Poputepipikku turns absurdist comedy up to eleven with its pop culture references and surreal hilarity. With two bonafide high school girl protagonists—the short and exceptionally quick to anger Popuko, and the tall and unshakably calm Pipimi—they throw genres against the wall and don't wait to see what sticks. Parody is interlaced with drama, action, crudeness, and the show's overarching goal—to become a real anime.
Poputepipikku is based on bkub Ookawa's 4-koma manga series of the same title. Each episode consists of a 12-minute segment repeated twice. The repeated segment contains a different voiceover by another voice actor with variations on the skits.
What makes a joke funny? Is it a well-thought build-up, steadily tied up, making us want to hear the punch line established at the end of a gag? Is it the topic a joke tackles, politically correct or, even better, the incorrect one? Is it the way it's presented and conveyed to us, with the use of different signals, voice tone and other small things people telling us the joke want to use in order to increase its impact? Or is it just the timing of it? No matter which of these reasons you choose, all of them are pale in comparison to the most
basic aspect a pun, by definition, has to have in order to at least try to make an addressee laugh - the intention to be comical. As simply and straightforwardly as it sounds, I found it surprising that Pop Team Epic, an anime which the fans claim to be extremely witty and humorous, did not understand such a concept.
It looks as if this series' "brain" got stuck somewhere in the first grade of the elementary school, where the most random, stupid and nonsensical oneliners were considered to be absolutely hilarious. If you were to look at its episodes as something more than a shitpost, you would notice that within PTE, there are a lot of inconsistencies, among which, the fact that a gigantic portion of its gags, if not every single one of them, come off as undercooked, definitely stole the spotlight and single-handedly ruined every attempt at comedy. The structure of a standard joke consists of 2 elements: the build-up and the punchline, which I briefly referenced at the beginning, yet in this show, there seems to be no such thing as a punchline. As a result of it, the gags end up halfway through the build-up, leaving us without the conclusion. Because of it, quite literally, there's nothing to laugh at. By the end of the skit, the only thing we feel is indifference and abdominal pain because we just consumed something "raw". Heck, even though PTE makes a lot of brilliant and imaginative references to various popular movies, games, music or even anime, they simply could not be entertaining by themselves. That's not how references work, goddamnit! "Play" with them, mock the source material in a meaningful way, that's not offensive to the work itself, do something that makes at least a little bit of sense and aims at making me, the viewer, giggle.
There are also 2 "miniseries" in PTE, called Bob Epic Team and Pop Team Cooking, and oh boy, they accumulate everything this anime does wrong! Besides the easy to spot lack of care put into crafting the puns, Bob Epic Team, with its atrocious ideas and even worse execution of them is a completely and utterly disgusting abomination. Imagine a terrible paint drawing of a distorted character put into motion mixed with such cringey and lifeless scenes that the only thing you want to do, and in fact your brain forces you to do after witnessing such a travesty, is committing seppuku with a plastic knife doused in hot sauce for the extra spice. Pop Team Cooking, on the other hand, while suffers from the same problem of being lacklustre and inherently bad beyond salvation, is at least somewhat eye pleasant, which didn't lead my internal organs to be dying in an agonizing pain because of what I was seeing on my screen.
On the topic of being eye pleasant, the discriminative art style and simplistic animation, mixed with a live-action skit, 3D segments about France, which in all honesty, were mediocre at best, the previously mentioned appaling Paint drawings create a rather distinctive vibe and feel. The same can be said about the sound. The wacky and, to my surprise, lively voice acting, opening theme, different song parodies, for instance, Earth, Wind & Fire - Let's Groove, while they are not right up my alley, I can definitely see their purpose and appeal in such random and senseless series and to be honest, without the okay-ish production values, Pop Team Epic would be even harder to "digest" and that says a lot.
