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

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, October 15, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, October 23, 2007



What They Say
After being dragged into a student puppet theatre, the young genius teacher Becky finds REAL drama when the principal storms her research room. What does he tell her? That a giant comet is headed straight for Earth‚€”and she and her class of crazies have to save the planet! But before they can get ‚€™round to that, it‚€™s time for a blast from the past. Actually, TO the past, where Becky is an evil politician trying to avoid 1-C going samurai assassin on her butt after she imposes a tax on tears (which, when you‚€™re teens stuck in the feudal era with Becky, are bound to fall often).


The Review!
The series draws to a close with some of the weakest episodes yet that remind us of the first few episodes we saw.

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:
The final volume finishes out the series in the same way as the rest with a solid picture of Becky, this time in a kimono and holding an umbrella, set against a white background. It really stands out well against other covers out there and her expressions throughout the series of covers has just been spot on. The character artwork is fairly subdued in the color design but it's nicely accented by the pink and orange 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. The included booklet for this volume has a look at the eyecatches in the show as well as another interview, this time with the voice actress for Becky and another with the series director. There's also an insert that has an interview with Hikawa one on side and an adventure sheet on the other for Mesousa.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
The extras roll right along for this volume and some of them are just key to understanding things. The 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. It runs about three minutes though and is essentially over before you know it. Yellow Vacation is provided in both the Rei version and the No. 6 version. .

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
At the end of the series, I'm truly at a loss for words about how I feel about it. A lot of this comes from having some pretty uneven episodes for the last volume with only one of them really generating any serious amount of laughter with it. Some of it has felt a bit rehashed and then it went off into something completely out there before turning back into more general insanity. The final episode is one that plays out by having all the characters make an appearance and a few simple jokes associate with each of them before heading off into the sunset.

The first pair of episodes are some of the weakest in memory with this series which was already somewhat even with its humor. Dealing with Becky being mildly sick and everyone else feeling a bit under the weather, it runs through some laid back and surprisingly mellow humor before it goes for the big reveal that the world is about to end due to a comet that's about to collide with the Earth. This sets up a big concept for the end of the series, but Paniponi Dash isn't exactly a show that guarantees that events in one episode will carry over to the next. And that meant it wasn't a surprise when the next episode went into a completely different area with a feudal era story involving the kids living under Becky as a commissioner who imposes taxes on all sorts of inane things, including crying.

Where the show excels for me is in its third episode as it returns to the storyline involving the comet of doom that's coming. The girls in class 1-C find themselves being signed up as the saviors of the planet and given spandex costumes and a giant robot to pilot together. There are so many giant robot parodies and in-jokes made throughout it that it really requires the Vid-Notes feature to make sure you get them all. If you're a robot junkie however, it's worth watching without it just to see what you can catch and what will make you smile. Some of the best moments in it come from dealing with the aliens that have been watching the class since the start as their "true nature" is revealed to much hilarity.

With a series like Paniponi Dash, the ending isn't exactly something that's going to have intense revelations or a story that ties everything together. The entire show is basically one big freeform piece of disjointed and seemingly disconnected moments. You really begin to wonder after awhile if the episode director came in during the morning, gave an overview of what he wanted and then let the rest of the staff work independently to come up with the end result. The last episode doesn't quite have that feel but it works through the idea of bringing everyone back on screen for a little bit in order to let the fans see their favorites. Everyone gets a little nod here with a quick joke or pratfall along with some amusing nonsensical text in the background. Amusing enough in and of itself and something of a proper send off for the series but it still feels like a weak way to bring it all to close.

In Summary:
This series has been a real challenge at times, so much o that the first volume almost turned me away completely from it. Once it moved away from a more traditional school comedy to something stranger the appeal certainly grew. But like so many comedy series that play in a freeform manner it can be really hit or miss depending on the episode. Some of it was just far too amusing, such as the episode wherein everyone took on the design of being in a classic RPG videogame. Others, like the hau hau episode on this volume, just fell completely flat and had me checking the time on the episode every couple of minutes. There is certainly a lot of brutal and hilarious humor to be found in here but it's going to be very narrow in its appeal in the long run. Fans of the series got a top notch release, especially with the copious notes in the Vid-Notes, which make it very worthwhile right there.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,AD Vid-Notes,Chalkboard Champions Results,Experience the Earth,Special Opening: Girl Q,Clean Closing

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3 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: B
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
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Pani Poni Dash!