Panyo Panyo Di Gi Charat Complete Collection (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, August 05, 2009
Release Date: Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Simply weird and silly, Panyo Panyo is the kind of Di Gi Charat that I enjoy where it’s weird but with a certain kind of silliness that clicks just right.

What They Say

Princess Dejiko has a mission: to make everyone on her planet happy. Whether she comes across a sleepy baker, a famous film director, a time traveler or a starving artist, Dejiko and her friends are always ready to help. But will the evil Deji Devil find a way to stop her? Will his sidekick Piyoko ruin Dejiko's career as an actress? Will Dejiko ever be able to tell her friends that she's really a princess?

Contains episodes 1-48.

The Review!
Audio:

This series was a surprise during its original release that the English language track got a 5.1 mix to it as it wasn’t one you’d guess they’d put in the extra effort for. That track is done at a solid 448kbps while the original Japanese stereo track is given a welcome 256kbps encoding. Both tracks come across pretty strongly with both dialogue and sound effects, though there is a touch more crispness to the English track since it's getting a 5.1 mix and the directionality across the forward soundstage is more precise. Dialogue is clean and clear in both and we had no issues with dropouts or distortions.

Video:

Originally airing in 2002, this forty-eight episode series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. This collection is simply a repackaging of the original release which means we get four discs with three full length episode son each of them. The series is formally listed as forty-eight episodes made split into three "episode" chunks. Each episode runs roughly just over six minutes in length, and each of the sets roughly encompasses a particular small arc, so it works out pretty well in how things are laid out. Each of the episode sets has the opening and ending sequences around them. With the transfer itself, this show uses a lot of really bright vibrant colors and large swathes of solids throughout in various shades of pastels and more. The print simply looks great with no noticeable breakup of all these large blocks of color. The shading looks great, cross coloration is virtually non-existent and I'm hard pressed to find much in the way of aliasing, even during a number of the panning sequences. This is a solid and enjoyable print pretty much all the way through.

Packaging:

This collection uses an oversized black keepcase to hold the four discs, which are placed on the interiors with no hinges inside. The front cover artwork is very appealing as it uses the soft pastel colors to good effect as it showcases the core cast of characters and the light and fanciful nature of the series. There’s a lot of detail to be found here even in this simply drawn character designs and it ties together very well with the background and the color design overall. It definitely lets you know that it’s a cute series with lots of potential smiles if you like that sort of thing. The back cover uses the same kind of overall design but with smaller shots of some of the girls and lots of light but appealing colors. The summary is obviously very minimal and they push the episode count in a way that is somewhat deceptive since most people will associate episode length as being twenty minutes or so. There are some shots from the show and a good technical grid that is clear about the runtime of the show though. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:

The main menu further reinforces the cute fact as it's an animated musical piece that has the four lead characters doing a little two-step in a row with some of the instrumental music playing. Even Gema's floating above and sharking his arms in rhythm with the episode numbers dancing. Combined with the color changing backgrounds this is a very cute menu that is maddeningly addictive when played over the course of an hour and doing other things. Access times are nice and fast and easy access to individual episodes is available.

Extras:

Disc 1: The opening and ending sequences are done in clean form which is very good since there's a lot going on in that opening sequence and are available on each volume. The production sketch section has a variety of pieces and we also get a couple of Japanese promotional commercials. For dub fans, the voice actress for Dejiko, Luci Christian, provides a commentary for two of the episodes and talks about her experiences with the show and dealing with the characters.

Disc 2: For the Japanese fan, there's an interview session with the four lead actresses of the show. This is typical of a lot of interviews of this nature where there is almost more giggling going on than talking but it is interesting placing real faces with the characters and how some of them really do seem like their counterparts. For English fans, Hilary Haag provides a commentary for her second favorite episode here (she ran out of things to say on the first episode apparently) and talks about the strangeness of the show and her character.

Disc 3: For English fans, Cynthia Martinez provides a commentary for an episode. Also included are a couple of character description pieces that go for a couple of screens per character, giving their vitals and talking a bit about them.

