It’s the weekend of New York Comic Con, and I’m at the bar with some friends after having my mind blown away by the Haruhi movie. Our conversation shifts between the topics of Japan, women, Pizzicato Five, and eventually–of course–towards anime. More specifically, we begin talking about the then fresh-off-the-presses Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt. As the conversation progresses, one of my friends asserts that the show is actually not that funny, and in fact quite poorly written. While I realize this person’s idea of funny is quite different from mine, I also noticed that I don’t actually laugh that often while watching Panty & Stocking. Anime can do funnies for me real easy–just have some dumb Doraemon reference pass through your protagonist’s lips, a pan drop on your vampire’s head, or have your drama queen teacher scream out in despair. But no, near as I can tell Panty and Stocking doesn’t even go out of its way to make jokes all that often. That said, it’s quite entertaining. Panty and Stocking isn’t a comedy–it’s just a good time. But instead of dancing to catchy Pizzicato Five tunes, Panty and Stocking are getting down to some hot electronic beats.
I don’t really want to use the phrase “shock value”, but that is more or less this show’s modus operandi. With each 15-minute episode, it tries to top its previous hand with something even more outrageous. They may not hit that mark every time, but no matter what, the show is never boring. One of the show’s main hands is simply its profanity, and I’m not just talking about when Panty busts out a “FATHERFUCKER” or a “FUCK YOU, SON OF A BITCH,” I’m talking about just how sexual the show is willing to get. This isn’t to say that anime as a medium is some pure virginal maiden, but in something like To-Love-RU, Rito will accidentally fall into Lala’s breasts, or the girls’ clothes will inadvertently come off. Even in more racy shows like Kanokon, there’s some kind of twisted air of innocence. However, Panty & Stocking asserts its dirty self with attitude.
On the topic of virginal maidens, there aren’t any in this show! Panty’s main gimmick is that she’ll sleep with anything that moves, while otaku-favorite Stocking has dildos lying around her room, and has also slept around with a few different men. In fact, everyone in this TV show is some kind of sexual deviant. Like I mentioned before, Panty’s a slut, Stocking is a masochist who enjoys being tied up and tortured, and black, afro-wearing priest Garterbelt likes little boys. Heck, the one innocent in the show–the audience stand in “geek boy” character, Brief–jerks off to images of Panty on what one assumes is a regular basis. I mean, it’s suggested on screen once, but once is enough, right? Aside from the sexual stuff, there’s a ton of base toilet humor as well. The entire first episode revolves around the sisters fighting a giant poop monster, and characters just up and vomit when something disgusts them. There’s no allusion of innocence or lack of responsibility in Panty & Stocking: It’s just dirty, and it revels in it.
The other hand the show likes to play is flexing its American pop culture muscles. 9 of 10 times, each episode’s title card will be a not-at-all-subtle reference to some well known American property. Episodes have titles such as, “Sex In The Daten City,” “High School Nudical,” and “Pulp Addiction.” While the episodes themselves may not be the parodies that their titles suggest, there’s still a strong influence of American pop culture. A lot of the episodes are takes on common American television and film tropes, and characters such as Ren and Stempy and Johnny Bravo will make pretty obvious cameo appearances. One of the best cameos was by an impressive caricature of Tom Cruise, who just happened to be going off like a mad man on a TV show. The few times that the series does make good on the reference in the title card, we get masterpieces of animation like “Transwhoremers.”
Every now and then the show will surprise us with something completely different. Kobayashi Osamu does an episode that is absurdly realistic and ugly, and is otherwise a complete detour from the normal formula aside from one scene. Another episode stretches out to full TV-length, half of which is just one ridiculous fight scene. The most recent surprise was in episode 9′s b-part, where the show managed to pull off a somewhat poignant love story.
What brings this all together into one complete attitudinal package is how the show looks, feels and sounds. If you haven’t already assessed from promotional artwork for the series, everything is drawn in this 1990s Cartoon Network Cartoon Cartoon style. This childish-looking and straightforward visual style is the perfect icing on this sordid cake, and only shoves things in your face even harder. Between these cartoony characters extolling the virtues of sex and cake, the show will sometimes shift into a more realistic, traditional anime style. This is often times for a quick bit of fanservice, but once again, it’s not “oops, I fell into your boobs!” fanservice, it’s Panty and Stocking pole dancing, or stripping for a game of roulette. They’re dirty girls!
The show’s direction is generally very fast and loose, which complements the simplistic visual style well. This style of direction combined with the simple character designs allows for some economic corner cutting here and there, so while animation quality may vary, the pace never really lets up. The entire show is set to a variety of pulsating electronic beats, and all the vocal songs are done in English.
So, what I’m trying to say by simply recapping the show and recounting what other people have probably already said more eloquently, is that this show is fun because it takes a lot of chances, has a lot of energy, and simply doesn’t care about offending people. Is it funny? Sometimes, I guess. But it’s always fun, and never boring. What this show does is completely different from anything that’s come out over the past 10 years, and even if you don’t like it, it’s worth watching an episode or two just to see what it’s all about. And as you can see, it’s about a lot of things.