Sure, FUNimation’s three-disc DVD release of Panty & Stocking with Garter Belt boasted a solid visual presentation and surprisingly dynamic audio… for a DVD. But as thankful as we all were for the opportunity to pick up the series on home video in any format, much less in a release of this caliber, we all knew it could look and sound better still. After all, the unfortunate signs of a less-than-ideal presentation were there in the slightly subdued colors and notably pixelated lines. But on January 15, 2013, the tragic lack of a North American HD release of Panty & Stocking will be rectified when FUNimation re-releases the complete series for the first time here on Blu-ray, and it is every bit the visual improvement over their previous DVD offering I had hoped it would be!
To address the program itself, this 13-episode action-comedy anime from fan favorite studio Gainax is at once unlike anything I’ve ever seen and perhaps the most derivative piece of media I’ve ever encountered. Panty & Stocking manages to walk this fine line by infusing its pop culture potpourri with staggering levels of vulgarity unseen in any of the countless films and series referenced therein. What’s more, the series’ animation draws heavily from American cartoons in a pleasantly surprising total reversal of current trends in animation.
The setup: the Anarchy sisters, Panty and Stocking, have been charged by Heaven to protect Daten City from ghosts. However, their diehard devotion to their individual vices (Stocking loves sweets above all else and Panty, sex) stifle them in their goal of killing enough ghosts to gain readmission to Heaven. The appropriately-named, afroed priest Garterbelt struggles to insure the unity of their team and also relates to them their ghost-hunting mandates from Heaven. Heaven delivers their assignments in the form of clues to the whereabouts/abilities of ghosts through the vessel of Panty and Stocking’s bright green, zipper-headed dog, Chuck. Although obviously modeled after GIR from Nickelodeon’s Invader Zim, the series never really allows Chuck to develop into an actual character. Even the three-part “Chuck to the Future” fails to give us any sense that Chuck has an actual personality. Unfortunately, were it not for the visual reference to GIR in his character design, Chuck’s shallowness might otherwise go unnoticed.
Before you decide to dive into Panty & Stocking, a warning: you absolutely must foster a great appreciation for broad humor to get into the series. Virtually every gag in the series relies on vulgarity in one form or another. In the first of the two shorts comprising the series’ first episode (each episode is composed of at least two shorts), Panty and Stocking battle a giant fecal monster, if that tells you anything. And as if the series weren’t dirty enough already, the English dub is somehow even more vulgar than the Japanese subs. The English voice cast had a blast with this title and you can’t even imagine some of the hilariously filthy things they say, things that I for one am certainly not willing to repeat here!
As for the animation, the standard visual aesthetic of the series draws on Genndy Tartakovsky’s Cartoon Network fare such as Powerpuff Girls and Dexter’s Laboratory. However, the animation fluidly shifts between modes, constantly transitioning between the aforementioned Tartakovskian style, styles appropriated from other American series such as South Park and Transformers, and more traditional anime aesthetics. This often has a distinctly comedic effect. However, in the spectacular short “Vomiting Point,” the turn toward a style more akin to that of Tekkonkinkreet results in a total atmospheric shift for the series, purposely depriving it of its comedic tone almost entirely.
Not only is the audio/visual presentation of the series here an improvement over the DVD release, but the packaging shows a marked improvement as well. The hardboard slipcase that houses the two Blu-ray cases comprising the set features glitter highlights in the primary front and rear artwork with the series’ title presented on the spine with the same glittery overlay. The result is a collection that draws the eye even when shelved. The special features on the Blu-ray re-release are limited to those previously included on the DVDs. Of course, my use of the word “limited” here is probably a tad misleading, as the special features are actually quite extensive, featuring an OVA, interviews with the Japanese cast and crew at a live commentary session, a documentary about the English dub, trailers, commercials, outtakes, and more. FUNimation’s Blu-ray release of Panty & Stocking is an absolutely necessary upgrade for fans of the series, and the ideal format for newcomers to the series as well.