Sketch shows, such as Saturday Night Live and Robot Chicken, utilize an incredibly effective formula. Quick, funny skits that rarely have anything to do with each other can be very entertaining. Although the anime, Pop Team Epic, copies the sketch-show style, its delivery is definitely unique. Beware anime-niacs, there are spoilers ahead.
Pop Team Epic is based on a web-comic of the same name, and focuses on two teenage girls, Popuko and Pipimi, in a variety of situations that parody pop culture. Most of the parodies reference other anime, J-pop, dramas, and video games. The majority of the skits are animated in the same style, but there are segments which involve live performances, and a crudely animated recurring sketch entitled, “Bob Epic Team.” While the skits are brief, the interactions between Popuko, Pipimi, and the world around them are sometimes so outlandish and ridiculous, that simply the premise of the particular situation is funny. Although I definitely don’t understand too many references, that does not diminish the hilarity of the show (there’s plenty I don’t understand, just ask my girlfriend). However, there are a few sketches that are more memorable than others.
One of the more hilarious skits involves Popuko and Pipimi as gangsters recently released from prison, and the two find themselves working for the Yakuza as assassins. The humor in this situation stems not only from how the two speak and act, but also because of how cute and silly the two characters look while behaving in such a violent way. Another segment parodies The Shining, where Popuko and Pipimi are the creepy twins, and cause the deaths of the young people who are staying in the hotel. In a sketch that parodies Chrono Trigger, Popuko, in the role of Crono, bumps into Pipimi, in the role of Marle, and the collision knocks off Pipimi’s pendant. When Popuko refuses to hand it back, Pipimi uses the Luminaire technique on Popuko to inflict 9999 damage (this should have been one of Chono Trigger’s 187 alternate endings).
Even during references that I don’t understand, this show is funny in its ridiculous and dry delivery, and it is rare that I do not laugh during a sketch. I will point out, however, that there is a recurring segment that involves someone who works on the show that speaks in French, and there are no subtitles (which is an anime fan’s worst nightmare, right next to prom night). This brief segment is extremely weird and is typically followed by a scene featuring Popuko and Pipimi where all of the dialogue is in French. Perhaps if it was translated via subtitles I would find it enjoyable, but perhaps the point is to be weird. Although I’ve expressed how comedic this show is, all of it is extremely weird, but I suppose that simply reflects the weirdness of the creator.
After the completion of the initial Pop Team Epic volume, the creator, Bukubu Okawa, began to promote a new series entitled, Hoshiiro Girldrop. The premise, character bios, and ads circulated throughout the internet, but when the first volume of Girldrop was released, the story was interrupted by Popuko and Pipimi, revealing that Hoshiiro Girldrop was a ruse. Patti and I were unaware of this, so when the anime began, the first few minutes set up the premise and characters of Girldrop, and we thought the anime service made a mistake (we were about to girldrop the subscription). Instead, the creator decided to trick fans into thinking that they were viewing a cutesy rom-com.
This is a really bizarre show with cute, malleable characters, and I think that’s why Pop Team Epic works so well. Popuko and Pipimi can literally be anywhere and do anything, and it simply makes sense. In fact, that’s part of the humor and charm of the show, and I would recommend Pop Team Epic to anyone who has an odd sense of humor. Episodes are short and not related to each other, so it doesn’t take much dedication to enjoy. Although I’m sure this show won’t appeal to everyone, I would encourage anyone to give it a try.