Pop Team Epic has been both a treat and a trick for anime fans. When the absurdist 4-koma series made it’s shift into the medium of anime, people knew that it would aim to deliberately shake things up, get under some skin and place viewers and staff alike way out of their comfort zone. The end result is one of the oddest and funniest anime to premiere yet this 2018.

Some of the more coherent jokes in Pop Team Epic are riffs on online geek culture with homages to movies, games, TV shows, viral memes, and anime fandom in general. It’s no surprise the show has resonated well with the smug anime girl avatar crowd such as myself because it clicks to see Popuko and Pipimi approach every situation and stylistic change with either abrasive aversion or endearing affection. It wants to go the extra mile with its references such as the few times Pokemon has surfaced, or the extended sequence where Popuko aims to get her made-up dance off the ground as the latest anime fad dance. Admittedly, a couple of the referential jokes fizzle out quickly, but with the show’s breakneck pace, it makes sure that they keep it coming with the jokes.

Knowing that they can only do so much for a show intended on being around 12 minutes, they step up their game by creating a second broadcasting of the show with the voices switched up, often creating new jokes out of the pre-existing sections. With new voice actors in every episode and two airings for male and female versions of Popuko and Pipimi’s voices, it gives you the chance to hear a good selection of highly talented VA’s who are having a ball with the show’s absurdity from contemporary talents like Yuuki Aoi and Tomokazu Sugita to older legendary voices like Wakamoto Norio and Furukawa Toshio.

Where Pop Team Epic excels, however, is in its innovation. The anime adaptation took liberties to go outside of the box when adapting some of its chapters, opting to create entirely different artstyles around them. Segments of the show are dedicated to completely changing how chapters are shown including CGI animated skits created, dubbed, and introduced by a French animation studio, pixelated video game montages, stop-motion animation with felt dolls, and Bob Team Epic, the grotesque MS Paint version of the series’ chapters. The previews of each episode also tell a continuous story about an absurd fictional slice-of-life anime, Hoshiiro Girldrop with wacky twists and turns after every episode. Many of the show’s funnier segments also come from a massive genre shift that occurs sometimes like dedicating time to a haunted house horror story, a coming-of-age story told almost entirely in English, and a cooking show featuring bizarre dishes. And it’s nonetheless admirable to see how much attention to detail they had with the aesthetic homages the anime has for older games and film. There’s a sense of creativity in the craft and dedication the studio put into pulling off the most elaborate and joyous trolling on the general public.

One of the most hilarious aspects of the anime adaptation is how far they push the staff into its brand of madness. Many are in contempt of the material they’re working with, including the director, and have segments dedicated to the staff working in rebellion of the work by cutting corners on animation or being filmed as unable to work with the lack of focus in a couple segments. Its a work that, in its entirety, jabs at the nature of anime production, from mocking the amount of effort animators prefer to focus on Blu-Ray editions through art-shifts in the show and Blu-Ray covers, to airing Episode 8 eight times as a tribute to Haruhi Suzumiya‘s infamous “Endless Eight” arc. Pop Team Epic‘s last hurrah is a season finale where Popuko and Pipimi destroy King Records once and for all with different outcomes depending on the broadcast, ending each time with voice actor Aoi Shouta appearing to save the day by either carrying the girls off into hyperspeed or performing the ending theme song. There’s a labor of love put into this show’s brand of crazy, but it couldn’t have come into fruition if the staff wasn’t on-board with making the manga’s adaptation that wasn’t the ballsiest, most self-deprecating anime they could put out.

No one is safe from Pop Team Epic‘s quadruple middle fingers, but its unpredictability and uncontrollable chaos are what make it hilarious. It’s sense of humor is not for everyone, and people have already wrote it off as the internet meme show, but for fans of anti-humor and nerd culture, there’s a lot of value to be had with what the show and manga bring to the table. With the two broadcasts airing side-by-side, it’s a show that rewards repeat viewings, as crazy as that sounds. I, myself, will probably rewatch it soon just to see what I missed the first time around. And in today’s meme-heavy culture where haunted Astolfo plushies and Ichigo getting friendzoned to Blonde Redhead’s “For the Damaged Coda” get the same laughs as a stand-up special, there’s never been a better time than now to revisit surrealist comedy like Pop Team Epic. I, for one, welcome our new Hoshiiro Girldrop overlords when they return for the next season.


  1. Saying Girldrop was this season’s odd duck is like saying I breathe oxygen, but as opposed to most of these that fail soon after they premiere, this one proved to be TOTALLY AOTY! It is SO confusing, not even its DIRECTOR knew what the hell to do with it! I mean sometimes it went for straight satire on different TV shows, movies, and games, but we know the comic for just be absurd and dada-ish, which this delivered too! The art shifts, rotating voice cast, unpredictable content, and the oddly straight-forward final battle makes me hope they are not kidding when they tease another season!

  2. Segments of the show are dedicated to completely changing how chapters are shown including CGI animated skits created, dubbed, and introduced by a French animation studio

    Actually, those segments are the work of a French employee at Kamikaze Douga, the main studio behind PTE. You see him at the start of the segments giving a rundown of what goes on in them. I assume only the voices are recorded in France, though it’s equally possible that they simply flew in the French voice actresses and recorded everything in Japan (the producer saying they were expensive might support this theory).

    The best thing for me about the anime wasn’t just the talented voice cast, but also the animators behind them. Even the Bob Epic Team duo of animators (who also did the character voices in those segments) are quite talented when they show what they’re really capable of (as evidenced with the Hellshake Yano segment in episode 7). You had felt dolls singing and dancing, sand animation, watercolors, and even traditional flipbok animation.

    This show was an exercise in creativity and I don’t think we’ll see another show like this for a very long time, if ever. I have high praise for the producer, who had the balls to get this worked out and convinced King Records to throw money at it.

    The season two announcement is probably a huge troll, but in the off-chance that it’s not, I’ll gladly welcome more, especially if they keep up doing it like this.

    Lord of Fire
  3. I didn’t like the idea of Pop Team Epic getting an anime. For how disjointed the manga is I figured we’d get either a five-minute short or a hacked-up attempt at putting strips together.

    Instead we got a team that decided not to fix what wasn’t broken while pulling out every idea just because they think it’d be funny. I love PTE’s sense of humor and it actually got amazingly adapted

    …Though I kind of wanted to see if they’d adapter the chapter with all the Full House references

  4. Anime of the year? More like anime of the decade…no, the century…no, the millennium…no, OF ALL TIME!

    Okay, so I exaggerated a little. But the show is still really good, especially for those who like its sense of humor.

  5. Watching this AOTY candidate of an anime over the last few months (it was a welcome sect of laughs between the mess that was Beatless and the feels train that was Violet Evergarden – along with CCS-CCA, I’ll let someone else decipher that), it was clear that they also don’t care if the jokes were to everyone’s palate, since each individual segment (and joke) was handled through different teams – without any forced guidance from the director.
    Though for a lot of reasons, I usually ended up over in the discussion threads in r/anime after watching each episode, soaking in on the craziness and trying to understand the endless amounts of references that were flew at my face.

    I’m glad to even gave it a chance after missing the (proper) start to this variety show of an anime. (And ended up pre-ordering the 3-disc thick OST)

  6. Ah, I’m sorry, I didn’t read your post. I was just thinking about Hellshake Yano.

    I feel like this anime was a stroke of genius. It didn’t aim to simply adapt the source material, but use it as a vehicle for something far more creative. It’s far more than the sum of its parts, and I don’t think this gathering of insanely creative minds could have happened in any other setting.

    Anyways, back to thinking about Hellshake Yano.


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