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Anime Reviews: Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt
I consider myself an open-minded individual.
In the many years I’ve been into anime, I’ve seen a lot of crazy things. Basilisk. FLCL. The last episode of Excel Saga. End of Evangelion. Best Student Council. I’ve gotten used to fan service-y hot springs episodes, mind-bending giant robot battles and gaping sword wounds complete with carbonated blood spray. I’ll watch anything once.
In that time, I have seldom, if ever, browsed through the latest products fresh from Japanese airwaves, since I’ve noticed a lot of them cater to the uber-moe crowd. I swear, it’s like for every new series I hear of which looks remotely interesting, there are like nine or ten titles that look too cutesy for my liking. The parade of high school girls who look like they just left elementary school dressed in the usual sailor outfits who are all tsunderes or yanderes or meganekkos...I don’t mind the odd cute character in Japanese animation, but a lot of them tend to overdo it. I didn’t even like Kanon, for crying out loud. Apart from the “uguu” girl and that other one with the sword, that show left a strange taste in my mouth.
But when Gainax announced a new TV series for the autumn of 2010 that went by a name as eyebrow-raising as Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt...well, it just seemed so out there that I had to take a look at it.
Of all the new shows to make me want to join Crunchyroll, didn’t it just have to be one of Gainax’s patented mindscrews.
Daten City is a town on the edge of heaven and hell, and it has a bit of a ghost problem. As in, it’s being menaced by restless spirits born from the ills of humanity who have taken the form of giant monsters and are terrorizing the populace.
Luckily, there is help...if you can call it that.
Anarchy Panty—a promiscuous blonde with the brain of an oversexed celebrity. Anarchy Stocking—a goth loli with a monster sweet tooth and a bad attitude. Two angels under the tutelage of Father Garterbelt of the local church, who have come to Earth to protect the people of this city. Two angels who can turn the underclothes of their namesakes into the weapons with which they send these spirits to rest. Two angels who wouldn’t otherwise be bothered if they weren’t kicked out of heaven for bad behavior and didn’t need the Heaven Coins the ghosts left behind to get back in.
The show starts off with a basic monster-of-the-week format (make that two monsters of the week—the series and animation style is heavily influenced by American cartoons, which means each episode consists of two eleven-minute stories) where Panty and Stocking exterminate a different ghost in each episode (or “half-episode”). There is a particular amount of gross-out humor early on, including one episode where the ghosts of discarded sperm invade a tissue factory, but most of it gets no further than episode five, so at least Gainax gets it out of their system early. Midway through the series we get something resembling a plot with the introduction of two new recurring villains: a pair of demonic doppelgangers named Scanty and Kneesocks. And rounding out the cast is Brief, a geeky high school student with an interest in the occult as well as a crush on Panty, and their oft-abused canine-ish sidekick Chuck.
The first thing you notice about this show that it doesn’t look like a typical Japanese cartoon on the surface. The art and character design are very uniquely stylized and simplified, looking not unlike something you could see on Cartoon Network ten years ago. It’s no wonder that FUNimation has been lobbying to put this show on Adult Swim for its relaunch of Toonami—it feels like watching a Powerpuff Girls episode if all the animators had a great big booze-up just before putting pencil to paper. You’d need above average animation to pull off action scenes of this magnitude, and Gainax surely delivers on that front. Particular highlights include the battles in both episode six and the final confrontation in episode thirteen, and for added comic effect every battle scene comes with a live-action model or two exploding. And the less spoiled about the final scene, the better.
Have I mentioned that this is from the director of Gurren Lagann and Dead Leaves?
And that he was drunk when he came up with it?
To watch Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt takes an open mind and at times a strong stomach, as it doesn’t bait censors so much as send them wedding invitations. But whether you’re more or less puritan than I am, you have to appreciate the method to its madness. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t peruse the new titles very often because some of them overdose on the moe factor. Sadly recent economic crises have forced many Japanese studios to churn out nothing BUT these uber-moe shows just to stay financially afloat. I’m glad that SOMEBODY in the industry is seeing the warning signs and is willing to take a risk with something different instead of ideas that are better left for a dating sim. We could use more shows like PSG that dare to try something original, that rekindle our interests in imported animation and show everyone what it’s truly capable of.
Just...cut back on the poop, vomit and seminal fluid gags.
Unique art design and animation style; homages and references galore; action scenes are very well-staged
Not for the feint-hearted; early gross-out humor may turn first-time viewers off