On January 6, after months of waiting, we finally got to see the first episode of the Pop Team Epic anime and oh what a sight it was to behold. Maybe you’ve seen the comic in your past travels on the world wide web. Maybe you watched the premiere episode and now find yourself intrigued and confused. Maybe you want to know more about this mysterious duo. Fear not goners, as this will be your guiding light into wondrous world of Pop Team Epic.
Pop Team Epic is an absurdist 4koma (four panel comic) following the bizarre adventures of Pipimi and Popuko, two “average” school girls. Making its debut in 2014, the comic became wildly popular in Japan, its character design becoming the basis of spinoff comics and memes. It was not long before Bkub Okawa’s work found its way westward as the simple absurd nature of the comedy that drives Pop Team Epic would translated well (for the most part) for the western anime fan. On April Fools’ Day last year it was announced that Pop Team Epic was getting an anime adaptation, leading many to speculate that the announcement was some sort of elaborate joke that only a dadaist manga like Pop Team Epic would try and pull. Now, nearly a year later, we have the anime adaptation nobody believed was actually going to happen.
Many fans of the manga had speculated as to what an anime adaptation would even look like, seeing as how the 4koma style that Pop Team Epic manipulates to comedic effect would have a difficult time running out the clock on a full 22 minute time slot. Additionally, all the previews leading up to the adaptation were cut as live action segments, leaving everything to the imagination when it came to potential content and form.
Following in the footsteps of its manga, the Pop Team Epic anime immediately caught people off guard. The very first segment of the show started off with Hoshiiro Girldrop, a meta-narrative joke from the manga about Pop Team Epic being cancelled, transformed into a televised segment of the show. Complete with its own proper opening sequence, Hoshiiro Girldrop goes on for a good couple of minutes before Popuko finally rips through the screen.
Those watching the Japanese television broadcast of the show were totally blindsided – nobody could tell what was going on. Filled with short gag segments, an anime opening for a show that (maybe) doesn’t exist, a live action segment in French, intentional screen distortion, and the plot ending half way through the time slot only to be time looped and replayed a second time, Pop Team Epic crafted a television experience like no other for its long awaited premiere. Japanese fans at one point couldn’t tell if the broadcast had actually ended: repeating itself halfway through, and flanked by commercial breaks and the live action segment, the mind bending broadcast seemed like it could potentially go on forever.
For those wondering if this anime is for them, the show is so wild that I couldn’t possibly say. Pop Team Epic attacks from all sides, referencing both popular culture both local and from abroad, setting up gags that aren’t actually jokes, and actively working to manipulate and defy expectations. Pop Team Epic is a wild and enjoyable ride which has me craving more.