Judge Neal Solon never thought he'd be referencing Clueless in an anime review...
What will Dejiko think of next?
There is an interesting bit of history about the development of the Panyo, Panyo Di.Gi.Charat series as a spin-off of a spin-off of an ad campaign. For this story and for more background on the storyline itself, I suggest reading Bill Gibron's review of the first installment of Panyo, Panyo Di.Gi.Charat. Without it, I might have had no idea of the show's commercial origins or of the genesis of the story's premise, which carries over to the episodes included on this disc.
That said, Panyo, Panyo Di.Gi.Charat is a show that can easily be enjoyed without this background knowledge, as I originally viewed it. The show comes across as a mix of The Powerpuff Girls and Robin Hood and his Merry Men. And while it may be clichéd to describe this show as a blend of more instantly recognizable pop culture influences, the comparison is apt. Panyo, Panyo Di.Gi.Charat centers on a handful of young women who are distinguishable primarily as a result of their different hair colors and their distinct, one-dimensional personalities. The girls' nemesis Deji Devil also takes a vaguely animal form, and constantly tries to undermine the girls' positive works. Princess Dejiko and her merry maidens, however, don't spend their time saving the world, but rather working to better the lives of the downtrodden. In fact, in the first group of four episodes, the girls are, quite literally, stealing from the rich to give to the poor.
Panyo, Panyo Di.Gi.Charat: Nyu! presents twelve mini-episodes grouped into three thematically related groups. The first is described above. In the second, the girls try to reverse the recent disappearance of all of the fish in the sea, which is forcing local fishermen out of business. Along the way, they also search for sunken treasure, as a sort of "Plan B" for helping the local fishers. The third and final series of episodes is a bit of an outlier, thematically, featuring the girls competing in a series of races, with little focus on the "altruism" that otherwise drives their actions.
Regardless of its content, Panyo, Panyo Di.Gi.Charat is colorful, frenetic, and full of unexpected laughs. The humor comes out of the situations, the dialogue, and, occasionally, the hyper-literal English subtitles. It may not appear to have broad appeal at first glance, but Panyo, Panyo Di.Gi.Charat has something for everyone. For the kids, there is the color, the action, and a positive moral. For the adults, there's the humor, the sarcasm, and the tongue-in-cheek attitude. Finally, for the sadist, there's the end of every sentence. I know that's an odd statement, but if you've read Bill Gibron's review of the first volume of this series, you know what I'm talking about. The manner in which the characters end their sentences is actually the reason I read his review in the first place—to assure myself that I wasn't crazy. If you haven't read the review, I'll explain.
At the end of every phrase, when a normal human being would stop and take a breath, the inhabitants of Charat blurt out monosyllabic nonsense. Each sentence ends with a "myu!" or a "nyu!" or something like that. It seems innocent and is easy to ignore at first, but it quickly becomes overwhelming. This complex vocal tic is so persistent that one cannot escape it even once the DVD has been removed from the player. The people at ADV Films chose to name the four installments of this series on DVD after this, the most annoying aspect of the show, subtitling them "Nyo!," "Nyu!," "Mya!," and "Myu!," respectively. It is sad that such a minor thing distracts from the overall quality of Panyo, Panyo Di.Gi.Charat, but this tic—akin to the humming of the refrigerator or that little clicking noise your hard drive makes—can't be ignored once the blissful veil of ignorance has been lifted. Think, like, Maynard G. Krebs or Cher Horowitz, only more annoying and somehow less meaningful.
Fortunately, the technical presentation is never a distraction. ADV presents Panyo, Panyo Di.Gi.Charat in a colorful full frame transfer. The video is clean, as is the audio, in both its Japanese stereo and English surround mixes. The care and detail put into the presentation are obvious. The only aspect of questionable quality is the English subtitling. For some episodes, both English subtitles (translation from the Japanese) and English captioning (transcription of the English, dubbed soundtrack) were provided. On others, only the English subtitles were available. Having the option of choosing between the ultra-literal subtitles and the more natural captions is a welcome feature, and ADV films should not tease the viewer by providing such an option on only part of the disc. Also, inexplicably, the song in the title sequence is only translated in the subtitles for one of the sets of episodes. In the others, the Japanese words are simply transliterated into English characters, which is still incomprehensible to the average viewer.
The extras show less evidence of the careful attention given to the technical side of the DVD. Included as supplements are versions of the opening and ending sequences sans credits, a brief group interview with Japanese voice actresses, a commentary on one of the twelve brief episodes, and a sheet of stickers. Some young girl somewhere will have ten minutes of fun with the stickers. Other than that, the extras are useless padding.
As a whole, Panyo, Panyo Di.Gi.Charat: Nyu! is a worthwhile diversion. With its carefully balanced fun and sarcastic approach and generally positive worldview, the show is a nice change from standard television cartoon fare. If you have young children with an affinity for anime, it is worth checking out. Just don't relinquish control of the remote, or you could find yourself feeling nostalgic for the days when children incessantly parroted the songs of Barney the Dinosaur. At least his ravings were made up of comprehensible combinations of syllables.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
• English Voice Actress Commentary
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