When there's something strange in your neighborhood, who ya gonna call? No, not the Ghostbusters. Call on Panty & Stocking, the two fallen angels Heaven-sent to clear the surface world of Ghosts – creatures spawned from mortals who met gruesome deaths. At least, that's what they'd like you to think. In reality, they're gun-toting, sword-wielding femmes fatales who lay waste not only to the evil of Daten City, but to all its bachelors and candy treats too. With a healthy dollop of collateral damage and full-frontal nudity, they always manage to save the day. If they can be bothered, that is...
Story This is Daten City: the limbo world on the faultline between Heaven and Hell where angels and demons and Ghosts roam free to terrorise the unsuspecting residents. The only thing standing in the way of complete and utter chaos is the angelic duo, Panty & Stocking, mentored by their very own Messenger of God, the achingly-cool Garterbelt. Evil beware; these three are out to get ya! Except for a few minor hitches. Panty is a nymphomaniac and Stocking is a glutton for anything sugary, to the point where their respective loves often get in the way of their attempts to save the world. Not to mention the fact that their questionable ethical conduct leads them to cause more destruction than they prevent. But let's not worry about that – this is, after all, an epic struggle against the forces of good and the forces of evil. The forces of good just happen to be horrible sinners and seem to get naked at every opportunity to boot, but let's gloss over the details. The story is a simple one: in order to get back into Heaven and leave the surface world, the two angels need to collect Heaven Coins. The only way of getting these is by slaying Ghosts in Final Fantasy fashion (“oh look! That random creature had a pencil sharpener on him despite not possessing opposable thumbs!”). Ghosts come in many wacky forms and are manifestations of the malaise of the people or of a corpse who died bizarrely – the first episode features a Ghost who was formerly a plumber that got stuck round the U-bend... probably unsurprisingly, he turned into a poo monster. Other than that, the story doesn't really progress much further. There are some entertaining snippets that read a little like shorts. This is mostly caused by the fact that each episode is broken down into two separate stories and rides its pink Cadillac dangerously close to the ravine of the “Monster of the Week” premise. It skirts away smartly in the last couple of episodes to reveal that there is one major evil in the city who wants to open the Hellsgate (note the spelling: though, the reference to Buffy the Vampire Slayer probably isn't accidental), but it's questionable as to whether this constitutes anything more than the writers going: “Ah! We're almost at the end of the series – we should probably tie it all together now.” Everything else that goes into the mix, while largely entertaining, is hardly original. This is Powerpuff Girls on acid, minus the fantastic villains. Even the comedy, its biggest selling-point, tries too hard to be funny and boils down to banal toilet humour anyway. And sometimes there's only one place for that: down the plughole! Animation It's probably no secret by now that I'm a fan of the unconventional animation style and while not being quite on the same plateau as series like Kaiba and Cat Soup, it certainly adds something a little different to the anime field. The aforementioned Powerpuff Girls is a prime example of Western influences that permeate the series, but there's also a hint of the tried-and-trusted Gainax lunacy witnessed in FLCL. The classic magical girl transformation also undergoes an animation surgical procedure and it turns out to be the most memorable set piece of the whole series. Character designs are a mixed bag in that, the main characters Panty & Stocking are instantly recognisable despite the various animation style changes they undergo, but beyond that, others are pretty much just pulled from other places. Chuck, the zip-up dog-like creature, is a carbon copy of GIR from Invader Zim and Garterbelt is a healthy mix between Bosley from Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, Afro Samurai and Jim “The Dragon” Kelly. Sound As with the animation, the line between conventional and quirky is smudged and trampled all over with some very energetic backing music to the crazy chase scenes as well as the voice-altered but incredibly catchy Fly Away that accompanies all magic girl transformations. The opening relies heavily on electronica and it seems to be a pretty good choice, fitting the party-loving nature of the two angels. The voice acting itself is well-judged, from Garterbelt's booming voice to the quick banter between Panty & Stocking, which sometimes seems almost too quick and cutting to be believable, but definitely adds to the humour factor. Briefs was a little annoying with his constant whines of “P-Panty” but these were offset well by the putdowns Panty would throw at him. Another fantastic directorial choice is the amount of Engrish thrown in. Usually, Engrish in anime is a major no-no and can lead to general mocking by a non-Japanese audience, but the sheer amount of Engrish swearwords ultimately says more to an international audience than repeated “baka's”, etc. It also fits in well with the animation style which is on edge as much as the next scream of “f*ckin' b*tch.” Characters Despite a valiant effort to create stand-out individuals, Panty & Stocking's characters are generic and heavily categorised by their single bad habit. Panty's lust for sex, Stocking's sweet tooth, Briefs' absurd love for Panty – they never amount to anything other than being vehicles for the jokes and dialogue. After a while, these repeated flaws tend to become a little tired