Pani Poni Dash! Vol. #2 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • 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: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Pani Poni Dash!

Pani Poni Dash! Vol. #2

By Christopher Homer     April 09, 2008
Release Date: September 10, 2007


Pani Poni Dash! Vol. #2
© ADV Films UK


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 these high-wired teenage girls), your field trips are definitely trippier.
You do things like investigate a haunted schoolhouse. Crash on a strange Lost-like island. Shake it like Shakira at Brazil's carnivale. Or maybe even practice your bomb detonation skills. (Uh-oh.)


The Review!
The laughs continue as whilst more characters are introduced, the core of Becky and her class explode into epic randomness still remains.

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, including scenes during the trip to Brazil where the sounds were everywhere, but they were still distinct so you could identify them - there was 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, which is a problem I found in episode 10 as on one occasion it blocked out the subtitles due to the amount of notes. 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. Still, with some very unique SHAFT touches with yet another new opening theme song in episodes 9 and 10, it's still a good transition.

Packaging:
The cover sees a nice shot of Becky in a Gun's 'N' Roses homage wearing a black hat, holding a guitar and with a black t-shirt on...with the god cat on the shirt. O.K, not quite Gun's 'N' Roses, but it's an eye-catching cover with Becky's flowing curly hair shining on a white background. On the inside, there is a funny little omake called the Hekiru Hikawa Theater, showing 4-koma like panel in a film reel, which basically revolve around Ichijou's...uniqueness. The drawings are set in the same style as the previews for the next episodes so like Ichijou herself, it's rather weird but intriguing. On the back, we have the summary of the disc with 4 small screen shots of the episodes on there with a listing of the extras and credits.

On the inside of the disc however we get a nice booklet - showing the same cover as the DVD, on the inside we get an emergency manual from the aliens called the Complete Strategy Guide For Momotsuki Academy - the aliens give their opinions of the school, the classes (ranging from 1-B being relatively normal to being driven crazy by 1-A or 1-C, or just hang around with animals in 1-D) and the facilities and clubs around the school. It's actually quite informative for a guide from the aliens as it's filled with nice screenshots from the episodes and some messages from the Japanese voices of the characters of Shu, the Kashiwagi twins, Yuzuku, Hibiki, Suzune and Otome. It rounds off with a nice shot of Becky in her lab coat on the back making it a very good all round packaging piece.

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:
A new clean opening animation has been supplied as despite only being the second disc, we have another new opening which is...interesting to say the least. 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...

In addition this time though we get a couple of very nice extras. For dub fans, there is a section called 'In Class With The Cast.' This is a Q&A section asking the cast of the main members of class I-C about their characters and about their school life. Here we have Hilary Haag (Becky), Carlee Gabrisch (Rei), Brittney Karbowski (Himeko), Mellisa Davis (Kurumi), Christine Auten (Memousa), Natalie Nassar (Miyako) and Maggie Flecknoe (Ichijou). Whilst they get questions about their characters and some interesting responses (Carlee: Rei's a b***h...), the majority of the Q&A revolve around questions about their own school life, like their first crushes/kisses/most embarrassing moments, etc. It's a long piece which is quite fun and interesting, but what might be of more interest for dub fans is during the question of 'What High School did you go to?' we get to see pictures of the dub cast during their high school days. There's a lot of fun to be had as they tell all (and hope some people aren't watching it) and is a real treat for fans of the Vas.

Also there is a CD Spot Medley - basically Japanese advertisements of the various Pani Poni CDs which came out - from Yellow Vacations to Girlippi (along with cute caricatures of the girls), Roulette Roulette, Moonlight Love, Shojo Q and the character vocal album Gakuen Tengoku, the Soundtrack Album Gakuensei, and Uta Mo The Best Ten (the favourite 10 Pani Poni songs). Basically there's a varied amount of extras for all fans to enjoy.

Content:
The first disc of Pani Poni Dash brought everything and nothing to the table with a lot of hijinks, confusion and scaring Becky. This disc doesn't change much, though we get some new characters to the mix and we get a glimpse of life at MIT for our favourite 10 year old graduate.

A show like Pani Poni Dash doesn't really have anything at the moment that can constitute as a plot, so the 5 episodes flow at an episodic rate. Episode 6 for example focuses on Becky getting her own private research room. Of course, Miyako immediately thinks Becky is going to mad scientist mode and her thoughts of what she thinks Becky is going to create is pretty funny - but it leads to Becky and the core girls finding the room, and dealing with a mysterious door. Pani Poni Dash's resident deus ex machina Ichijou is both the cause and solution to this problem, which unfortunately seems to be a running theme in this disc and the show in general - namely when something impossible happens to harm the cast, it's Ichijou's fault - but then a cut later, and we're all back to normal...again courtesy of Ichijou. It's a comedy show so it shouldn't be taken too seriously, but it's a little repetitive. The comedy fortunately continues as Rei, being the bully she is, turns the Research room into a counselling room, much to Becky's chagrin as students come in to ask her advice (include my fave Kurumi who cries after another plain comment) - it's amusing Becky's reaction to the students, especially her deadpan comment when Serizawa comes dresses as The Thinker.

