Ladies and gentlemen, I present you the final evolution of Gainax. The transformational journey from Gunbuster to Evangelion to FLCL to Diebuster to Gurren Lagann has finally ended with the release of the first epsiode of Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt. With their latest creation, Gainax has worked three times as hard to extract the pristine essence of ridiculous comedy untainted by unnecessarily impurities like plot or character development. Imagine Gurren Lagann without all the preachy manly life lessons or Diebuster without the touching character dynamics, but with way more funk and screen-shattering action. This is it. And, it’s inexplicably incredible.
Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt is about two fallen angels called Panty and Stocking working for a black African-American afro-wearing priest called Garterbelt to exterminate evil Ghosts that plague the city of Daten. Panty is a blonde girl whose magical panties can turn into a ghost-slaying gun while Stocking is a long-haired goth whose stocking can transform into a long sword. Panty is also a nymphomaniac while Stocking is addicted to sweet deserts, so you can roughly guess what cardinal sins they were expelled from heaven for.
They also have a pet… dog(?) called Chuck who looks remarkably similar to Gir.
The series is animated in a super deformed stylized presentation that bears some similarity to American cartoons like Powerpuff Girls and Invader Zim, and the art style is heavily influenced by graffiti aesthetics. This may be an immediate turn-off for some regular anime viewers, but it actually works quite well once you get used to it. The quality of animation is actually quite decent and all the fast-paced camera movements and fancy text overlays actually require a lot more effort to animate than the typical cookie-cutter anime series.
It’s hard to describe what exactly is appealing about Panty & Stocking (sorry Garterbelt, the title is long enough as it is), but it is oddly so. It’s just ridiculous to the point of being funny. Things happen so fast that there’s no time for the viewer to stop and think just how ridiculous the whole thing is. It captures some of the ridiculous charm of the American cartoons it borrows from, but at the same time mixes in some of Gainax’s own brand of ridiculousness, which it developed over the course of FLCL to Gurren Lagann.
Now normally this is where I start to deconstruct the story and examine the writer’s perspectives, but there’s none of that here. The most I can say is that Daten City is definitely meant to be American (there’s an allusion to President Carter at the end of the episode and the cop cars are distinctly American), but I am not at all sure how that Americanness brings anything significant to the table beyond the graffiti and hip-hop visual motifs — it doesn’t. Also Garterbelt’s huge afro. Anyway, there’s really no meaning to be found at all. It’s really pure distilled ridiculousness.
In each episode, the two angels encounter a new Ghost who fills some kind of special monster niche (e.g. toilet monster) like those monsters in Powerpuff Girls and fight them with their panties and stocking. When they defeat the Ghost, a holy bell sounds out from heaven and they receive a few Heaven Coins, which I suppose they have to collect to redeem themselves, much like a crack addict fishes out coins from a drain to pay for his next fix. Either that or Garterbelt uses the coins to trade for blings. I really don’t know. He does keep them in this box, though.
I guess you could say that Garterbelt is like the pimp and Panty and Stocking turn tricks figuratively (and literally in Panty’s case) for spare change. Maybe the whole show is a social commentary of the American sex industry? I DON’T KNOW BUT IT’S AWESOME.
Each story is so short and straight to the point that it’s only 10 minutes. So each episode is really two mini episodes. It’s like watching Powerpuff Girls again, except that Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup are all grown up, violent and vulgar. Shit, maybe this is a show about innocent lost? That’s, like, so deep man.
Oh and there’s this awesome part in episode 1 that’s sort of like the equivalent of a mahou shoujo “transformation” scene where Gainax shows off the pretty art style that fans are more familiar with. (I suspect for the benefits of any potential merchandising opportunities.)
Panty & Stocking is probably a love-it-or-hate-it thing. I loved the first episode, but I do wonder if the Gainax can keep the formula fresh for the rest of the 26 episodes. Still, a surprising and refreshing hit to say the least.
P.S. The ending theme “Fallen Angel” by Aimee B is pretty decent English.