Thu 30 Dec 2010
(out of 4)
Review: Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt
As you watch anime for a while, you begin to notice a distinction that some specific anime feature. That distinction is spirit, and it gives a show its personality. It’s the difference between great anime and the rest. That spirit is proudly on display in Panty & Stocking, a show that is beautifully original, fearless, and witty. Plus, a show has to have a little bit of swagger when it announces a second season right after the last episode.
Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt is the most recent project from Gainax director Imashi Hiroyuki, known for his previous anime Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Panty & Stocking is a show unlike any of Gainax’s other projects, in fact it’s unlike anyone’s other projects. Panty (cv. Ogasawara Arisa) and Stocking (cv. Ise Mariya) are two “angels” that are charged to fight ghosts so they can earn coins and return to Heaven. Panty’s weapon of choice is her panties, which magically turns into a handgun called “Backlace”, while Stocking’s stocking turns into a katana called “Striped”. If you couldn’t guess by now, the show is literally filled to the brim with sexual innuendos and crass jokes. When the first episode featured a giant poop monster that covers the town in feces and makes everyone vomit, I knew I was in for a rather unique anime experience. Panty & Stocking seemingly challenges itself to be more over the top than you could imagine. Counter-intuitively, despite the myriad indecent vulgarities the show steers away from arousal or eroticism, forgoing the moe aesthetic. Panty & Stocking makes no attempt to win viewers over with moe or cuteness, focusing instead on its content. This anime, folks, is serious business.
The most distinguishing and obvious feature of Panty & Stocking is the art style. Panty & Stocking looks like a 90′s American cartoon and very much feels like it, too. I loved watching cartoons when I was a kid in the 90′s, so the nostalgia factor must also have gotten to me as well. The bold, colorful style and exaggerated visuals take me right back to Cartoon Cartoon Friday. I would describe Panty & Stocking as The Powerpuff Girls with the grit of Ren and Stimpy and Courage the Cowardly Dog. All of this is infused with Imashi Hiroyuki’s in-your-face, intense, fast paced animation style to create a unique pacing to the show.
Each episode of Panty & Stocking is usually split up into two smaller stories, not unlike many American cartoons. While the structure of a few episodes tends to go along the line of “heroines go about their normal lives, something happens, it’s revealed that a monster is causing it, kill monster, celebrate” they still manage to be refreshingly unique. In one episode, Stocking’s love of sweets gets to her, as she starts to gain weight, quickly ballooning into a giant obese blimp the size of a house. Turns out a monster was lacing cakes and sweets with an agent that makes women fat. The visual gag of cute little Stocking becoming a giant tub entertained me greatly. Additionally, this show loves to have fun with itself — parodies range from Transformers to 12 Angry Men.
Even though Panty and Stocking are very unconventional roles, Ise Mariya and Ogasawara Arisa are at their best. Our heroines’ voices sound spunky and full of energy, cusses and sexual epithets alike come out with exceptional enthusiasm. Overall, Panty & Stocking is extremely well voice acted. The music adds immense flavor to the show, heavily featuring electrosynth and house beats and some hip hop infusion.
Now it’s not perfect — I do have nitpicking to do, that’s my job right? Without giving anything away, I thought the ending in general was weak. Rather, it could have been better. I could feel it developing a few episodes before, but it still feels like the final two episodes just came out of nowhere. Also that ridiculous “plot twist” in the last 2 minutes of the final episode was plain inane. It doesn’t even make sense, but that still means there are 297 minutes of a damn good show. Gainax strikes gold again.