and it's only the odd short, such as when Stocking falls for a misogynistic Ghost, that actually kick us out of the monotony. The exception to the rule is Garterbelt who seems to have free rein on the character-building. Not only is he a priest on an eternal mission to make up for his hedonistic past, but he also enjoys cooking, bondage and the company of young boys. Considering the amount of airtime he gets, that's pretty good going, and his likeness in style to Samuel L. Jackson is probably no accident either. The Ghosts themselves get very little time to develop and follow the pattern of being a weekly event rather than a constant threat. The only exceptions are the demon sisters, Miss Scanty and Miss Kneesocks, who appear several times throughout the series but are only really defined by their hatred of the angels. Even though they're introduced as strict people who follow rules and regulations over everything else, their love for order turns to a lust for chaos all a little too quickly for my liking. Even the big bad, Corset, is pretty lame and when your big bad is lame, you don't really have a series (see: Buffy Season 4 onwards). Overall Director Hiroyuki Imaishi has set out his stall pretty clearly with his zany antics with animation and music as well as the madcap meanderings of the plot. And in a way, he's semi-successful in what he's attempting – there is certainly an Americanised feel to the series and it does manage to draw out a few laughs even if it's not the belly roar that it thinks it is. The issue is that it never really amounts to anything more than just a bit of a laugh. The toilet humour falls a little flat after the thousandth poo joke and there's very little in the way of satire – attempted only once with Garterbelt's implied paedophilia. It has none of the sharp social commentary of South Park, which often smashes taboos in the same way but uses it to satirise the modern world (the debate over euthanising Kenny; the Mothers Against Canada movement). If you want crazy with a little bit of heart to it, check out Futakoi Alternative or FLCL. If you want to expand you cussword dictionary, stick to your American cartoons – it may sound strange, but they do it a whole lot better.
Huge text of random stream of thought follows. Consider yourselves warned you lazy bastards! When I first gazed at the entry picture and read the name, I though it would be just another ecchi comedy with minimal animation and crappy storytelling. When I eventually sat down to watch it out of curiosity I realized I was wrong… But not in the sense that it turned out to be the exact opposite of what I originally thought; it really “IS” an ecchi comedy with minimal animation and crappy storytelling. The thing which makes all the difference is that… it is different.What I mean is that a good show, being comedy or action, is supposed to surprise or excite the viewer. If you can tell what the joke will be or how the battle will end minutes before they actually occur, then you have yourself a mediocre series. The jokes and the outcomes are not supposed to be predictable if you are to be highly entertained and this is what makes this show a class above the average tale out there. It is unpredictable! Really, you just don’t know what will happen next, or even if it will be funny or tragic.What I’m trying to say is that this show does not follow a formula, as most shows do. You know what I mean, you see the pilot episode of an average shounen adventure and you can pretty much foresee how it will play out in the next 500 episodes or even how it will end (and don’t tell me this is not the case with Naruto or One Piece ). The premise is clear, the outcome is obvious, you are just hoping to enjoy the in-between. As entertaining as that may be for some time, it ends up being dull after awhile and the thrilling finale may just find you saying “Ok, it ended as I expected; where is my pop-corn?” That effectively kills half the enjoyment you would otherwise get if you weren’t aware of how the story will unravel. So this is why I liked this show; I couldn’t tell the outcome or predict the jokes. And if you add to this fact how the industry these days plays it safe and rarely tries to take risks, then you end up liking it more. Where others go for safe formulas by chewing the same established stereotypes and successful tropes, P&S pretty much said “Screw it, let’s just have fun.” And this is what most series of today lack you know; the feeling that you watch something its creators made with love and not with anxiety if it sells or if it ain’t goddamn moe enough to draw in the mindless consumers. Before I move on, I must make clear that I don’t consider this show to be original or groundbreaking. It also is heavy on sexy/moe stereotypes aiming to draw in the masses, but it is also not DAMN afraid to be as extreme as it wants to be. Here is a basic example from the show: Do you know all those endless carbon-copied harem and ecchi comedies where the same shit happen in all of them, in almost the exact way, around the exact same people? Isn’t it frustrating that they always “hold-back” on the juicy parts? I mean, some dork gets to score with chicks and the chicks may want it too but something really lame always happens every time to stop it. Why? Because that is the limit. It can’t go beyond that and just offer what it is supposed to be about: SEX! The most distinctive example in recent memory would be the anime B Gata H Kei (which I reviewed as well in case you want to torture yourselves with further reading). Its selling point was to show a girl having sex in a thousand depraved ways with a thousand random dudes. Yet all it was showing were lame sex jokes and the girl chickening out or random people stopping them just because the show wasn’t willing to go beyond a certain