Pop Team Epic is a fountain of memes and anime/video game references, but is definitely not a show for everyone.
|Director||Jun Aoki, Aoi Umeki|
|Number of episodes||12|
|Preorder Manga Vol. 1||Purchase from Amazon.|
You know when you watch an anime series, there are times when you say out loud, “What the fuck?” But then you watch a different anime, say the same thing multiple times and it makes every weird thing in that first anime seem more mundane?
Pop Team Epic is that second anime. Everything from the presentation, the pacing and the content defy expectations. But what else can you really say about an anime series based on a four-panel webcomic/manga designed to be references, meta humor, dark jokes and shitposts?
Well… at least it’s creative? Can’t go wrong with that.
The Nonsensical Misadventures of Popuko and Pipimi
Apparently, it did anyway.
For those reading this review, you might be wondering what the hell Pop Team Epic is and if the show is meant to be some crazy lolrandom shit that makes no sense.
As I mentioned earlier, Pop Team Epic was a webcomic series by Bkub Okawa that also ended up getting a manga series and an anime adaptation. But for the sake of this review, we’re just going to talk about the anime.
First off, the anime’s opening is MUCH BETTER than it has any right to be!
The plot is… what plot? It’s a show about two middle school girls named Popuko and Pipimi. Popuko is a short-tempered blonde girl with twintails who often resolves her situations with over-the-top violence.
Pipimi is the tall, blue-haired girl who is generally more calm. A little too calm. If being chill can kill…
And yes, for the most part, they were portrayed with those derpy cat smiles that rarely change. They barely even move when they speak.
I guess you could say that Funimation got most of their voice work cut out for them when dubbing this monstrosity. At least they didn’t have to worry about lip syncing that often, because… well… Popuko and Pipimi almost never open their mouths. Now, the live action segments though…
Popuko and Pipimi undergo a variety of situations with no real reasons to do so. Everything from their personalities and voices tend to change with each skit. No, seriously, they’re portrayed by many voice actors in both the Japanese and English dubs. They can be cute and quirky in one skit, then psychotic and murderous in another.
Is Pop Team Epic meant to be batshit insane? Yeah, kinda… but not exactly in a way you’d expect.
The thing about Pop Team Epic is that it’s pretty much just one giant stream of consciousness of random ideas and non sequiturs. For the most part, it’s a series of short skits with no real structure. As a result, the comedy itself is hit-or-miss. You might find something funny and you might find a different thing annoying. It’s like Robot Chicken for anime fans.
A large part of the anime is meant to be a series of references and meta humor, some of which you wouldn’t get unless you lived in Japan. But if you’re an otaku or gamer, you would catch plenty of references to anime and video games.
You’d see stuff referencing numerous Nintendo games (even a F-Zero reference), Undertale, Skyrim, fighting game series like Guilty Gear and Tekken, Chrono Trigger, etc.
But the show is also kind enough to add in many references to western media, such as Alice in Wonderland, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Regular Show, and Hanna-Barbera’s Wacky Races of all things!? What? Hell, there’s even a parody of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Let’s Groove” music video! SERIOUSLY!
If you’re lost on some of the references, TV Tropes has a good page compiling a whole list of them.
Pop Team Epic downplays some of the conventions and clichés often used in anime. You know that anime cliché of a school kid being late for school and introducing herself as an average so-and-so? And then she runs into someone who will become an important character to her later on?
Yeah. Don’t you get sick of seeing that? Well, Pop Team Epic portrays these kinds of clichés in the most bland and vanilla way possible, just to convey how boring they are.
In fact, the series began with a curveball like this. It started with a convincing red herring pop idol anime called Hoshiiro Girldrop, which is designed to look like the most moe pop idol anime ever!
Complete with credits!
Yeah, dat Hoshiiro Girldrop, mang! Show of the century! Whoo!
And this is just the beginning of the anime’s running gags.
