Puni Puni Poemy Anime Review
US Release By
Incoherent Magical Girl Parody
2 30-minute episodes
2001-03-07 - 2001-12-19
Poemi (who for some reason calls herself Kobayashi) is a pointlessly energetic schoolgirl with dreams of becoming a voice actress. When a tragic fate becomes her parents (or possibly the director), she ends up living with the seven Aasu sisters, who happen to be sworn defenders of the Earth. They're not very good at it, but fortunately (maybe) for the Earth, Poemi suddenly develops a magical girl alter-ego, Puni Puni Poemy.
The superpowers don't do anything to improve her attention span, though, or her chances at becoming a voice actress.
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Puni Puni Poemy is the spiritual successor to Excel Saga; it has the same schtick, plenty of madman director Nabeshin both at the helm and onscreen, and is loaded up with as many industry in-jokes as they could fit in. Not to mention a dirty sense of humor and a whole lot of unadulterated crazy. The style of humor is more incoherent free-association than parody, and the whole thing pretty much runs on actress Yumiko Kobayashi's insane, hyperactive energy. The remainder is loaded wall-to-wall with background visual gags, a lot of which are way dirty. If you prefer dubs, Cynthia Martinez does pretty well filling Poemi's shoes, and the cast and crew went all-out loading it up with the same kind of random insanity, including plenty of wacky background dialogue.
This is Shinichi Watanabe's self-aware brand of hyperactive, insane randomness in its purest form--everything you either love or hate about Excel Saga boiled down into sixty concentrated minutes, fueled entirely by the lead actress's frantic, crazed monologues and decorated with wall-to-wall visual jokes behind the action. It's practically guaranteed to cause headaches, but if it's your thing you might be laughing hard enough to not mind.
Full ReviewSwitch to Quick Review
Puni Puni Poemy is the spiritual successor to Excel Saga; it has the same shtick, most of the same cast, the same madman director Shinichi "Nabeshin" Watanabe both at the helm and onscreen, and even re-uses the soundtrack and Hyatt's costume. It's basically like the crew decided to crank out another couple of episodes, sans even the perfunctory effort at narrative that Excel Saga had, and with as many industry (and personal) in-jokes as they could cram in (which is a lot when you talk that fast). Not to mention a dirty sense of humor and a whole lot of unadulterated, bat-poo crazy.
It's probably a little more accurate to say that Puni Puni Poemy is what happens when you give voice actress Yumiko Kobayashi a bucket of industrial-strength espresso, the outline of a magical girl script, and a microphone, then hand the resulting completely incoherent, auctioneer-speed rants to a sleep-deprived animation team with no filter on unacceptable background visual gags. If you've seen Excel Saga, it's essentially Excel at her absolute craziest, full-bore, for sixty minutes straight. If you haven't, there's really not much that's going to prepare you for this level of hyperactive madness.
Hyperactive, dirty madness. Don't let the only-mildly-offensive first episode fool you--the second one is a lot worse. Worse as in yikes, they're not holding anything back. ADV's classic box blurbs were known for overstatement, but the quote on the back pretty much sums it up: "If this anime doesn't offend you somehow, we haven't done our job!" Don't take my word for it--it was banned in New Zealand.1
There is technically a plot, in that the characters onscreen occasionally give reasons for what they're doing, but it's not even trying--most of the time Poemi refers to herself as Kobayashi rather than the character's name, she calls Nabeshin "director" instead of "dad," and probably a quarter of the jokes are either direct pot-shots at the production staff or self-aware commentary on what's onscreen. The rest is more free-association madness than anything--throw everything up to and including the kitchen sink (literally) at the screen and see what sticks.
How funny this all is will depend entirely on a combination of just how severely cracked your sense of humor is (if it isn't pretty darned cracked, keep your distance), and how much pure, concentrated, random lunacy you can handle. If it hits your fancy, you should be laughing very hard, though I can pretty much guarantee you'll be groaning in horror at some of the most tasteless jokes. Plus, if you do like it, it's good for at least a couple of viewings.
