Panty & Stocking With Garterbelt
by Polly



WARNING: SOMETHING BELOW



Panty & Stocking... Huh... Well... Where the hell do I even start? I told myself I'd just get drunk and let this one fly out, but even now, five glasses into a full bottle of wine (and thankfully, a spell check two days later) I'm still left with a bit of the same feeling I always had after watching any given episode of this show.

"Well...it certainly was....wooooooooow!"

Not that the show's indescribability is necessarily a bad thing. There are a lot of great shows that have managed to leave folks with that same kind of feeling over the years. Serial Experiments Lain, FLCL, and Alien Nine, just to name a few off the top of my head. All immediately pop to mind when I think of shows that left strange impressions on me the first and even second times I watched them. If anything, we can at least hope our entertainment leaves us feeling something, even if it's sometimes bewildering confusion. Maybe it just left something there for your brain to gnaw on for a while, maybe you were so stunned that you couldn't immediately comprehend its profundity, or maybe it's just a nagging feeling that something's missing and you can't quite put your finger on it. Panty & Stocking left me feeling a variety of emotions after each new installment, and it was those reactions that kept me going through the series' thirteen episode run. Be it good or bad, something had to click, right? Well, it's time to plunge into the depths to find out if a show named after ladies' undergarments can possibly succeed at anything other than piquing curiosity.

The story of Panty & Stocking's conception goes something along the lines that after producing 2007's runaway hit Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, the team went on a bit of a vacation, got drunk, and dreamed up this weird show about titular characters Panty and Stocking. Two bratty and self-absorbed characters who can transform their namesake undergarments into weapons to fight...something. They discussed wanting to employ a variety of animation techniques not typically found in Japanese Cartoons as well as having intent to make the show as vulgar and shocking as possible. They returned, and GAINAX higher-ups were all, "Hey cool, let's do this!" and the rest is history.

Now, I'm not stranger to having "meetings" among friends while inebriated on various intoxicants and discussing things that are clearly the GREATEST IDEAS IN THE WORLD! In fact, I'm sure a lot of great ideas have spawned from such pow-wows. It's just that in this case, a meeting of the minds had worked and the powers that be had spoken, and thus Panty & Stocking With Garterbelt was thrust into production, airing late in 2010. Imagine how nutty the world would be if all our drunken ideas were to get funded like this.

I'd have my own Fartgun for one, lemme tell ya that right now.

The show's loose narrative centers on two fallen angel sisters, Panty and Stocking Anarchy, charged with the duty of taking care of the ills that have overcome the fictional Daten City, a place that exists between Heaven and Hell. In order to earn their way back into Heaven, they must collect enough Heaven Coins, which are conveniently dropped from nearly every bad guy they dispose of. There's no running count or anything, and thankfully this "plot device" is mostly shoved to the background to make room for the title characters' misadventures in stupidity, promiscuousness, and gluttony.

Now, time for the always popular and pointlessly lengthy character analysis portion of the review.

Panty
SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX.


Stocking
SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS SWEETS.


Garterbelt
GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST GAY PRIEST.


Brief
"P P P P Pp pp p p p pp pp p pp pP PP Pp p pp P P P P Pp pp p p p pp pp p pp pP PP Pp p pp P P P P Pp pp p p p pp pp p pp pP PP Pp p pp P P P P Pp pp p p p pp pp p pp pP PP Pp p pp P P P P Pp pp p p p pp pp p pp pP PP Pp p pp P P P P Pp pp p p p pp pp p pp pP PP Pp p pp P P P P Pp pp p p p pp pp p pp pP PP Pp p pp P P P P Pp pp p p p pp pp p pp pP PP Pp p pp P P P P Pp pp p p p pp pp p pp pP PP Pp p pp P P P P Pp pp p p p pp pp p pp pP PP Pp p pp P P P P Pp pp p p p pp pp p pp pP PP Pp p pppP P P P Pp pp p p p pp pp p pp pP PP Pp p pp P P P P Pp pp p p p pp pp p pp pP PP Pp p pp P P P P Pp pp p p p pp pp p pp pP PP Pp p pp P P P P Pp pp p p p pp pp p pp pP PP Pp p pp Panty!"


