Judge Sandra Dozier never thought of dandelions as being particularly sexy before.
A sexy and beautiful story of three mysterious sisters!
Asuka believes in ghosts, but everyone at her school makes fun of her for it. Classmate Daichi, who has a crush on Asuka, decides to break into what he thinks is an abandoned, possibly haunted, house in order to take pictures of ghosts. Asuka wants to believe that her mother's ghost visited her on her birthday, and Daichi wants to help her believe so she'll be happy.
This all sounds pretty sweet and wholesome, huh? Well, about three minutes into episode one, Daichi discovers that there are actually a bunch of girls living in the house when he stumbles into the breasts of the oldest sister, Ai. Thus begins the erotic sex comedy of Popotan.
Each of the three sisters (Ai, Mai, and Mii) and their maid Mea fulfill a specific Sexy Anime Girl stereotype. Ai has long, dark hair, wears glasses, has a serene, motherly attitude, and sports an enormous (yet perky!) bosom; Mai is a tomboy with short red hair, an athletic body, and a complex about her under-developed (yet perky!) chest; Mii is the young one—cute, cuddly, bubbling with energy, and unaware of how her fascination with hugging puffy things affects people. Mea is very, um, robotic in nature, but satisfies those who gravitate to the serious, slightly scary goth-girl type. Together, they are capable of putting fanboys into a pervy coma at twenty paces.
The basic plot of the series is that the four girls travel around liberating popotan (the girls explain that this is the way they prefer to pronounce tampopo, the Japanese word for dandelion) under the cover of Christmas shop owners. Ai seems to be able to talk to the delicate weeds, and at the end of each episode, the dandelions are spirited away by some sort of magical conduit that also transports the house to a new destination, and (one can assume) a new field of popotan. The purpose of this, and the destination of the popotan, are the mystery of the series.
There's definitely something supernatural about these girls. Not only do they spend an inordinate amount of time trying on lingerie and sitting around in bath towels that don't quite cover everything, but they seem to have special powers—Ai can talk to plant life, Mai can levitate, and Mii can heal boo-boos. Then there is Unagi, their pet ferret, who tries to avoid comparisons to teriyaki eel, lest her roommates get hungry, and who sometimes transforms into a cute girl who pleads for a better part in the series. Mea's special power seems to be the ability to eat large quantities of food without getting fat. Mea likes to keep to herself, and a day alone in the house is like heaven for her.
Each story is simply told and centers on one of the girls, at least in volume one. Ai helps Daichi with his ghost hunt by posing Mea as a spooky-looking ghost, and Daichi in return eats Ai's cooking, which no one else will touch because she has such funny taste. He likes it, though, and this makes her happy. However, Mai isn't very happy about their nomadic lifestyle—she is a social girl who likes to make friends, and constantly leaving them behind has made her start shunning people in school. That's where Konami comes in: She is also a transfer student and is determined to be Mai's friend. In this way, she helps Mai come to terms with having to move around all the time, and shows her that you can have friends without being devastated by parting with them. Mii also gets a chance to shine when she dresses up as her favorite magical girl, Lilo, and sets off to help the helpless. She meets a distraught dad who has a sick daughter. He has been watching her become more emotionally distant since the death of her mother, and he doesn't know what to do. Mii to the rescue! Finally, Mea meets a young girl who lives in a nearby village and mistakes their Christmas shop for a toy store. Although Mea doesn't need the company of others, she finds herself drawn to this girl, and helps her resolve an age-old grudge.
The series earns its 16-and-up recommendation with the number of boob shots (I lost count after ten) and innocent misunderstandings designed to titillate. However, crotch shots are carefully concealed, and although there are several peeks at panties, nothing is overly raunchy. The focus here is a sort of light, sexy playfulness that ends up being very charming. The key is that this series deals with genuinely emotional issues that are both sweet and nostalgic. By the end of episode one, the spectacle of Ai cradling a boy on her ample chest as they lounge naked in a bathtub seems more sweet than sick, which is a rather remarkable feat of storytelling. Somehow Ai comes off as being parental and pure, and scenes like this one touch on a sort of mother-son connection that most of us are terrified to even think about in these modern times, where child molestation is a very real and frightening issue. In this respect, the Japanese as a society are definitely more innocent—teenage exploitation is their hot-button issue, but young children are, for the most part, still considered protected and pure, and family bathing is still a common (and wholesome) practice.
Geneon's transfer of this 2003 series looks terrific—clear, crisp, and showing off the vibrant colors of the super-glossy animation style for this series. As most of the action takes place outdoors, the gorgeous scenery, especially for the dandelion fields, creates quite a mood. Both the English and Japanese 2.0 soundtracks sound good without being remarkable, in keeping with a mostly character-driven series like this one. Voice performances are spot-on, and it is worth noting that the English dub is excellent—each participant gives a strong performance, recreating much of the mood and humor from the original Japanese vocal performances. The extras are of the predictable variety—a few production shots and clean opening credits.
Those watching this series chiefly for the voyeuristic pleasure of seeing up a girl's skirt may be disappointed by the sweetness of the sentiment in each story, which seems to minimize the naughtiness of their nakedness. Similarly, don't go for this series just to see sweetly emotional stories if you are at all bothered by fan service—Popotan struts along in a middle ground where the cute tomboy can flash her cleavage in one scene and worry about missing her friends in the next. It is meant to be enjoyed without being dwelled upon too much.
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