Pop Team Epic has its alright features, but at the end of the day, they meant nothing. It is just a terrifyingly awful meme you would find on some shitty website such as 9gag or ifunny and cry like a maniac, because of its quality. It's horrendous, it's shocking, it's unentertaining, but do you know which is the worst part? Some people will label it as an outstanding work because of that.
[Pop Culture References + Meme + Anime = Pop Team Epic]
[Alternative Title – Memes, References, and High Quality Shitpost: the anime]
*Part 1 of Review*
(For those curious about this series, read this review):
Story? Who needs a story. Can’t have a story, if you never had one. It’s just random shit happening on screen because that’s how Pop Team Epic rolls. The series features a variety of humor, ranging from black comedy (i.e. gallows humor – my favorite type of humor) to surreal humor to anti-humor, and to meta-jokes and parodies.
The series features many pop culture references, such as: Earth, Wind & Fire, Pokémon, Hoshiiro Girldrop, Kimi
no Na wa, Chrono Trigger, Kemono Friends, My Neighbour Totoro, Metal Gear Solid 3 time paradox, Top Gun, Initial D, Hellshake Yano, YouTube subscribe, Undertale, Donkey Kong, the Shawshank Redemption, etc.
I love how each episode has one long skit, such as sports anime (shogi/racing), science-fiction, murder-mystery, music, haunted house horror, romances, music documentary, etc, and manages to turn it into a parody. Loved every moment of it!
Especially, the entire Hellshake Yano sequence, in Episode 7; it was amazing and outstanding, considering everything was told through art sketches and the actors actually performing it on live camera. Glorious stuff!
Other original skits include: Bob Epic Team shorts with the main character’s face and body being distorted as hell, Japon Mignon shorts, live action actors and actresses, Pop Team Cooking shorts, POP TEAM 8-BIT, Pop Team Dance, etc. Every single skits was amazing, and well told and executed. I laugh at every single joke, reference, and parody, they displayed on the screen.
Each episode contains two similar-looking 12-minute segments that feature different voice actors and other small changes to the skits. I think this idea is extremely unique and makes the anime stand out more compared to other anime series.
It may be a strange, bizarre, and even crazy, but this series allows numerous animators and content creators to have their creations shown on every medium, such as internet or television. It allows creativity to flow and flourish without any restrictions. And finally, it's not afraid to do what it wants to do. It just does it, and rolls with it!
Solid animations. Some of the skits come from the original comic strips, however the majority of them are original animations. The animators make use of a variety types of animations, such as fully 3D animations, CGI, 2D animations, live-action, stop-motion, and idiosyncratic animation from the AC-bu.
For example, Kamikaze Douga is the primary animation studio that does 3D animation as well as the Hoshiiro Girldrop shorts; Space Neko Company does the 2D animations and “Pop Team Story" shorts, i.e. the shorts that reference from the original comic; AC-bu does the idiosyncratic animations for “Bob Epic Team" short; UchuPeople produces stop-motion animation for “Pop Team Dance” shorts.
The animation may be bizarre, especially the idiosyncratic animations (i.e. distorted characters, background objects, and even strange fast-paced animations), it may be realistic (i.e. live-action, or the stop motion animations), or it may be crazy, but who cares, this is Pop Team Epic, where the crazy becomes even crazier.
Excellent character models. Seeing Popuko and Pipimi being drawn in a variety of styles is interesting and dynamic.
Excellent voice acting. The anime incorporates many voice actors and actresses to voice both Popuko and Pipimi. The voice actors for Popuko includes: Masashi Ebara, Yūji Mitsuya, Aoi Yūki, Toshio Furukawa, Yōko Hikasa, Tesshō Genda, Nana Mizuki, Hozumi Gōda, etc. The voice actors/actresses for Pipimi includes Hōchū Ōtsuka, Noriko Hidaka, Ayana Taketatsu, Shigeru Chiba, Mamiko Noto, Banjō Ginga, etc. Then, we have french actor/actress, such as Fanny Bloc and Christine Bellier. I believe having many voice actors/actress changes thing up and makes it exciting, fun, and enjoyable.