I'm serious about watching it twice--there's so much going on that if you're reading the subtitles there's no way you'll be able to keep up with the text onscreen and catch most of the visual jokes in a single run through, and even if you're watching the dub (or fluent in Japanese) you'll probably miss a lot the first time. It's unavoidable--it's so dense that anyone would have a hard time maintaining the concentration required to absorb that much dialogue and random visual nonsense in a single go. Unless you've figured out how to go half an hour without blinking, that is.
The chaotic visuals account for about 40% of the humor--what it lacks in artistry it makes up for in sheer volume of stuff. The animators must have had free reign to put more or less anything they could think of into the backgrounds, because nearly every shot is loaded with random junk of all sorts. There are references and prods at classic anime everywhere; if you get half of them, your trivia buff bragging rights are safe. Not to mention a pile of dirty little background gags subtle enough that you'll probably miss a lot of them if you aren't looking closely at the... paraphernalia scattered around, and some of the things characters in the background are getting up to. Heidi will never be the same.
More impressive still, the second episode has more than the first--apparently they were just getting warmed up. There are of course some pseudo-artistic shots parodying more serious fare, but they rarely last more than a few seconds--the most notable one is an impressively brutal non-sequitur opening battle in which the protagonist beats the crap out of a host of recognizable magical girls. Also, watch for the crucified Sony Aibo--that was practically worth the price of admission.
The rest of the series runs almost entirely on Poemi herself--not the character, but Yumiko Kobayashi railing away at breakneck speed for a solid hour. In Japanese it's one heck of a performance--it's like Kotono Mitsushi's meth-flavored, free-association-loaded, borderline-incoherent, auctioneer-speed previews in Excel Saga cut loose over an entire series. Yes, really. The rest of the cast doesn't quite match that kind of out-of-control energy, but they sure try--the seven sisters, all voiced by Excel Saga leads, have plenty of crazy variety. They also have a family meeting at one point that's literally on fast-forward. Frighteningly, they're not talking that much faster than Poemi does at normal speed.
As for ADV's English dub, Cynthia Martinez does her best to fill Poemi's hyperactive shoes, and the cast and crew certainly went all-out loading it up with the same kind of random, offensive insanity. Wisely, they didn't attempt to stick too closely to the same script, instead going mostly with free-form (and foul-mouthed) lunacy and a variety of random accents (plus a lot of Aasu puns). The screechy voices might be even more annoying than the Japanese, and I didn't think it was quite as funny, but some of the new material got a laugh out of me and it's about as good as a dub of something like this is going to get.
The soundtrack, incidentally, is pretty much re-used directly from Excel Saga apart from the opening and ending themes. The theme songs are unsurprisingly generic--it's a parody of generic anime, after all--but disappointingly a little too straight-faced. There's only one good joke in the opening, and neither has anywhere near the hyperactive energy or crazy interjections of a couple of the image songs for Excel Saga ("Kazoku Kaigi" might have made a good closing theme for this series, in fact--it actually has a family meeting).
In all, Puni Puni Poemy is Shinichi Watanabe's self-aware brand of hyperactive, insane randomness in its purest form--everything you either love or hate about Excel Saga boiled down into sixty concentrated minutes, fueled entirely by the lead actress's frantic, crazed monologues and decorated with wall-to-wall visual jokes behind the action. It's pretty much going to be either hilarious or migraine-inducing, depending on your taste. Correction; it's practically guaranteed to cause headaches, you might just be laughing hard enough to not mind.
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Excel Saga is of course nearly identical, if slightly less crazy (yes, seriously). The nominal plot, and to a degree style of humor, is almost identical to Akahori Gedou Hour Rabuge--both the family of superpowered sisters in Gedou Otometai and a "hero" with some despicable tendencies from Love Pheremone. Rabuge is, however, nowhere near as insane as this show. Bludgeoning Angel Dokruo-chan has a similarly filthy sense of humor and background gags you'll wish you didn't see, and there's also Elf Princess Rane for hyperactive ranting in a much cleaner and somewhat less self-aware setting.
