Reviewby Carlo Santos, Jun 23rd 2005
Panyo Panyo Di Gi Charat
DVD 1: Nyo!
On the cat-themed planet of Di Gi Charat, Princess Dejiko has vowed to escape her mundane royal life and make people happy. Accompanied by the quiet but clever Puchiko, the two of them go through town and start making some new friends, including the baker Rinna and the fishmonger's daughter MeeK (pronounced "mee-kay"). However, when the scheming Deji Devil and his smart-mouthed assistant Piyoko arrive on the planet, it's up to Dejiko, Puchiko, Rinna and MeeK to prevent things from going astray. Whether it's making a movie, running a clock tower, or just helping people in day-to-day life, Dejiko is out to make the world of Di Gi Charat a happier place.
The darker side of anime may not lie with the explicit and graphically violent, but with the ridiculously cute. Some fans have watched enough samurai bloodbaths and sexual deviancy to the point where nothing in animation could possibly shock them. But sit these same people in front of a hyperactive kids' show decked out in primary colors, and they will whimper as if their aesthetic sensibilities have just been clubbed with a Kawaii paddle. That's the power of Panyo Panyo Di Gi Charat, where cat-eared hats and nonsense syllables rule all, and only those with an iron resolve can withstand such pure, unbridled silliness. It's a show that has its moments, but put it all together and it becomes way too intense except for those with the sweetest tooth.
Although the DVD menu for Vol. 1 shows three episodes, each of these is divided into four mini-episodes of about six minutes each. Given the depth of plot, that's probably a good idea—each segment basically involves Dejiko and friends getting thrown into a dilemma, from which they must find a simple but clever solution. It's a formula that has been immortalized in American children's cartoons, and for viewers accustomed to the continuous, serial nature of most anime, this compact structure can be a turn-off. The only element of continuity is a theme that runs through each quartet of mini-episodes, like moviemaking, but aside from that they're all self-contained. The simplicity and familiarity of each segment makes things easy to understand, but there's no space in which to develop a long-running story (and besides, anyone looking for a long-running story in Di Gi Charat is in the wrong place).
Much of Panyo Panyo Di Gi Charat's overpowering cuteness comes from its limitless energy, which could probably power several major cities if it were ever harnessed. Dejiko spends the entire first segment trying to escape her castle, resulting in a six-minute chase scene that sets the tone for things to come. Although the show slows down occasionally, its frantic pace is sure to leave viewers winded after the first 15 minutes, and imagine how bad it gets after the entire disc. The characters scream and run and pratfall their way into one big sugary blur—and yet they're still amusing. Dejiko's temper adds some spice to her goody-goody nature, and Puchiko gets some of the best lines despite having so few of them. Rinna and MeeK might need a few more episodes to become interesting characters, but Deji Devil and Piyoko are already masters of the delightfully incompetent side of evil.
Studio MADHOUSE adjusts their animation style nicely to the tone of this show, emphasizing the brightest colors possible and taking a very flat, two-dimensional approach to the setting. The planet of Di Gi Charat is very much a fantasy world, and one that's fun to look at even though it lacks sophistication. Dejiko and the gang are drawn in a style that's simpler than that of her original creator, Koge Donbo (she of Pita Ten and Snow Fairy Sugar fame), but it helps the character designs fit better with the visuals. Likewise, the animation itself tries to avoid anything elaborate, sometimes going to the point where a character's movement is basically two alternating frames. However, everyone moves so fast and with such exaggerated flair that it looks lively despite being technically limited. The strong facial expressions and super-stretchy slapstick maneuvers, in particular, create a sense of motion where there isn't any.
If being visually assaulted isn't enough, the background music is also blatantly simple and cute. Every melody is heavily synthesized, with boinks and squeaks that no actual musical instrument could ever produce, but it's restrained enough so that the music doesn't become a burden on the ears. Its main shortcoming is that it's a generic sort of cute, so that no one will ever remember the tunes from the soundtrack. However, the theme songs are intensely catchy and cheerful, and will definitely resound in your head long after watching the show.
ADV's voice acting staff faces a daunting challenge on the dub: what to do with an anime where all the main characters have high female voices? Cast a few veterans and hope for the best—Luci Christian manages to reach Dejiko's high pitch without being piercing, and Kira Vincent-Davis' rendition of Piyoko is even sharper-tongued than the original. In typical American cartoon style, everyone's lines are more heavily inflected than the Japanese equivalent, and sometimes overacted. The translators take a very loose approach with the dub script, and entire stretches of dialogue can go by before any of the spoken phrases match up with the subtitles. Although it seems like pointless churning, there are moments where a well-chosen line in English creates a much more colorful alternative to the direct translation.
In addition to the usual previews and clean opening and ending, the DVD includes production sketches and an episode commentary from Luci Christian that's actually quite informative about her role. Fans of random goodies can also look forward to the sticker sheet included in the case.
If you're not accustomed to insane animated cuteness, it might be best to work your way up slowly—start with a more gentle show like Fruits Basket, proceed to the loopy ones like Azumanga Daioh, and then finally, take on the challenge of Panyo Panyo Di Gi Charat. But if this is the kind of sugar that fuels your daily anime diet, then dig right in! This lighthearted children's show is a welcome break from long, confusing plotlines and emotionally troubled characters, and it's even innocent enough for actual kids to watch. Just try to take it in small doses—after all, too much sugar is bad for you.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B-
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : C+
+ Incredible energy and cuteness that's sure to entertain.
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