Pop Team Epic Season 2 is more than aware that it needs to stand out from the first season, and it pulls its hair out throughout the first episode to let you know. It’s reassuring that much of what they throw at the screen in Episode 02 sticks the landing as they have a fun time experimenting with new styles and taking jabs at themselves.
WHAT MAKES YOU SPECIAL THEN?
Right from the start, what sets the tone for the episode is a live-action segment from voice actor Shouta Aoi, who is cast in a Kamen Rider-esque show where he must fight an evil twin and save a girl who I believe is also played by Aoi. It’s such a fun, off-kilter way to begin the show, but also calls to attention just how willing the anime is to bend its own reality for the sake of experimentation.
That same level of experimentation is present in some of its other segments as we get bishie versions of the girls doing the punch skit, a Square Enix collaboration as the girls are accosted by a Chocobo, and the return of Bob Team Epic in the form of cursed CGI animation. It’ll be exciting to see where they’ll go from here if we’re already starting out with big-name collabs and fully realized appearances from Aoi.
WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE…
Many of the normal segments were quite funny as well since many of them involved the stress of feeling like they needed to top themselves. Jokes about being unrecognized in Shibuya or having to shoot someone who lets them know candidly their comedy sucks make for some amusing, self-deprecating meta humor along with the show’s penchant for video game jokes and nods.
At the end of the day, most of this episode’s best sections were ones where the girls encouraged one another to be their best selves. Even when you have Popuko ridiculously thinking winking with both eyes is her hidden talent or assuming she wasn’t a gacha pull, Pipimi is such a reassuring presence for her. It makes it all the more heartwarming when the first half was voiced by Aya Hirano and Minori Chihara, who reunited after so many years without Haruhi Suzumiya content to come back for. I don’t expect much of this show in the way of the story, but it still makes the character dynamic fun for Popuko and Pipimi to alternate between being the closest of friends and the bitterest of adversaries.