Every voice actor/actresses fits their roles and makes everything funnier. The male voice actors make everything twice as funny, especially when they sing songs and create exaggerated sound effects.
Excellent opening song (i.e. “Pop Team Epic”) by Sumire Uesaka, so good you get to hear it twice. Also, the first episode’s opening song, titled “Twinkling Star” by Yui Ogura, Inori Minase, and Sumire Uesaka was also really good. The kick-ass opening sets the tone for the rest of the series. Excellent background music sets the mood, atmosphere, and tone for the characters and reactions to specific situations, whether it’s comedy, mystery, drama, etc. The song, “Let’s Pop Together” is an excellent parody of “Let’s Groove” by Earth, Wind & Fire.
Excellent characters that are funny and entertaining to watch. Background stories, character development, and even goals and motivations be damned; you know why you are watching this, and it’s not for “great character development or background stories”. It’s to watch two characters, Popuko and Pipimi, do crazy skits and perform hilarious jokes. I just love how Popuko and Pipimi are able to bounce jokes after jokes off each other.
I smiled and laughed during every single episode. It doesn’t matter what other people say, just watch for shits and giggles.
Pop Team Epic is one of greatest show I ever watched in 2018.
Change my mind.
*Part 2 of Review*
(For those on-the-fence about this show, please enjoy these lovely lyrics):
"Let's Pop Together" by Pop Team Epic (Episode 4)
[A parody of "Let's Groove" by Earth, Wind & Fire]
We are pop team dance dance go
For the fans and for the haters alike
Dance dance go dance dance go
For the fans and for the haters alike
You haters will become fans eventually
Let’s pop together, oh oh
Let’s all live in harmony
Let’s pop together, all night
We love our fans
Because they put food on our table
We don’t care about haters
They’re ridiculous, pathetic, not worth it at all
The new manga volume is on sale now, you can buy it online
What a waste of money!
You won’t buy it?
Are you insane?
We don’t care, piss off
Yay, the anime version is airing!
Don’t bother me, I won’t watch it
What, you’re not watching it?
Are you stupid?
How can you say this?
How long are you going to fight this hater battle?
You haters will become fans eventually
Let’s pop together, oh oh
Let’s all live in harmony
Let’s pop together, all night
There are certain anime series that get you wondering "what the actual frigging hell am I watching"...Pop Team Epic is an epitome of that kind of series. Even though it is meant to be a shitposting kind of series, shitposting doesn't actually mean good comedy (I'll go into a bit more detail about that in my review). It had me to the point where I was questioning even why this became an anime series in the first place. I'll be frank with this, even though I'm probably gonna anger some crazy fans: this thing is actually qualified as TRASH.
I'll try to be brief with this
review, cause even with just reviews, it's hard to really input anything decent about this series.
STORY: Story? Plot? HAHA, what plot? What story? In pretty much every decent to great series, you need to have some sort of story or settings implemented. Pop Team Epic had none of the sort...to me, at least, it is basically the Japanese version of Robot Chicken, but much worse. The parodies, skits, references, whatever the joke may be...that's ALL there really is to this series. Oh yeah, about the Hoshiro Girldrop tease and then the hi-jacking, it IS funny, I'll admit, but for the most part, it's just one cringy joke after another, and honestly, that kind of stuff can get bland after a while. When people tell me this series is very philosophical, I think it's more so of how it gets you thinking philosophically as to why this series is one of the most absurd things you'd have ever watched.
ART: I don't really have much to say about the art other than the fact it's the kind of art (excluding some parts) that you'd see in anime specials/shorts or in those wacky-looking Western cartoons. The chibi looks and all that for the two main characters, though...doesn't make them look any good whatsoever. I guess it's sorta okayish, but barely anyone is really gonna praise it or even be attentive to it, anyway.
SOUND: Well, not much to say about it. I will admit that some of the ending themes were done pretty well, but for the most part, whatever soundtracks are featured will depend on the respective joke or parody, and even then are very subpar and mediocre at best.
