Paniponi Dash! Vol. #3 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Christopher Homer
Review Date: Monday, June 30, 2008
Release Date: Monday, November 19, 2007



What They Say
When the girls discover that 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!

The Review!
Whilst the episodes are again can be seen as stand alone, it's a very good mixture of comedy and with one top Gunbuster parody and a surprisingly sweet episode involving Sayaka, this disc is definitely the best so far.

Audio:
For this review I listened to the disc in the original Japanese. The disc presents no real problems with transition as the sounds comes through clear and concise. With the series gaining more cast and the core group of girls now focused, there are moments for the large backgrounds to be heard well and there are no problems here, personal favourite moments is the Eva-esque sounds during episode 13 during the PaniPoni X scenes. There were no problems either when switching for one episode to the English track and the 5.1 Stereo works just as well, with not distortions heard.

Video:
Being a SHAFT anime, the standard of animation was expected, at times it's extremely colourful and bright and suddenly goes into fading, dark colours - with a show like Pani Poni Dash, the quality of the animation varies depending on the scene, but overall it's very eye-catching - and the AD-Vid Notes still fly fast at you, sometimes too fast because I noticed in a couple of episodes the AD-Vid notes fill up the whole screen. This problem is situational though as it has to be Japanese and with the Vid-Notes on, but it was still a minor thing which bugged me. However, that doesn't dampen the beauty of some of the colours in this disc, again, the PaniPoni X episode being the highlight.

Packaging:
The cover sees our favourite MIT kid in a Bruce Lee outfit, appropriate for the disc called 'Class Of Death.' A white background has Becky in a martial arts pose with an orange jumpsuit with black stripes a la Bruce Lee. The back has 8 small screenshots of the episodes with the disc synopsis and extras showing - however the true packaging comes inside with the combination of the inside cover and the leaflet supplied. The inside cover consists of all the ending previews in storyboard format, which are both eye-catching and colourful, and very amusing (Ichijou taking forerunner not surprisingly). The leaflet inside gives us an eye catch gallery, which, as you'd expect, details the eye catches from episodes 1-13. Amusingly, it's taken from the view of the aliens, and have a few rather perverted comments towards a few of the characters, even Becky when she's in a rather demure cat-girl pose (with outfit to boot) - it also has autographs and messages from many of the side characters Japanese voices, namely of Behoimi, Serizawa, Nanjo, Inugami, Miyata and Media. Finally, there is a small text interview of Kazuhiro Ota, the designers of the characters for the anime - which asks about specific requests of the designs of the characters, and how the many parodies were incorporated within the show. Overall, it's colourful, informative and interesting.

Menu:
The opening menu shows the setting for the show, with a picture of Becky on the right on a blackboard scenario with the episode numbers and extras in chalk, making it clear to choose whilst shadows of students with their background noise can be seen. The language selection is basic but easy to select. One minor complaint was that there wasn't a scene selection choice, which wasn't a big deal, but of course it could be a bit frustrating to get to the scene you want straight from the episode. Otherwise plain, simple and easy to use.

Extras:
The clean opening animation of Roulette Roulette has been included, along with a clean version of the insert song of episode 15 Pani Poni X - sung by Becky and has her drawings to boot - very cute. Along with that of course, we get another round of the AD-Vid Notes - pictures of Memousa show up to explain any cultural reference that maybe hard to spot or explain, and there is a lot of explain in a show like Pani Poni Dash. Just be ready to hit the pause button...

Like last time though we get a couple of very nice extras. For dub fans, there is another session with 'In Class With The Cast.' This is a Q&A section this time looking at most of the side characters and their experiences at school and who they play. There were quite a lot of people on this disc and admittingly some got a lot more time than others, but it's like a who's who of the dub community. We had Rozie Curtis (Behoimi), Lesley Tesh (Hibiki), Kim-Ly Nyugen (Yuzuku), Serena Varghese (Yuna/Yuma), Shelly-Calene Black (Miss Igurashi), Cynthia Martinez (Otome), Jessica Boone (Miyata), Monica Rial (Sayaka), Kara Greensburg (Media), Eve Jones (Zoola) and Luci Christian (Serizawa). Like the previous disc, a lot of the same questions are there, namely about their characters, what high school was like and which high school they went to. Sadly, they didn't have the pictures of themselves at school like the previous disc, however a few different questions were added - the most hilarious one being 'First Lesbian Experience.' Most are quite tight-lipped but listen to Serena's story...

