Gainax meets Powerpuff Girls/Dead Leaves/Adult Swim? Or something else altogether?
Many others have already made the comparisons between Gainax/Hiroyuki Imaishi’s latest work, Panty and Stocking With Garterbelt and other shows, so I won’t rehash them here, especially since I have not watched either Powerpuff Girls or Dead Leaves. Instead, I’d like to focus on what this show seems to suggest or the position it occupies in the anime world at this time.
One thing is undeniable: since the rise of Imaishi and the Gurren Lagann generation of Gainax, there has been a new vitality coming from the studio. The frentic, kaleidoscopic animation style first seen in FLCL and in bits of Diebuster and the Cutie Honey OVA became a full-blown aesthetic with Gurren Lagann. Panty and Stocking continues along this line, though less like Lagann and more like Cutie Honey, and it’s filled with an extreme visual panache that is unmistakably Imaishi’s. It’s what kept this viewer watching even when the “plots,” such as they were, seemed downright gross or stupid. This is an anime that really hypes up the fact that this is animated, a cartoon. Its humor, scatalogical and sexual, would not entirely feel out of place in Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. But the visual style is Imaishi’s own.
What’s interesting is that very fact—that Panty and Stocking occupies a different place in the animation spectrum in anime than it would alongside a Robot Chicken, Venture Bros, or even a South Park. It is so different from other anime right now that it feels fresh, even though this type of show and its humor is not as unusual for American animation fans. Though it uses some anime fan service tropes, from the title on down, it feels very un-anime in its pacing, character designs, and gag dialogue. The sound effects are verbally written out in English, like in the old Batman TV show. The much more traditional-looking transformation sequence thus sticks out amidst the perpetual super-deformed, boldly-colored characters and backgrounds. It is not a show that is going to succeed on moe charms, or pretty artwork, or nuanced writing and acting. It is trying to be daring, funny, and frantic, qualities that are not often seen in this insular period of anime history.
On those grounds alone Panty and Stocking deserves a chance. Even if the very first plotline made me wince: I’m not a fan of toilet humor. Or that the second plot, which was visually exciting and featured a well-directed chase scene, was basically one long joke about climaxes. It’s basically very exciting fluff, and that’s fine for what it is—I am not looking for this to become “serious” or “dramatic” later on. The best thing that it could be is to be consistently funny and inventive visually. That’s not easy, of course. But all I know is that I laughed when I watched it, and my eyes were dazzled by the colorful riot of kinetic energy on screen.
It was, in short, entertaining and unique. I want to see more.
This show is available streaming on Crunchyroll simulcast.