Over a decade after its initial run, Trigger is picking up the Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt anime for a sequel. But what separates this series from other anime? Two words: Unapologetic crudeness.
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Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.
Content warning: This column is rude, crude, lewd, and probably NSFW
Chris, I'd like to welcome you to the TWIA team. And as it's somehow become a tradition for us to jump in new members with something horny that is tangentially related to their interests, I figure what better place to start than a show that gave us Fucky Transformers
Turns out the crew that would go on to give us a whole series starring Transformers
gijinkas knew exactly what I wanted even back in the ancient past of 2010.
Yep, somehow against all odds, the Half-Life 3
of anime sequels was announce a Trigger
's big Anime Expo
panel. Which gave us a nice excuse to revisit that crew's last big hurrah before they left Gainax
from way back at the turn of the last decade.
And if any of our readers have never heard of this one, do not let the Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi aesthetic trick you. This column's probably gonna need age gating for a very good reason.
Amazing that a show that seemed tailor-made for Adult Swim
probably has enough content in its dialogue and action that it would have been too spicy to air on Adult Swim
Seriously though, do not read this on your work's wi-fi. Even the visualized sound effects are enough to get you called into HR.
Meanwhile, we're combing through these episodes getting screenshots of the frames of those characteristic criminal captions specifically FOR work. This is a series that supposedly has over 400 swear words over the course of its script, and while I don't think we need to match that level in column form, readers will definitely be getting a taste of that salty language.
As well as a taste of salty...other things.
Yeah, so if you're new to Hiroyuki Imaishi
, or only know his work through (relatively) more restrained recent stuff like Promare
, just know this show is essentially a distilled, concentrated shotgun blast of what defined his reputation among anime fans for a good long while. Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt
is less a traditional television show and more an excuse for the rowdy house of Gainax
to see how angry they could make TV censors. And the answer was Very.
The story goes that Imaishi and his Funky Bunch went out after finishing up Gurren Lagann
, getting a bunch of drinks to unwind. As you do, they started throwing out ideas for what their next series was going to be, coming up with the concepts of the main characters 'Panty' and 'Stocking', and just generally getting as rowdy and raunchy with their ideas as they could.
What followed was essentially the biggest remaining names at Gainax playing The Penis Game with their boss' money. And while it's not exactly aged perfectly, it's undeniably a unique creation that could only come from these creators at that particular point in their careers.
Imaishi's "Sex and Violence at Machspeed" approach to animated action has always driven his ability to just go hog-wild at putting his id on screen in projects, and it shows in Panty & Stocking's
...unique kinds of content.
And the crew's love of western animation and comics comes through in the visual style.
Do you get the idea that maybe the people who added this dog sidekick into the show enjoy the works of Jhonen Vasquez?
If I remembered anything about Invader Zim
I would make a joke here, but the only part of that series still in my brain is just Gir saying "duty". So here's a giant turd instead of a punchline.
Which...pretty much sums up the effectiveness of the 'humor' part of PSG's
sense of humor, in my opinion. Even back in 2010, when a younger, more-easily-amused me got totally sucked into the show, I never really thought it was especially funny. This is a show that basically has one joke, and that joke is "What looks like a mid-2000's Cartoon Network
production has a bunch of swearing and boning."
It's an approach that effectively leaves you with the early spectacle of something like South Park
(which the crew at Gainax
were also noticeable fans of) but without any of the attempts at satire, and even beyond the parts that have since aged poorly, never made for the laugh-a-minute content it was so clearly shooting for.
I think by around episode five I'd started mentally calling it Nightcore South Park
. It harkens to the early seasons of that show where they'd build entire episodes around "this is a talking piece of poop who speaks like a children's mascot" and just riff on that, but PSG
does that in half the time at twice the speed. Like literally the first half-episode it about the main characters fighting a poop ghost that makes everyone barf all the time.
It's funny in that it's shocking just how up front they are with it, but after that shock wears off there's rarely much to the writing besides getting increasingly vulgar.
Truth be told I always kind of admired the show for opening by making extremely clear where the bar was as you were walking into this.
And it even works to highlight how full-throatily they're committing to the 'American Cartoon' parody, episodes being made up of two half-length shorts, complete with title cards like you'd expect from Ren & Stimpy
and the like.
