If you've been following anime news for the past three months, you might have heard about an unusual little series from Shin-Ei Animation called Pui Pui Molcar. This series of stop-motion shorts from the Kinder TV kids variety program, made with a mix of felted objects, toys and live-action elements, might not be what you normally associate with the word "anime," but it's been praised as the best anime of Winter 2021. Now the show is available stateside on Netflix, and it's a strange yet delightful experience you can binge in around a half-hour.
"Molcar" is a portmanteau of "molmot" (the Japanese word for guinea pig) and "car," and the series' main premise is self-explanatory -- Pui Pui Molcar is about guinea pigs that are also cars. People use them as transportation, but these animal-vehicles, fueled by carrots rather than gas or electricity, have minds of their own.
Some of the shorts focus on the molcars doing things cars do, like getting stuck in traffic jams or being hijacked by criminals. Others deal with more animal instincts, like needing to dispose of waste or simply have a party with friends. Many episodes engage in pop culture parodies, ranging from Sailor Moon to Indiana Jones to Back to the Future. Zombies and robot sharks also exist in this world.
The appeals of Pui Pui Molcar are simple: it's funny, lighthearted and extremely cute. The stop-motion animation is excellent, expressively telling stories without the need for dialogue. Though it's pure entertainment first and foremost, some critics have posited that the show might have a positive impact on children with "subtle lessons on social responsibility." For adults who want to overthink the logistics of the show's universe, there's plenty of meat to chew on too, though the worldbuilding is actually more logical than that of Pixar's Cars movies (for one thing, we actually get the story for how molcars evolved).
Following Pui Pui Molcar's success, expect to see a lot more stop-motion anime from director Tomoki Misato in the future -- he recently established a new production house with Wit Studio. Netflix has packaged the 12 Molcar shorts into combined collections of four "episodes," each running eight minutes in length. If you have 32 minutes to spare and need a pick-me-up, Pui Pui Molcar's sheer cuteness is certain to delight anyone.
Pui Pui Molcar is streaming on Netflix.