CHARACTERS: So the main characters here: a yellow haired shortie that gets easily triggered (sometimes for no reason) and a blue haired lanky quiet girl. Popuko and Pipimi are just really there with their rather contrasting personalities to set up each joke and play it out in the most absurd and ridiculous of fashions. Knowing that, I don't see how one can really like them as a character in general. The only way one would be able to like any of them is for the fact that they are at least the perfect fit, in terms of their personality, to make the jokes as outrageous as possible.
As for character development...considering what this "series" is, there is none, and none needed. The supporting cast? Really depends on what the joke/parody/reference/gag is, honestly. The only truly recurring members are the ones that are part of the Hoshiro Girldrop skit, that's about it.
ENJOYMENT: Now here's the part I really want to try to make clear. My level of enjoyment is usually mid-ground, but it purely depends on the jokes with each different episode. I do want to point out early that each episode is really just two copies of the same stuff placed together in the same 30 min timeframe...so it's more like 12-15 of just ridiculousness followed by another 12-15 minutes of the exact same damn thing...it's as if the staff thinks we can't get enough of it, for pete sakes.
I personally couldn't find myself really entertained after the first episode...in fact, the jokes eventually felt dry and bland, or just straight up cringe that doesn't turn out funny to me. Honestly, I'd get more kick out of watching classic Western/American cartoons or live TV shows where they have a similar sort of format, but a better display of hilarity and jokes. In short, enjoyment level for this series REALLY depends on how funny or stupid the comedy is, and for me, it's middle-ground.
OVERALL: Beware, as this series can be a mentally exhausting experience. Honestly, this is a kind of series that people would only support for the lols (OR LOL attempts). Even the artist contributions don't even really have much worth for it at all. Even Futurama, Family Guy, and American Dad actually had much better examples of random (though mostly inappropriate) comedy.
As one who has suffered them and survived to tell the tale, I advise one with their sanity still intact to just avoid this like a god damn plague....however, if that you're THAT bored to where you're only entertained by ridiculousness and absurdity, I guess this series may fit your bill, but even then, you may eventually find it boring if the jokes don't rub you the right way. Granted, at least it's not something like Ousama Game, Boku no Pico, School Days, or Mars of Destruction.
And on that note, my rant of this "series" is done.
*This review will mention a number of jokes from the series, mostly in vague terms to minimize spoilers while still offering a point of reference to those who have already seen it*
As soon as I committed to watching Poputepipikku (Pop Team Epic), I knew immediately that I wanted to talk about it, whether by discussing it with others or, as I have now done, writing a full review of this strange beast. It was clear that my opinion on it was different from the prevailing thoughts of the community. Of course that’s not a bad thing; differences of opinion or perspective make such discussions far
more interesting, as opposed to a circle of like-minded cult members all chanting “Yes, man! Yes, man!” in rhythmic turn.
Of course, in the case of Pop Team Epic, the scenario looks more as if half the members in the circle suddenly turned to demons, the song of the ring an increasingly loud and aggressive “No, idiot!” with both sides on the verge of slaughtering each other. Pop Team Epic is an unbelievably, viciously polarizing show, with outcries of love and hatred struggling for dominance. What could possibly make something so divisive? It's hard to say for sure, outside of the old saying that comedy is subjective, but it may have something to do with the show’s unorthodox nature and format. Put simply, there’s little else quite like Pop Team Epic, for better or worse. The closest reference point I can imagine would be parody sketch comedies like Robot Chicken, but even this fails to truly capture the format-stretching, meme-generating, self-aware surrealism on display here.
