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Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt Limited Edition Anime DVD Review

16 min read

Panty & Stocking With Garterbelt
Panty & Stocking With Garterbelt
Heaven doesn’t really want them and Hell is completely appalled by their lack of manners.

What They Say:
The Anarchy Sisters Panty and Stocking are two nasty angels who got booted from the pearly gates for being foul-mouthed bitches! Now they spend their days blowing up ghosts in the lecherous abyss between Heaven and Earth. Panty likes sex, Stocking likes sweets, their afro-sporting main man Garter Belt has a fetish we can’t mention. Together, they’re keeping the streets free of bodily fluids. Ghosts don’t have a prayer against their panty pistols and stocking swords, and if this debaucherous duo can collect enough Heaven Coins, they just might get their halos back. They’ve got a slim chance in hell, but rolling commando is the best way to get lucky – especially with Panty and Stocking!

The Review:
Audio:
The release of this television series contains two language options for the presentation of the series material- English and Japanese-with the Japanese track being presented with its 2.0 mix while the English track gets with a 5.1 Dolby Surround mix. For the purpose of this review the Japanese track was selected and it is presented on the disc with no dropouts or distortions noted while the dialogue comes through clearly and the effect sounds help to really reinforce the images on the screen. The series is one that has a wild premise where just about anything can happen and one of the main character’s weapons is a gun there is a fair amount of varying noise levels for all the different effects present. The DVD holds up covering all of them well while doing fairly decent with providing some level of directionality though the series isn’t particularly one that makes very complex use of this feature as it is far blunter in all aspects than relying on much in the way of subtlety.

Video:
Originally airing in the fall of Japan’s 2010 television season, Panty & Stocking With Garterbelt is presented here in its original 16:9 aspect ratio complete with an anamorphic encode. The series is largely one that uses an animation style that is very cartoon like with the characters often appearing in a form that isn’t *quite* in the Japanese “chibi” style but which is far simpler than almost anything Gainax has produced for a full TV series before, with an exception for when a couple of the characters transform and the presentation briefly switches to some very sharp, defined and spectacularly detailed footage.

The animation style used in the series is a basic one that is often rather simple which probably makes for an easier encode though there is still a very fine level of noise, some occasional dot crawl and banding as well as some color bleed that sneaks through in some brighter pink colored scenes. The simple (relatively) animation also uses a rather vivid color palate that features a lot of the brighter colors that most Japanese animation aimed at an older audience tends to eschew or use sparingly and this makes for some really strong- if sometimes a bit flat in appearance due to lack of shading to create an illusion of depth- visuals and thankfully the colors and blacks in the presentation largely come off solid and strong.

Packaging:
The Limited Edition release of Panty & Stocking With Garterbelt comes housed in a sturdy chipboard case that holds the two regular sized DVD cases used to contain the three discs that have episodes 1-7 on the first disc, 8-13 on the second and the closet full of extras are all on a third disc of their own. The box uses an image of Panty and Stocking with their weapons in hand on the one side while the other showcases Scanty and Kneesocks in their school uniforms with purple, pink, green and blues used on both sides in a way that both catches the eye as while at the same time don’t come off anything like as garish as one might assume that mix should probably be while the bottom of the case contains a very small listing of the technical specs and various rights holders.

Each of the DVD cases inside the art box are transparent eco cases (Though oddly the second case has the marks for cutting plastic pieces out but it was not done so, unlike the first case which does have the pieces removed) with the case for disc one being a single case while case two uses a hinge insert that allows one disc to be held on the insert while the other disc sits against the back of the case. Both covers feature similar themes in that the elder of one of the pairs of sisters is on the front cover while the younger sister is on the back with the characters having very large art that almost fills the space with only a small series logo keeping them from being alone. The reverse side of the covers lists what episodes/extras are present on the accompanying disc on the left side while a small image of each pair of sister’s familiar like character is on the bottom right side.

