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Fantasia 2022: "Popran" Review

Certified critic on Rotten Tomatoes. Member of the Houston Film Critics Society. Also writes for Bounding Into Comics and GeeksHaveGame.

The official theatrical poster for, "Popran."

The official theatrical poster for, "Popran."

A Genuisly Absurd Concept Neutered by a Lack of Humor

Popran is a new comedy from writer and director Shin'ichirô Ueda (One Cut of the Dead). In Popran, Akira Tagami (Yoji Minagawa) has created a successful manga app known as Rashimban, which has over seven million downloads. Akira always dreamed of making manga himself, but turned to publishing when he realized he wasn’t good enough. Unfortunately, Akira burned every bridge to get to where he is today. He fired his co-founder and best friend, he left his wife and child to move to Tokyo, and he started Rashimban despite it being against his parents wishes.

Akira is a self-entitled prick that usually gets whatever he wants. Meanwhile, unidentified sightings of what are only referred to as, “skyfish,” begin making the rounds on the local news. One morning, Akira wakes up, goes to the restroom, and realizes that his popran, or genitals, is now missing. The skyfish are men’s members that have formed their own will and separated from their host’s bodies. Now Akira only has six days to retrieve his junk before it dies for good and he has to live without his manhood for the rest of his life.

The Flying Crotchman

In a ludicrous film like this, the selling point would be to at least get a decent glimpse at a flying penis or what Akira’s body looks like totally wiener-less. But reveals like that would likely push the film into NC-17 or unrated territory, which is typically a death sentence for most films as far as any sort of box office success goes. You don’t really see anything besides what looks like clumps of flesh when the skyfish have been caught in a net, the whizzing blur as they race across the screen, and hand drawn diagrams that are sillier than they are informative.

Akira discovers a QR code on a bathroom stall that leads him to an underground meeting of men who are experiencing the same asinine thing that he is. The rules regarding why a popran would leave, how to retrieve it, and anything else regarding it are as follows:

Yoji Minagawa as Akira Tagami in, "Popran."

Yoji Minagawa as Akira Tagami in, "Popran."

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A 90-Minute Dick Joke with No Punchline

  • When a popran leaves its host, it has formed its own will and functions as its own separate entity.
  • It takes a popran approximately two hours to separate from its host.
  • It uses its arupito (testicles) as wings to fly.
  • It can reach speeds of 200 kmh/124.27 mph.
  • The popran can only live for six days on its own and eventually dies of malnutrition.
  • It radiates a light called sepical three hours before its death and then completely dies.
  • It spits its own creamy gunk as its only defense mechanism.
  • If captured, it can be reattached to the host by inserting the small peg on the back of the popran to the small hole that is in the crotch.
  • Once captured, you can’t let go of the popran for one hour.
  • Hopes of reattaching the popran are gone forever if it isn’t captured within six days.
  • A phallus shaped funnel can be strapped around the waist to help with urinating standing up after losing one’s popran.
  • An industrial strength butterfly net is used to capture poprans.

The film is written in a way that resembles Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Akira revisits three individuals from his past that he hasn’t seen in years to try to find his popran. He also learns to be more sympathetic and compassionate over the course of the film. Before waking up to realize his popran is gone, Akira has a dream which has clues of the whereabouts of his popran. Popran seems to take the South Park concept of a man’s member flying off because he eats gluten and going in its own direction with it.

Akira Tagami (Yoji Minagawa) searches for his manhood in, "Popran."

Akira Tagami (Yoji Minagawa) searches for his manhood in, "Popran."

Popran is bizarre, but it isn’t ever able to be laugh out loud funny. It doesn’t seem like Akira earns the ending that he does either. He has been horrible to the people that helped make him become a financially successful businessman and doesn’t make any sort of amends over the brief 90 or so minutes of the film. He seems to feel some remorse, but doesn’t make the effort to apologize or even explain his past actions.

A Hard-On for the Soul

What causes the popran to separate from a man is never made clear either. Is it because Akira was such a terrible person that it chose to leave him? Is it some weird life lesson from the universe? Karma? Also, with so many dicks flying in the air at once seemingly only in Japan, there are never any reports of them colliding in the air, being run over by cars, caught in airplane engines, or eaten by animals. They’re practically invincible while flying around at over 100mph. Wouldn’t they explode if they collided with anything?

Yoji Minagawa as Akira Tagami in, "Popran."

Yoji Minagawa as Akira Tagami in, "Popran."

Like One Cut of the Dead, Popran has moments of brilliance and yet never fully capitalizes on the concept of a man’s penis willingly leaving his body and flying around the city. It’s absurd and unique in a way, so it’s disappointing that the film ends in such predictable fashion. The idea is solid, but the humor and the storytelling feel rushed. Popran is a half-mast comedy that never allows its audience to properly climax with laughter.

© 2022 Chris Sawin

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