So, with little comparison to go on, and a product which in many ways defies traditional metrics, it’s easy to become dismissive - to take your first, most basic impression of a title like Pop Team Epic and jump to conclusions about the work as a whole, whether positive or negative. I'll openly admit I did exactly this when I first saw the premiere episode, believing it to exist primarily to troll its audience (which it certainly does at times, but I'd hardly call it the show's sole purpose). Other stances span the full range from "hilarious collection of memes about pop culture" to "insufferable unfunny barrage of nonsensical randomness to amuse the bottom-feeders of the internet" among others - and to be clear, I'm not saying these specific stances are invalid or necessarily arise from quick dismissal. But if we're not careful, there's the risk of getting swept up in our immediate reactions and forgetting about the craft behind them - of losing perspective of the elements that go into the work as a whole to make it what it is. Pop Team Epic may come off as strange at times, but I believe like all media, it still deserves acknowledgement as an art piece, regardless of one's overall experience with it or eventual stance reached regarding its quality.
So here we are, as I make a serious attempt at understanding this show’s vision and the tools it uses to pursue it, and then deciding whether or not I liked what I saw and why. All this, because I don't think a work like this should see its weird, experimental nature become an excuse to immediately write off its craft before at least giving an honest and open look at the content on display.
With that in mind, there IS still the question of whether I personally liked it, so without further ado, I present my honest thoughts on this little oddity:
Pop Team Epic is an absurdist sketch comedy starring Popuko and Pipimi, two recurring avatars who go around making all variety of over-the-top events happen, all while screwing with as many characters as possible, including the viewer watching it. It sets itself apart from other such comedies by embracing the concept of meta-humour, but in ways that are far more creative and interesting than the often-seen approach of simply breaking the fourth wall and calling attention to its tropes (some may know this as “lampshading”). It also consistently gets creative with its formatting, whether subverting the standard 4-panel setup in various ways to enhance the element of surprise in its jokes, or making use of many alternative formats and styles to keep the variety up. Perhaps most critically, while wildly inconsistent in terms of quality, it shows an ability to tell its jokes without falling into common pitfalls of non sequitur and referential comedies… most of the time.
That last point is one I’d like to emphasize. Personally, I see more in this show's sense of humour than just arbitrary references for arbitrary references’ sake, and this is coming from someone who typically isn’t fond of non sequitur comedies. To explain why I feel this way, I feel it is helpful to try and break down why exactly I find randomness played for laughs to be ineffectual, as well as a bit about “humour” in general - hopefully, without coming off as conceited; it’s no secret that comedy is a highly subjective affair, so take everything I'm about to say not as any sorts of "rules" for comedy, but rather, as an elaboration for why I find Pop Team Epic to work where so many others fail, leveraging my understanding of my personal sense of humour while still respecting the skill displayed by the content at hand.
There are many theories out there which attempt to explain what makes something funny, but one that generally seems to align with my own sense of humour, and a useful starting point here, is Peter McGraw’s Benign Violation Theory. Those interested in the study of humour are free to explore this and other theories, but to avoid needlessly padding this review, I’ll stick to what’s relevant here: it suggests that something will be funny if it simultaneously a) acts as a violation of what a person believes an aspect of the world “ought to be”, and b) be presented in a benign (safe/non-threatening) manner. That's rather abstract, so to make a somewhat more concrete extension of this in the context of anime, one could theoretically achieve this by in some way surprising a viewer - such as by setting up expectations for the show or its universe and then defy them with some kind of “punchline”, joke, whatever - but in a way such that the result is something the viewer won’t find offensive, annoying, upsetting and so forth. Of course, this will vary from viewer to viewer. This is only one approach and not a perfect explanation by any stretch, nor are these anything close the only variables which may be involved. But it's a helpful springboard for diving into this show's content.
Applying this idea to non sequitur humour, if something incredibly out of place suddenly shows up in a show’s universe, then you’ve defied the viewer’s expectations for that universe, so you might get a laugh once or twice. But by repeating this joke, once it’s been established that weird or arbitrary things can and will happen in this universe, you lose that element of surprise for any future irregular occurrences, and the effect is lost. Worse still, if everything is completely random, without some thread of logic or flow to latch onto, viewers may stop expecting anything aside from this randomness. And, if you keep showing non sequitur after non sequitur, and the viewer interprets that as the joke, it could get incredibly obnoxious.