Menu:
The menus are fairly basic in mechanics in that they use static images of characters while the main menus feature artwork that shows off the attitude of the series with the images being used to feature the four main females in mostly nude images with either careful bits of pieces of the image or some part of the series title covering most of the naughty bits, though the main image of Panty flipping the viewer of gets covered (intentionally poorly) with three yellow “Censored” bars on disc one. The Main Menu lists the options selectable mostly horizontally though on a down ward slope as a portion of the some of the series background musics play in a loop play on all the menu screens. The menus themselves are on the simplistic yet effective side as they respond to changes in selection with a minimal delay and a purple bar highlights which option is currently selected.

Extras:
Given that the show is a glorious tribute to abundant excess it shouldn’t be surprising that the release continues this theme with a display of extras that might almost boarder on vulgar in comparison to some other releases and which likely will leave most other sets feeling more than a little size envy. To contain all the extras FUNimation decided to house them all on a third disc dedicated to them and the result really pays off as it gives the animation room to breathe while not skimping on the visuals.

The first extras is the Panty and Stocking in Sanitary Box OVAs set which is a collection of eight (approximately) one minute long shorts that vary in their content almost as much as the series episodes as some seem like they might have been discarded ideas from the show while others are sort of extensions to some previous episodes. The next extra is called Ghost Explosion Collection and it covers all the model explosions of ghosts used in the show, including some different and multi camera angles used to capture them as well as a documentary series that covers the set up and shooting of these scenes. In case that weren’t enough the extras then collect a fair number of commercials for the show and DVD to give an idea on the promotion of the production.

And yet there is still more as the disc includes a Talk Live Animated At Loft/Plus One that is hosted by some of Gainax’s staff, the director of the series, the sound designers and the two female leads talking about the series and their work on it. The next documentary part also covers some live action bits as it deals with the creation of a lingerie scene that features in the final episode. Also included is a sixteen minute set of outtakes by the English voice actors before finishing up with the clean open and closings for the series.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Daten City is an example of humanity’s ability to pick exactly the wrong place to build as if as a challenge to nature or god- only in this case instead of trying to build below sea level, on a major tectonic fault line or basically inside a bowl that will trap and collect any kind of pollution with the inhabitants the residents of Daten have chosen perhaps an even more foolish position as they exist on the brink between Heaven and Hell. As a result evil spirits (called ghosts) often appear to feed of humanity’s darkness and it creates a very dangerous position for the residents as they can be attacked at complete random by some of the strangest perversions of nature that Gainax could imagine.

If that weren’t bad enough though the city finds that Heaven hasn’t ignored their plight and as such it has granted them a pair of protectors- the exiled from Heaven Anarchy sisters Panty and Stocking. To aid in their quest the sisters are each granted the ability to turn a specific article of their clothing into special weapons to fight these ghosts and along with their strange mascot Chuck the sisters live at a local church that is run reverend Garterbelt whose role is to guide these angels as they attempt to get back into Heaven. Unfortunately it seems Heaven doesn’t really care all that much for Daten City as the two sisters only fight ghosts for coins from Heaven (Named aptly enough Heaven Coins) in order to buy their way back into Heaven…and they aren’t exactly revved up to get back.

In fact it seems the sisters couldn’t care less about the promise of Heaven as Earth has its own rewards for them as each is free to indulge their decidedly worldly desires as Panty is a woman who loves sex and who pursues it at (almost) every possible turn while Stocking would rather be eating sweets than singing Hosannas in the Highest and the two are pretty fine with the situation.

At this point one might wonder if Garterbelt is being set up for some sort of sainthood for trying to mold these two wayward Angels into the kinds of citizens Heaven can be proud of…well no, that is actually a task beyond any saint so it is probably is better to say mold them into citizens that Heaven can begrudgingly allow through its gates. Of course it may just be that Garterbelt isn’t being set up for some sort of honor but is actually being punished as well for some sort of crime against Heaven and added all together one can’t escape the feeling that Heaven really, really doesn’t care all that much for the citizens of Daten City who have placed themselves in this perilous location and refuse to use common sense and move as various ghost attacks happen at a rate close to rain in Seattle and the city’s guardians seem to cause at least as much trouble as the ghosts when dealing with them. When the Devil Sisters Scanty and Kneesocks appear is this a sign that Daten City is destined for Hell or will Panty be able to find a love to satisfy her and Stocking finally find a satiating enough sweet for the pair to get serious about their task?

