ADV Films // 2004 // 85 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // October 14th, 2004
Sometimes, anime can make you crazy, nyo?
On the planet Charat, Princess Dejiko hates homework. She wants nothing to do with schooling and avoids her tutor at all costs. One day she plots, along with her sister Puchiko, to escape the castle and mingle among the common folk. But the tiny tyrant needs a purpose before going AWOL. After reading a book that suggests that making people happy is every person's destiny, Dejiko gets an idea. She will leave her royal home and make her way among the people, doing everything she can to help them. Finally fleeing the confines of the palace (but failing to shake her gelatinous blob governess and chaperone, Gema), Dejiko comes across her first mission. A local cake shop, run by the consistently sleepy Rinna, is unable to open without confections. So Dejiko helps bake up some goodies, and she and Rinna become fast friends. Next, a girl named Meek is helping her injured father run his fish market. But a stray cat keeps stealing the merchandise. Dejiko helps her as well. Within minutes, our duo has become a foursome. When extraterrestrial bad guy Deji Devil arrives on Charat to bring misery and suffering, he sees an immediate rival in Dejiko. He and his half-pint minion, the pretty, perky Piyoko, do everything in their power to undermine Dejiko and her pals. Unfortunately, the purity of their hearts is no match for Deji's misguided attempts at mischief. As long as there are people in need, Dejiko, Puchiko, Rinna, and Meek will be around to help.
It would be easy to point to Panyo, Panyo Di. Gi. Charat and call it the Jem of Japanese anime. For those unfamiliar with the faux-female rock star's creative origins, Jem was a toy line developed by Hasbro. The company then determined that the best way to market this merchandise was to create an animated TV show around the action figure "characters." In many ways, Panyo Panyo had a similar start. Basically, the character of Dejiko was an ad agency-created cat-eared alien from a distant star, utilized by Japanese entertainment conglomerate Broccoli as a mascot/spokesmodel for their chain of Gamers electronics stores. Unexpectedly, the teenage titan was such a hit that the public demanded a series be crafted for her. Di. G. Charat was a comedy/action adventure that featured Dejiko along with her half-sister Petite/Puchiko Charat and their guardian Gema. These fun-loving beings from another world landed on Earth and immediately longed to have a good time. But having no spendable currency hampered their happiness. They eventually found employment just around the corner at a local electronics store (a Gamers, of course). The popularity of the show led to a prequel, focusing on Dejiko's home planet and her adventures as a small child. It is this more juvenile based configuration that forms the foundation of this new DVD from ADV.
Panyo, Panyo Di. Gi. Charat is a colorful confection, a terrific combination of kiddie cartoon and pop art poem resulting in something that is both saccharine and sarcastic. Recalling some of the anarchy from the Warner Brothers's cartoon catalog (there are several elements in this series that evoke The Animaniacs, among others) it is hyperactive and often hilarious. The character modeling favors a more old school version of classic Japanimation, with a little Keane Kids and Pity Puppy/Kitty thrown in to elevate the cuteness factor. While some of the design decisions are odd (everyone on Charat has cat ears and a tail, yet there is barely a mention of this fact) and a little too videogame oriented for comfort (Deji Devil could have come out of Earthworm Jim) the overall impression one gets from Panyo, Panyo Di. Gi. Charat is fun gone frilly. This is clearly a chick bit of cartoon capering. It's hard to imagine any adolescent or teenage boy really enjoying this infantile version of the far more fertile young adult Dejiko featured in the original series. Yet the level of craziness may convert some close-minded males over to this prequel/sequel's side. There is plenty of adventure, some rudimentary science fiction, and even a little slapstick to keep the snails and bow-wow tails entreated.
On this DVD release, Panyo, Panyo Di. Gi Charat is divided into three sections, each containing four freaked-out episodes. Part 1 deals with Dejiko's escape from her castle and how she meets her pals Meek and Rinna. Our next set of episodes focuses on the arrival of Deji Devil and his familiar, Piyoko. They constantly undermine Dejiko as she tries to become an actress. Our final four installments deal with some individual adventures for the gang. These spirited sprites help an artist, a time traveler, and the man who runs the town's clock tower. Out of the 12 installments, there are several that are standouts -- including two that will definitely tear at your heartstrings. In one, Meek wants to capture the stray cay that keeps stealing fish from her father's stall. But when we find out why the feline has been filching, it's just about crying time. Equally evocative is the story of how Dejiko and the crew help teach a small girl to ride a bike so she can film the final scene in a movie. The twist at the end provides another sensational slice of sentiment. As for the more comic concepts, Piyoko and Deji Devil are, basically, the Elmer Fudd and Wile E. Coyote of planet Charat. Their personalities are honed from the fine animation tradition of bumbling villains, and as crazed as Dejiko and her friends can be, the small winged Devil and his antsy assistant provide more laughs per segment than any other aspect of Panyo, Panyo Di. Gi. Charat.
But if there is one single facet that makes this bright and shiny anime a little less luminous, it's the vocal tic that everyone on planet Charat shares. Each character, from the regular townspeople to our main minions, speaks with a strange cadence that ends in a variation on the same grating sound. It is easier to illustrate it than explain it. A typical exchange of dialogue in Panyo, Panyo Di. Gi. Charat sounds something like this:
"Let's go to the store, nyo."
"But we have no money, myu!"
"Well, we'll just get some, nyo."
"But where will we find work, myo?"
"You can't find a job, geyma!"
At first it's delightful, like the Neanderthal nonsense scattered throughout Quest for Fire. But after 80 minutes of "nyo's," "myu's," "myo's" and "pyo's" (not to mention Deji Devil's "dijiya's " and Gema's "gamya's"), you start to feel your synapses short-circuiting. This is fodder for schoolyard scuttlebutt, a "guaranteed to be repeated until you're sick of it" situation that will definitely work your last nerve. It is the sole sticking point in what is otherwise a highly recommended anime.
On the technical side, ADV does a wonderful job bringing this title to the digital domain. Providing a gorgeous, crystal clear 1.33:1 full screen image, the DVD presentation of Panyo, Panyo proves breathtaking in its animated imagery. The colors are vibrant and the contrasts reveal little animated details like eyelashes and fur. As for the sound, ADV offers Panyo, Panyo Di. Gi. Charat in a Dolby Digital Stereo mix that is sonically sensational. Both the original Japanese (which can be listened to with some far too literal translation subtitles) and the newly dubbed English are perfectly modulated and easily understood. As for bonuses, we get the original opening and closing for the show (sans credits) and a ten-minute commentary (accessible only from the extras screen and not directly tied to the full length presentation) from the voice actress of Dejiko, Luci Christian. Though she drops off into pure plaudits after about three minutes, she does offer some insight into how ADV approached their version of Panyo, Panyo Di. Gi. Charat. Finally, we see a Japanese promo for the show and are treated to a collection of stickers as an insert in the DVD case.
Like a foppish fever dream one might have after consuming too many Pixie Sticks, or a simple Saturday morning cartoon gone psycho, Panyo. Panyo Di. Gi. Charat is a wild, wonderful animated bonbon. Featuring characters so sweet they will close down your pancreas, and pen and ink factors so fresh it's like looking at actual fantasy come to life, this is a quirky, whimsical wonder. Just be prepared to hear more vocal paroxysms than at a Tourette's convention. Think you can handle it, nyo? I knew you could, myu.
Review content copyright © 2004 Bill Gibron; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Voice Actress Commentary
* Production Sketches
* Original Japanese Promo
* Clean Open/Close
* Sticker Sheet