There is also a text staff interview involving Tatsuya Oshi, the opening sequence and episode director of the show. The interview is short and sweet, describing how the sequences were made (and the emphasis on Becky), about the colour scheme and layout, and a brief description on the episodes he directed. There are also the standard ADV Previews and DVD Credits. Overall, a very nice mix of extras for everybody.

Content:
Pani Poni Dash has been very hit and miss with the level of humour. It can be hard for fans to get into considering the amount of parody it hits. However, half way through you get used to the craziness, and now the comedy seem much more flowing and natural, and despite the large cast, you don't feel dragged into it - and a couple of stand alone episodes show this very well.

This is first exemplified with the first episode, as we finally get an episode involving Sayaka Suzuki, a.k.a. No.6. Sayaka has stood in the background compared to her more up-tempo classmates. Whilst Rei is being evil, Miyako is telling people not to call her a worm, Himeko is 'maho-ing' away, Ichijo is...Ichijo, and poor Kurumi sulks in the rabbit hutch for the 20th time, Sayaka has been the good girl, smiling in the background and just adding her 'something of the year' catchphrase every now and then. However the first episode of the disc is a surprise in Pani Poni Dash, as it involving her specifically - even more surprisingly, it's actually semi-serious...but the comedy is still there. Basically, we see her getting a lift from someone in the opening sequence - later, she is helping the other girls with something or another. Becky quite likes No. 6 and is a bit upset with the way the girls take advantage of her kindness - however when she leaves, Media spots her in the same car with someone. The car itself is found on school grounds and when Sayaka sees it and shares a surprising intelligence about the car, Rei gets suspicious and with Media's confirmation, they conclude (incorrectly) she has a boyfriend. Sayaka's blushing doesn't help matters and this leads to the main core of girls trying to get Becky to help involved - a little bit of Rei being awesome gets Becky on their side, which leads to a hilarious 'interrogation' in the teachers room when the owner of the car is revealed to be Old Geezer. Needless to say, the girls are rather shocked but the finale when the true car owner is revealed, Sayaka's ongoing insistence it's not romance and random scaring Becky to death makes this episode a top one. Sayaka is definitely the normal one of the bunch and she had a sweet presence in the insanity of Pani Poni Dash, so this ep (especially the end) made me all warm and fuzzy.

However, PPD isn't about plot, or heart rending moments, it's about sillyness and comedy. The next episode hits that dead on, as Becky realises she doesn't have a dream and after comic banter with teachers and students alike, the aliens decide they want to see if they can find Becky's dream using a device to peer into her thoughts. Unfortunately, they have lousy aim, and instead hit Himeko instead - which also puts the main class to sleep and enter the dreams of Himeko. Himeko being Himeko, her dream is not surprisingly weird, and after battles with a weird archangel Michel and eating king crab (which tastes like imitation crab) they look for the door to open Himeko's heart. Of course, to do that, what do they do? Dress Becky as a cat-girl so Himeko opens the door and glomps her. When Michel shows up again, they realise it's all their dreams, and the girls all use their 'ultimate attacks' to defeat Michel (ranging from Kurumi's Ultraman attack, Rei's Boob missiles to Sayaka's old school wrestling moves). It leads for Becky to realise to live for today and not to worry for tomorrow - though whether it was a moralistic episode or just another day in the office for PPD insanity is for you to decide.

The third episode however rocked my world. After recently reviewing Gunbuster 2 the ending of this episode was pure class. What happened before though was also incredibly hilarious. A random ultra enemy descends looking for the child-teacher named Hirosuke who is a large red bull with a female ninja named Ogin assisting him. The rundown of the episode to the end is basically trying to stop him - it starts with Ichijou 'helping' them, using Serizawa to cospkay as a cow to seduce him (and gets subsequently blown up) - however they find out his weakness - he carries a picture of someone he believes to be his goddess of beauty...which turns out to be my favourite of the side characters along with Serizawa, namely Suzune, the busty friend of Otome whose always teasing her and poking her pressure points to keep her small. Her other main feature is an oversized karate chop and when the gang try to get Serizawa to cosplay as Suzune (and gets blown up again), she threatens to chop the giddy cow who is fine with that...and gets smashed to the ground. Trying to keep up with the cast is a hard job, but most of the side characters have great little quirks which make them fun - Serizawa, Suzune, Otome and a new one Kurusu a member of the intelligence club are my personal favourites...but after the cow and Ogin are defeated (courtesy of deus-ex machina Ichijou), Ogin calls to their god to destroy them - however the principal drops the main gang into the ground and Becky has to save the day with her giant mecha, Pani Poni X! Complete with theme song, and parody attacks from many mecha anime (but specifically Gunbuster), it's very over the top, from the named attacks to the Evangelion chain mesh that the girls head up to Becky's hilarious final attack to everyone's favourite plain girl accepting the sillyness going on, it's an episode which had me smiling from start to finish.

