Paniponi Dash Vol. #3 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, April 06, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, April 17, 2007
What They Say
When the girls discover No. 6 seems to have a secret crush, they'll stop at nothing to discover who he, or she, is. But how to find her beloved's identity? Coerce Becky into helping them! (Little does the 11-year old teacher know how dangerous that job is.) But it's nothing compared to the danger of a strange red bull-monster in lust with another one of the girls! Or a giant evil robot attacking their school! Add to that AD Vid-notes â"¢, hilarious behind-the-scenes extras with the gorgeous cast, and you have the hottest magna-laugh-loudly anime of the year!
Moving further away from anything resembling a standard school comedy, Paniponi Dash dives deeper into the realm of the fantastic.
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.
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.
Serving up another parody cover, Becky turns serious as she takes up a kung-fu pose in the proper attire. Similar to the previous covers, it looks quite striking due to the amount of white space that's included in the background. The character artwork is fairly subdued in the color design but it's nicely accented by the blues and purples in the logo area. 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.
The menu design for the show isn't unexpected as it 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.
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. Thankfully we do get some names and match-ups as the extra goes on which was really missing from the first volume. It runs about twenty minutes and is amusing in a number of ways.
Of the new extras, Paniponi X makes an appearance which is an amusingly if crudely drawn quasi-opening sequence. A new text interview is included with the opening sequence director and episode director, Tatsuya Oishi. Finding out what was going through his head when they came up with the opening is worth the entry fee alone considering how addictive that first "Maho!" lyric is. A special opening sequence is here as well called "Roulette*Roulette" which is kept clean and free of subtitling as well.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The uneven nature of the series hits once again with this volume as we tried changing things up once more in how it was watched. Keeping the vid-notes off but watching it all in one session, the comedy does keep rolling but even with one less episode it still felt a bit overwhelming when taken in like that. The show has really moved away from the standard wacky school comedies by this point and only pays lip service to some of the basic expected gags.
Unsurprisingly, the first exposure to the disc proves to be the most enjoyable while the last episode left me thinking it was all too much. The opening episode spends a good bit of time focusing on the curiously named No. 6, a.k.a Sayaka. When she's at first scene having something resembling a romantic interlude on the riverbank and then the car of her apparent interest ends up at school, the rumors start flying. A search to find out who the owner of the car is ensues which leads Becky to end up on a hilarious drive with the Old Geezer. Of course, No. 6 can't be interested in him, even with Himeko's idealized vision of him, so it takes an amusing yuri-like twist as the mystery deepens. Becky has some priceless moments in this episode when she tries to figure out who the driver is as well as when she's actually in the car. The situation just takes too much control for her liking.
One of the stories that dips into the realm of the fantastic has Becky and a group of the students getting caught up inside of Himeko's dream. It seemed like at first it would be Becky's dream but once it gets underway it turns into a weird twisted version of Alice in Wonderland and other tales. Everything inside of Himeko's head turns out to be Maho'ized, be it the fruit on the tree or the clouds in the sky. The show is quickly nonsensical and a lot of it seems to happen just for the sake of it. The show has been very thin on plot in the past but this one seems to push it a bit further. It turns more to watching and laughing at the characters reactions to the absurd, which works well but can get tiring after a lot of it.
Quite possibly one of the most bizarre episodes yet is on this volume when the Bancho Association of Japan arrives at the school. Hirosuke, a giant red cow that looks like your typical bad boy school thung, has come to free Suzune from the tyranny that is Becky. The entire school is under siege from Bancho and the Association as they attack and threaten. The gang does come up with some ideas to trick him, including sending Serizawa out wearing a cow outfit with all the udders flailing about, but it just turns into something that's plain weird. Similar to the previous episode, it seems to keep moving in the weird for the sake of weird mentality. Hirosuke is hilarious to look at with his red skin, eye-patch and bazooka, but after it's all said and done it's hard to figure out the point.
A lot of the best humor still comes from Mesousa and the way he's seemingly so abused. He continues to have bad luck throughout these episodes and the eternal despair that seems to fill his face just makes him both sympathetic and hilarious to look at. Similar in its appeal are the aliens and the other attendant critters that seem to populate the world. The god that seems to hang around with Mesousa is a great verbal foil for him but it's the aliens that continue to crack me up. Their appearance alone is great but the way they seem to be so incompetent about not only what's happening on Earth but also with their own equipment. Naturally, Mesousa tends to suffer the most from it but even Himeko gets caught up in their idiocy. Their quasi-serious mode is the perfect foil to the general wackiness of the school group.
Though Paniponi Dash doesn't quite grab me like the second volume did, it's still a far cry from the first volume that had just made me cringe. The stories are moving more solidly into the bizarre which turns down the accessibility level a little. I love the vid-notes in general but sometimes if you have to explain the joke, you kill the joke. The jokes and wordplays that you learn here though will help with other shows to be sure so it's almost like you could view this as an educational program. That's justification! Fans of the show will likely love the way this goes but if you've been on the fence like I have with the first two volumes it could go either way here.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,AD Vid-notes â"¢,Pani Poni X,In Class with the Cast,Special opening,Staff interview with episode opening sequence director Tatsuya Oishi,Clean closing animations
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
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphicw Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Pani Poni Dash!