The Stunning 3-Minute Anime ONA That Took 3 Years to Develop

Puparia is an independent short film by Shingo Tamagawa released in 2020 on YouTube. Although the ONA lasts only three minutes, it would take the animator nearly three years to make it happen. After becoming disillusioned with the animation industry’s constant desire to create consumer works, Tamagawa spent a year and a half thinking and wandering in hopes of rekindling his love of the craft. Eventually, the young animator began the daunting process of creating his short film himself which took another two years to produce.


Although it probably happens little Puparia‘s runtime, there is an element of mystery that will keep viewers guessing the secrets it hides. Hand drawn and colored, Tamagawa’s strange world is inspired by the style of Hayao Miyazaki and Hideaki Anno. Despite not having a single line of dialogue, the short remains captivating and really highlights how the storytelling can be done effectively with just images and the mind of the audience at play.

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Why was Puparia created?

Shingo Tamagawa’s motivation and process for creating this stunning short film are excellently outlined in Archipel’s 20-minute documentary Three Minutes, Three Years: Making Puparia. Here, the animator discusses how, after working in the animation industry for five years, he began to feel like he was losing himself.


The need for the works to be consumable, profitable and have a rapid turnaround became more difficult for him to deal with and made him fear that he would begin to “hate even the simple act of drawing”.

“There is a discrepancy with recent trends, where you are asked how to generate profits, or when you are told that the process is cumbersome as it cannot be simplified. These arguments tend to win too often. I understand that they are important, but I’m not making animations to be efficient … “

However, the creation of Puparia it was not simply about creating an animation that could generate new emotions for viewers, but an exercise to reinvigorate Tamagawa’s personal love for the medium.

For Tamagawa, going out alone was a “necessary step to move forward” with his life. In many ways, making her animated short was a act of catharsis by which he was able to impress his emotions on the world and find a new purpose in his creative talents.


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What is Puparia talking about?

After watching Puparia for the first time it is difficult to understand whether it has an underlying meaning or a narrative. While the sequence of images from the short film and the accompanying music are certainly evocative, they almost seem to be sequenced at random. In some respects this appears to have been done on purpose, as Tamagawa wished to chart his mindset of “that time wandering around, doing nothing” for over a year.

Like all good art forms, Tamagawa gave the audience considerable space for their own interpretations. The title of the work is highly indicative of the change referring to the puparium, which is the hardened exoskeleton of the last larval stage of a fly’s metamorphosis. However, instead of examining the life cycle of an insect, Puparia it seems to explore the development of humanity and its path to enlightenment.


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Each sequence displays a variety of suggestive symbols that signify people’s constant battle with their egos, thoughts, consumerism, nature and each other. Each stage shows the progress of humanity as it overcomes these powerful forces over time. Eventually, a being looks through a vast pool of life and smiles directly at the viewer.

While the meaning of this expression, and indeed the rest of Tamagawa’s short, is highly personal, it could mean the realization that we are all interconnected. In this strange and distant future, humanity has finally conquered itself and has become, well, not so human anymore.


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Puparia is a beautifully crafted animation that is filled with rich landscapes, expressive characters, and eloquent symbolism. Although its meaning is unclear and highly interpretative, this in no way distracts from the visual experience. The short is meant to be watched over and over and mulled over on even more occasions.

Tamagawa points out that even frustration can create the most beautiful things and that it’s important to never give up on your goals. Although 3 years of hard work only amounted to three minutes of footage, she went on to garner nearly six million views and mesmerized many fans of this animated genre.

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