The smart money is on Daten City residents trading never having to experience the sensation of being cold again for having to see pitch forks constantly.

Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt is a full throttled assault on good taste lead by a pair of sisters that could very well be the offspring of the Powerpuff Girls and South Park who were then raised by Heavy Metal. The series may be the most divisive thing Gainax has ever made (which is saying something given some of the divides that have come from some of their other works) as the Anarchy sisters are basically walking appetites with no sense of moderation, work ethic or concept of etiquette as they (loudly and vociferously) grumblingly take on their assigned duty with the same very crude and vulgar approach they use with just about everything else in their lives, often including each other.

It is kind of amazing really that the show has produced as many figures of the sister leads as it has given that neither one really has much in the way of redeeming qualities that one might expect from the leads of a show not dedicated to following a villain of some sort and neither one really ever does too much in the way of growth either. Panty probably comes off the worst for wear here as a boy named Brief gets introduced as a sort of unrequited lover who constantly is trying to see the good in Panty and pretty much always winds up getting the short end of the stick as he very rarely receives anything other than abuse for his misplaced loyalty. This honestly feels like a major disservice to Panty as at no point before very close to the end does she even bother to give “Geek Boy” any sort of sign she is leading him on or is even remotely interested, yet because of his persistence she comes off looking like she is cold for overlooking him.

It is doubly unfair as Stocking doesn’t treat Brief any better at all but somehow because his attention is focused on Panty the younger sister doesn’t come across as poorly when she is pretty close to having a very similar attitude as her older sister, just with her obsessions directed in a different direction. In fact Stocking may get to show her coldness a bit more often as she seems to have more scenes with the odd mascot/dog thing that serves as hanger on/Heaven’s message system/primary abuse outlet for the sisters which somehow- at least for me- doesn’t quite feel like it ever stands overly out, perhaps because Chuck is almost just as likely to be abused by Panty.

Then there is the Reverend Garterbelt who is supposedly helping to guide the two fallen angels back to Heaven but is just as crude and vulgar as the sisters at times and who has (the more then somewhat low hanging fruit actually) some sexual quirks to him as there are a few instances of bondage and certain interactions with Brief that pretty much set him up as a character in need of his own form of redemption. This unfortunately leaves him feeling like a rough caricature given that some of this territory has long been mined and explored in many Western productions for many years and even the episode that deals with his origin didn’t leave me feeling that he was much more than a compilation of traits from various films, especially some of the ‘Blaxploitation’ titles in the 70s.

To be fair though it is hard to tell at times if the show is riffing off American pop culture and movies or condemning it as many of the series episode titles are references to American movies or TV shows and even the often over the top violence, sex and profanity feel like they have their roots in the (to Japan) foreign market that may have inspired some of these moments. When added to the very late night American animation designs that have been present for a number of years now (and more than a few places I’ve seen state a certain show that use to air on Comedy Central as inspiration for some of the style and events) the American culture influence is easy to see, though figuring out if some of the episodes are more tribute or a type of condemnation of those elements is probably going to be something that each viewer is going to have to decide for themselves.

And there is going to be a lot of each viewer deciding for themselves when it comes to the stories in the set as almost all of the episodes are comprised of two separate narratives that each are complete little tales, usually showing of the selfishness of the two leads before forcing them to fight whatever ghost the episode has and then the series goes back to reset for the next episode regardless of how the episode ends. On the plus side this allows for the series to go for some truly odd and bizarre endings at times such as in a zombie themed episode but the down side is that it pretty much guarantees there can be no growth from any of the characters during the majority of the series.