One could also say similar things for referential humour; the first reference is an unexpected intrusion on the show’s universe originating from another, but if you keep throwing out bare references, then the viewer begins to expect them.
Given this predicament, how exactly does Pop Team Epic seem to avoid this pitfall? The answer, I believe, is that Pop Team Epic is not truly random; it would be more accurate to say that the specific subject matter of any one of its mini-skits is seemingly random. By this, I mean that any given skit can have literally any topic of focus, regardless of what the previous one focused on, but on the other hand, most of the individual skits themselves do have their own sense of continuity and strange yet self-consistent logic. What this means is that so long as Pop Team Epic is able to set up and deliver actual punchlines through these self-consistent skits, it can function as an effective comedy despite its apparent randomness of subject matter and the prevalence of pop culture references. Does Pop Team Epic do any of this, with any degree of success?
Yes, it definitely does!
Starting with the basics, Pop Team Epic makes use of many commonly-cited forms of humour in amongst all its madness. These include, among many others, comedic shifts in tone (certain “Hoshiiro Girldrop” interjections), ironic character actions (the cigarette joke in an idol skit), situations being taken 4 steps further than expected to the point of absurdity (the same idol skit’s conclusion), escalatory repetition (episode 2’s manga speech bubble skit), some puns and wordplay I’m not qualified to evaluate, and, alas, a few instances of seemingly barebones references that don’t seem to have any strings attached. However, those latter types are thankfully a much smaller minority than one might expect. In most cases, there’s a concerted effort to at least add something of substance the the reference in question, even if it’s not always immediately apparent.
Of course, simply having punchlines present isn’t enough on its own. The fact that most of these “traditional” styles of jokes are condensed into extremely short skits (setting aside some longer-form exceptions with multiple punchlines like the aforementioned idol skit) does pose a challenge for the show in terms of having the time to instill expectations or ideas in a viewer, and then deliver a joke that isn’t completely obvious from the brief setup given. However, I personally found Pop Team Epic’s success rate to be higher than anticipated, perhaps because its variety of material and approaches gave it plenty of options for what direction to take any given skit in, while still maintaining that critical sense of flow to avoid a nosedive into true randomness. It’s a precarious approach - a constant balancing act which didn’t hold every single time - but as far as I’m concerned, it worked well enough.
So yes, this show does make use of some tried and true approaches to telling jokes, and frequently succeeds at maintaining the elements of surprise, buildup and payoff. However, Pop Team Epic is no ordinary comedy, and in addition to these more conventional approaches, it also carries a number of less-common tricks in its grab bag.
For instance, Pop Team Epic will often subvert the standard 4-panel format in order to further enhance its element of surprise, or add even more variety to how its jokes are delivered. 4-panel comedy strips will often spend three panels setting the stage, and then deliver their punchline on the fourth panel. This, of course, also applies to their adaptations, whether or not the boundaries between skits, sections or scenarios remain clear after the transition. In the case of Pop Team Epic, this transition is marked clear as polished glass by voiced-over title cards.
Pop Team Epic, however, often defies this conventional setup by placing an unexpected punchline near the beginning of the skit - what would be equivalent to the first or second panel in its original form - with the remaining panels adding onto it in some way, such as by taking the joke to further extremes or making humorous comments. This further adds to the element of surprise by varying the timing at which a punchline can hit.
In other cases, Pop Team Epic will flip the idea of the non sequitur card on its head, taking its normally-unrelated skits which the viewer expects to be unrelated in subject matter, and adds unexpected continuity between them to catch the viewer off guard. A good example of this (***brief spoiler for episode 3) is in a skit about Pipimi trying out a car, another person making disclaimers about its red colour and quietness, and Pipimi being satisfied, commenting that they can “kill in silence” and hide the blood on the car’s crimson hue. The skit ends, and the viewer expects the joke to end with it. Then the next skit is about Popuko looking for a job, and Pipimi handing her a suitcase full of cash, a gun, and a hitlist for assassination.
