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The Layman’s Guide to Popee the Performer

If you follow Scamp or me on Twitter, one of us (mostly me) will invariably mention Popee the Performer. What is this show? It is a 39-episode collection of CG shorts (all around four minutes) directed by Ryuji Masuda, whom I hope to meet one day so that I may have his hand in marriage. The show is a twisted mockery of children’s shows, where a clown, the titular Popee, plays deadly games with his wolf friend, Kedamono, and their circus boss, Papi. It’s a dark, messed up series, but while that leads to a lot of laughs, the show is burned into my mind because Masuda has a strikingly clever, imaginative way with visual and physical humor. This is important because there’s only one spoken line in the entirety of the series — the characters are for the most part silent.

I’m a huge fan of the series, but I realize it is offputting due to its visual style (it’s a cheap production, but it fits the tone of the series) and gruesome humor. That’s why I’m here! I’ve combed through the series and picked what I believe are the 10 best, most representative episodes of Popee the Performer. There will be many Veoh links (because the original YouTube links are dead, and other YouTube links are terrible and ruin the show), so you can watch ’em all here if you wish! Continuity doesn’t matter at all in this show, for reasons you’ll discover if you watch even one episode, but I’ll put them in episodic order for the sake of convenience.

Here we go!

Episode 11 — “Swallower”

Popee shows Kedamono how awesome he is at swallowing swords. The results are predictably bad. The way the pair tries to fix this is worse — this episode is an excellent showcase of Popee and Kedamono’s terrible decision making when solving problems. Perhaps the funniest pre-Papi episode, though the end of “Acrobatics” is hilarious, and “Gunman” is another good, weird episode. Much of the early part of the series relies on physical humor, with a few hints here and there of the surrealism that would come later.

Episode 14 — “Great Magic”

The introduction of Papi. He is sufficiently terrifying in this episode. Papi shows Popee and Kedamono the true way to do magic tricks: with as much brutality and senseless violence as possible. Even Popee is horrified by Papi’s first go at the ol’ magician’s trade. The visual tricks in this episode are pure, hilarious magic and so silly despite the violence.

Episode 16 — “Stop the Gun”

Kedamono employs an unorthodox method to stop Papi’s escalation of the old bullet catch magic trick. A great example of Popee taking a simple gag and piling more and more and making it weirder and more hilarious. This is the type of thing you can do when you don’t give a shit about “realism.”

Episode 20 — “Hypnotism”

Popee and Papi duel each other in a dangerous game of hypnotism. Perhaps the show’s most terrifying episode, because who in the hell would want either of these lunatics in control of your mind? By this time you should note that the pattern of Papi’s involvement is that he tries very hard to be a bigger bastard than Popee.

Episode 21 — “Super Strength”

Popee and Papi take steroids and try to out-macho each other. Their dick wagging contest leads to the destruction of the world. Again, Popee is masterful at taking a basic scenario and going fucking bonkers with it.

Episode 25 — “Samurai”

Popee and Papi have a samurai duel that — surprise! — goes to some weird ass places.

Episode 29 — “Dark Side”

Popee and Papi have a fun melon slicing contest on a hot summer day. Their fierce competition escalates into unforeseen territory. Includes what may be the weirdest conclusion in the series. This is probably my favorite episode, if only because I love the main visual gag and the ending.

Episode 32 — “In the Mind”

Popee and Papi peer into Kedamono’s head via Looney Tunes gags, and then Popee looks into Papi’s head. This is basically what would happen if Charlie Kaufman had written an episode of Popee the Performer.

Episode 33 — “Mirror”

Popee falls into a mirrored version of his own world. A classic scenario executed in that way only Popee can do it.

Episode 36 — “Eraser”

Kedamono proves he has been watching too many cartoons by erasing Popee, who proceeds to fuck around with everyone. Papi comes up with a typical solution to this problem.

And there you have it! Those these are my 10 favorites, they are by no means the only good episodes in the series. If you like these, then check out the rest of the show! It’s not at all difficult to find online thanks to the efforts of great, great people. If I have scarred you for life, then please mention it in the comments so that I may laugh at you. Also, if you disagree with my choices, then I encourage you to start a bloody, eternal war in the comments.

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34 Comments

  1. Cowboy Dev
    Posted September 19, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    Shinmaru speaks the truth. Watch this glorious shit. It’s Looney Tunes meets David Lynch.

    • Posted September 19, 2012 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

      Yes, as always, I speak the truth.

  2. fathomlessblue
    Posted September 19, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    I have Popee rated higher than Madoka on MAL. This is possibly my proudest moment as an anime fan.

    Anyway, here’s my top ten. It’s fairly similar to yours, but whatever.

    Ep 11. Swallower – This was the moment Popee really hit me, like a sword down the throat, reappearing out my ass.

    Ep 15. Mirage – Papi on a surfboard, riding the waves of your subconscious!

    Ep 17. Poison – Papi’s mincing towards Popee is one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever seen! The cure is most definitely worse than the disease!

    Ep 18. Elephant – The Popee fly!!! THE FUCKING POPEE FLY!!!!!