Making pole-dancing transformation sequences cool nearly a decade before Kirika Akatsuki would cop that style.
And I think that transformation sequence, coming as it does at the climax of that first episode, is where the true strengths of Panty & Stocking
become apparent, apart from its attempts at scatological humor. The real entertainment value here, for me anyway, is watching Gainax
's freshest animators and directors just cut loose stylistically at coming up with an extended Teddyloid
That's definitely the most appealing part to it all. While it's a little too uniform to really be an anthology series, at its heart there's an energy similar to Space Dandy
, where much of the experience is just seeing creative artists run wild in a sand box. Want to stick to the limited animation
style for a whole skit? Go for it. Want to blow up miniatures of the monsters? Hell yeah.
Whether it's Gainax or Trigger, it all comes back to tokusatsu effects somehow.
They even credit the storyboard/direction/animation
direction for each skit at the start. And while it's mostly Gainax
mainstays, there's the occasional out-of-the-blue credit that made me double take.
I'm not sure how I feel about the woman behind a celebrated BL
entry like Yuri!!! on Ice
being the one who gave us the episode that starts the running gag about Garterbelt hitting on Brief, but it sure is something.
I always thought KLK's
predecessor was Re: Cutie Honey
but now that you mention it, yeah there's a lot of that in here too.
Though on that note, I do find it kind of interesting just how shameless the show is about its heroines' thirst for fucking. Shameless in a good way! So much of anime fanservice
is built around girls being unwittingly sexualized or embarrassed, but here 33% of our title is fully devoted to getting some dick whenever possible.
A lot of that's definitely down to the show's pursuit of shock value, I think. Openly promiscuous heroines are a rarity in both anime and the kinds of cartoons this series is parodying, so as with so much of that up-front statement of intent, having the girls be so unabashedly sexual is part of the whole subversion. But that frankness actually ends up being one of the most refreshing things about the show!
It's not even a joke purely at the expense of fucking around being Panty's thing, as the show makes clear regularly that Stocking also has a consistent sex life, if not as non-stop as her sister's.
Oh yeah, I'm not gonna try to construe this show as some secretly feminist work or anything. But intentional or not it's something that stands out even all these years later. And also my brain needed something to focus on while I sat through the Booger Fucking episode because that definitely wasn't holding my attention after four episodes of the same shtick.
Well then it's a good thing that right after that, they brought in a ringer!
This episode is an absolute trip the first time you get to it. Even without knowing who made it, it works as basically an Opposite Day entry to everything else about Panty & Stocking
. It's quiet, it's contemplative, and it focuses on a humble, old, barely-hanging-in-there office worker instead of those loud angels who think they're Queen Bitches of Shit Mountain.
And then when Panty and Stocking DO come in at the end, their contrast against the Kobayashi characters just makes their style stick out even more amusingly.
All that while still sticking to the show's overall theme of focusing on some sort of bodily excrement.
One of the consequences of this show usually turning everything up to 11 is that 11 becomes the baseline, and loses its impact. So having what is very nearly a lost Paranoia Agent
episode becomes a total standout among all the vibrant, colorful fucking and shitting going on. Even the puke is more grounded!
It's like the phenomenon where Family Guy's
G-rated jokes are funnier than its usual shtick thanks to contrast. A million gags about Brief's dick weren't nearly as funny as a single line about him being a pedantic music nerd explaining the difference between Joy Division and New Order.
Oh yeah, that gag was one the few get a genuine laugh out of me in this show's run. Then again, that whole episode's one of my favorites, being another of the more 'experimental' ones— In this case 'filmed' as a single, continuous shot of Panty and Stocking sitting in a room, BS-ing with each other and bitching about being hungry.
It's a creative way to basically do a bottle episode, and a cool example of how the show can branch out in ways that aren't solely about being louder and fuckier than any other anime. Another one is the unusually sincere one about Stocking falling in love with The Worst Man.
That episode makes me so mad, because it shouldn't work half as well as it does. On paper it's an extended return to the show's well of poop jokes and other gross-out humor. And sure, there is something funny about Stocking's indecipherable taste in men prompting her to go Full Anime for an outing.
