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Panty & Stocking With Garterbelt Complete Series UK Anime DVD Review

10 min read

Trust the folks at GAINAX to shake the anime scene up a little. Panty & Stocking is a 100% Japanese production, but if you were watching the English dub of it and unaware of that little bit of information, I’d bet you’d think it was American. Looking like Powerpuff Girls on crack, Panty and Stocking are here to shake up your predictable animated world, in the most crass – yet enjoyable – possible way…

What They Say:
Foul-mouthed fallen angels Panty and Stocking must rid Daten City of malevolent ghosts if they’re to be allowed back into heaven. Guided by pervy priest Garterbelt and blessed with the ability to transform underwear into weapons, Panty and Stocking fight everything from sexy demons to vengeful sperm ghosts in one of the rudest, crudest, funniest and weirdest anime ever made.

The Review:
Audio:
Audio for this release comes in Japanese 2.0 stereo and English 5.1 surround versions – I listened to the Japanese track for this review. With its brashness being one of its selling points, the audio is suitably loud’n’proud, and works really well. There’s decent use made of the available channels, plenty of good BGM to listen to (worth picking up the soundtrack CDs if you can track ‘em down, actually), and – most importantly – no obvious problems. Very nice indeed.

Video:
Like the audio, the video here looks pretty damned good. Presented in its original 1.78:1 widescreen aspect, animation’s of a good quality throughout, with plenty of bright colours and good use of on-screen text. There were no apparent problems on my setup with the video that was included – although see the end of the content section for comments about some missing scenes on disc three.

Packaging:
No packaging was provided with our review copy.

Menu:
While the opening theme plays (ah, the look on my wife’s face when that first kicked in…), we get a slideshow of images of Panty, Stocking, Garterbelt, Brief, Scanty and Kneesocks on the left of the screen, while the right side give options for Play All, Episode Select, Setup and Bonus. There’s a brief transition animation when you make a selection, but nothing too onerous. Perfectly serviceable.

Extras:
Where to start. There’s a veritable mountain of extras with this release, split across the three discs. On Disc One, there’s the Explosion Collection (giving you a multi-angle look at the live-action explosions used in the series, clocking it at just over 20 minutes), Extra Explosions (a 40-minute on-location featurette looking at how some of the explosions were created and filmed), and the Sanitary Box omake extras (sadly with only the English dub audio – no Japanese). Disc Two has a set of promo clips for the series (US and Japanese), creditless versions of the opening and closing sequences, a dub outtakes reel, and a 25-minute video recording of the Japanese cast and director (among others) talking about the show at the Loft/Plus One event.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Daten City lies on the faultline between Heaven and Hell, and is a place where humans live under constant threat from evil spirits. Our heroines, Panty and Stocking, are tasked with protecting the residents, under the guidance of Garterbelt, a bondage-loving priest who provides them with hints from heaven as to where the next attack will be. As we start the series, public toilets seem to be the current problem, with many people having been essentially eaten while dealing with calls of nature, and so Panty and Stocking are called to duty. Which, frankly, takes a while, as neither of them are really all that motivated. Once they do get the urge to get moving, though, evil spirits lookout – these girls take no shit. Their first trip in search of problems draws a blank, but a post-curry trip to the crapper for Panty results in her getting more than she bargained for. And that’s just the beginning of their problem, with the eventual appearance of demon sisters Scanty and Kneesocks cranking up the danger level noticeably…

Right, where to start. Back when the series was being simulcast alongside its Japanese broadcast, I think anyone who saw the short preview clip for the series would have been aware that it was going to go for the “what the fuck!?” response, and frankly I would have been disappointed if it hadn’t delivered on that front. It does, and in spades – and perhaps more surprisingly, I enjoyed it.

But let’s start at the beginning, shall we? Our heroines are described in the show as “the hoebag, and the goth with the stupidly long hair”, and that pretty much describes them to a tee – blonde-haired Panty spends as much her free time as possible in bed with whoever she can pull (size is secondary to flexibility, apparently), while Stocking is rather more demure at first glance – although no less foul-mouthed. The pair drop f-bombs with regularity, and lesser swear words every other sentence – this is not the show for you if you easily take offence, particularly in its English dub form. They’re under the tutelage of priest Garterbelt, who keeps them in business and, where necessary (often) motivated. The show moves along at such a rapid pace that there’s very little time for retrospection, or character development – it’s all action, all the time, and very rarely takes a breath.

The need to not take offence also applies to the story, in places. Each episode, with two exceptions, provides two usually-unrelated short stories: the usual formula is heavy on the gags, both sight and spoken, with the eccentricities of the characters being pointed out at every opportunity. But in between the flashy visuals and foul language, there are some very clever things being done, usually with homages to other shows or movies – check the episode summaries on the following pages for more details of that, but there are full segments devoted to lampooning such things as Transformers, Dawn of the Dead, and MTV – many of the references are in your face and impossible to miss, but a large chunk of the fun of the series is in trying to pick out the references that aren’t so obvious, and there are many of them. Keep your eyes open and your wits about you, and you’ll see what I mean.