Pop Team Epic tends to be experimental with its art styles. Sometimes, it looks like passable Flash animation. Sometimes, it looks like a big budget anime. Sometimes, it features live action segments with felt puppets. There is even one segment where two performers tell a story about some guy named Hellshake Yano through a sketchbook, which is probably the most creative usage of a sketchbook I’ve seen in my life—seriously, I recommend watching this one segment. And sometimes, the art style is…
OKAY! I’M SCARED!
So here’s another running gag with the anime. There is a series of shorts called Bob Epic Team, which is designed to be these rough, unappealing, ugly shorts… featuring Popuko and Pipimi with male voices attempting to sound female. The worst part is that the animation tends to make their gums literally flap when they speak.
Well, at least it still looks better than 12 oz. Mouse.
While these shorts can be funny solely based on how shit-tastic they look, I found them more uncanny than funny. Probably the funniest joke out of these segments is the keyframe one, which is only funny if you understand how video editing and animation work.
Video game segments? Plenty of those.
Weird cooking show parody called Pop Team Cooking? Yep.
Segments called Japon Mignon where some random French guy talks about French culture while Popuko and Pipimi speak French? Yeah… got those too… for some reason… the Japanese sure love their French…
Popuko and Pipimi interrupting “serious” segments? Got those too.
And more than enough random stupidity to meme about!
I’d say the best thing about Pop Team Epic is the voice acting. Whether you’re viewing the original Japanese dub or the English dub, you can’t go wrong. Because of the numerous voice actors for each character, you have many people giving their spin on each of the characters, which can lead to hysterical results.
However, my one major complaint about the anime is that each episode is technically only 11-12 minutes long. So where does the other 11-12 minutes go? Why, into a rerun of the episode you just watched! With voice actors of the opposite sex now voicing Popuko and Pipimi.
Yes, there are some changes into the rerun. Popuko’s and Pipimi’s lines may be different and certain segments have been altered. The Japon Mignon segments now have subtitles for those who don’t understand French. But… these second viewings are usually not worth it. Some of the changes are so minimal that you can skip the second half of the episode without missing anything.
I will say at the very least, you’ll get some different performances for Popuko and Pipimi. One run of the episode would focus on mostly female voices while the rerun would focus on mostly male voices. And if I have to compare voices here, I’d say the male voices of both dubs are generally funnier to listen to. They have some of the most beautifully over-the-top deliveries.
Pop Team Epic is a self-aware series that knows it’s trash. Entertaining trash nonetheless. It never tries to sell itself as high-brow humor but it knows it’s weird enough to turn heads. From bashing anime tropes to breaking the fourth wall, the anime’s absurdity may seem like pointless madness to the average viewer.
If you love pop cultural references, surreal humor and Internet memes, then Pop Team Epic may be for you. You might even say that this is the perfect anime to watch while high. But if you’re someone who hates those things, then stay far away. You’d probably be more annoyed than entertained.
All you need to do is watch the first episode to decide if the show is for you. Every expectation you ought to have for the anime will be right here.
P.S. If you decided to watch Pop Team Epic all the way through, don’t forget to also watch the 4-minute short Pop Team Epic Kinen for a little more content.
Pop Team Epic (Poputepipikku)
- The show's brand of niche humor can be hilarious if you love pop cultural references and memes.
- While the art style and animation are mostly minimalist, the show occasionally tries to portray certain segments with more creative ways to tell a story (i.e. Hellshake Yano presentation).
- The anime often takes a shot at today's anime tropes and conventions, showing how homogenized the industry can get.
- Due to a large voice cast specifically used for Popuko and Pipimi, the vocal performances can be absolutely hilarious to listen to.
- Because it's a Japanese show, some references are specific to knowing the existence of certain Japanese-only media.
- The animation can look outright terrible at times, mostly during the Bob Epic Team segments. Though they were deliberately meant to look terrible, they sometimes look more uncanny than hilarious.
- The jokes weren't told like traditional jokes, so the anime may seem stupid and low-brow to some people.
- Each 11-12 episode gets a rerun with slight differences in it, which more often than not fail to bring anything new to the table.