    Ep 19. Dream – A brilliant episode for someone with a fear of drowning.

    Ep 20. Hypnotism – Fantastic, now let’s never talk about it again.

    Ep 21. Super Strength – The episode ends with Papi going all One-Winged Angel and launching the moon into Popee’s face!

    Ep 25. Samurai – Kenshin had nothing on Popee and Papi. Also Kedamono gets a lollipop!

    Ep 31. Sleep – Papi is officially the world’s most terrifying stand-in mother!

    Ep 32. In the Mind – 4 minutes long and better than Inception.

    • Posted September 19, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

      “Elephant” was one of my honorable mentions because that ending is SO fucking weird. What a terrifying image. I considered “Mirage” for a bit, too, but I like a couple of other episodes more that are along the same lines.

  3. Billish
    Posted September 19, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    Holy shit that swallower episode was funny. I don’t have time to watch the rest now, but if they are in any way similar to THAT than I’m bound to enjoy.

    • Posted September 19, 2012 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

      Some have similar gruesome physical humor, while others go for surreal gruesome humor. It’s all quite dark, though, and the common thread is Popee and/or Papi being a murderous bastard/murderous bastards.

  4. Posted September 19, 2012 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    whom I hope to meet one day so that I may have his hand in marriage

    Traitor. ;_;

    • Posted September 19, 2012 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

      There’s always room for more. ;D

  5. Posted September 20, 2012 at 2:09 am | Permalink

    Gotta take advantage of this to whore out my post on why Hypnotism is the best episode: http://mecha-guignol.com/2012/05/12/popee-and-the-morning-star/

    • Posted September 20, 2012 at 6:57 am | Permalink

      And a wonderful post it is.

  6. Billish
    Posted September 20, 2012 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    i foresee nightmares in my future. jesus christ monkeyballs some of these are fucked. thanks a LOT! (or maybe i’ll dream of blasting everyone with a bazooka)

  7. Posted September 20, 2012 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    Oh the horror – I’m rocking back and forth in my chair and the squeaking sound it makes sounds exactly like Popee’s cries of anguish during Swallower.

    I have a theory that Popee was originally a 13-episode series but ended up getting renewed for two more seasons with a higher budget after its initial air. Which would explain why the show, starting with episode 14, was able to add more characters and settings, have much more intricate motions and detailed facial expressions (oh GOD the faces), and do so many more delightfully insane things. To be perfectly honest, most of the reason I want this theory to be true is because it implies that Popee was at least somewhat successful, and the idea that some reasonably-sized group of Japanese children grew up watching Popee the Clown is incredibly pleasing to me.

    I don’t think I could ever choose a favorite episode of this show. It was hard enough to get it down to just ten. Popee is just pure magic.

    Ep 10: Gunman – This episode has butt-to-mouth bullet transfer, gives Popee an automatic firearm, and introduces the glorious sport of moe death tennis. Can’t ask for much more than that.

    Ep 11: Swallower – The violin version of the OP and Popee’s faces in this episode are simply perfect. Gunman and Swallower back-to-back sealed the deal for me.

    Ep 14: Great Magic – Pretty much what you said. Papi take the show’s first magic trick and turns it up to eleven.

    Ep 20: Hypnotism – I’m pretty sure everyone agrees this episode is amazing. Or at least everyone who’s not wrong.

    Ep 21: Super Strength – As if Popee and Papi actually needed Roid Rage on top of their usual personalities.

    Ep 23: Ghost – Popee’s take on Ringu-style Japanese horror. Thankfully(?), Papi’s there to save the day with his kiss of life and his touch of death. I’m not sure which is worse. I also love how endlessly hilarious they find that TV show that they watch.

    Ep 29: Dark Side – This entire episode was really such a clever idea.

    Ep 31: Sleep – Oh god Popee what are you doing to your EYES? Oh god Papi what are y- you know, never mind. I don’t even want to know.

    Ep 33: Mirror – That showdown between Popee and bizarro world Kedamono is fantastic.

    Ep 35: My Car – There is so much here to love. Popee’s stolen elephant car. The Kedamobile. The fact that being turned into cars has the power to reanimate severed heads. The car chase. That last scene is the perfect example of how Papi just wants to watch the world burn.

    In conclusion, based on a totally-statistically-significant sample size of 3 people, the most popular episodes are Swallower, Hypnotism, and Super Strength.

    • Posted September 20, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

      “Gunman” and “Ghost” were both on my short list for a while. Even while rewatching it, the bullet transfer sequence makes me react like, “OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH GOD.” I love “Ghost” mostly for the ending — Papi’s solution to Popee haunting him and Kedamono is delightfully twisted.

  8. Chipp
    Posted September 22, 2012 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    What about his other shows? Stain? Funny Pets?

    • Posted September 22, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

      I haven’t watched them yet, actually!

      • Chipp
        Posted September 22, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

        Then it’s too soon for the marriage!
        Oh and I’m going to watch Stain today.

      • Posted September 22, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

        IT’S NEVER TOO SOON FOR MARRIAGE. WE ARE YOUNG AND IN LOVE.