Chuck
CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK CHUCK INVADER ZIM KNOCKOFF (INVADER ZIM SUCKS BY THE WAY! JUST SAYIN!)


Fucking Christ, if they could all only be that easy. Including the secondary cast, which later includes Panty and Stocking's evil counterparts, Demon Sisters Scanty and Kneesocks, there's no progression, and for a show like this one that's a-okay! They're all here to do their schtick...tiring as it may become (more on that later) and that's it. The characters are wacky and somehow manage to be endearing enough to be memorable and a good bit of fun when utilized properly.

But before I move onto the various intricacies of the series itself and its structure, it's virtually impossible to discuss P&S without first shining a spotlight on its obvious stylish and sometimes outright bizarre visual presentation. At this point I don't even have to point out the blatantly obvious nod to western animation sensibilities and techniques utilized throughout the series' run. The show just barfs it up in your lap from the moment you begin an episode. You'd have to be blind to not notice the similarities between this show's visuals and modern animation work currently seen on western television.

The character designs are slick, colorful, and so angular they might gash into your eyeballs. A breath of fresh air from all the saucer-eyed pudge-faces of moe-dom we get these days. Though they purposefully lack the detail seen in a lot of GAINAX productions, they all stand out, are easily recognizable, and just the still images sport a personality and attitude all their own that might just whoop your ass if you look at them the wrong way. At certain points throughout the show, though not every episode thankfully, the girls enter an elaborate, almost magical girl-esque transformation sequence, complete with pole dancing and shedding of undergarments. During these scenes, the angular look is dropped for a more jarring and realistic depiction of our heroines with beautiful detail, fluid animation, and something a little titilating for those interested in that kinda thing. The sudden shift in styles is done purely tongue in cheek and kept to a fair minimum, keeping it from ever becoming an annoying all-episodes gag, as well as fitting in perfectly with the rest of the show's already diverse range in visual shifts.

Moving on, we also get another dose of that typical GAINAX craziness seen in FLCL and Gurren Lagann. When P&S decides to bust out with scenes like the chase that occurs in the second half of the first episode, or the all out battle happening in episode six's latter portion, do yourself a favor and sit the fuck back and enjoy. This is P&S at its most enjoyable. There's so much depth to these scenes with so much going on at once that you'll be pausing, frame-by-framing, and rewinding just to try and catch some minor detail you may missed a few moments ago. This aspect of the presentation does give the show a bit of rewatchability for sure. You don't even have a heartbeat if you can't enjoy GAINAX churning out this level of Grade A, top of the shelf, blowing the budget sky-high material, and it's a shame that there's not more of it.

Beyond the crazy action, as mentioned, the show employs bold use of animation styles ranging from familiar South Park paper cut-out scenes to Tex Avery-esque sight gags and reaction shots that simply never fail to impress and are almost immediately recognizable to anyone who's been watching any animation since they were a child. This show is so rich in animation, detail, and brilliantly stylized artwork that there's no way to ever be bored just looking at it.

Similarly, the series' soundtrack kicks all kinds of fucking ass and is amazingly in-tune with what the visuals are doing at all times. If the visuals are the biggest ice cream sundae imaginable, with every flavor you could imagine, then the music that accompanies it is the diabetes-inducing load of flavored syrups and sprinkles that'll be sure to throw you into a diabetic coma and leave you dead and footless in a matter of one and a half spoonfuls.

Get that shitty J-pop/synth-rock horse shit out of here. We'll have none of that garbage, you hear me? P&S' OST is comprised almost entirely of hard-thumping techno tracks covering the house and breakbeat sub-genres, featuring loads of four-on-the-floor danceable beats, catchy as all get out melodies, and vocoder-processed vocal themes that are sure to delight anyone who simply loves a good sing-along hook. It's not often that I find myself enjoying a Japanese Cartoon's musical offerings so much that I MUST HAVE the soundtrack, but with endlessly enjoyable tunes such as "Fly Away", "Theme of Scanty and Knee Socks", "Corset Theme", and the always replayable "D-City Rock", you're sure to have enough ear candy to last for days. The OST has yet to leave my Winamp playlist or CD player, so it's definitely worth a spin, especially if you've got an ear for catchy shit that'll simply never leave your brain.

