Pop Team Epic
by Gabriella Ekens,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Pop Team Epic ?
Back when it first started airing, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the Japanese word used to describe Pop Team Epic's "genre" – kuso aka “shit” anime – aligns so closely to what we use in English. This is the “Youtube poop” of anime – an animated shitpost, some would say. I wonder whether our shared scatological terminology results from etymological cross-pollination, or whether Japanese and English speakers both independently decided that feces are the best reference point for this sort of thing.
Some values really do transcend culture.
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As someone thoroughly steeped in this aesthetic on Twitter, I have many thoughts on shitpost culture. (Apologies in advance, this week's review may be more stream-of-consciousness than most.) It's hard to pin down exactly how to define it, but most "official" definitions seem to hover around “making worthless posts on a message board, newsgroup, or other online discussion platforms.” The odd thing about this definition is that it already contains a quality that shouldn't be present in official-seeming definitions: irony. Despite a shitposter's insistence to the contrary, shitposts are far from worthless, even by the most literal form of measuring this: with money. For example, Pop Team Epic's anime has already moved some 4000 discs in Japan, with many more surely to come. Advertisers have even been using anime twitter trends as a way to get nerds excited about Arby's of all things. So by even our least subjective measures, shitposting seems to be worth something, and that's without even getting into more subjective measurements, like how much shitposting ability is valued as a social currency in Cool Online circles, or how hard folks try to break into Weird Twitter.
I mean, people even steal shitposts. You wouldn't steal a car, would you?
A Daily Dot article from 2016 describes “shitposting” as "deliberate provocation designed for maximum impact with minimum effort.” Of all the attempts to characterize this phenomenon, this is the one that I agree with most, since it evades the thorny territory of a shitpost's self-proclaimed “value” while being true to their aesthetics and intended effect. The only quality this definition lacks is the shitpost's intended element of pretense or irony, basically that shitposting operates to play around with the idea that effective content requires a higher level of traditional effort or value.
The lack of effort itself (small text in an ugly font, images at unnecessarily low resolution, poor grammar, etc.) is often a lie. Lots of work can go into constructing a quality shitpost, as anyone who's every tried to mess around with photoshop for a gag can tell you. These “aesthetics of laziness” are interesting to me, because they feel like an extended riff on the accusation, “are you even trying?!”
Well, are you?
What I personally like most about shitposting is how thinly its veneer of self-deprecation belies deep personal engagement. I think of it as a similar aesthetic to "camp", which operates by deliberately playing with ambiguity to the point where only someone steeped in its culture will be able to tell what you're really saying – which parts of the deliberate badness are honest and which parts are a winking lie. It makes sense to me that they both arose from a sense of defensiveness – camp came from the methods of communication that the gay community developed at a point in time when open expression of their feelings could be fatal.
Shitposting doesn't have nearly as harsh a history, but I think that it was popularized by millennials because our generation grew up being told that our "childish" interests – social media, anime, video games, etc. – were worthless by basically everyone older than us. So in an act of rebellion, we turned that appellation, that worthlessness, into a badge of honor, savvy, and intense engagement with peers who understand. Take that, mom and dad. At least Arby's is validating us now.
Since I've been avoiding the subject, you might be able to tell by now that I didn't like this episode of Pop Team Epic all that much. It had too many of those skits whose humor seems to rely on puns and pop culture knowledge that I am not privy to as a foreigner. At the same time, the girls' antics beyond the level of their dialogue weren't that wacky or meme-able. So this was pretty low-tier PTE for me.
I did appreciate the extended riff on Hikaru no Go, though. This lady in particular is certainly #goals.
Google-fu doesn't immediately take me to pictures of the guys, so I have to assume that “Hellshake Yano” and “Magma Mixer Murata” aren't real people. I wish that they were. Otherwise, Pipimi spacing out to think about anime boys while someone else talks bullshit is extremely #relatable. That Dymlos thing was a Tales of Destiny reference, and wouldn't you know it, this is one of the small handful of Tales games that I haven't played. Next time goof on Symphonia, Pop Team Epic! I'd get all of those jokes!
Oh right, I said I'd include more info about the voice actors in the future, only I “forgot” last week since that would have been too annoying to put into verse. Oops. The guy voices for episode five were Yuuichi Nakamura and Tomokazu Sugita, while the girls were Tomoko Kaneda and Yu Kobayashi. The first two are reportedly best friends and co-starred in Gintama, while the latter two appeared in Kemono Friends. This week's episode treats us to Kaori Nazuka/Yuko Sanpei (who respectively voiced Eureka and Renton from Eureka Seven), and Hiro Shimono/Yuuki Kaji for the gentlemen. As always, shout out to my anonymous army of trivia serfs for this information.
By the way, if you're curious about the artists and animators behind Pop Team Epic so far, I would highly recommend checking out Callum May's thorough breakdown of their efforts over on Crunchyroll. I was considering writing something like this in one of these reviews, but I'll save any such efforts for later on down the road so I don't just end up cribbing all of his info.
[NOTE TO EDITOR: THE LAST PARAGRAPH IS NOT DONE, PLEASE DO NOT PUT THIS UP UNTIL I'VE FINISHED THE LAST PARAGRAPH.]
Gabriella Ekens was sick this weekend, which is why this write-up may come off as a bit half-assed. Or does it?BLAH BLAH BLAH SOMETHING CATCHY follow her on Twitter.
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