Disc 4: For English fans, Allison Sumrall provides a commentary for an episode. Also included are a couple of character description pieces that go for a couple of screens per character, giving their vitals and talking a bit about them.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)

At the time of this shows original release in the US, we were mostly free of any serious sort of incursion by the evil sugariness of Di Gi Charat. This changed that and got some out into people’s hands to experience. While Di Gi Charat has not been successful overall I think, since it is a fairly niche show with a very basic approach that would work great on broadcast for those short six minute runs that they are, this particular incarnation continues to be one of my favorites since it has the right setup and manages to be fun throughout. And they knew when to stop for awhile and take a break.

This story is set about two years prior to the original series that came before it where the lead character comes to Earth, so we instead follow Princess Dejiko around on her own planet Panyo Panyo. Dejiko, the cute and bubbly little princess, has been actually reading a book about people lately and has come to realize that the majority of them are simply unhappy. Not believing that this could be true in the realm she'll inherit someday, she manages to convince her tutor after an amusing chase sequence that she's going to go into the world and make people happy.

So with her tiny friend Puchiko and her guardian Gema, a strange yellow ball with stick arms, she heads off into Panyo Panyo to try and do good. But how can she improve the life of man and spread happiness? The first that comes to mind is to help out in a bakery she comes across where lots of people are lined up. As she learns from some of the waiting patrons, eating the cakes made inside make them happy, so she starts pooling her efforts towards that by becoming an apprentice to the master chef there, a cute and overly tired girl named Rinna. But while that may help out some, she needs to reach more people. With Rinna opting to come along, she heads out into the world again and ends up meeting up with a girl named MeeK whom they end up helping with their story. But even that doesn't last long because Dejiko is eventually discovered as an actress and with her starring roles by this fairly odd director she'll be able to reach more people than she ever thought she could.

As Dejiko and her friends go about their routines, a regular interruption comes in the form of Digi Devil, a phantom devilish character with the master plan for taking over Panyo Panyo, and his able sidekick the blonde beauty named Piyoko. Piyoko's a hoot herself with her little black bat wings and skimpy outfits, though she does clean up nice for a few scenes. These two bad guys provide all sorts of plans for stopping Dejiko from spreading happiness to the world and making their job harder to do. Of course, most of the time Dejiko and her friends don't even realize what Piyoko is doing and try to keep befriending her and throwing her off of her original mission. As a foil, Piyoko is cute and able but destined to fail for a variety of reasons.

The second volume continues on much like the first with the mini episodes and everything being done and over with quickly for each story, something that definitely helps to keep it fresh and moving fast. Each of the three episode blocks here are well themed and contain an overall storyline of sorts that's connected to each other. The opening episode plays up a number of parodies as Dejiko and her friends become "phantom thieves" stealing from the rich and those who have too much and giving it to those who have nothing. They're all wearing tiny skintight outfits and amusing masks while coming up with creative ways to steal things from under the noses of the cops. The always ineffective cops. Their methods on serve to infuriate Piyoko who doesn't understand stealing and not keeping the goods so Deji Devil and Piyoko try to take them down by showing how stealing is really supposed to be done. But in a way, Piyoko ends up becoming the good guy over the course of these episodes in a sense as she continues to try and stop Dejiko and her friends. Complete with a detective style outfit, you're almost waiting for her to end her sentences in 'datchu!'.

Even more amusing is when Dejiko goes to sea in another episode. With the theme being that of helping out the MeeK fish store as the ocean has stopped giving up its fish, Dejiko decides that that's who they're going to help next. To everyone's surprise though, when they get on the ship they're going to use Dejiko is dressed up as a pirate. She tries to convince everyone that it's just part of the gig but everyone knows that she's really just wanting to dress up like that. On the high seas, the group has to deal with all kinds of silly issues ranging from not finding any fish to using Gema as a net of sorts. Did you know when Gema gets wet, he expands? When the group isn't looking for the fish, having given up and moved on to plan B, they're looking for treasure so they can give to MeeK and her family so they have something else to survive on. These characters are all just far too cute doing things as simple as fishing or wearing pirate outfits and searching for buried treasure.

