If America and Japan’s cross-cultural exchange runs on a two-way street, then PANTY & STOCKING must be getting hawked out of a shady little tent in one of the seedier alleyways that lie somewhere down the middle. No bones about it, this is a filthy f***ing show. So filthy, in fact, that you’re guaranteed to either love or loathe it for its filth. There’s no mediation in between, no punches pulled and no quarter given.
The story goes that Gainax wanted to blow off some steam and produce a response to prime time US toons like AQUA TEEN HUNGER FORCE or FAMILY GUY. Showing that echoes can actually bounce back louder, this show’s so dirty that it probably couldn’t even play on Adult Swim’s latest-running programming block. Seriously, PANTY & STOCKING’s maybe just one act of careless parenting away from getting a sensationalized “investigative” profile on some local news affiliate.
Smooshing DIRTY PAIR and CHARLIE’S ANGELS together with (uncomfortably enough) THE POWERPUFF GIRLS, this show’s about a couple of killer nymphos who alternately use sex or undergarment-shaped weapons to destroy a legion of “ghosts.” The ghosts range in form from demon cars to monster sperm, and the idea is that these girls, the titular Panty and Stocking, can buy their way out of a banishment to Earth by collecting enough coins of these monsters. (You know, video game logic. Kill a ghost. Get a coin. Collect enough coins for a power-up. Etc.) Their “Charlie” is the jive-talkin’ reverend Garterbelt and… and…
…and that’s all you really need to know.
The show’s about simply putting these girls into the most manic, lewd situations imaginable. One short has Panty scouring the globe to forcibly remove her sex tape from circulation, another short sees toilets eating scores of innocent in order to produce a giant poop monster… and you get the idea. This is “Adult’s Only” content for those of us with decidedly juvenile senses of humor. And it’s at least reassuring to know that, while the girls are definitely sexed-up “lolis,” this show’s mature-rated for almost everything reason other than the girls being presented as titillating spank material.
* AHEM *
Getting back to the subject of that rhetorical two-way street, it’s worthwhile to dredge up the old “dub vs. sub” debate once again. PANTY & STOCKING serves as a rather unique discussion point. I reviewed a few subbed episodes a while back - - not too long after the show started running in Japan. The show was an unabashed hoot, but I stopped watching for a few reasons. For one, episodic shows are harder to review than extended serials in Watch & Learn; and those with two quick one-off shorts per episode are harder still. It’s difficult to find anything meaningful to write aside from plot summaries or simple evaluations that run along the lines of “Well, that was cool.”
More to the point, though, manic comedy shows with rapid-fire dialog honestly take too much effort to keep up with in a sub. (And listen, that’s coming from somebody who can read really fast, all right?) You’re sitting there on the edge of your seat, enjoying all these ribald jokes about lethal sperm and guns made out of underwear - - and the strain of trying to keep up with this ever-fleeting stream of text is just killing your buzz.
So the prospect of a dubbed PANTY & STOCKING sounded appealing. That appeal winds up coming and going while actually watching it, though.
This is machine gun comedy, and the jokes hit the mark at maybe a one-to-three ratio. When they do hit, they’re funnier on account of that ol’ immediacy of language. Of course, with that comes some extra shock value. It’s one thing to read Panty and Stocking cursing like sailors in their subtitles; it’s another matter entirely to actually hear all the vulgarity coming out of these moppets’ mouths. As mentioned, the style consciously evokes the clean linework of shows like THE POWERPUFF GIRLS, so the experience can get as uncomfortable as seeing Rule 34 of the Internet in action.
Frankly, the cussing gets to a frequency that feels akin to a middle-schooler trying real hard to seem adult by swearing as much as she can. There shouldn't ever be a threat of "too much" for a show like this, but still... it got to be too much, sometimes. Amusingly enough, the visual comedy and slapstick is consistently more enjoyable, so this is a case where the storyboard artists are due more than the writers, perhaps.
That said, I don't think your enjoyment of PANTY & STOCKING is going to be decided by its degrees of lewdness. This goes all the way to deliver on the notion of Gainax doing its take on American TV-MA toons, Either you're down for the rumpus, or you aren't.