Any guy will easily relate to the zany premise of Popran—what would one do if their penis quite literally detached itself from their body and abruptly flew away on the wings of their ballsack? It may sound crass, but writer/director Shin’ichiro Ueda (who also made surprise critical darling, One Cut of the Dead) is sure to keep it cute, light, and reflective. However, for me, this was not the film I had envisioned at first glance. I wanted it to fully embrace the ridiculousness, but Ueda’s script ultimately feels disjointed and mismanaged.
Tagami (Yoji Minagawa) is a hugely successful business mogul, inventor of a manga app called Rashimban that boasts over seven million downloads, and an all-around pretty terrible person. In interviews, Tagami won’t even discuss his personal life whatsoever, including his history with a co-founder that he unceremoniously booted. Tagami has a strict policy about no original manga works for his app, as they do not sell whatsoever. Still, he gives people false hope that their projects will be selected. After leading on one girl and sleeping with her, Tagami wakes up the next day to go to the bathroom and discovers bare skin and a tiny hole in the place where his penis is supposed to be.
There seems to be no logical explanation as to why this has happened. At first, I assumed it had something to do with morals, but that is essentially disproven as the film progresses. The doctors say to just come back tomorrow and they will see if there has been any progress. While sitting in a stall, Tagami discovers a barcode over genitals on a poster. Upon scanning it, Tagami is brought to an underground program known as the Popran Group. Here is where the film lays on the exposition and main plot—penises all over the country have been disappearing, and taking to the skies at gasp-worthy speeds. If one cannot manage to catch their “Popran” within six days time, it will die of malnutrition and be gone forever.
Tagami must atone for his past mistakes and track down his “Popran” to catch inside a massive net. One thing that really does work for me in Popran is the whimsical score, constantly reminding us to never take any of this seriously. Popran doesn’t exist on any plane of realism, yet it still tries hard to inject bootleg life lessons for viewers. I enjoyed the film when it approaches the more comedic angle, such as Tagami attempting to pee in a urinal out of his hole, or a child telling his father “a Weiner went flying!” Referring to the airborne penises as “skyfish” is also hilariously dumb. However, Popran is altogether too boring for a movie about losing one’s genitals.
Popran screened at 2022’s Fantasia International Film Festival.