Saturday, 1 September 2012

ぱにょぱにょ デ・ジ・キャラット/ Panyo Panyo Di Gi Charat

Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 excepted, of late I’ve mostly been watching cute, lowbrow, generally very simple anime. I’ve been craving more serious things, and I’ve got a whole slew of heavy anime half-watched, but I’ve just felt more like relaxing and switching off my brain, and the only really serious anime in production I’m following seriously is Nippon Animation’s realistic and very possibly apologist holocaust anime about the Schindler-esque heroic actions of Sugihara Chiune in Lithuania – but six years after it was announced and four years after its supposed release date, things have gone very quiet on that front.

Which left me looking for more enjoyable, silly, comedic anime – and I was bored by K-On!! So I’ve gone back to a series I was watching in 2007 but stopped because the subbing group dropped it and because it was one of the series lost when an external hard drive had a death rattle – Di Gi Charat Nyo! My initial plan was to write impressions of Nyo!, Panyo Panyo and Winter Garden all together, but the more I get back into Nyo!, the more I think that they ought to be separate.

As I put in my review of the original series and its peripheral properties, one of its faults, and the reason I originally dismissed it, is that it’s too zany and random, which at times makes it painfully unfunny. Still, persevering with it, I began to really enjoy it, with its silly cute characters and some very funny jokes. Panyo Panyo is a spin-off prequel, and what’s clever about it is that it totally shifts in tone, becoming a much more typically structured, albeit still very silly, story about the young Dejiko and Puchiko. As the series is set before Dejiko came to Earth, there are a lot of familiar characters who don’t make it here, and instead we get two very typical shoujo characters to form lil’ Dejiko’s gang – the tomboyish Miké (or ‘Mee-K’), who of course I like a lot (my preferred character type) and the sweet-natured, feminine, rather spacey Rinna. The four of them, with Gema as ever in tow, try to spread happiness wherever they go while dressing as pirates, thieves and suchlike, with Piyoko and the nasty little Deji Devil causing mischief but mostly being so useless at it that the main gang don’t even notice before it all backfires. With short episodes, an ultra-cute aesthetic that takes the Koge-Donbo designs to even cuter places, and some very funny little plots, it’s a succession of short nuggets of guilty pleasure.

The first season and its associated properties didn’t quite get otaku-pleasing spot-on, despite the Akiba setting and the origins of the property. This more sincere, seemingly less knowing presentation is more of a delight, another instance of playing it straight working much better. That said, it works in addition to the original, and would probably just seem like a silly, babyish little nonsense series without the original clearly being aimed at an older crowd. I’m only sad we don’t get a chibi Black Gema Gema Gang, and that the new characters barely feature in Nyo! – though I’m happy they’re in it at all!

Ostensibly a reimagining of a franchise aimed at younger children, make no mistake – the core audience stays the same. 

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