ADV Films add to their extremely impressive catalogue of anime comedies once again with Paniponi Dash, a series that - if the trailer is anything to go by - looks to be as mad as a spoon.
The series follows Rebecca Miyamoto, a half-American,
half-Japanese genius graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who
inexplicably decides to become a Japanese secondary school teacher. Oh,
did I mention that she's 11 years old and accompanied by a terminally depressed
talking rabbit? No? Well I have now. Anyway, teaching in Japan
was always going to be tough for Rebecca, but things aren't helped by her class.
You've got the one who delights in picking on her, one who's insanely
hyperactive, one who's bookish but useless at exams, one who's completely
unremarkable... the list goes on! Things further complicate when similarly
odd pupils from the class next door get in on the act, and then there's the
possibly homicidal class rep, alien observers and the cat who lives in vending
machines and claims to be God. Yes, Rebecca has her work cut out, but
she's not without her own quirks...
Paniponi Dash is possibly the most bizarre anime I have ever seen. It comes across something like a strange hybrid of Azumanga Daioh and Excel Saga mashed together with the contents of a video shop and an extremely hardcore anime fan's DVD collection. References to films and anime pepper the series, often appearing in the background or for just a few seconds. The gags and references are so rapid fire that you can barely keep up, and many are completely and totally random. In the space of 30 seconds you can
jump from one scene where a reference to an old arcade game is scrawled on the blackboard to another where background characters are locked in a scene from Reservoir Dogs. I never thought anything could top Excel Saga for sheer randomness, but it looks like I was wrong.
Aside from the random
reference spotting, the series is quite good fun. A lot of the
gags hit their mark and the characters are stereotypical but fun to
watch. At the moment the creepy class rep Miss Ichijo steals the
show. It's still unexplained how she became class rep when she
barely talks and seems to try and poison people on a regular basis, but
to be honest compared to the rest of the series this is one of the more
sensible aspects. Rebecca herself is pretty good too, and I love
the way the series sends itself up - apart from the main characters
everyone else is depicted as identical clones who neither move or speak,
and the camera occasionally moves back to show that the classroom is in
fact a film set! It makes as much fun of itself as it does
everything else and this makes it really enjoyable to watch.
However, the series' quickfire gags, complete randomness and absurdity
does actually hold it back as well.
The problem is that there is absolutely no plot to nearly all the episodes. It's almost as it they created the characters, stuck them in a room, saw what happened and then padded it our with sight gags and pop-culture references. Unlike Excel Saga, where each episode had a theme, Paniponi Dash rarely has anything to hold an episode together. The few episodes that do are the best - particularly the one where Rebecca removes the hyperactive Himeko Katagiri's cowlick, causing her lose all her energy - but the rest of the
time it seems like a series of sketches that just happens to use the same characters in each one. It's still very funny, entertaining and well animated, but completely shallow - the comedy really is all it has, so thank god the comedy's good!
In fairness it doesn't pretend to be anything more than it is. It takes a cast of funny characters, throws them together and comedy occurs. It's not high art, and it's not particularly subtle, but it is very, very funny. In places it's like a stream of consciousness as completely unrelated gags and asides that have absolutely no bearing on what's going on assault your senses, but you can watch it over and over again and pick up new gags each time. Paniponi Dash vol 1 is a masterclass of blink-and-you'll-miss-it humour, total randomness and sheer craziness that may turn your brain to mush, but hey, if you like insanity give it a go!
Great stuff once again from ADV. Trailers and clean opening and closing sequences are joined by TV spots, an alternative opening sequence and the excellent AD Vid Notes. The AD Vid Notes is a feature that causes Pop-Up Video-style word balloons to appear throughout the episodes explaining the references and gags. In a series like this they're essential if you are to get some of the jokes, but the jokes are sometimes so quick you have to pause it in order to read the notes! The Vid Notes are a great extra and couples with the other on-disc extras, reversible cover and booklet it helps makes for a superb selection.