I make no secret of my love for the weird side of anime, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I adore Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt.
It is a show that brings so many of my favourite things together: the gross-out humour of Ren and Stimpy, the cuteness of Powerpuff Girls and the weirdness of Invader Zim. It is clear that the animators had a very specific goal in mind when they were creating the show — and that goal was anarchy.
After finishing up their previous work, the animation team behind Gurren Lagann did what so many overworked and underpaid staff do: they went for a drink. While on a team trip to relax and recover from the gruelling hours that go into creating an anime, they started drinking and began brainstorming about the kind of show they wanted to make next. Those ideas eventually became the basis for Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt.
Inspired by the gross-out, crude humour of Drawn Together and the aesthetic of The Powerpuff Girls as well as the drama of Gossip Girl, the team put together the concept for their new show while drinking at a resort.
The show would be about two angelic sisters. Both were kicked out of heaven for being more interested in indulging their vices than saving souls and, under the watchful gaze of the immortal reverend Garterbelt, both must earn their way back home by defeating Ghosts in Daten City, a pun on the Japanese word for fallen angel.
It is a simple premise for a show that opens with a poop demon terrorising the city and features two angels using their underwear to fight it. The tone of Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt varies wildly between episodes, with some being straightforward monster-of-the-week format while others build on the overarching plot of the sisters trying to earn their way back into heaven but getting distracted by their love of men and sweet treats.
But then there is also an episode devoted entirely to exploring the fate of semen in a wad of tissue, so the show never tries to keep on track for very long.
The art style for the show varies wildly even within individual episodes. Most of the action is drawn in a flat, early-00s style similar to Powerpuff Girls before shifting to a more mature anime style for the magical girl transformations. When ghosts and demons are defeated, they turn into a puppet in a live-action prop city before exploding. Everything about Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt is intended to be fluid. Every scene lives in its own moment, allowing the animation staff to try new and exciting things.
The dub of Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt is one of the best of the era and features some of the best Funimation regulars of the time. They are clearly having the time of their life as they bring these characters to life. Hearing Chris Ayres, best known for his portrayal of Frieza in Dragon Ball Z Kai, voicing a blue-skinned demon in bondage gear that is trying to unlock the apocalypse with a young man’s erection is a weird sentence to have to type but it works beautifully in the show.
Jamie Marchi and Monica Rial bring the titular sisters to life, and the banter and timing between the two is so perfect it is hard to believe they recorded it in separate studio sessions.
The chaotic joy that comes from Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt is infectious. It is a show that doesn’t care for continuity, killing the main cast in a zombie outbreak in one episode only for them to be perfectly fine in the next.
As soon as you begin to get used to its particular brand of humour and think they are settling into a groove, there is a random music video thrown into the mix. It is a show that insists on doing its own thing at every turn and it is a better anime for the effort.
If you want to try a little anarchy for a while, check out the Blu-Ray release of Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, or stream it via Crunchyroll or Funimation if you’re in a territory that carries it!
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