point. So P&S comes along and WHAM performs a Limit-break on this junk. The main heroine is not afraid to have sex with random people she just met. Sounds too simple and may not even be surprising to see such a character in real life. But in a non-hentai anime??? INCONCEIVABLE!!! It was so simple yet it was never shown (implied at best), not even in the boldest erotic shows. Because they were all chickening-out! But not THIS show. It is not afraid to show ridiculous amounts of shit, puke, semen, nudity, splattered guts, profanity and anything else all other comedies just fool around with sparks of it. It is NOT original but then again NOBODY had the guts to show it in such a degree before. What is even funnier is that everything is shown with such minimalistic animation that manages to not be gross to the point of hating it; you might as well just find it disgustingly humorous. And speaking of the animation, it is another thing to take notice of; it again makes the show look special. In an earlier review I wrote how the American version of the Powerpuff Girls looked a lot more special than its run-of-the-mill appearance of the Japanese version (reviewed that as well; go for it you bookworms). This is a similar case with P&S, where the minimalistic western look of animation makes a huge contrast amongst other anime and thus it becomes memorable. Not only that, but the characters seem to move and act a lot more lively despite being a lot easier to draw them and animate them than an average looking anime character. Which is again a major thing most modern anime have forgotten. You don’t need to look slick and complicating in order to be likable; you just need to have the vibe and the emotion present. Many famous retro series of the 80’s have that which makes them more interesting than most other high budget cartoons of the same era. Most modern anime try too much to play it safe and end up copying one another to the point you don’t care anymore about any of them. But P&S with its vivid motions, explicit context and special animations just stands out like a singing nun in a goth brothel. It wouldn’t be that much interesting if it was JUST the animation that stands out. The soundtrack is actually equally good on its own, full of beaty songs which are great enough to buy the CD. Really, for someone like me who doesn’t even fancy such a type of music, I ended up listening to them again and again because of the vividness of the show in general. Fly away, Chocolat, Anarchy, Fallen Angel; I find them all addictively likable and (unlike most anime OSTs) extremely memorable. Now as far as the characters and the story go, I must again make clear that they are NOT original or special. The cast is quite stereotypical and the story hardly exists or matters. But again, both are so unpredictable and extreme that they end up being memorable or even likable if you like this sort of humor. Heck, each story lasts around 15 minutes so you don’t even have the time to be bored. I sure prefer this form to that of silly shows like Gintama, where they literally tell you when it is ok to laugh by making a reference to another show and YELLING THEY JUST MADE A REFERENCE!!! I must also point out that it’s not as if the show is without any direction at all. Although the jokes and the stories appear to be random, down to it they all have to do with moral liberty from social norms. And yes, it may seem like I am overanalyzing something heavy around an otherwise silly ecchi comedy but it is true. All the themes revolve around guilt, lust, punishment, retribution, and catharsis, things religion and moral laws strive to uphold. It is all played for laughs but it is nice to see how the show itself is making fun of limits and constraints by having the exact elements as its mockery target… And if I am to overanalyze it even further, I say GAINAX, the production company of the show, is famous for doing this shit. Heck, it revolutionized the anime industry back in 1995 by making Neon Genesis, a show which again played around stereotypes in a way to ridicule and reconstruct the mecha genre and even indirectly criticize escapism. For the third time I make it clear that P&S is no Neon Genesis and it doesn’t revolutionize anything. It just came out to remind the industry NOT TO CHICKEN OUT as it has been doing for the past 5 years. Hopefully the upcoming Youth Ordinance Bill will put a stop to the overdone moe and ecchi shows and finally force the companies to turn to something else, preferably artistic and stylized just like P&S. They will of course not be allowed to air on tv such ridiculous amounts of … EVERYTHING but it is still a nice example of a show which at the end of an era reminds us all NOT TO SETTLE FOR MEDIOCRITY when we can always strive for something different. The sky is the limit… and even that can be pierced by Guren Lagann.
There really isn't much going on story wise other then that the 2 main characters of the show have to collect coins in order to buy there way back into heaven. You basically watch this if you love totally over the top animations, some silly humor and a lot of pop culture references. If you grew up (and liked) watching the Power Puff Girls, Cow & Chicken, Johnny Bravo, 2 Stupid Dogs and Secret Squirrel but would like to see it with a bit more of an adult theme to it then this is a show for you. The animation style in general is pretty solid but there a few moments where the quality shifts into a much higher quality and I really wished we saw a bit more of it. The first time Panty and Stocking battle Kneesocks and Scanty you get treated to some insane gorgeous and high quality animations. All the swearing and raunchy jokes are a great fit for the animation style and the music just tops it all off perfectly.
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