  9. Scamp
    Posted September 23, 2012 at 1:58 am | Permalink

    Finally got around to going back through Popee episodes to find them best ones. Basically, YOU’RE WRONG and these are the best

    Episode 12: Escape Show. This one sticks in my mind for being the one where Kedamono is the main freak of the episode, particularly the final shot of the fork and knife drifting towards the alien

    Episode 13: Dance. You guys underestimate the earlier episodes. While not as weird, sometimes their simplicity in their concept is what makes them work. He turns Popee into a radio and they dance to it for crying out loud!

    Episode 17: Poison: Worth it for Papee’s sexy dance when he’s ready to give the kiss of life to Popee.

    Episode 20: Hypnotism. Because fuuuuck man the end where Papee smiles is creepy as hell.

    Episode 21: He throws the moon at the earth.

    Episode 25: Samurai. Possibly my favourite episode. The way the character’s minds work is fantastic, plus that giant dogs head emerging over the horizon is amazing.

    Episode 29: Dark Side. Toss up between this and Samurai for my favourite. Everyone loves this episode, because it’s beautiful in its cartoon logic.

    Episode 31: Sleep. The most twisted episode of them all, from start to finish. I screeched in horror at least 3 times and was left at the end in a stunned horrified silence.

    Episode 33: Mirror. Classic Popee really. Take cartoon logic to its most bizarre and brilliant conclusion.

    Episode 36: Eraser. Almost too stereotypical cartoon logic. That is, until Papee shrouds the world in blood to find Popee.

    • Posted September 23, 2012 at 3:14 am | Permalink

      Dance was one of the last ones I took off my list. The thing with the earlier episodes is that while they’re good, wholesome, murderous family fun, they have to compete with how absolutely bonkers the later episodes get and are therefore easy to overlook when making a list of BESTEST MOST CRAZY POPEE EPISODES.

      Sleep is the most terrifying thing. Hypnotism lays on the existential dread, but it is Sleep that leaves you screaming OH GOD WHY throughout its entirety. I propose we wage a bloody, eternal war against Shinmaru for not including it in his list, in which we all die gruesome yet creative deaths every five minutes but come back to life the next episode and begin the fight anew.

      • Posted September 23, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

        Just don’t recreate “Sleep” with me. ;-;

    • Posted September 23, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

      I just had a nap and dreamt that all the episodes recommended by Shinmaru were awesome and all recommended by you or not mentioned were shit. And I only watched 11th for now, to just check if I’d like it.
      But my dreams are weird and I am pretty sure that more of them is going to be awesome.

      • Posted September 23, 2012 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

        Pretty much every episode of Popee is amazing.

      • Posted September 24, 2012 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

        I just watched them all and I must agree, I was only disappointed in the end of the last one, because I don’t know enough Japanese to understand what the frog said out of Kedamono’s anus, which seemed like a climax to me. Thank you for directing me to this little, overlooked gem.
        I also took the liberty of infecting my friends with it, so hopefuly soon Popee becomes mainstream.

    • Posted September 23, 2012 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

      The weird shit just appeals to me more, but the early episodes are damn funny, too, especially because they build a great foundation for the craziness to come later. There’s awesome progression in the comedy throughout Popee.

  10. Inushinde
    Posted September 23, 2012 at 2:19 am | Permalink

    I’ll have to rewatch this and get back to you on my favorites. This will be the most productive way I’ve ever spent a Saturday night.

  11. Posted September 23, 2012 at 3:06 am | Permalink

    I can’t remember all the episodes, but the standouts for me were: Swallower, Poison, Hypnotism, Samurai, Sleep, Dark Side, Eraser, In the Mind, Knife Thrower, and Lonely (I think that’s its name).

  12. Chipp12
    Posted December 4, 2012 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    Okay, I’ve seen the first 9 episodes and several of Scamp’s (13,20,29) and Shinmaru’s (11,14,16) favourite episodes, and I’m gonna say that… this show is stupid. This show’s dementia isn’t scary, or funny, or even interesting – it’s just stupid. The only reaction I had watching all these episodes was “So what?”.
    Of course, that’s only my opinion.

    • Posted December 4, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

      You are OBJECTIVELY WRONG.

      • Chipp12
        Posted December 8, 2012 at 11:17 am | Permalink

        So what? I can have my own opinion, right?
        On the subj:
        I really like these videos (http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLD9BB1F4892933B5E) – there are too about violence, but they’re creative, interesting, and funny! This Pewds guy is a real genius, he really knows how to make people laugh.
        Most of the new anime have hard time trying to at least make me smile several times per episode. But Popee didn’t manage to do even this.

      • Posted December 8, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

        lol, just joking around. Of course you are allowed to have your own opinion. I just could not disagree more with it. The show is too well crafted to be “stupid.”

      • Chipp12
        Posted December 12, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

        I guess it’s just not my favorite type of humor.
        Though I liked the randomness of gdgd Fairies)

      • Posted December 12, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

        Ah, gdgd Fairies is something I still need to watch. I heard it’s pretty weird!

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