I spent pretty much the whole episode waiting for the reveal that this was some trick by the Demon Sisters and at the end Stocking would snap out of it and shoot the guy, because that's the vibe the entire rest of the show.
Maybe by then I was just clinging to any scrap of non-ironic sentiment, but I actually got a a little sad for Stocking and not just because of her truly wretched taste in men.
Anyway enough of that, time for the Mpreg episode.
Honestly, my favorite part of that bit is how few fucks it gives about the setup. Like you think there's going to be a whole story to Panty and Stocking getting shrunk down, but then no, it just opens up with them having fallen prey to another trick by the Demon Sisters and needing to wait for it to wear off while Brief messes with them in their tiny state.
"I'm so fucked up."
The whole episode basically was out of fucks to give. It's also got three separate segments entirely about the extended lore behind Chuck and his evil counterpart that ends with the two demons that control their brains fucking. Why? Fuck you, that's why. Now here's a Watchmen
The second part of that animated by my old friends at SANZIGEN
, even! Though this is about as far away from my beloved BanG Dream!
as is physically possible.
And speaking of evil counterparts, oh right, we haven't actually talked about the Demon Sisters yet!
Ah yes, the Homestucks.
Honestly I think the show picks up a lot once these two show up. Panty and Stock (with Garterbelt) are both such sociopathic chaos fountains that they need suitable targets, and it's not until the Helltaker girls show up that they really have proper foils to bounce off of.
Oh I absolutely feel the same. Just to begin with, I think if you're going to watch any one episode to get an idea of what's coolest about the overall energy of PSG
, it should be the sixth episode, the debut for these two. It's a double-length entry where the second half is one of the very few places where the animated action of the show really cuts loose. There's still a ton of toilet humor in-between everything (and even figuring prominently into the fights), but then you're watching two giant Humvees race up the side of the school in some pastel-shaded CGI prototype of Promare
's absurd action, and suddenly the fact that it's not that funny doesn't matter any more.
But then yeah, bringing in Scanty and Kneesocks and their dedication to RUUUULES finally gives a more effective sounding board for the Anarchy of the Anarchy Sisters to bounce off of, selling their...chaotic appeal a bit better.
For Teddyloid as an excuse to make more banger EDM songs, that's who.
Of course! That's why they even make a music video out of one of the tracks.
Again, I wonder if we'll ever be able to figure out the sorts of works that influenced Imaishi and crew on this.
Honestly, considering how overindulgent the show can get with its own style, the Be Here Now
reference is accidentally revealing.
That joke was for the three people who read this column and remember anything about post-Morning Glory
I could never keep up with you on music references, so my closest equivalent was being someone who was also way too into Jhonen Vasquez
comics in the 2000's recognizing the Slave Labor Graphics logo on Panty's shirt here.
All I'll say is the t.A.T.u.
reference was incredibly on the nose.
This show is so 2000's in so many ways, for better, and for worse.
Also considering what happens in the final moments of the season, I have to wonder if having Stocking as McCartney in the Abbey Road bit was foreshadowing. Does Imaishi subscribe to the Paul Is Dead theory?
I mean, the question of how much they actually planned, all the way up to that infamous final stinger, is always going to be at odds with how freewheelingly stream-of-consciousness each entry feels. The idea that they can even prompt people to concoct 'theories' around a show that cartoonishly spit in the face of 'continuity' until that final storyline is a testament to Imaishi and the gang's dedication to screwing with the audience.
Fun fact: Before finally sitting down to watch it, that final twist was basically the only thing I knew about the show. It is, after all, what has left the fanbase crowing for a follow-up for 12 years now. And I did notice some interesting details. Like how when they transform, they always start with Panty and never show Stocking's halo open up and change her outfit.
Is this just a quirk of how they boarded that particular bank animation? Subtle foreshadowing? Could be both or neither, but that chaos is exactly what gives this show its lifeblood.
It's an element that lines up with those occasional out-of-sorts episodes we already mentioned, and continues through the show providing a strength to it: Even if you aren't really vibing with its sense of humor, it continues to get by on that chaotic question of never knowing what's coming next, even right up to the literal last second.
