[ Please Note: The initial batch of Panty & Stocking have been found to have a production fault that means some footage is missing. Please see Manga’s website for details on what to do if you already have a copy. AUKN have made the decision to go ahead and review it anyway. We acknowledge the possibility, however unlikely, that something in missing footage would change our opinion either way. We will update the review if necessary.]
When news first broke that fan-favourite Studio Gainax were working on a show called Panty & Stocking, many people may have rolled their eyes, thinking that they were producing a fan-service show. Yet when the first pictures emerged it was clear that this was going to be something entirely different. Few were prepared for the end result, a unique and insane anime that would prove to be one of the most divisive shows in recent memory.
Following a pair of fallen angels named Panty and Stocking who must hunt evil spirits to buy their way back into heaven, on paper at least the plot doesn’t sound earth-shatteringly original. Despite the presence of angels, crosses and other Christian imagery, it is there that comparisons with Gainax’s legendary Evangelion end. In fact it bears little resemblance to other anime at all, if anything it could be said to be a distant cousin to Redline or Dead Leaves. There are elements of the Sailor Moon style magical girl genre here- especially in the frequently repeated transformation sequence- but for the most part P&S takes it’s influences from further west.
Although the idea that there is one ‘anime style’ is a myth that does a great disservice to the variety found in the medium, it’s hard to deny that Panty & Stocking doesn’t look much like anime. With it’s thick lines and short stumpy characters designs, it does look more like a western show in a lot of ways. It seems to be influenced by the likes of the Powerpuff Girls, Samurai Jack and the original Scott Pilgrim comics. Those properties were influenced heavily by Japanese animation and comics, so for them to influence this show sees it going full circle. The animation style changes on a number of occasions (such as in the aforementioned transformation sequences, which use a more traditional anime style) to great effect. There’s even some nicely pulled off model-work that could have stepped out of a Godzilla movie.
It’s not just visuals that show a western influence either. Most of the pop-culture references here could be picked up by your average western geek-culture junkie. If you could get them to look past the dubious name, this is one of those anime that could appeal to non-anime fans too. Were it not for some content that would make censors blow a gasket, it would fit in well with ‘Adult Swim’ type show, or suit fans of the likes of Family Guy. Even down to all the music being in the English language, this is definitely a show that is in love with Western culture.
If you’re a newer anime fan, still enamoured by anything Japanese, and assuming anything from the East is naturally better you may think this is a bad thing. However if you are more accommodating fan, who appreciates animation wherever it may be from, then this is a fascinating hybrid. For others the visual style will be an instant turn-off, but as far as I’m concerned this is a fantastically cool-looking show and a treat for the eyes.
This show will certainly provoke strong reactions. A lot of people will love it or hate it with a burning passion. Luckily, you can get a pretty good handle on which side you fall on by watching trailers and checking out the visuals. But it’s not only the style that will divide people but also the substance.
The show has a very distinctive sense of humour- and it’s rude crude and loud. Several of the episodes actually have plots that actually revolve around various bodily functions and fluids, that I could not even begin to go into here. The Funimation dub puts in an admirable effort, getting into the spirit of the show, and the cast are clearly having a blast. It’s incredibly colourful language, so if you’re easily offended- and if so, congratulations on getting this far- then you’d best stay away. There may be more F-bombs here than in the entire of Manga- Video’s early 90’s catalogue (and that’s saying something). It sometimes gets into offensive-for-the-sake-of-it territory, and at times it can get a bit much, and this is coming from someone who loved Excel Saga.
Ultimately it’s a matter of personal taste whether you find it the funniest thing you’ve ever seen or sit through the whole thing stoney-faced and completely unmoved. There are few things more subjective than humour. Personally, I fall somewhere inbetween and find its more often amusing than actually laught-out-loud funny. Some sequences border on the genius- such as Afro-sporting priest Garter Belt’s romp through the history of the earth- while other moments fall completely flat. Overall though, there’s so much great stuff here that it makes up for what it lacks in gut-busting hilarity. Memorable characters , astonishing visuals and a rather impressive sound-track mean it’s a nice addition to Gainax’s filmography, if not exactly a classic. A fascinating but flawed concoction, it’s genuinely unlike anything else coming out of Japan right now. Definitely worth checking out.. if you’ve got the stomach for it.