Screen & Page: Meet Heaven’s Worst Angels In ‘Panty & Stocking With Garterbelt'[Love & Sex Week]
Most anime is adapted from manga, often produced by the manga publisher to raise awareness and sell it overseas. But what about the anime shows or film that go the other way, adapted from the screen to the page? How do those works hold up, and what changes or stays the same? That’s what Screen & Page aims to explore.
It's Love & Sex Week here on ComicsAlliance and, while a quick glance at the internet will tell you there's a whole lot of anime that fit this subject, I decided to go with one that a) won't get me fired and b) is visually daring, funny, and occasionally just plain disgusting. Today, we're talking about Panty & Stocking With Garterbelt!!!
Throughout its history, the animation studio Gainax has created shows and movies that are visually striking and worth paying attention to. From the "gonzo music video" vibe of FLCL to the genre-redefining (if kinda overrated) Neon Genesis Evangelion to the outsized road trip of Gurren Lagann, Gainax productions are always a surprise in one way or another.
And what's more surprising than for one of the most acclaimed anime studios devoting its time, resources, and one of its most talented directors to making a 13-episode mature audience-rated spoof of '90s Cartoon Network shows?
That's exactly what you get with Panty and Stocking With Garterbelt, directed by Hiroyuki Imashi and written by a team of writers credited as "Geek Fleet," and it makes no bones about it. This 2010 anime is crass, rude, and at times really gross; it's also incredibly visually inventive and occasionally really funny.
The show had 13 episodes, with all but one split into two 11-minute shorts. It centers on its three title characters; Panty and Stocking are two angels kicked out of heaven for pretty unangelic behavior (Panty is a complete nymphomaniac, and Stocking is addicted to sweets of all kinds), and Garterbelt is a priest who serves as their boss/unwilling host in Daten City, a sprawling metropolis teeming with ghosts that the angels have to destroy in order to get Heaven Coins to buy their way back into the pearly gates.
What kind of gghosts? Well, among others, there's a poop monster, a giant pile of vomit, a literal high school queen bee (named Barbie!), and a phantom that tries to harness boogers and nosebleeds to fuel a rocket. Yeah, it's that kind of a show.
The show's constant vulgarity brings to mind early South Park --- back when that show was all about telling the strangest, most surreal stories imaginable with no money, as opposed to two Broadway millionaires yelling at Millennials to get off their lawn. Like the early years of that show, Panty's main animation style is super-flat and deliberately crude --- a trip for any '90s kids in the audience who remember Cartoon Network's Golden Age. (Panty even bangs a dude in one episode who looks like Johnny Bravo!)
With a firecracker like Imashi --- the director of Gurren Lagann, Kill la Kill, and the notorious SF film Dead Leaves --- at the helm, and the same kind of visual stylists who would later work with Imashi at his Studio Trigger, this show relishes in gonzo departures and stylistic switch-ups. Some are awesome --- like the live-action papier-mache models of ghosts that are blown up when they get defeated --- and others are subtly heartbreaking --- like the episode "Vomiting Point," which is animated almost entirely realistically and in a drab color scheme.
But a show like this lives or dies by its jokes. Which means, ultimately, that whether you enjoy it will depend on your sense of humor. If you're okay with constant swearing, sex jokes of all kinds, and jokes about literally every body fluid imaginable --- not to spoil, but one of the show's best scenes involves sperm as soldiers storming the, uh, beaches, shot like a war film --- then this is the anime for you.
Published monthly in the magazine Young Ace, the Panty & Stocking manga serves the most basic function of tie-in material: it reminds you of the show. Honestly, each chapter --- written and drawn by TAGRO --- is essentially like a lost short of the series, told in about eight to ten pages.
Taking place in an "alternate dimension" from the anime, to quote the author, the manga is nothing but a collection of stories that, if they can't quite match the visual heights of the series, match it at least for joke density. That said, TAGRO makes the characters his own, while staying true to how they're depicted onscreen, with a couple of nice fourth wall-breakers thrown in there, as well as a crossover chapter with TAGRO's own manga Abnormal Physiology Seminar.
TAGRO has real affection for this crazy world --- an author's note at the back of the manga reveals he has a long personal and professional history with Imashi --- and it shows. Still, in the end, it's really only necessary if you devour the show and want more.
A note for fans of Image Comics' Wayward; Zack Davisson, the guy who writes all those cool backmatter essays in every issue, was the translator on this. Does a dang fine job of it too.
Panty & Stocking With Garterbelt is available on DVD/Blu-Ray, digitally on iTunes and streaming on Funimation (subscription required). The manga is available digitally on Kindle and Google Play and in print from Dark Horse Comics and your local library.