The gags for third volume are just as much fun as the previous ones. The opening one has the gang and Gema dealing with a variety of different kinds of ghosts in their short stories. There's an amusing one right from the start with a ghost that eats anything and everything so they force it to eat all the trash in the town so that it stops eating the girls doughnuts. Watching the thing grow and participate in a musical number is just hilarious as it eats and eats and eats. Another has some of the nastier types of ghosts that just try to cause trouble and this leads to a couple of the girls to dress up in faux Ghostbusters outfits and play out that kind of experience. There are a bunch of good little gags like that throughout the episodes and it's cute watching them deal with so many different types of ghosts.

Another running gag that I enjoyed is when the girls dress up in their detective outfits and change between doing jobs under that hat or acting as bodyguards. They do a lot of bodyguard duty in this volume and there's some really amusing material with it. One of the bits has the group guarding a pop idol named Eiri, who Gema just happens to be a huge fan of. Their job to protect her is fairly normal, but what really made this episode shine is in the English version where they have Eiri singing and the voice actress actually gets to sing. Jessica Boone did a great job with it and basically nailed the song just right in my book. The episode with the visiting prince from another planet was also very cute, even though you could guess the main bit about it right away. There's plenty of quick situational comedy with it as the girls serve as bodyguards for him but there are also a couple of really sweet little moments where Dejiko and the prince really get a chance to relate in a way neither expected.

As the series hits its final volume, you get a trio of episodes that each have a theme to them and have a good spot of fun with it. Some work better than others but that's just the nature of the beast. The entire first episode is designed around the gang being part of a rescue squad and they wear firefighter style outfits for much of it. There's some cloyingly cute material such as trying to rescue the cat from the telephone pole but there's also some more amusing material where the spirit of the planet cries out in pain and the girls try to help without realizing who it is they're helping. Most of it's fairly weak but I did enjoy the bit about putting out fires and they go after everyone who has any sort of open flame near them.

The series even does an entire episode focused around sports, which definitely had some amusing moments such as Rinna's amazing abilities and the entire baseball episode. Piyoko continues to be my favorite of the girls and seeing her up on the mound and just getting into the game was a lot of fun. But the best material on the disc is the last full episode itself which is almost a full regular episode with mini-breaks between the episodes that focuses on the arrival of Christmas on the planet. Santa's left a note saying that he's taking the year off so there won't be any presents or fun, which means the girls head to his place to find out what's happened and then take on the role of Santa themselves.

This has a lot of good jokes and visual gags as they get all the presents made and go through turning Gemma into a floating Rudolph while Deji Devil and Piyoko try to stop them from doing this so that they can spoil the holiday. I just loved the way they got tricked themselves into the "most wonderful present in the world" and Piyoko kept it with her for the rest of the episode. Deji Devil gets some really good screen time in this episode as well as he finally shows some of his real powers and tries to ruin Christmas hard and almost feels some regret over it. Of course, there's lots of singing and that's probably one of the more addictive moments of the show as everyone gets into that pretty heavily. Normally the holiday themed anime episodes can go poorly or terribly clichéd but this one was a lot of fun and helped to balance out an otherwise repetitive set of episodes earlier on the disc.

In Summary:

Panyo Panyo is a very entertaining hyperactive comedy with endearing characters. While Dejiko is intended to be your favorite, the villains often come in and steal the show and that's exactly what Piyoko does. Between her and Deji Devil, the bad guys really provide a lot of weird wacky comedy and some of the classic Warner Bros. style gags and jokes to the plot. Panyo Panyo almost reaches that limit of being too much but it knows how to use the short running time to its advantage and kept me laughing and shaking my head in disbelief at a number of the gags and jokes.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Commentaries, Interviews, Character Bios

Review Equipment

Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: A-
Age Rating: No Rating
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 49.98
Running time: 350
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Panyo Panyo Di Gi Charat