Reviews

Mar 30, 2019
TK8878 (All reviews)
Review in brief:

Pingu in the City returned in 2018 with more jobs, a more focused direction, and overall more heart. By better utilizing the strengths of its own quirks without overly distancing itself from the old claymation series, Pingu in the City has become a solid comedy, a great slice-of-life, and a proper successor to the original Pingu series.

Review in full:

Inevitably this review will see comparisons to this anime's first season and my review of it. To summarize, the first season clearly took cues from the old claymation series but was too formulaic and rigid (both in writing and in production values) to take full advantage of its roots, its new setting, or its theme of urban exploration. There were moments when it took detours into more imaginative ideas and possessed a genuine charm, but much of the time it settled for being a fairly standard series of computerized shorts that only had stronger than usual characterization to separate it from any other kids' show.

Almost all of the above points are fully addressed in this second season. The whole season takes a looser approach to what it had attempted before, which is exactly what the silly yet charming kids' show Pingu in the City was trying to be needed. The cycle of "Pingu observes job, gets job, does job, has job-related conflict" is broken down and recycled into much more dynamic approaches in getting Pingu to explore the jobs in his city. Sometimes Pingu takes jobs upon himself to solve problems he encounters, or discovers that something he had already been doing can be a job. Some of his jobs don't have conflicts and it's just about him mastering a skill or discovering multiple facets of what appeared to be a single task. His sister Pinga and his friends occasionally join him too, giving Pingu in the City a sense of community to help fill in the emptiness the first season struggled to fill.

More importantly, Pingu takes on a much greater variety of jobs this time. A considerable number of his jobs, ranging from working an assembly line to hairdressing, are unique to their episodes, even with the complete absence of some of the more worn jobs Pingu took on last season. They often lead into one another too. In one episode Pingu becomes an artist, the next episode he becomes the art itself! (no, really, it's one of the funniest episodes of the series). Meanwhile the reoccurring jobs Pingu maintains enter completely different fields when they return, such as Pingu doing detective work, traffic directing, and patrolling during his stints as a policeman. This variety gives Pingu in the City the exploration aspect it was missing before. Now Pingu is everywhere he can be doing anything he sets his mind to, living out many a real child's imagination and dreams on-screen for them to witness. Jobs aren't the only thing Pingu explores either, and this season doesn't limit itself to the city for long. Pingu goes above, below, and all around his new home on what can truly be called adventures.

Robby the Seal is no longer the only non-penguin in the anime, as Pingu makes a few strange new friends on his little expeditions, some of whom even come to visit him later. They aren't the greatest characters to grace the slice-of-life genre or even just this season of Pingu, but they flesh out the setting just fine. Meanwhile the returning cast is as quirky as they were before, and Pingu & his family get a lot of touching moments that really show how close-knit they are, something slice-of-life anime is often lacking in. Some episodes, like the one where Pingu's parents are sick, do more to flesh out the dynamics of Pingu's family than entire seasons of other anime in the genre. Through all of this, Pingu once again establishes himself as a strong main character who defines his show via his well-meaning impulsiveness; quite the feat in a TV Short series made simple for a young target audience.

I still wonder why the "city" was emphasized enough to be put in the title when the whole show could have taken place in Pingu's old village. Sure, it would be a little odd for there to be a fish cannery or the amount of cars & trams Pingu's city has, but it wouldn't break suspension of disbelief or anything close to that (the trams could just swapped be for buses anyhow). Pingu leaving the city frequently makes Pingu in the City seem to spite the city it names itself for, and the anime improving itself by distancing itself from said city still creates an odd thematic dissonance.

Even the production values got a subtle boost between seasons. Though the expressiveness of the original claymation series' animation isn't fully reached, this season of Pingu in the City gets closer than the last season by being looser overall and by using some of the old series' more popular model poses including stretching while reaching for things and a squished physique for sitting. The coloring is also more saturated, making the CG visuals look more like the claymation aesthetically and giving the show a slightly more fun-loving appearance. While the sound quality is still merely passable, it is used more effectively. A number of episodes center around the sort of lively music that would be at home in a city (perhaps the one element of the show I'd say fits the city setting well) and other episodes noticeably present more fitting music/ambiance than the same three or so general-purpose pieces from the first season. I still wouldn't likely listen to any of it for its own sake, but it's still a step up.

Now, being a kids' show first and foremost, I'm not going to pretend that just about everyone 13 and older will have a blast with Pingu in the City (though I do believe most of you would like it more than you'd guess by the cover). The humor can be varied and quirky but is still largely simple and is sometimes predictable. The plots are also simple and, despite each episode being 6 minutes long without the OP & ED, flow rather slowly to ensure that kids who aren't experienced enough with stories to pick up on tropes & complex cues can keep up and easily digest it all. There are also a few dud episodes that are more comparable to the first season than the majority of this one (the jazz band episode was everything the idol episode should have been). Yet most of the episodes in this season carry that distinctive charm a handful of the first season's episodes had. It possesses that warm, tender essence that only a well-made slice-of-life can offer. Pingu has been a celebrated claymation series, and now Pingu is also one of those rare slice-of-life anime that doesn't rely on moe schoolgirls and high school clubs to put a smile on the viewer's face, and that's something everyone could use a little more of.

Verdict:

Pingu in the City set out on a path of true discovery this season and in turn it discovered itself. At the same time standout and familiar, this season of Pingu in the City rises above the memes that saw it receive a bizarre 15 minutes of fame to become a hidden gem of a slice-of-life at a time when it seems those sorts of shows are stagnating away and being replaced with power-fantasy isekai and idol anime. There's some things it wouldn't have even considered doing as a kids' show, but overall I can recommend Pingu in the City in its entirety knowing that this season builds up upon the last and the anime as a whole delivers something you can't simply be too old to enjoy.