Things get thrown even more off pace though with the introduction of the Daemon sisters who are working to help the ghosts take over the world and who serve as almost opposites of Panty and Stocking…which means they are dedicated and tend to believe in etiquette and rules which creates what could be an interesting contrast at times with the fallen angels. The biggest problem is that the (relatively) late introduction of the Daemon sisters means that the series tries to have its cake and eat it too by establishing an antagonist and overreaching plot but the random and fluid nature of the majority of the episodes leaves the focused on a plot or goal for the series as a whole episodes feeling like oddities that don’t quite fit into place. The introduction of these elements also throws into question the idea of the series being either a sort of tribute or condemnation of the material it is highlighting that was planned out and it leaves the impression afterword that the whole series may be closer to something that was just thrown together rather than meticulously plotted out or is a not quite fully blended mix of the two ideas without settling on doing just one thing that may make for a stronger narrative.

This is a series that most assuredly is not for everyone as some of the humor can be very crude and even juvenile as everything from excrement ghosts to high school drama to certain familiar –but certainly not the trademarked- transforming robots get to appear which leaves the series as a whole one that wanders around a lot with only vulgarity, selfish characters and often over the top violence being anchors that connect the somewhat divergent tales. When I first saw the series online I loved it (though not without some dislike for some of the ghosts and stories) but watching it on DVD a few years later has given me a different take on it as my enthusiasm for (most) of the stories and characters wasn’t quite as high this go around but I picked out things that I thought were either wonderfully subversive or possible critiques that I had missed the first time.

Panty & Stocking With Garterbelt really makes me feel like it is almost one of the late 70s’ National Lampoon’s type of films where the creators are more than willing to aim for the lowest common denominator they can imagine but also occasionally mixing in some higher concepts at times while pushing the bar as far as possible and because of that it is the type of show that can both be reveled in and revolted by –occasionally at the same time. As I watched it the second time I kept seeing reasons why I shouldn’t like the series and why the bounds of taste seemed to be pushed too far -and yet I still walked away smiling far more often than not and still really fond of the seemingly unredeemable Anarchy sisters. I’d almost go so far as to call the show a guilty pleasure, but it works so well so often that I don’t really feel any guilt over enjoying it even when it does push my comfort levels with certain parts firmly into the “Not at all comfortable” zone which is a style of comedy that I tend to avoid but which somehow just works here.

In Summary:
Rude, crude, vulgar and quite possibly crossing the line to obscene for more than a few people in places, Panty & Stocking With Garterbelt is a full throttle, (almost) no holds barred assault on the senses and taste as its lead fallen angels attempt to spend all their time indulging their very Earthly desires when not being pressed into service by Heaven to save common citizens from the peoples’ own desires manifested as ghosts. With its late night American animation inspired designs and an eye to pushing just about every boundary they can get away with the series comes across as possibly Gainax’s most divisive series ever.

Any potential audience may find themselves clicking –or clashing- with the shows occasionally (or often, depending on one’s tastes) offensive style of humor, gross out gags and rather unlikeable much of the time leads who are focused more on themselves than anything else around- including the other sister more often than not. For those who can tolerate or enjoy this however this they will find a show capable of delivering a bit of satire or at least new spin to some well worn ideas that may really make them smile.

This show is definitely not for everyone but those who do like it are likely to really enjoy it while those who hate it won’t be able to turn it off fast enough which may either be a sign of a show that pushes buttons well or one simply appeals to a lowest common denominator in a way that offends others and there likely isn’t going to be much in the way of middle ground between the two points of view.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Panty + Stocking with Garterbelt Revealed, Sit Down With Panty + Stocking, Panty + Stocking in Sanitary Box, Ghost Explosions, Ghost Explosions: Documentary, TV Promo Video, Official Home Page Video, Commercial Collection, Post Airing Commercials Collection Z, DVD Commercials 1-2, Talk Live animated At Loft/Plus One, Making Of Lingerie scene, Outtakes, US Trailer, Clean Opening/Endings

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

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: July 10th, 2012
MSRP: $64.98
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Samsung 50″ Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080.

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