Saturday, 25 December 2010

Anime Review - Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt

Meet Panty and her.... panties.
Breaking my usual rule of “I will not watch currently airing anime”, the mixed reactions and screenshots from Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt caused enough furore to give me reason to at least give it a shot. Even after watching 13 episodes, I’m still not sure myself if I enjoyed it or merely tolerated a very off-the-wall show.

Even a cute girl on the toilet is not taboo for this title.

Based around the exploits of two fallen angels who have been tasked with dispatching the evil ghosts that inhabit Daten city, Panty/Stocking is a melee of parody, perversion and the pretty bizarre. Now, was this a more traditional kind of Japanese animation, it would be extremely predictable. Luckily, there is nothing remotely standard about this show and the gags flow fast and freely. Panty, rather than spending her time dispatching of evil, is too busy sexing guys in a private mission to conquer one-thousand bed partners. On the other hand, Stocking is an introverted emo who is obsessed with sweet treats – not the behaviour of a typical cherub. But somehow it works; the antics of the girls become more amusing as the series progresses, and the short episodic nature keeps each ten minute story feeling fresh.

Yup, it's not a comical typo.

However, this show is definitely not for the more reserved viewer. For example, one episode sees the Normandy landings from World War II re-enacted by sperm that are fighting against the fearsome tissue. Twin this with jokes of bondage, anal penetration, nose picking, giant shit monsters and you soon realise why Funimation will NOT be picking up this title. That said, the dark humour that pays homage to many, many American movie productions is what kept me coming back for more. Well, that and the unique hilarity of Panty removing her delicates to transform them into a demon slaying gun.

Sure, it’s not big and it’s not clever, but Gainax have certainly produced something unique that will appeal to a certain niche of the western world. Look past the Powerpuff Girl exterior, and enjoy the unbridled humour that resides within, because I don’t think there will be another show that dares to break the boundaries quite as wildly as Panty/Stocking. I can only hope the teasing promise of a second season comes to fruition, as the final two episodes built up a fantastic climax that needs coaxing to a glorious release.

Yes, it's Blossom, Bubbles and GIR!
For me, the strongest draw of Panty/Stocking is the crazy looking animation. Looking as if they are primarily borrowed from Invader Zim, the characters have a bold outline which is filled with many a zany colour - even the little dog Chuck is reminiscent of a deformed GIR. Later episodes see a reverent salute to Ren and Stimpy, whilst cult anime characters also find themselves subtly drawn into the mix. The ostentatious use of western styled visuals are grounded when the transformation of Panty and Stocking occurs in a more eastern style; their once angular and quirky brattish faces flesh out into stunningly beautiful women, and maybe this is a backhanded snub by the Japanese towards the “lesser” American styles. Either way, the show has fun with the subject matter and is definitely a unique addition from the land of the rising sun.

And when she was good, she was very, very good...
Grinding my teeth every time the opening track played, the simplistically annoying lyrics somehow worm their way into your brain and will strike at the most inopportune moments. Sitting in an important business meeting, and rather than crunching facts and figures, my grey matter is instead broadcasting “Panty, Stocking, Panty, Panty, Stocking”. Luckily, although still not a good tune, the closing melody does not stimulate the same repetitive effects. Instead, a bizarrely chosen ballad serenades you as chibi characters dance across the screen.  However, the most surprising element of the soundtrack is the incidental music; fitting perfectly with the widely varied themes featured throughout the show, I often found myself turning up the volume to enjoy the electro-beat pumping in the background.

....And when she was bad, she was still damned hot.
I don’t like Panty: she’s too obnoxious and uncouth. I don’t like Stocking: she’s a temperamental emo who irritates me for some reason. And yet, I strangely find myself drawn to the pair‘s interesting dynamic that sees them constant bickering and in trouble. Maybe I needed an elder sister to fully understand the reasons why Panty feels the need to broadcast her sexual conquests to her brunette sibling. Or perhaps a younger brat in the family would have helped me to appreciate Stockings’ self-absorbed behaviour. Either way, I may not have empathised with the girls, but I can’t deny that their personalities coupled with their antics are certainly hilarious.

Transformers parody + sex toy joke = win
Also worthy of a title role, Garterbelt is “the main man” and a priest with a ‘fro. Trying to keep the fallen angels in check, the man of the cloth seems to have numerous issues of his own that see him trying to seduce the geeky Briefs. Well, his flavour of seduction usually involves a toilet and Vaseline, but each to their own. Frequently playing the dark-half to the flamboyant sisters are a straight-edge pair of demons, creatively named Scanty and Kneesocks. The competition between the four girls drives the plot in some of the best episodes in the series because of both their comical similarities and superficial differences.

Fighting for truth, justice and sexy lingerie!
As I said above, the jury is still out on Panty/Stocking, even if I did have a lot of fun watching it. I don’t think the 13 episodes would be easy to marathon, but the weekly giggle interspersed with my usual anime routine let me enjoy a break from the dramatically bleak and painfully moe. Perhaps this is a two fingered salute to those westerners who wish they were Japanese, but boy is this an entertaining attempt at trolling that could well be the title of 2010.

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