Pop Team Epic Is Burning Anime To The Ground

A nail-studded bat smashes a TV showing glitched-out anime in the opening of every episode of the new, surreal anime Pop Team Epic. The show tells you straight-up what it's about: Burning anime tropes to the ground. And in the process of destroying everything anime fans know and love, it manages to become something wholly fresh.

Pop Team Epic

Pop Team Epic is a series of skits starring two cat-faced girls, Popuko and Pipimi. Each skit lasts about a minute and, in the span of one episode, can reference up to 10 or so video games, television shows or cultural tropes. There's a skit where Popuko, running to school late with toast in her mouth, collides with Pipimi on the street - a scene recognisable from dozens of anime dramas. There's a Skyrim reference in which Popuko wakes up in a wooden cart and sees Pipimi, who asks, "Are you awake now?" There's a skit without the protagonists that appears to be a convincing pop idol anime, complete with its own intro.

Pop Team Epic

Originally a four-panel webcomic, Pop Team Epic received a big-budget anime treatment this summer. Styles it samples: Stop-motion with felted toys, CGI, IRL camerawork and a mutant, drawn anime. Watching it, I questioned constantly, "Who the hell green-lighted this?" and also, "Why wasn't this made sooner?" Pop Team Epic is flush with stupid cultural references it rarely bothers to comment on. For me, that's where its charm lies.

When those references - especially to anime and games - are recontextualised in Pop Team Epic's surreal, genero-animeland, it's easy to see how generic the media they come from are. Skyrim's opening is so bland that it could exist anywhere. The fact that the trope-filled intro for Pop Team Epic's fake pop idol anime could be real is both depressing and telling. It's a meta-commentary on the show's inspirations and the culture that surrounds them.

Watching Pop Team Epic is a release. Surrounding it on streaming service Crunchyroll's summer anime offerings is Overlord, with a plot reskinning that of 2012 anime Sword Art Online, and the trope salad anime Ms Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles, about a mysterious transfer student who - well, you know. Anime is laden down by its past successes, which, every season, new shows attempt to realise again through predictable cliches. I never know what's coming next in an episode of Pop Team Epic. Although it's pieced together from tropes, nothing about it falls into any of its own.


Comments

    Excel Saga did it better

      Excel Saga, imo, suffered from a bit too much "zaniness for the sake of zaniness" to the point it was difficult to follow the thin plot between random happenstances.

      My vote goes to the obscure Jungle Wa Itsumo Hale Nochi Guu which expertly threaded mind-melting zaniness and absurd into solid episodic and overarching stories.

        Ohh dang, Haré+Guu is something you don't hear folks talking about much. Fucking weird show. I dug it though... I think.

    This sounds like the equivalent of Monty Python, while Excel Saga was more like The Goodies.
    One was sketch comedy, the other had a storyline.

      Hyperanime Monty Python is actually a very good description of Pop Team Epic.

    I tried watching. Just couldn’t get into it and found it pretty base humour. Dragon half parodied anime better imho

      I'm loving Pop Team Epic but any reference to Dragonhalf deserves kudos.

    Dude overlord is not a reskin of sao yes they have the same premise but overlord has different focuses then sao saying overlord is a rip off of sao is like saying that evangalion is a rip off of gundam

    That would explain why I feel completely lost every time my friend links some of it.

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