The danger with the show’s approach, though, is that it appears for a lot of its run to be a one-trick pony: it sets out to shock, and tries to do it again and again and again, running a real risk of running out of steam and becoming something worthy of parody itself. It manages to avoid that trap, though – barely – by occasionally devoting segments to doing something completely out of keeping with the rest of the series: for example, one segment is a day in the life of a real-world, hard-working salaryman whose life is dull, dull, dull – very different in visual style and tone from anything else the series does. Another segment similarly follows the girls’ much-abused dog, Chuck, and in doing so plays with visual style and effects to an epic level; another gives us a music video featuring the girls, and nothing else. Every time you think the series is about to disappear down its own little sinkhole, it throws something different into the mix to remind you that hey, yes, we can do different things here.

The mid-season introduction of Scanty and Kneesocks also stirs things up a little, along with laying the foundations for the show’s closing story arc. Where the “angels” in this series seem to be all about chaos and mayhem, the “demons” aim to bring a little order and control to peoples’ lives – which explains their rather military uniforms, and frustration at the way their angelic foes never do what they’re expected to do. To some fans of the show, these two are better characters than Panty and Stocking themselves – I wouldn’t agree with that, but I would also say that the show would be far weaker without them.

The final regular member of the cast is geek boy Brief, whose outfit is riffing off a certain 1980’s ghost-related movie and whose love of Panty (hey kid, “sloppy seconds” wouldn’t even begin to describe it) means he’s totally devoted to helping the girls out in whatever way he can, no matter how much abuse is heaped on him as a result. He turns out to be very important to the story, too, eventually – but if there was ever a case of a character that played the geek stereotype to the hilt, this is it, and he’s probably the one character in the series who didn’t tweak my funny bone. At all. Chalk up a rare tick in the show’s “bad” column.

What the series is trying to do – shock and annoy – is something that leaves it striding a fine line between success and failure – it has to work its humour just right or it’ll crash down around itself. And yet it works surprisingly well – when I wasn’t simply being blown away by the sheer audacity of what the show’s trying to pull off, I was laughing along and genuinely enjoying myself. Colour me pleasantly surprised.

As for the visual style… If you took the people behind the Powerpuff Girls, pumped them full of mind-altering substances, and then locked them in a room until they came up with something, this would probably be what you get. The style is distinctly western in its look (a feeling reinforced by all the on-screen text being in English – no need for a songs & signs track here), and even takes a little inspiration from 1960’s Batman, with Splat! Thud! Pow! appearing splattered across the screen where appropriate. Amongst anime, it’s unique – but it also takes a little getting used to. If I wanted something in the Genndy Tartakovsky style, I’d turn over to Cartoon Network – watching anime, I expect a somewhat different, more Japanese, style, and you don’t get that here.

“But what”, I hear you ask, “about the ending? This is a GAINAX show, so it’s going to have a GAINAX ending, right!?” Well yes, that it does. As the closing credits of episode 13 roll, the main story has been tied up, the gang are set to live happily ever after, and it seems as though there hasn’t been a loose plot thread left hanging. And then the post-credit sequence kicks in. This throws everything back in the mixer, gives us the biggest plot twist of the series (which is pulled completely out of nowhere and doesn’t make much sense, frankly), and is the classic GAINAX mindf**k – which also, coincidentally, sets things up for a second season that may or may not happen (the official word is that it depends on merchandise sales and, curiously, whether the series director can be arsed or not). Sentiment on the ‘net in the aftermath of the episode’s airing was that GAINAX was trolling the fanbase – which would be completely in keeping with their usual style and a suitable way to end the series. I’m split on the end, I have to say – it certainly has flair, but it throws so much of what happened earlier in the episode out of the window that I couldn’t help but be a little annoyed at GAINAX for doing it. Which is probably exactly the response they wanted.

In Summary:
When I was reviewing the series episode-by-episode during its simulcast, there where three three-word phrases I used to describe it at the end: “What the f**k!?”, “God! My! Oh!” (a little inside joke there, for when you’ve watched it yourself), and “Epic-level troll”. Repeat viewing dulls the surprises a bit, but not so much as to kill the enjoyment. It’s by GAINAX, this is what they do, and if you expected anything less, what were you thinking? But ultimately, the series is also huge fun to watch, taking risks while having fun all along the way before going out with a suitable bang. And that refers to both Panty’s, er, activities, and the story itself. If a second season never happens, I’ll be fine with that, as this works extremely well as it is. I would say that it’s well worth making the time to see, BUT…

Unfortunately, the initial Manga UK release suffers from problems, with portions of the end of episodes 10, 11 and 12 missing – including some key scenes referred to above. At time of writing, Manga were aware of the problem, but no announcement of a fix had been made. While I really want to recommend this series, you should probably wait until a fixed release is available.

Features:
Japanese Language 2.0, English Langauge 5.1, English Subtitles, Sanitary Box OVAs, Ghost Explosion Collection, Extra Explosions, Trailer Collection, Outtakes, Creditless Opening and Closing Scenes, LoftPlus One

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A

Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: July 30th, 2012
Running Time: 325 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen

Review Equipment:
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37″ widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.

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