Paniponi Dash Vol. #2 (also w/box) (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, February 06, 2007



What They Say
While most classes take excursions to museums or zoos, if your teacher is an 11-year-old genius with a penchant for trouble - and your class is filled with high-wired teenage girls - your field trips are definitely trippier. You do things like investigate a haunted schoolhouse, crash on a strange island, shake it like Shakira at Brazil's carnivale, or maybe even practice your bomb detonating skills. (Uh-oh.)

The Review!
As the class falls into line in dealing with Becky, Paniponi Dash finds its rhythm and starts to get a bit more interesting.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. Similar to other shows in the genre, it's got a pretty good stereo mix to it but it's not one that has a lot of real directionality to it across the forward soundstage. Some of the dialogue is well placed but often it's just a single character on screen talking so it's not a big deal for the most part. When it does need to feel full, it conveys it well. We did listen to the English 5.1 track as well and it came across as generally the same but with a bit sharper clarity for some of the voices. During regular playback, we didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions.

Video:
Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Having not seen the original release of this, I'm not sure if the softness of the materials is intentional or not but it does have a very soft feel to it. A lot of this is due to the pastel color style choice used for backgrounds and character designs but even then it still feels too soft. This doesn't result in any noticeable color bleeding but some of the lines aren't quite as well defined because of it. And it certainly doesn't look as sharp and vibrant as the special opening sequence in the extras which only adds more confusion, since the credits are not translated in the opening sequence in the show itself. Thankfully, the softness doesn't introduce too much noise to the backgrounds or areas such as hair and it still manages to look good and free of issues such as cross coloration or aliasing.

Packaging:
Going with the parody covers, this installment is an amusing piece where Becky takes on the role of Slash from Guns 'n Roses with the guitar and her hair all long and curly. With all the white space around it the artwork is very eye-catching. The colors work well and seeing someone with a guitar isn't something you see a lot. The back cover doesn't have the same clean look as the front but it's well laid out with a number of shots from the show surrounding the summary of the premise. The discs features are nice and clearly listed just above the production information and the technical grid lists everything I want to know about the release from that perspective. The reverse side of the cover is rather amusing as it's made up of the Hekiru Hikawa Theater strips, a bunch of four panel comics that are fully translated. Also included is a booklet that has a strategy guide for surviving at this school as well as some messages from the Japanese voice actors.

Part of ADV's recent and logical plan to provide chipboard boxes with second volumes, this release comes with that particular flavor as well. Surprisingly understated but similar to the covers for the keepcases, the solid chipboard box is framed with white borders. The main panels have some good character artwork though with one side featuring Becky by herself while the other has a classroom shot with three of her students. The top and bottom provides the logo as well as the poor bunny while the side panel is just of the logo. It's unfortunate that they didn't use artwork on one of the panels for more or all of the main class characters since everyone has a favorite and might end up feeling stiffed.

Menu:
The menu design for the show isn't unexpected asi t has a decent shot of a smiling Rebecca looking out at the viewer while behind her is a chalkboard with the selections. It's a standard design we've seen on many other school themed shows before, though they do add in the quirks from the show such as aliens popping out, shadows walking by and a decent little musical bit. Similar to other menus from ADV Films, it allows instant episode access from the top and basic navigation to the extras and language setup. Since the discs tend to read player presets almost all of the time, it was again a non-issue here. Straightforward and easy to use, we had no problems with this quick loading layout.

Extras:
The extras roll right along for this volume and some of them are just key to understanding things. The opening and closing sequences, which do change throughout the series, are provided for the episodes on this volume. The Vid-notes is again used with this volume and it certainly helps to provide a lot of detail, snarky though it may be at times, about the various gags and settings. This volume also features a featurette with the English voice actors talking about their time in school. It's cute and amusing and an essential piece of humanizing the actors and making them more accessible to fans. The downside is that if you're unfamiliar with the actresses they don't match names to them until quite a ways into the feature. It does run just over twenty minutes and is amusing in a number of ways, from unintentional physical comedy to having lots of embarrassing material to use on the actresses should people meet them. The last extra on the disc is a CD Spot Medley which is a group of brief spots for varioust CD releases.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Paniponi Dash in its first five episodes left me completely uninterested in the show and dreading seeing more. Watching those episodes in some ways felt painful and almost like too much of an overload. With the second volume having another five episodes, I decided to try and change things up a bit to see if a different method would work. Instead of the traditional method of watching the disc in one sitting, I broke it up into three different sessions and opted to not include the vid-notes with it. By removing a lot of the distractions and taking it in smaller doses, the show proved to be much more enjoyable and easier to digest. But I'm not sure if that's damning it with faint praise or not.

With the introductions out of the way from the first volume, the show has settled into more of an episodic mode that doesn't require spending time getting to know everyone. While we don't know the entire class like we do in some shows, there are still a fair number of students that make continual appearances. By the end of the volume I still wasn't sure who each and every character is, they're far easier to identify by their quirks than names, but the bulk of the main ones felt much more familiar and almost enjoyable. Similar to the Best Student Council series however, I think the best character out of all of them is the comedy sidekick character in Mesousa. Even as other characters get abused and tortured at times, Meousa seems to suffer the most visibly. In some ways Mesousa is the epitome of a drama queen.

With these episodes not having any real overall continuity between them, there isn't much in the way that happens that makes any significant impact. In some ways, a lot of the show has taken on a Monty Python feeling. The aliens in particular cause this, such as the scene in the first episode where a giant hand comes down and twirls the planet around seven times to simulate the passing of time. One of the aliens sees this and starts freaking out about it. Of course, just the concept of the cat who is really a god that lords over them is amusing enough, but the fact that he spends his time inside a vending machine that can achieve orbit and delivers snacks and drinks to Mesousa just takes it to a whole other level.

The plots for the show are pretty much paper thin and just allow the characters to go wild. The first episode revolves around Becky getting her own research room and everyone is trying to get an idea of what it's all about. Another episode has Becky losing a coin toss and select members of her class have to clean the swimming pool. This provides for a lot of fanservice as they all wear the school swimsuits but sometimes it just goes oh so wrong in how it portrays the various characters. One of the more amusing ones has Becky going to visit a professor who is on an island that she grew up knowing and he reveals some positively hilarious pictures of how Becky used to be when she went to college. Even more priceless is the situation that they put Mesousa in during this and twist his looks because of.

At this point, I think it's just that some of the cast continues to annoy me to no end if I'm exposed to them for too long. That maho girl is cute and funny but after two episodes I want to throttle her. Outside of Mesousa, I think Ichijo is my favorite human character but that's partially because of her little sister. The kind of trouble she gets in and the way she brings a certain kind of humor to the situation is almost too perfect at times. Be it eating a ton of cookies or being carried about, there's just something about her. Seeing her in x100 form though is something that just makes you cringe.

In Summary:
I'm hard pressed to say Paniponi Dash has won me over considering how harshly I rated the first volume. I'm also less inclined to say it since I had to do it in very measured doses since too much exposure made me want to turn it off. But unlike the first volume which didn't have me laughing at all throughout it, this one had me laughing several times and warming up to quite a few of the characters. Comedies are among the hardest titles to deal with since humor can be so much more subjective than other kinds of shows. I've always had mixed luck when it comes to anime comedy shows so I wasn't too surprised to find this one not winning me over. This set of episodes does a good job of starting to rectify that for this series however.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,AD Vid-notes, "In Class With the Cast","CD Spot Medley",Clean Closing Animation

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD10 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: C+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: A
Age Rating: TV PG
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98/39.98
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Pani Poni Dash!