ADV Films // 2000 // 60 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // May 13th, 2004
An all-new exercise in breaking the weirdness barrier!
Puni Puni Poemy desperately wants to be the most spastic, subversive, zany, and crude anime you've ever seen. It is so hell-bent on raising hell that the animators fail to take human perception into account. You may be able to comprehend some of the many gags if you watch Puni Puni Poemy at half speed. Otherwise you'll feel pelted by an auctioneer-worthy verbal barrage while your eyeballs strain to process myriad channels of flickering input.
Within this nearly incomprehensible stream is a hearty dose of parody and cultural commentary that often hits the mark. Equally often, it tries too hard and talks too fast to make any solid connection. The simple presence of anime culture references does not make for effective humor.
Puni Puni Poemy practically forces you to come down on one side or the other. Most viewers are either caught up in the zany blitz and sharp social commentary or are decidedly unimpressed. Personally, I feel that if Puni Puni Poemy had slowed down a notch to let certain gags develop, and if it had actually taken the risks it professes to take, we'd be looking at a winner. Right now, we are looking at a hyperactive spectacle that doesn't really connect.
An evil queen-sorceress type wants to enslave the earth. Meanwhile, young redneck Poemi Watanabe becomes an orphan when her parents are killed (by an alien who looks like The Joker but has a large ball suspended from his crotch). Poemi moves in with the Aasu sisters, each of which is an anime girl stereotype: one has large boobs, one is dark and studious, one is small and annoying, and so on. When the evil queen-sorceress unleashes her giant robot warrior, Poemi unlocks her hidden powers (spurred by a dead fish talisman) and transforms into Puni Puni Poemi. Can Puni Puni bitch-slap that queen back into dimension X?
Puni Puni Poemy is brought to us by the creators of Excel Saga. Apparently, the last episodes got kind of manic, and Puni Puni Poemy is an exaggeration of that style. That might mean something to those who have seen Excel Saga, but I have not. Thus, I must gauge Puni Puni Poemy on her own crass terms.
There are lots of really funny lines in Puni Puni Poemy. My favorite (and a favorite of some of the voice actors) comes when Poemi wakes up in her shack. Her parents are sleeping on their mat on the floor. Poemi wakes up supercharged, as though she'd inhaled a gallon of coffee and snorted Pixie Stix. She leaps around the room in a T-shirt and nothing else. Maw looks up and says, "Cover your hoo-haw, dear." This is the kind of subversive and crude stuff that makes Puni Puni Poemy tick.
The very same scene illustrates what is wrong with Puni Puni Poemy, an anime that loudly proclaims its own offensiveness. Poemi's hoo-haw is censored with a translucent blob of blocky pixels. This modesty is both puzzling and unwelcome in an anime that professes to break taboo. Censorship of animated genitalia (in a non-sexual situation, mind you) is not the only example of puzzling modesty. The characters often provide meta-commentary in asides, such as "Look at all this fan service!" when the Aasu sisters are in the bath together. But there is little in the way of fan service. There are no breasts on display, they are always hidden in clouds of steam or dunked under water. This makes the explicit mention of fan service particularly lame. Puni Puni Poemy is not the rudest anime in existence. It isn't even the rudest anime distributed by ADV. Plastic Little: The Adventures of Captain Tita wasn't at all shy about depicting breasts in full glory. Had Puni Puni Poemy not trumpeted her own envelope-pushing crudeness, I wouldn't have minded the censorship so much.
Funny lines are not the only trick up Puni's sleeve. There are gags based on character, situation, and parody. Each of these techniques is sporadically successful. It is amusing to watch Shii plunk her weighty mammaries down onto whatever support is handy, such as Poemi's head. Daddy's (AKA The Director's) afro opens up to reveal swarms of little 'fro fighters. The cannon on the mecha warrior is the wave motion cannon from Star Blazers. The scathing parody of Sailor Moon is perfect. There are plenty of moments that work; I'm sure you will latch onto your own favorites.
The problem is that all of this stuff is crammed into a stream of verbal diarrhea and anchored by a plot with no anchor. People die and come right back. We have no investment in the characters, particularly when we cannot be sure they will stick around. Situations are created, then vanish with no explanation. Or perhaps there is an explanation, if you happen to process auditory input at lightning speed. The stream of coy slights becomes a barrage of "Look how funny we are, we even make fun of ourselves, and we make fun of Sailor Moon and Voltron and there's a dead fish in my mouth and let's throw in Cowboy Bebop and look I'm jamming pencils in my eyes and this cute girl is my lesbian lover and I'm on my period and how about Star Wars and this cute girl is still my lesbian lover and now I'm jamming pencils in my legsandheyIcantalkMUCHfasterthanthisandhowaboutwepokefun atRobotechandhisdingleberryisreallyhairyandlookIhavealightsaber boymyhoo-haw*itches*butitsOKbecauseIWANNABEAVOICEACTRESS!" I'm sorry...what was I saying?
This style leads to another unfortunate effect. Fans of original language almost cannot watch the Japanese version because the subtitles whip by so fast. Honestly, I gave up. I'd love to comment on the subtle differences between the two tracks, but I simply cannot do it. (Angry DVD Verdict readers can e-mail me directly, and I'll be happy to refund your money.) The English language track does a fantastic job of mimicking the tone of the Japanese track, but even it is no picnic. Don't bother trying to keep up -- Puni Puni Poemy requires multiple viewings just to grasp the basics of plot and character. Of course, those who like this spastic journey will relish multiple trips.
Puni Puni Poemy's off-putting annoyances cannot mask a high level of craftsmanship and care. To parody anime with such abandon requires a high level of technical facility, which Puni Puni Poemy displays. The image is very clean and employs an ultra-bright, varied palette. The sheer range of animation styles dictates faithful color representation and careful attention to detail.
The soundtrack is overwhelming, but that doesn't mean it is poorly done. The voices come across clearly and a dizzying array of sound effects dresses up the background. Many of these incidental sounds are responsible for the best humor in the OVA.
Speaking of sound, the voice actors must have put in overtime. For a one hour OVA, this one crams in twice the usual amount of dialogue. I noticed neither strain nor shortness of breath on the part of the actors, which is no mean feat.
The actors slow down a notch or two in the 5.1 commentary track, which the director says is the first 5.1 commentary track ever. This is actually a better way to watch the OVA, because the cast points out what is funny about many of the scenes. It is noteworthy that they don't say much about Poemi's verbal fits, which is the most draining aspect of the anime. The 5.1 nature of the track comes into play near the middle of the track, when everyone carries on separate, simultaneous conversations. This commentary track leads me to believe that Puni Puni Poemy would be more successful if watched with a group of anime lovers. The rest of the extras are standard anime extras: clean credits and sketches.
Puni Puni Poemy is the most in many categories: most zany, most hyper, most disjointed, most mocking anime I've ever seen. For that alone, it is worthy of discussion and will win fans. The core of anime parody could only be reached by those close to the subject. I wish the characters and plot had been given some form of depth or sympathetic connection. I further wish that Puni Puni Poemy had not stopped short when pushing would have been truly shocking. Nonetheless, Puni Puni Poemy has drawn a line in the sand that begs you to take a side. Both sides will have their share of fans.
The court cannot sentence Poemi until His Honor can understand what she is saying. We're in recess.
Review content copyright © 2004 Rob Lineberger; 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, dubbed)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese, original language)
* English ("weird" subtitles)
Running Time: 60 Minutes
Release Year: 2000
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Commentary
* Behind the Scenes: Commentary Track Recording Session
* Clean Opening and Closing Credits
* Character Art Gallery
* Production Sketches