This is the show that introduces an obligatory Panty simp as a recurring character in the second episode, only to take me aback in the second-to-last episode with an "Oh no, he's hooooot!" reveal that should have been easy to see coming.
And yes, they literally pull the aquarium scene from Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet
because who's going to stop them?
I'd completely forgotten about that parody by the time I got there for this rewatch, only to spit-take the instant that title card came on.
Nobody told Imaishi 'No', and that's why he was able to walk out and take all his pals with him shortly after this.
The man made Dead Leaves
. You think anyone at Gainax
had the power to stop him from making Brief's dick a literal key plot point?
If I had a nickel for every time in this final episode Brief's dick unlocked a previously-sealed biblical power, I'd have two nickels. Which isn't a lot, but it is weird that it happened twice.
What's the opposite of the chastity-powered magic from Maria the Virgin Witch
Oh Garterbelt knows that one:
That's another one of those inexplicable swerves I'm totally on-board for. So many other stories make their characters losing their virginity into a major shake-up. Only Panty & Stocking could set up its final conflict around a previously-promiscuous lead regaining her virginity. Somehow.
It's a weird idea pulled out of somebody's ass (quite possibly literally with this show) but it leads to an amazing moment where Panty makes her return while proudly embracing her reputation. PSG
says no to slut-shaming.
And there's even some genuine tenderness between her and Brief when they put his Key Master in her Gate Keeper. It immediately goes back to comedic indifference after that, but for a few fleeting moments (Brief is a two-pump chump, it's canon) it's kind of sweet.
Dude spent the entire season sheepishly hoping he could get into Panty's panties, and then in place of pillow talk she lets him plummet schlong-first into unzipping Satan's giant fly.
Yet we know he'll always have a place in her...well not heart. And not bed post either, since I'm pretty sure she's out of room. But somewhere.
I mean, the series ends with him set to get another piece of that.
Or 666 pieces, as it were.
Behold: the frame that ruined Christmas, 2010.
Honestly, I wasn't even mad, personally, the first time I watched it. Gainax wasn't exactly not known for trolling the shit out of their viewers in these days. And for the kind of series that PSG had (mostly) been up to this point, it felt like the perfect "What the fuck?!" escalation to end things on.
Everyone's reactions to it just made it all the more worth it.
It's a joke that only got more funny as time went by. If we'd gotten a follow-up a year or two later, or when Trigger first got started, it would have been a goofy cliffhanger that took a while to pay off. But after 12 years? Hilarious. Brilliant. It left an entire fanbase scrounging and desperate enough that six years later the rotting corpse of Gainax tried to squeeze a few precious pennies to stay alive.
Aw, those guys even managed to botch the obvious raunchy pun!
Leave it to the experts, guys.
Really though, while this trip into the past was inconsistent to say the least, I am interested to see just what the hell this franchise will look like in 2023(?). This kind of hyperviolent, fuck-filled riff on western cartoons has become so saturated it's honestly played out now, and a loooooot of the jokes in the first season have aged like milk. But if there's any team that can find new horizons in bad taste, it's Trigger.
That was the big question I was approaching this from, this being a rewatch of the series for myself: How well does Panty & Stocking
hold up? As said, a lot of the jokes that weren't great to begin with have aged into being worse, and there's concern over how they could move past or double-down on those. As a big fan of Studio Trigger
these days, I'm excited to see that second season as an illustration of just how much they've grown after all this time. In terms of both talent and taste.
But for all the parts that made me cringe in recognition of what boundaries I thought were acceptable in 2010 (surely the subtitles for the new project will have less slurs in them), I was happy to find that all the parts I remembered being good about PSG
still held up.
For better or worse, it's managed to stick with folks enough that its announcement still brought down the house at AX. And despite its imitators and influences, there's still nothing quite like it.
...for better or worse.
In that respect, I think if you missed this show the first time, or it was before your time (because again, twelve years), and the shockwaves of that announcement got you curious, it's at least worth going back and giving a look to see what all the hubbub is about. Even as I recognize that its...proclivities are going to cause a lot of people to just bounce right off of it.
Think of it as a history lesson, where the teacher is shitting his pants while reading porno mags and his dog humps your leg. You'll have a great time!