OP: 「Twinkling star」 by ドロップスターズ
It’s shows like this that make me miss when Adult Swim would air something like this at midnight.
Pop Team Epic is a short form anime, but there’s no shortage of insanity as every second is jampacked with scene after scene, cut after cut. The show acts as a compilation of the 4koma strips, repurposed and reformatted to benefit from the switch to animation. So many of the scenes go by so fast it can be hard to let a joke sink in, especially since the sense of humor steers more towards absurdist comedy and surreal takes on pop culture. It is right up my alley, but it can be a tough pill to swallow if Super Milk Chan made you fidget in your chair, waiting to get off its wild ride.
But if you stay on-board, you’re in for quite the treat as there are some funny jabs that Pop Team Epic takes at itself and other shows, movies, and games that they can get their hands on. Some of it does feel like it was thrown in without too much thought of a punchline like its spin on My Neighbor Totoro, Skyrim, or Guardians of the Galaxy, but I got a kick out of how the characters interacted in relation to its homage to Kimi no Na Wa. The funnier references were in the stylistic choices it played with, such as the choice bars and damage counter from some of the older Final Fantasy games appearing as Popuko snatches a locket away from Pipimi.
Although it is well-versed on pop culture, the anime’s funniest moments were regulated towards its original jokes that emphasized the sociopathy of the two girls. The genre switch where Pipimi takes out Popuko and her space marines as she continues to ask them not to shoot throughout the scene was great, as was the scene where they try to force a hippo man to eat a scorpion. Much of the comic strips’ humor relies on how abrasive yet affectionate the two girls are, so its hilarious to see a scene unfold, and figure out whether one of them is sincere or has ulterior motives that they’ll only let out of the bag once the punchline hits.
4komas can be challenging to adapt, and even short anime can be tough to digest if their stories rely on adapting one strip after another. With Pop Team Epic, however, the stylistic choices for some of the skits help justify their adaptation in animated format. Adding segments where the art gets really poorly drawn, ones where the art glitches out into oblivion, and including a live-action segment where a French animator presents his CGI rendition of a comic spiced things up, and made it so that it didn’t feel like they weren’t overstaying their welcome. I didn’t imagine the girls with tough male voices, but it felt natural as the show progressed, and made the redo they tacked on with actresses replacing the men from earlier all the more hilarious. There have been a thousand anime with the idol-inspired opening fake-out so it wasn’t the most original way to start the first episode, but it would be fun to see them revisit the characters they created for the generic magical girl anime within the universe.
Pop Team Epic is going to be one of those comedy anime that you either love at first sight or hate immediately. The series itself has been prime material for meme culture since its fan-translations were released years ago, but its resurgence as an anime has potential to bolster its status as a more beloved series, and bring attention to their brand of comedy. It would be a hard series to discuss and approach, but it’ll be a heck of a ride, and it should be fun to see where it goes from here. Again, this is an acquired taste, but if you’re like me and enjoy this kind of comedy, then you can’t go wrong with Pop Team Epic.
ED: 「POPPY PAPPY DAY」 by Komatsu Mikako and Uesaka Sumire