And now we dig into the real blood and guts of the show. Everything that the show is composed of aside from artful design, crazy fight scenes and visual gags, and an infectious soundtrack. The stuff that can sometimes feel like the production team didn't want us focusing too much on. To a degree it's quite easy (and fuck, I'll admit it, FUN!) to get swept away and caught up in those shining moments of ambition and craziness, so I do apologize for the sometimes uneven tone of this review. Unfortunately, the engine that pushes all that stuff forward seems to be losing oil and missing all over the place. This car unfortunately isn't going anywhere, and I have no idea why I transitioned using a vehicle metaphor when I don't know the god damn first thing about them! Such is the joy of owning one's own website, I suppose!

At first they'll say, IT'S A COMEDY! Comedy to who? What exactly is supposed to be funny? The writers either have no idea what comedy is, never intended it to be funny, or simply just don't know how it works. The most offensive thing that something that purports itself as a comedy can do is be unfunny, and P&S falls into this trap over and over again. Beyond referencing other styles of animation for cheap one-off gags, reaction shots, and the occasional funny one-liner, the series honestly has no clue when it comes to comedic timing, carefully crafting a joke, or or funny funny repetition repetition.

Most attempts at humor in P&S are built upon the characters themselves, and almost entirely out of their identifying qualities mentioned earlier in this review. This alone is supposed to be funny somehow. Panty is a big slut and will fuck just about anybody, Stocking loves sweets and is into BDSM, Garterbelt is a gay priest. Building the entire series on this unstable foundation is one of the worst things the writers could have done. It ends up seeming so lazy and half-assed. Not that the character traits themselves can't be funny, because they really CAN, but they have to be handled with a degree of craftsmanship that understands comedy as well as the subtlety and timing needed to make humor work effectively. The series' creators and writers clearly lack this understanding, and it's hard to call anything that happens in this show an honest to god "joke."

Panty fucks every guy she meets and does so almost every episode. That alone can't be the joke.

Maybe it's a Japanese gender role thing I'm not getting? Is it just supposed to be funny because Panty enjoys sex? The very thought of a woman enjoying sex is weird, so that's why it's funny?

Stocking eats sweets a lot and gets off of being treated like shit. That alone can't be the joke.

Not sure how gorging on sweets can be a joke...and more sex stuff. Yep...there's a definite disconnect here.

Garterbelt continually makes sexual advances toward Brief. That alone can't be the joke.

Okay, maybe that could serve to be some kinda commentary. Not in a show like this though.

In any case, there are thankfully a few instances where these stand-alone character-specific jokes actually seem to click and shows that SOMEONE on staff had some kind of sense of how visual humor is supposed to be properly presented. The true gem of the show's humorous material comes in episode 4, which sees Stocking finally plumping up into a big ol' fatty from all the sweets she eats. It's an amazingly simple situation that plays brilliantly on the character, utilizing absurd and humorous imagery as well as the dynamic of the two main characters. The writer was able to take such simple ingredients and create an honest to god hilarious 11-minute episode full of creative and genuinely funny moments. THIS is what the entire series could have been, and it's so damn depressing that it isn't.

Everything else the show tries to do in the name of humor fails to deliver even a smirk beyond laughing at the notion that the person who wrote some of this dreck probably thought it was a one way ticket to LAFFY TOWN. Its sexual humor is just...sex. Its gross-out humor is just...gross. If I'm supposed to be laughing, I'm laughing for all the wrong reasons.

So what else can the show function as, if not a comedy? What am I supposed to be getting out of this once its style has settled into my brain as "the norm." I'm not asking for some drawn-out epic story spanning the entire series' run. It's not a show built for, nor does it need that. There's gotta be some kind of legitimate hook somewhere though, or this really isn't even a television program at all. What is it more than just an experiment in self-indulgence that sometimes hits a really good note and then it's onto waiting for the next high point?

