Sunday 7 January 2018

First Impressions: Pop Team Epic

Pop Team Epic
Pop Team Epic is available in streaming form subbed by Crunchyroll, Hi-Dive & (in Australia and New Zealand) AnimeLab, as well as dubbed by Funimation

If you've ever spent a prolonged period of time in the anime/manga circles on social media, chances are you'll have had some sort of encounter with Pop Team Epic (or Poptepipic as its also known by). The four-panel webcomic/digital manga by Bukubu Okawa quickly rose to the ranks of memedom, thanks to its surreal humour and references to various other anime/manga/gaming titles. Given its popularity it was only a matter of time before an anime adaptation was green-lit, with the show finally arriving as part of the 2018 winter anime season. Such is its popularity that the show has been made available on multiple streaming sites, with both CrunchyrollHi-Dive and (in Australia and New Zealand) AnimeLab simulcasting the show whilst Funimation tackle a simuldub.

Pop Team Epic follows the misadventures of Popuko and Pipimi, two foul-mouthed middle-school girls who find themselves in a series of both mundane and bizarre situations. After quickly doing away with the idol series "Hoshino Girldrop", Popuko experiences her first meeting with Pipimi across time along with a number of other equally random skits.

Pop Team Epic do Your NamePop Team Epic do Pokemon

My god, where do you even begin with this series?

After maintaining the (admittedly long overdone at this point) false idol anime opening just long enough for me to check that Crunchyroll hadn't screwed up whilst playing the episode, Pop Team Epic launches into a barrage of skits that barely give you enough time to breath before the next one hits like a hammer to the face. This first episode alone hits out at the likes of My Neighbour Totoro, Skyrim, Your Name, Pokemon and Guardians of the Galaxy amongst its more down to Earth skits, which usually serve to show how ridiculously explicit and/or aggressive the girls are. There's an overwhelming sense that Pop Team Epic thinks its funnier than it actually is, but even when the jokes themselves fall flat you can't help but be somewhat amused by the fact put this to film. But undoubtedly the best joke of all was having the pair voiced by male voice actors. The unexpectedness of this was funny enough in itself, but hearing that their voice actors (Masashi Ebara and Hōchū Ōtsuka) were suggested in one of the comics years before the anime was even a possibility makes it all the better.

Giving the show a bit more variety is also the different visual styles it takes for each respective skit. As well as crudely imitating some of the material it parodies, Pop Team Epic's experimentation with different mediums helps give it a bit more identity from its source material. Switching it up into crudely draw animation or CGI might not seem like much, but it does mix it up nicely. A full 23-minutes is more than enough time for a show like this to overstay its welcome (and this episode did come dangerously close to it), so some style changes here and there are definitely needed.

And just when you think the episode is over and done with, it goes and repeats the entire thing all over again - only this time with female voices for the two leads (as well as much-needed subtitles for the France skit, at least in the Crunchyroll version anyway). Any show with a lesser reputation would never get away with such a thing, but for Pop Team Epic it's just another day of the week (it also once again made me check that the website hadn't glitched whilst playing the video). Did the whole thing needed to be played all over again for the joke to be funny? Certainly not, but that's just the way this show does things. Sometimes it's funny and other times you'll question why the hell this is even happening, but either way it's never a dull moment.

Pop Team Epic "experiments"Pop Team Epic goes to France

Pop Team Epic is less an anime than it is an experience. As the anime equivalent of shitposting, it's aggressively rapid form of comedy certainly isn't going to be to everyone's tastes nor is it necessarily going to be consistent in its humour. Ideas like repeating the whole episode again but with different voices sounds funny on paper, but in practice the joke wears out fairly swiftly. It only takes a single episode to make it abundantly clear that Pop Team Epic is one of those "love it or hate it" anime, but whichever camp you reside in you can expect to both see and hear a lot from this show over the coming months whether you like it or not.

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