You could well say that it's about time we learned a little more about Garterbelt beyond some of his... well, predilections. If you've been of the opinion that you'd like to find out the history of this season's best afro, then you're in luck, as that's exactly what the first half of Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt delivers. Or does it?
The episode starts with Panty and Stocking getting chewed up and spat out, as per usual, by Garterbelt for slacking from their duties and goofing off instead. Determined to get one-up on their master, the pair decide to spy on Garterbelt to see what he gets up to at night - a decision that takes them deep into the catacombs of the church in which they live. One booby-trapped journey later, they find no sign of Mr. Belt himself, but they do find a book purporting to tell his history. From here, we're treated to the story of Garterbelt's life and death as a gangster working the streets, before his death sends him on a mission throughout the entire history of the Earth - a slickly animated and mildly amusing tale that goes from Adam and Eve via ancient Egypt and beyond. Is any of it true or just a diversion to cover up for Garterbelt's kinky BDSM sessions? Who cares, it was a fun journey anyhow.
The second half of the episode takes another leaf out of the American television manual, turning Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt into a sitcom via an entire instalment that never leaves the girl's living room and couch. While this sounds incredibly tedious, it's oddly energetic and entertaining to watch as Stocking and Panty engage in small talk on various subjects between complain about being hungry and waiting for Garterbelt to fix up some food. Even Brief drops by, talking music and television before Garterbelt's cooking finally arrives - although not before a huge amount of fast food has been ordered by the impatient girls.
To be honest, if you'd thrown me the idea of a slice of life sitcom surrounding Panty and Stocking before this episode I would have just rolled my eyes at you - but you know what? It really worked. Sure, you couldn't make an entire series out of it but this half-episode proved that there's actually a great (and perhaps too often neglected) dynamic between Panty and Stocking beyond simply getting on one another's nerves, and that dynamic (which also works well with Brief inserted into proceedings) flows from that segment of the episode.
I can't really ignore Garterbelt's story which takes up the first half of this instalment either, which is a slickly presented and fun tale to watch which was simple yet engaging and effective. On top of that, there was some great character and wonderfully natural animation on show in both halves of the episode, again putting paid to the "cheap and tacky" label that many expected to be able to stick to this series.
In short then, this time around Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt got pretty much everything right on both occasions. But what will next week's episode hold? It's become impossible to tell with this series.