(***end of spoiler)
At another point, a skit makes reference to a certain piece of media, and then the next skit starts exactly the same way as the first, because the circumstances the first skit ended on would trigger a time reset in the universe being referenced. As a brief aside, this displays what I look for in referential humour. There should be some kind of punchline to go with the reference, and if the reference is necessary to understand the joke, its source should be something fairly recognizable to whatever audience is viewing it. In this instance, these conditions were met, showing that, at least some of the time, Pop Team Epic seems to understand that its frequent references cannot carry the comedy on its own.
On a more straightforward level, Pop Team Epic will change up the styles and even mediums in which it presents a given skit. Later episodes in particular got especially creative with exploring new formats, including alternate animation styles, various live-action/animation mixtures, and an enthralling segment involving two live-action performers manipulating pages of a sketchbook. This variety alone added a certain degree of entertainment value simply in seeing what the show would come up with next, even setting aside some of the jokes that were told by leveraging these new formats.
But that’s enough about formatting. It’s time to graduate to talking about the show’s attempts at full-on meta-humour that I’ve been building up.
To be honest, I’m usually not the biggest fan of meta-humour, but this has less to do with the concept than it does with the execution. As I mentioned before, I very often see attempts at meta-humour amount to little more than breaking the fourth wall, or a show plainly pointing out what tvtropes.org entry it’s using at that particular moment. My gripes with this type of humour are similar to those of the non sequitur and referencial varieties: in isolation, as a one-off joke or small aside, it can work. However, doing it repeatedly ceases to surprise and can become increasingly annoying when overused. Furthermore, it simply lacks creativity; it takes next to no effort to do it and is far too common an approach. In short: it’s a lazy, done-to-death gimmick.
But once again, Pop Team Epic steps beyond these trappings! It doesn’t stop at trivial self-awareness or fourth wall breaks. Instead, the fourth wall ceases to exist here, and the show makes use of the viewer's acceptance of its self-aware nature to tell jokes that simply wouldn’t have been the same otherwise.
A character proclaims an action they'll perform in 30 minutes; the show shows them standing there waiting in real time as the ending sequence plays in the background. Viewer comments complaining about an animation quirk in certain segments are read; the show fixes this quirk and lets you witness the humorous results for yourself. Later episodes make sudden, unexpected yet seemingly obvious additions to the opening theme to comedic effect. Even the necessary censorship of copyrighted words leads to a pun that translated shockingly well into English, with the incredibly stupid yet earnest results leaving me rolling! These are just a few of many examples of Pop Team Epic reaching beyond usual approaches to meta-humour. These gags are novel, creative, and often surprisingly witty, leading to arguably some of the show’s best and most unique material.
What I’m saying, in essence, is that for all this show's madness, I do see a method behind it. It has far more tricks to offer than simply throwing snot, superglue, tree sap, maple syrup, sticky notes and other trinkets at the viewer in hopes that something will stick. Furthermore, these tricks are often interesting and creative in their own right, and the show displays a clear ability to make use of them for uniquely comedic effect. Well, most of the time, anyway.
And on that note, here is where I must address my main gripe with the series: its inconsistency.
While I found many of Pop Team Epic’s skits to be a hit, and for others could at the very least see what the joke was, there were also quite a few segments which I simply didn’t understand. Whether it was because I didn’t know a reference, the joke was poorly presented, or because there simply wasn’t a joke at all, I can’t say for sure. Regardless, many of them just seemed to truly be random, have no point, or in rarer cases, simply exist as a reference with no apparent joke attached. Of course, some such segments turned out to simply be setting up for punchlines in later skits (“Are you upset?”, though this one arguably had a punchline to begin with), while others could be seen as planting expectations for a later variation with something in common (the first knitted musical number), continuing the trend of playing with the 4-panel format. Others, however, seemed to lack even this purpose.