The episodic nature continues as Becky is tricked by the other teachers to clean their pool - the usual girls are forced into doing it whilst Becky doesn't help at all - so the girls turn her into a pinball until she helps. Seriously. However, the main point of the episode is the introduction to Ichijou's little sister, who is basically a little chibified version of Ichijou, and just as confusing. It ends up that she (thanks to a mistake by the aliens) grows up to be 100x normal size and poor Memousa is the fall bunny. However, through the aliens, everyone believes he stopped it - he's finally loved! Hooray!

And then the aliens use their powers to cut that scene so no one remembers their error. Poor bunny...

Episode 8 focuses on a character introduced briefly in the first disc named Behoimi, who is your friendly resident magical girl. Of course, she can't use magic - she's doing it to stand out. However, considering her fellow class mates such as Serizawa, she's actually not as noticeable as she hoped, so she tries new magical girl items and costumes - nurse outfit, goth-loli, cat ears straight out of Moonphase, soda glasses, camera, giant salamander...nothing works for her. Becky catches her being depressed and still in denial, says that if she uses magic she'll have to return to the Magical Kingdom. It leads to a funny sequence that Rei tries to give magic to Behoimi by conducting an occult séance which is as random as it is hilarious, which forces Behoimi to use her 'magic' to save the bunnies...er...salamander from a burning rabbit hunch. Again though, the magic is actually via Ichijou and they all say goodbye to her as she has to 'leave.' Of course, she just changes her look and removes the costume and all is well. Very random and often funny, but again the Ichijou factor slightly ruins the effect and Behoimi as a character just isn't one of the more interesting or fun side characters like Otome, Serizawa or Suzune.

However, we then get introduced in the next episode to a girl named Media - an assistant of a professor friend of Becky's who literally drops in on Becky when she's travelling to be this professor friend. Media is hard to describe except that she's an assistant and wears a maid outfit. Yep, a maid outfit. Enough said. However, the episode is probably the best one on the disc due to the fact that we get to see parts of Becky's life in MIT. Whilst there is much randomness as the girls join Becky to help her out (and another Ichijou save unfortunately) prior to it, whilst eating mammoth meat (seriously) the professor is asked what Becky was like in MIT. Becky immediately panics, and more so when Media brings out a photo album. After Becky is tied up sufficiently, they notice how grumpy she was as a girl - she's remarked that she actually hasn't changed much, but the professor wanted to make her smile. So she did after he told a story...the scariest smile ever. It shows that Becky as she is likes her life as she's smiling more...though that doesn't stop Rei from teasing her and of course, scaring Becky with an eye creature. Whilst everything else in the show seems random, Rei's panchant for scaring Becky with eyes and Becky 'hau-hau's' behind the curtain never gets old or less fun.

Finally, it leads to Media transferring into Behoimi's class - interestingly, it seems Behoimi and Media have a history together - initially, we see Becky's class with their class projects with the standard reactions (Kurumi's is too plain, Ichijou's is weird, Miyako's a closet model building and is outclasses by Himeko's body double, the salamander, and the sadly not seen much Rokujou crying her eyes out as she tells the story of the life of a baby chick), the main 'plot' is of Behoimi and Media finding bombs on the school with the intention of possibly killing Becky. Behoimi strangely seems to have experience in this fields and they are able to disarm all the bombs they've found bar one. Just as they are about to do that, Becky and the girls interrupt, which leads to a sequence of Becky being unable to move as the bomb is ready to detonate and she desperately needing to go to the toilet. All I can say is...poor Memousa.

The episodes in general are episodic, despite the attempts of integrating some past relationship with Behoimi and Media, there are sometimes way too many characters to keep track of. This disc does make a good focus of the side characters, and the moments of characters like Serizawa, Otome, Suzune and the twins are actually really fun. However, it also loses a focus on the main characters - indeed, apart from the last episode I barely remembered if Miyako and Rokujou were even in the show, and even Himeko seems oddly turned down this disc. Becky and Ichijou did get a lot of screen time, and any moments with Kurumi and Rei are gold, but as mentioned, whilst Ichijou is extremely unique and funny, the habit of using her for everything that goes wrong/right in the series is slowly getting old. Same with Memousa being the poor fall guy, both with the giant sister and the bomb. However, he is used quite hilariously in other sequences like with Suzune in P.E. And fortunately, the addition of Ichijou's sister does up the hilarity - whether it's her drawings (Becky is a skull and crossbones, whilst Kurumi is too plain that she couldn't draw anything) or hopping in and out of her sister's Indiana Jones outfit, it's just plain fun.

Again though, the two grades above represent both the personal grade for me, and the lower grade due to not being a show that everyone can get into due to the amount of references and chaos going on. The Vid-Notes literally fly and cover the screen at times which can tone down the enjoyment so I suggest watching it in Japanese first without it, and then in English with the notes.

In summary:
Pani Poni Dash's second disc hasn't lost that insanity that made the first disc such a unique experience and there was a lot of laugh out loud moments that fans will enjoy, even if you don't get the references. The amount of characters and the focus of some of the side characters however does make you want to crave more of Becky as sadly Behoimi and Media don't stand out as anybody fantastic, but on the other side, Ichijou's sister is hilarity personified. It's a fun series just to smile at, but it's also extremely difficult to understand. If you've got patience and aren't looking for a worthwhile plot, by all means give it a try.

Features
English 5.1 Language,Japanese 2.0 Language,AD Vid-Notes,In Class With The Cast,CD Spot Medley,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.

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