Warning: this review will contain foul language. I’ve avoided such a vice in my reviews so far, but in a review of this show, I just don’t see the point in censoring myself. Then again, if you can’t handle a few specific four letter words, then this review is also pointless, as those same words are used ad nauseam in the series.
Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt… A title I’m going to shorten from this point on… Is a show about two angels who’ve been expelled from heaven, and must destroy ghosts in order to be accepted back through the pearly gates. They follow the lead of a mysterious black priest named Garterbelt, who shelters them, manages them, and aids them in finding their targets. However, now that they’re living new lives as mortals, what will be more important to them… Their quest to return to their old home, or the vices and sinful pleasures of their new home?Our central character is Panty Anarchy, the older of the two sisters. She’s obsessed with sex, and has become addicted to the feeling of human intercourse. Her weapon, appropriately, is a pair of panties that can turn into an angelic gun. Her little sister is Stocking Anarchy, a gothic lolita girl who has become obsessed with sugary sweets, which she consumes almost as voraciously as Panty consumes men. They’re both greedy, selfish, arrogant, and basically the exact opposite of how you’d expect an angel to act.
They have a dog named Chuck, who is constantly abused, thereby justifying his existence. They also obtain a sidekick named Brief, an introverted virgin boy who acts as the group’s moral center, to absolutely no avail. Their manager, Garterbelt, is a priest, and… Do I really need to explain him any further than that?
Their archenemies, Scanty and Kneesock, are a pair of demonic sisters, who oddly act like the exact opposite of our heroes… Stuck up, reserved, dignified, but just as selfish and arrogant.
So, hearing this plot description, you’re probably thinking that a bunch of bored, overworked middle-aged men must have come up with this scenario via committee while drunk off their asses. And if you’re thinking that, well… Yes. That’s exactly what this is, and that’s exactly what happened.
The Gainax team took a well deserved vacation after they wrapped their work on Gurren Lagann, during which they all came up with this gem while drinking together. The plot, the characters, and almost every other detail was cooked up by people too wasted to cook, and yes, that includes the art style and tone.
Like all alcohol fuelled get-togethers, the conversation inevitably diverted towards dirty jokes and adult humor, which they of course decided would be the focus of the show. They committed themselves to it, and if nothing else, you have to admire their tenacity. Panty and Stocking is vulgar all the way through, containing more fucks and shits than any televised show could be expected to have. They used these words in English to get them past the Japanese censors, but even without the foul language, there are entire episodes devoted to sex, bodily fluids, and often both.
As for those of you who’ve gotten this far into the review while thinking the material may be tastefully done, think again… Taste, as it turns out, is the one word that seems to have been banned from the script. Unless of course Panty’s complaining that her food would taste better with some jizz on it.
There’s an episode where they fight a shit ghost… One where they fight a puke ghost… There’s a nose picking ghost who they have to fight with their nosebleeds… And yet the only episode that ever offended me was the one where they have to fight a platoon of sperm ghosts who died storming the beaches of vaginal Normandy. Don’t blame me for being offended, though… I have a Grandpa who fought in that war.
The problem with this approach isn’t the fact that it’s offensive… It’s that it isn’t funny. The humor relies entirely on shocking you, but it doesn’t take long for that shock to wear off, and the content on screen to become… Well, dull, if you can believe it. And the actual writing is bare bones and lazy at best. Seriously, here’s the basic formula: Panty and Stocking act lazy, Garterbelt tells them about a mission, the girls cram their one-note-joke personalities down your throats until they start to run on fumes, end with a victory that rarely ever feels like an adequate pay-off. That shock value is really the only thing it has to try and keep you engaged with.
Well, almost. There’s also the art style, which is based primarily on the work of Genndy Tartakovsky. Like Powerpuff Girls and Samurai Jack, this style includes thick outlines, bright colors, consistent angles, and character designs that could almost trick you into thinking it was flash animated. And that’s not the only western property that Panty and Stocking touches on… The references to western culture are constant and merciless, with America as it’s favorite plaything. There are entire episodes playing around with Romero movies, Michael Bay’s Transformers reboot, and even a late nod towards X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Episode titles will be puns on American movies, even when the episode itself has nothing to do with said movie.
For an anime that tries it’s damnedest to inspire cries of ‘What the Fuck,’ the only WTF question it really deserves to be asked is ‘Why the Fuck?” It isn’t so much ‘What the Fuck are they doing, it’s ‘Why the Fuck are They Doing It?’ As well as, ‘What the Fuck Were They Trying to Accomplish?’ And the answer, I believe, comes back to Excel Saga.
I’d like to believe one of those Gainax executives was an Excel Saga fan. Because this show reeks of Excel Saga.
Seriously, take a look at the similarities. You have two eccentric heroines, a blonde-haired extrovert and a blue-haired introvert with larger breasts and health issues (Excel and Hyatt) who work for a mysterious individual who’s constantly assigning them bizarre missions (Il Palazzo), and they have an abnormal dog who’s always in constant danger (Menchi, although he looks like Gir), and they eventually take on a third member who has trouble fitting in with them as they consistently get abused… And come from a surprisingly affluent background… (El Gala, for those of you who read the manga). And they have to battle an opposing syndicate lead by a corrupt politician(OH FUCKING COME ON!). The difference is that instead of being well-meaning girls who are out to conquer the city, we have self-serving girls who are out to save the city.