Notes and Trivia
Puni Puni Poemy is effectively a spin-off by the production team of its better-known sibling Excel Saga. It's not a sequel, but then neither Excel Saga nor this show have any functional plot to speak of. The Aasu sisters are all voiced by Excel Saga veterans in Japanese, including both Excel and Hyatt's voices.
Yumiko Kobayashi and Mikako Takahashi are the "Excel Girls," the duet responsible for the theme song of Excel Saga and a spin-off CD full of ad-lib and wacky songs of varying quality. Both also had cameos in Excel Saga, as Excel Kobayashi and Mikako Hyatt; Takahashi also appears briefly in this series, voicing herself.
Poemy's costume, in addition to being an aggregate of magical girl costume standards, also looks quite a bit like Hyatt's outfit, and includes Menchi's tail on the back if you look closely.
"Punipuni" is an onomatopoeia meaning, roughly, "squishy." In addition to sounding ridiculous and alliterative, the title is presumably a reference to the fact that Poemi gets... squishier upon transforming into Puni Puni Poemy, stated explicitly when the Aasu sisters start fondling her. When written in Japanese, the superhero version of Poemi has an extra little "i" on the end, which ADV translated as Poemy--about as good as anything.
The Aasu sisters' name is a joke, of course--that's how you'd pronounce "Earth" if it were a Japanese name. It's rather creatively (read: unintelligibly) written using characters meaning roughly "We Are Defenders" (我々守). Their given names are all based on numbers--the youngest, Hitomi, is "one," Futaba is "two," and so on up to the eldest, Nanase, which is "seven." This of course is completely backwards from how they'd actually be named--the oldest should be "one" and count up from there. (This is occasionally done in real life, I'll note--I have a relative who is ninth in a large family, whose name literally means "Ninth child.")
Footnote 1: Yes, seriously, it's illegal in New Zealand. A fan even attempted appealing the decision, but no go--it remains banned in that country despite being available from Madman in neighboring Australia. It's not, if you were wondering, the only anime ever banned there, although it is the only one ever appealed; one volume of Ikki Tousen and some hentai shows have also been rejected.
US DVD Review
ADV's DVD is similar to their Excel discs, although lacking the crazy credits and copyright screen. There's a quirky menu, crisp video, stereo audio in both English and Japanese, fairly accurate English subtitles, and an entire subtitle track in pig latin. (Yes, seriously.) Extras include some behind-the-scenes video of the dubbing crew, character design sketches, an art gallery, clean openings and endings (which are sadly pretty boring), plus the "world's first" 5.1 channel commentary track by the entire dub cast (ironic given that the dub itself is only stereo). Calling it 5-channel is a little bit of an exaggeration; the cast is spread across the front speakers, and the surrounds are just used for some of the in-show dialogue. On the plus side, in addition to being relatively funny, they also point out several more subtle background gags you might have missed, and turn up the volume on a few of the very quiet background vocals that you almost certainly wouldn't hear otherwise. Might also wish you didn't hear, but that's what the show's about.
The first half has some untoward jokes, while the second is downright filthy in all sorts of ways; ADV calls it TV-MA, which you can interpret as either 16-up or 18-up, depending on how objectionable you find the jokes.
Violence: 2 - There's a decent amount of random bloody violence, albeit entirely cartoony stuff.
Nudity: 2 - No exposed "important bits" in the strictest sense, but there's quite a bit of flesh onscreen.
Sex/Mature Themes: 4 - Not much actual sex, but way-dirty jokes everywhere and bondage paraphernalia, in use, repeatedly.
Language: 3 - A fair amount of profanity in the dub; the sub is somewhat cleaner.