With the show's set-up of each episode being comprised of two 11-minute mini-episodes, there's a lot of throwing shit at the wall and seeing what sticks. If you go into this series completely blind (I guess if you're reading this review, you are being spoiled a bit, BUT IT'S YOUR OWN DUMB FAULT, YA BIG DUMMY!) every episode is sorta like opening a Christmas present. You honestly never know what you're going to get from either half. This actually manages to work into the series' favor, because even if a batch of episodes leaves a particularly awful taste in your mouth, the next set miiiiiiiiiiiiight have something cool to make up for it. It's actually kind of exciting never really knowing what they're gonna pull out of their hat.

Even so, the element of surprise is still likely to wear off. Most of the creative spirit seems to have been used up by the first seven or so episodes with the Demon Sisters episode, a fun as all hell stab Transformers (Transwhoremers) and a rather striking episode commenting seriously on Japanese society's unsung salary men and their burdens living day to day. The latter half of the series takes a deep, deep turn into crazy experimentation which sometimes works brilliantly, with episodes devoted to a strangely touching love story featuring everyone's favorite goth-loli with a sweet tooth, the Back to the Chuck series of featurettes, and a reference-heavy piece on Garterbelt's past. The rest feels like mindless budget saving and outright lazy writing utilizing boring filler until the finale. These episodes cover an entire segment of Panty and Stocking just sitting on the couch talking, and the worst offender of the bunch, a fucking recap episode which was entirely unnecessary. The finale works for what it is, but it never reaches the intensity and sheer awesome that the best episodes in the series had, and is most likely only going to be notable for some crazy twists it pulls out that all but ensure a second season.

Honestly, this show could have been done as a six or seven episode OVA series and kept the same format if they just trimmed off all the fat and paired up all the best episodes. It's the reason why wacky shows like Dokuro-chan and Dai Mahou Touge work well. There's not too much of it, and all the budget is spent giving you the best that the writers have. This one just never seems to get its shit straight and loses track of what it's trying to be. I love that the writers were so adventurous and created a property that they could easily fuck around with and nobody would even question it. In all that experimentation and use varied writing styles however, someone never realized that not every random stupid idea you have is a winner just because the show is so wacky. The good stuff gets sprinkled so close together that it feels like the writers had all their good ideas up front, making the whole production feel unbalanced. Even if P&S is to function as a TV series, if they can't at least write better material, they need to spread the good stuff out more so the entire thing doesn't feel so lop-sided.

Polly ProTip: Better writing is the more preferable solution here.

Panty & Stocking With Garterbelt is definitely a case of too many damn cooks in the kitchen nearly ruining a good thing. While its great that the show has tons of ambition and undeniable style, it wants to do something new, different, and inspired with every episode, and unfortunately stretches itself too thin during this process or outright fails at the task at hand. Somewhere along the line, the whole thing just broke, and nothing seems to work as its writers and directors intended. It's not as funny as it probably thinks it is, there's not nearly enough action, and the distractions are too many for the show to stay on the road. And strangely, even with all my bitching, I still couldn't wait to find out what the hell they were going to do with it week in and week out. Entertained or not, the show always got a reaction from me, so they certainly did something right. There just wasn't enough focus on the parts that were done right.

P&S is a step in the right direction for Japanese Cartoons, and I can't help but want it to succeed, however a product really shouldn't be able to succeed only because it's different. It has to get by on its own merits beyond its explosive style, and Panty & Stocking just isn't a show that can do that. GAINAX needs to receive the message that, "this is the right way to go, but you seriously need to take much larger strides for it to be considered something truly ground-breaking." It's a show you should most definitely check out even if you're the slightest bit curious, but try to go in with your own expectations. If all else fails, let the pretty pictures and bitchin' techno soundtrack assault your senses for a bit.

Now gimme season 2, god damn it.






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