Friday, 24 December 2010

Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt - Episode 13 (Completed)

After meandering seemingly aimlessly (not that this is always a bad thing) for much of its broadcast run, Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt finally got serious last week with the opening gambit of its two-part finale.  Well, kind of serious, anyhow.

With Stocking back in Heaven and Panty restored to her virgin state and thus powerless, it seems as though Corset has won the day as he disappears with Brief and the Hellsmonkey key that he packs.  Indeed, in a desperate bid to run from the sex she sees everywhere, the next we know Panty is living a chaste life on a farm somewhere, helping out an old lady and frolicking in the woods.  At least, she enjoys a simple life until a gang kill everyone else, and said old lady's dying words make Panty realise that she still has things that she needs to do.

Cue a final showdown between the show's three titular characters (don't pretend you didn't expect Stocking to reappear) in what initially appears to be a successful gambit against Corset's plan, only for it to go wrong at the last moment with possibly devastating consequences.  Even Garterbelt is powerless when it comes to out-bondaging his rival, and surely with his demise all hope is lost?  Not quite - never underestimate the power of a credit card, and moreover Panty and Stocking's hilarious incompetence at a pivotal moment that somehow wins the day.  So, Daten City is safe, and Panty and Stocking are re-united as the credits roll.  But is that the end?  Possibly not.  Is there really a second season in the works?  Hmmm....

You know, it's hard to know what to say about this show's final instalment as there's simply too much for a single human brain to take in - some of it was a bit pointless, some of it was a slick riot of colour and movement, all of it was exquisitely soundtracked (of course) and the ending was suitably fucked up both for a GAINAX series and the show's subject matter.  The climax of the battle with Corset in particular was hilarious; a highlight in the midst of so much insanity that it was hard to keep it all together in my head without bits of it oozing out of my ears.

Of course, understanding or de-constructing Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt isn't really the name of the game - I suspect even its thoughtful moments in this finale were more a sneaky nod to American cartoons than a genuine attempt to dish out life counselling.  It's this disregard for anything and everything that has, at times, make this series a huge success - episode five's second half will live long in the memory, I'll forever point any Transformers fan in the direction of episode seven, Stocking's love story came close to coaxing an improbable tear from my eye, and then of course there was that music video.

It's these highlights that make Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt so infuriating in a sense, as those moments were scattered in the midst of some decidedly average stuff.  That said, I'm more than glad that GAINAX took the risk of making this series, because it did enough to be remembered and talked about for years to come, proving that animation doesn't have to be visually complex to be breath-taking and that sometimes the simplest of things can bring the most pleasure.  At a time when the anime industry looks less willing than ever to take risks, it should be commended that here we have a show that thumbs its nose at certain elements of otaku culture and instead delivers a lewd but loving homage to American cartoons and culture.  Sure, as experiments go it wasn't an absolute, cut and dried success but hey - isn't that what experiments are for?

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