Paniponi Dash Vol. #1 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: C-

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

Paniponi Dash Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     November 08, 2006
Release Date: December 05, 2006

Paniponi Dash Vol. #1
© ADV Films

What They Say
Good news? She's an MIT grad. Bad news? She's an 11-year-old MIT grad. So while Becky Miyamoto may be intellectually able, this MIT prodigy is painfully ill-equipped to deal with a group of temperamental teens, especially THIS group. There's the bitchy heather, the spazz, the angry nerd, the identical twins, the invisible girl, the freaky class president, the drama geek, the Nancy Drew, the gamer, the princess...whew! Add to that her pathetically-abused stuffed bunny buddy and idiotic aliens watching her every move and it's no wonder Becky's prone to crying fits, tirades, and flipping the class the bird. Don't miss the Grade-A comedy from the brains behind Negima!? "Paniponi Dash! It's a lesson in comedy that'll just kill you.

The Review!
When a new teacher comes to school, it's always challenging. When it's an eleven year old genius girl, it gets yawn inducing.

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.

Going with the parody covers, the first installment is a cute and effective piece that goes with a shot of Rebecca as the Terminator from the first film, letting her look completely badass while still bringing the bunny into it, almost like a Playboy cover. 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 rundown on all the main characters so far. You'll want to hold onto this for the show itself to keep track of everyone.

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.

The opening volume has a couple of interesting extras to it. The opening and closing sequences have their clean form presented and there's a segment of TV spots for the show. An interesting inclusion is the contest that is running here with a form of trivia questions which involves getting some recognition on the last volume of the series. A special version of the opening sequence, Yellow Vacation, is also included here in the extras. Last but certainly not least, you have the option to turn on the Vid-Notes through here and explore the numerous references and gags in the show that may elude you otherwise.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga by Hekiru Hakawa (his only non-doujinshi manga), Paniponi Dash takes us back to the classroom with a series about a young teacher, goofy students and some weird things happening around the edges of reality. The show certainly has its more unique aspects that separate it from other series, but coming on the heels of a show like Azumanga Daioh and even Doki Doki School Hours, these first five episodes of the series come across as amazingly bland.

Though the show is seemingly focused around the new teacher to the school, it's very much an ensemble cast and it varies who has the most time per episode. The series starts off as a general way, with the students wondering who their new teacher is and the new teacher getting lost on her way, thereby being late. As this is shown, the students all have various stats and cute graphics thrown up on the screen, showing their various skill levels and quirks. These moments tend to slow things down a bit and distract from the actual dialogue and action going on, though maybe I'm just getting old.

At eleven years old, Rebecca Miyamoto is the youngest graduate of MIT and considered a genius among geniuses. So she's using those skills to go back to high school in Japan and teach a class there. No reason is given and there are maybe barely a handful of scenes where she seems to show off anything above an average intelligence. With her being on average five or six years younger than her students, she's unable to gain their real respect and unable to manage them at times. The students themselves are plenty quirky of course and some of them have little want or desire to properly interact with, well, anyone. The class rep in particular is the kind of character who spouts meaningless sayings most of the time and just gets involved when no involvement is required. Add in that she misreads situations completely and she's actually detrimental to the good of the class.

Rebecca's arrival in the class follows something of a standard progression. The all girls class first is all doe-eyed around her, then they figure out how to manipulate her and then they basically make her just like any other student and use and abuse her at need. Rebecca ends up going along with this almost naturally though she does act like a teacher once in awhile. She gets little help from the other teachers, who are little more than very brief secondary characters, and unlike other school based shows she has no outside support group of characters to encourage her. This is actually true of just about all of the characters in the show as we don't really see them outside of an environment alone or with family. This only helps to keep them from being well realized or developed.

The episodes on this volume all manage to stand alone for the most part. There are themes that carry through all of them though with the lesser characters. Rebecca for example has a friend of sorts in a small humanoid bunny that is apparently living the most depressing life ever and is continually thwarted in every way from every thing. He's a little more aware of the larger universe around them but his mental state has him so beaten down that simply not dying means it's a great day for him. From the start of the show, we also see that there is an alien observation group up in space watching them and trying to learn more about humanity. They've apparently chosen Rebecca as their subject to watch and are building their knowledge based on her. They have some cute moments here and there and look to be a bit more involved as time goes on.

During the first five episodes, watched without the vid-notes, I think I may have smiled a handful of times at most. Watching it again with the vid-notes, it helped to explain a number of the parodies and nods that I didn't get the first time around. What it left me with though was the same feeling I got during about half of the episodes of Excel Saga where I could see that it's supposed to be funny but it didn't actually have that effect on me. I've had mixed luck with outright anime comedies before so I wasn't surprised that this one turned into a hard sell. Part of this comes from the feeling of some of the short cuts that get taken. The classroom scenes for example, the useless classmates are all drawn the same way. It was cute when first seen in Azumanga Daioh where they were all white blobs, but here it just feels like it's being cheap. This is a genre where there's only so much you can do with the characters and a lot of these feel like direct copies of things we've seen before.

In Summary:
Paniponi Dash simply felt very weak and turned into a very long session. While some shows feel like they're over before they begin, I found myself checking the countdown clock on each episode and then checking to see how many episodes I had left. The school age comedy show hits up some of the very basics here, from dealing with a new teacher, going on a camping trip to dealing with heavy studying before an important exam. It all felt very familiar and wasn't able to find a way to differentiate itself from what's come before in just the last couple of years. It's certainly filled with tons of parodies and in-jokes, between dialogue and background gags, but that's not enough to properly carry a show and it didn't carry these first five episodes at all.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,AD Vidnotes â"¢,Two Japanese television spots, Special opening "Yellow Vacation",Information for "The Chalkboard Champion Contest",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.


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