For some of these segments, one could make a case for anti-humour - intentionally skipping the expectation of a punchline as a punchline in and of itself, or perhaps having the punchline be that what’s happening should, in fact, be taken at face value. However, I found that these segments seemingly devoid of a punchline happened a bit too frequently for this to work. As such, they had little impact and forced me to simply give up on trying to figure them out. Congratulations, Pop Team Epic, you've stumped me!
I’ll say this, though: I’d much rather a joke fly over my head completely than have it bashed into my head and get brain damage. But a quick smack to the face is perfectly okay!
In other words, I’m fine with blunt and over-the-top presentation (which can be found aplenty here), but I tend to dislike it when such presentation is combined with repeating or over-explaining trivial and obvious punchlines in a way that feels unnatural or forced. It comes across as the show being afraid the viewer might be too stupid to get it otherwise, or as some desperate attempt to draw additional laughs from something that’s clearly run dry of them. Thankfully, Pop Team Epic definitively avoids this particular pet peeve of mine. I can think of very few instances of a joke lingering beyond its allotted laugh-span - maybe some of the “Hoshiiro Girldrop” material overstayed its welcome. But even in those cases, it didn’t feel like it was forcibly dragged out, but rather, it simply went on as long as one might expect - which happened to be a bit longer than I found it funny - so this generally didn’t bother me much.
In all other cases, Pop Team Epic, leveraging its 4-panel format, moves at a quick pace, with quick setup, quick delivery of its jokes, and quickly moving on from it, whether you “got it” or not. This sense of pacing also means that even though many jokes or skits may fail to hit their target, their rate of fire is high enough to minimize long stretches of barren content. There are still some weaker episodes, mainly early on, but I found the series as a whole to fare quite well in holding my interest and keeping me amused.
And with that, I’ve just about covered my reasons for enjoying this show for what it is. For those brave or curious enough to give it a shot, a few things are worth noting in deciding how to watch it. First, if using official subtitles, I recommend going for Hidive’s over Crunchyroll’s. Many of the jokes contain nuances present in the former but lost in the latter. Funimation's English dub may also be a worthy alternative, but I can't speak on this personally. Secondly, Pop Team Epic has an unusual albeit suitable quirk in which every 12-minute episode is broadcast twice in a row, with the second adding extra context or substance to many of the jokes while giving Popuko and Pipimi different voice actors (usually a gruff male set for the second, adding to the surrealism). I myself usually preferred to skip to the 11:50 mark of each episode and just watch the more detailed second version, but how one chooses to respond to this quirk is up to them.
Of course, most of us watch comedies primarily for laughter, and no matter how many types or theories of humour we may discuss to explain our enjoyment or lack thereof, in the end, laughter is personal, which all but guarantees that titles with wildly diverging opinions like this one will show up from time to time. So for those who enjoy the show as a collection of memes for forum boards, or simply as “Shitpost: The Anime”, that’s fine; keep doing so. Likewise, if you find the show insufferable to watch, there’s no need to force yourself into thinking otherwise. But by the same token, whether watching it casually or going for further analysis, love or hate it, appreciate or despise it, let's not sit here and pretend that our own viewpoint or experience is the only legitimate one, that everyone in the circle who disagrees must be idiots, or that the work sitting in the middle is somehow beneath us.
As for my opinion, I enjoyed Pop Team Epic, both as a novelty act and as its own standalone product. Despite being more than a bit inconsistent, it still has its share of funny and memorable moments thanks to its straight-to-the-point attitude, creative use of meta-humour and blunt delivery of surreal gags, while mostly avoiding potential pitfalls of abusing non sequitur and referential humour. While it certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, the show is also wholly committed to its unusual vision and shows a degree of skill in using its varied material, structuring and formatting to sell its unique brand of absurdity, For that, I respect it.