before we start, I should really ask you all a question: would you like your violence with a side of carnage? If you plan on watching this, I sincerely hope the answer is yes because Popee the Performer offers up a hellish all-you-can-eat buffet of blood, chainsaws, explosions and death. Certainly, the incessant desire that Popee and the gang have when it comes to inflicting pain and killing each other makes cartoon favourites such as Tom and Jerry look like they’re playing tea party. I’ve lost count of how many times these guys died in a grisly manner, and to be honest they’ve keeled over in pretty much every way imaginable: shot in the head, blown up, impaled with swords, blown up, poisoned, blown up, and run over by unicycles to name but a few. Now I’m all for comedy violence, but Popee the Performer takes it to a whole new, messed up level – when a series makes Wile E. Coyote look like Mother Teresa, you know something’s not right.
On a more serious note, Popee the Performer does force the viewer to consider several questions. What would I do if some creep in a bunny outfit ran towards me with his rape face on and an armful of bombs? Is a punch in the face the best way to greet an alien or would it be best to boil him in a pot? And finally, what kind of straw should I use to blow air up a frog’s arse to revive it? Certainly, the show’s standout feature is that it’s batshit crazy from start to finish. Each episode begins innocuously enough with some harmless activity like chopping up a watermelon but soon veers off in the most unfathomable directions such as elephant trunk barbecue and random gunfights with an unseen enemy. While its utterly freakish nature may sound hilarious to some and can make for entertaining viewing, simply being bonkers isn’t really enough to equal quality. As such, you spend more of your time wondering why the creator of this monstrosity isn’t locked up in an asylum rather than applauding any comic genius the show may attempt (and fail) to aspire to.
CGI is definitely the medium for a series such as this. It affords maximum flexibility for all the weird and wacky stunts that the Popee the Performer guys get up to, something that would take a lot longer to do by hand and wouldn’t have nearly the same impact. Unfortunately, the animation itself is crap. With the exception of Papi’s various “dances” which will haunt your nightmares for years to come, the characters’ movement is abysmal. Watching Kedamono attempt to walk is like seeing a foal taking its first steps. If the foal were brain-damaged. And each of its limbs was a different length and made of soggy clay. Despite its failings, the rubbish motion actually adds to the show’s deranged vibe. If Popee didn’t run around like a flailing mess, he might have just been very creepy as opposed to the kind of messed up that has you yelling “I’m never sleeping again, oh dear god mummy hold me!”
Like pretty much everything else about this series, the soundtrack is terrible, but oddly it works. There are a variety of recurring tunes throughout, each of which plays to the deranged nature of its content. Often the show uses a typical fairground-style melody, but soon puts its own warped spin on things by making it sound like the instruments are progressively melting with each passing note. Likewise, I defy anyone to watch the whole series and not end up with the main theme circling around their skull causing them to slowly spiral into an abyss of insanity.
Meanwhile, the sound effects team deserve a medal for some of the bizarre noises that appear throughout the course of the series. From random chimpanzee screeches as Popee laughs while flinging Papi into outer space, to stomach growling sounds that sound more like trouser-ripping farts, there’s no shortage of aural oddities, making the sensual assault truly complete.
Whenever I think of Popee, I’m immediately reminded of a scene from The Simpsons, where Bart is huddled on the floor, wide eyed with fear chanting: “can’t sleep, clown’ll eat me.” Except in this case the object of abject terror isn’t a creepy painted bed, but a jealous, sociopathic arsehole in a pink striped bunny jumpsuit. The baby-faced little shit has barely any redeeming features, something that is especially prevalent when he’s flinging scorpions at his best friend simply because he happens to be better at acrobatics. However, his douchebaggery only serves to heighten the twisted enjoyment you get out of watching him get beaten, punished or just plain screwed over.
About a third of the way in, the rabbit-eared bastard gets himself a proper rival in the form of a rather camp (and that’s putting it mildly) sun-faced jester named Papi. Despite being possibly the most disturbing of the bunch, Papi often acts much like a mother figure (in a worryingly literal sense during the “Sleep” episode) and worries about both Kedamono and Popee when their antics get out of hand and one or both of them end up bloodied/dead. But despite his more uhh… “nurturing” side (the poor guy just has too much love to give), he is not someone to mess with. The moustachioed minstrel is highly capable, his abilities tend to exceed Popee’s and his answer to pretty much any problem is dynamite. That he’s simultaneously the most mature presence in the show as well as the most deranged makes him possibly the most interesting character out of a rather dodgy lot.
There’s only one way to describe the overall quality of Popee the Performer: it’s so horrifically bad, it’s good. With terrible animation, ear-burning musical themes, a nightmarish cast, and nothing more than a series of increasingly deranged antics not even attempting to masquerade as plot, the series sets out to assault as many of your senses as possible. And it succeeds. If you let yourself get swept up in the insanity of this carnival of terrors, then you’ll easily find some enjoyment in it; or better yet, share the pain, watch it with a friend and get ten times the laughs as you work your way through this unique “experience” together.
Meet Popee and Kedamono, two very abnormal circus performers that live a very eventful life. Whether they're performing dangerous stunts, dodging alien abductions or being taken over by a body-possessing frog, there's never a dull moment at the circus. Alongside the flamboyant Papi and a special elephant car, Kedamono and Popee will traverse an endless desert in search for an oasis, stab each other with knives for target practice and even blow each other up with bombs – but for poor Kedamono, surviving Popee's homicidal spurts will be difficult to say the least...
While I like a variety of different genres, if you give me comedy or slice of life, I'm bound to be happy – and if it's dark humour, all the better! I'll review whatever takes my fancy at the time, and whether you agree or disagree with my opinions, feel free to drop me a line.