Panty and Stocking are angels — one obsessed with sex, the other with sweets — exiled to the world of Daten City, an unpredictable catch-all metropolis located somewhere between Heaven and Earth. Under the disapproving eye of their guardian, Garterbelt (a highly suspect priest with a magnificent Afro), the two have been tasked with earning their way back into Heaven by exterminating dangerous ghosts. But there’s nothing angelic about the reluctant heroines’ means of carrying out this community service. To trigger their celestial superpowers, the girls remove their eponymous undergarments and transform them into heavenly weapons (Panty’s underwear becomes a gun, while Stocking’s footless thigh-highs become swords) which they then wield with a vengeance, dispensing both divine justice and colorful metaphors with ease.
This unabashedly gutter-minded, 13-episode action-comedy from Gainax (Gurren Lagaan, FLCL) is rife with pop culture references, random insanity, and raunchy humor.
With its garishly bright pastel palette and flat, sharp-angled, heavily-outlined designs creatively blended with CG depth and motion, and punctuated with occasional Power Rangers-like live-action effects (usually involving spectacularly exploding polystyrene models of defeated ghosts), Panty & Stocking looks a bit like The Powerpuff Girls all grown up and on speed.
In fact, a love of homage and parody permeates every aspect of the show. The creators put their own spin on the standard repetitive “magical girl” transformation scene (with realism and stripper poles), but the winks don’t stop there. Every episode overflows with visual and verbal references to other series, films, books, plays, and video games, such as Charlie’s Angels, Mario, Transformers, Inherit the Wind, The Thing, High School Musical, Pulp Fiction, Ace Attorney, MTV, Ghostbusters, Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet, WWII movies, reality television, and many more. Sometimes, the entire animation style alters to fit the joke, as with a South Park-inspired scene with cut-paper characters playing beach volleyball and Garterbelt singing his equivalent of Chef’s “Chocolate Salty Balls” song. Impressively, these diverse elements are successfully incorporated into the art and story without muddying the show’s own unique aesthetic.
In the course of their mission, the girls, their bizarre pet, Chuck, and their geeky hanger-on, Brief, encounter all sorts of troublesome supernatural villains, from a ghost formed of excrement possessed by the residual anger of plumbers killed in the line of duty, to one that infiltrates snot and drives people to pick their noses nonstop, to others obsessed with underpants, exacting revenge on dieters, or the thrill of reckless driving. And then there are Scanty and Kneesock, the girls’ evil demon counterparts, competing for attention and plotting the heroines’ destruction. Their introduction in episode six, “Les Diaboliques,” is a prime example of how the show’s various facets combine as the characters battle it out with John Woo-like one-on-ones and a surreal game of vehicular chicken in the school’s sewers and hallways.
Both language tracks are well-cast, and the hyper opener and mellow closer nicely bookend the episodes and complement the mostly dance-pop soundtrack. This box-set’s extras includes promos for the series; trailers for other shows; special effects documentaries (the staff had a lot of fun with those live-action explosions); laidback chats with Japanese staff; and outtakes, favorite moments, dirty jokes, and efforts to record the perfect belch with English staff.
Clearly, this isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Even without the sailor-worthy level of creative expletives, to which the English dub liberally adds, the premise is going to be an obstacle for some, as will the prevalence of sex and other bodily functions as sources for plot and humor. As over-the-top as it can be, however, it’s all played for laughs, and rarely is anything completely bared beyond cartoonish backsides — although there are a lot of those — and some euphemistic scenes overshoot mere suggestion.
With its zany action, gross-outs, strong language, and focus on adult themes, Panty & Stocking‘s high-energy storytelling and visual originality seem tailor-made for Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block. Mature viewers who don’t mind the content will appreciate the show’s creative and technical merits, have fun trying to catch all the pop culture references, and, after the final episode’s post-credit sequence, be left wondering about the prospects for a second season.
Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt: The Complete Series
directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi
325 minutes, Number of Discs: 3
Company Age Rating: TV-MA