The final episode couldn't sadly top that, but it's still pretty funny. The plot for the day is that Becky is forced to get lunch for herself as the cafeteria is closed for the week. Whilst Becky is a teacher, she's also 11 years old, so she's never cooked. Therefore, she tries to find other ways to get food for the week - namely Rei who is a whiz in a Chinese restaurant. (And fails miserably) This leads into Becky asking Kurumi's brother Shu who is an excellent cook (much to poor Kurumi's depression) to do her meals for her. With a few little ad-libs (introducing the lovely Kurusu as part of the intelligence club with clumsy girl Miyata, and some Sayaka loveliness), they find a tanuki (raccoon-dog) which most of the cast want to eat at first, but find he's adapt at transformations. Kurumi again gets the best moment of the disc when the transformation is basically Kurumi without her face - and of course the cast tease her saying it's a perfect transformation. Whilst the comedy is there, Rei convinces Shu to not do the cooking and make Becky realise she needs to not rely on others. It's again surprisingly moralistic...if you don't include side character Nanjo using her pet alligator to eat the tanuki after an unsuccessful transformation...

It was quite hard keeping on track with everything that happened in this disc - you have to keep track of all the characters and new ones keep appearing as well - however the comedy was definitely at it's best here. Maybe it was now we are in the middle of the series I'm getting used to the comedy that others can also get into. For a show as crazy as PPD, there was actually a few lessons for Becky to learn here, and it was great seeing Sayaka get some decent screentime in one of the sweetest moments of the show (never thought I'd use 'sweetest moments' in a review for PPD) so far. The AD Vid-Notes are definitely still needed for a lot of the jokes - I recommend NOT using them when watching it Japanese as they fill the screen - however anyone who has been an anime fan since the 90s will definitely appreciate the mecha humour in the PaniPoni X episode. There are many side comic moments as well - Serizawa in particular in the PaniPoni X ep - all the characters do get their moments no matter how brief to shine and the particular quirks of them all make this series surprisingly endearing considering the emphasis on comedy. And more evil Rei humour and hau-haus from Becky are most welcome. The only downside was that Himeko wasn't really a focus in this disc, even in the dream episode, so a lot of the humour that you associate with her doesn't shine here, plus with so many characters, even the main cast has a few 'core' members that stand out more - I'd say Becky, Rei, Ichijou and yes, Kurumi, do overshadow Sayaka and Miyako (who hardly featured this disc) - however Ichijou's god moments didn't occur so much in this disc, maybe that was one of the main reasons why I enjoyed it more.

In summary:
The third disc is again strong on comedy, but low on plot. Each episode can be taken stand-alone easily and it's still a hard series to recommend due to the amount of parody that would be impossible to ascertain without the aid of the ADVid-notes. However, this is definitely the strongest disc to date due to Becky having to learn to grow up a bit, a lovely Sayaka episode and a wonderful mecha parody making PPD starting to shine out more. It's not the most thought provoking anime out there, but it's a lot of fun. And when you are laughing from start to finish on an episode involving giant bulls, bazookas, ninjas, oversized chops and Pani Poni Beams, that can only be a good thing.

Features
English 5.1 Language,Japanese 2.0 Language,AD Vid-Notes,In Class With The Cast,Pani Poni X Clean VideoStaff Interview: Tatsuya Oshi (Opening Sequence Director and Episode Director),Clean Opening Animation

Review Equipment
Toshiba 37C3030 - 37" Widescreen HD Ready LCD TV - Tangent Ht-50 Home Theatre System Multi-Regional DVD Players/Speakers - Tangent Subwoofer 50-150 Hz, Impedenced 8 OHM.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: A
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: ADV Films UK
MSRP: £19.99
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Pani Poni Dash!