However, this blatantly obvious… Um, we’ll just call it an influence… Isn’t always a bad thing. I may criticize it for probably stealing it’s basic plot structure from Excel Saga, but if there’s one thing I can give it credit for, it’s for successfully stealing it’s bold, experimental tone as well. Excel Saga was a blank slate anime that used every episode to do something entirely different, depending on the whims of it’s creators. It would drive it’s unique characters through absurd situations on some days, and lampoon the crap out of other series/genres on the other days. Panty and Stocking is the only anime I can think of that was able to steal this tone, and make it their own.
As I’ve mentioned before, I have no ear for Anime music. But I loved this anime’s music. There’s a lot of electronic music in this title, and while I don’t know enough about electronic music to describe it very well… like at all… I can say that I found it very enjoyable. Even the autotuned tracks… And there are many… Are ridiculously catchy. But the highlight, for me, was the ending theme, an entirely english song called Fallen Angel. I’ll let the song speak for itself, but I honestly can’t see any other song working as well when placed in the background of an ending video that features chibi bobbleheads in a number of perilous situations. The result is just… Adorkable. A word I don’t even like.
And then, we have the English dub. Good lord, do we have the English dub.
The English dub takes the vulgarity of the series, as well as the pop culture references, and cranks them up to eleven. And after hearing how much Jamie Marchi enjoys reading her extra-perverse lines, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that she’s the one who wrote the damn thing. Mostly.
As much as I love Jamie Marchi as an actor… For the record, I think the majority of her performances are fun and full of life… I’ve never liked her as a script writer. I think she’s one of those rare writers whose quality declines if she’s given too much freedom with it. I already talked about her in my Yamada’s First Time review, calling her one of the try-hardiest writers in the anime genre. With the amount of dirty jokes and movie quotes she managed to jam into this dub, I can imagine her primary writing tool being not a pen, but a crowbar. Although the Engrish swearing in the sub was pretty damn funny, I only laughed about a dozen times while watching the dub… Which consists of thirteen episodes.
The casting is perfect, the actors do their best, but in the end, no amount of sincerity can make this dialogue sound like anything other than suppressed writers laughing at their own jokes. You simply can’t save writing that’s this bad.
All vulgarity and no wit makes Panty and Stocking a dull boy.
Oh, while we’re on the subject of the dub, this one kills me as a voice-chaser, as it’s a prime example of Cherami Leigh mimicking Luci Christian’s voice.
While I fail to appreciate this anime as a comedy, I actually really respect it from an artistic perspective, and I’m not just talking about the addictive art and animation style. By following Excel Saga’s experimental example, Panty and Stocking makes room for some surprisingly bold artistic decisions. The art style becomes hyper-realistic during the puke episode, a brief change that will leave many first time viewers wondering if they’ve wandered into a different show. There’s an entire episode done in one continuous shot, save for some time skips. And my favorite episode of all is Chuck to the Future, an episode where the dog Chuck goes through what can only be called a David Lynch movie, told through barely any dialogue, as he battles his arch-nemesis Fastener. And since they had time left over after this segment, the writers just said “Fuck it,” and did a music video that parodies a huge chunk of the western popular music scene.
But that loose style also carries a huge drawback. The thing I hate the most about this show is that it knows how plotless and irrelevant it is, and by coating itself in a thick shell of non-existent fucks, it safeguards itself from criticism. You can’t ask why the writing is so bad, because it’s Panty and Stocking. You can’t ask why there’s so much about it that doesn’t make any sense, because it’s Panty and Stocking. You can’t bring up any arguments about consistency, logic, continuity, or character development because it’s fucking Panty and Stocking!
One of the creators has cited Drawn Together(and other adult cartoons) as a primary inspiration for the vulgarity and overall tone this show, but considering how little fucks it gives about it’s own presentation and structure, I’d be a little quicker to finger Tom Green as it’s spiritual predecessor. It doesn’t try to give us anything more than whatever the fuck it wants to give us, and in doing so, it can’t possibly fail. And in a weird way, as much I hate this, I can actually kind of respect it.
Oh, and there’s also an eight minute OVA called Sanitarybox, but it’s entirely pointless, and if you don’t want to think about discarded foreskins every time you eat a Funion, don’t even bother with it.
Overall, Panty and Stocking will be different things to different people. Some of us will find it hilarious, some of us will find it an intriguing art piece, and some of us will just roll our eyes and be alienated the entire time. As far as I’m concerned, these are all valid reactions to one of the most original anime shows to come out in the last decade. It looks great, despite it’s best efforts, and it sounds great, also despite it’s best efforts, and even if you can’t call it enjoyable, if nothing else, you can at least call it unforgettable.
I give Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt a 6/10.