PANIPONI DASH!: VOLUME 1 – LETHAL LESSON – DVD review

As the DVD cover suggests, “Paniponi Dash” is not a serious show. In fact, it’s rather insane. The best way I can describe it is like a cross between two other releases from ADV: the school days comedy of “Azumanga Daioh”, and the psychotic craziness of “Excel Saga”. When sitting down to watch this, be sure to leave logic and reason at the door. This show is wacky and makes little sense, but that is the great thing about it. If you have no idea what is going on, don’t worry- none of the characters in the show know either!

Rebecca “Becky” Miyamoto is a half-Japanese, half-American, genius who graduated from MIT at age 10, and now at age 11 has returned to Japan to become a teacher at Momotsuki High School. Aside from her exceptional intelligence, Rebecca is just like your average 11 year old girl. She is small, cute, shy, greedy, petulant, and bossy all at once. The class she teaches is filled with a selection of oddball characters that often overwhelm her. Becky’s only friend and supporter is Mesousa, a perpetually depressed talking rabbit. Meanwhile, somewhere in space, an alien army has decided that Becky is the one representative specimen of humanity that they will judge the entire human race on. That is, when they aren’t bored, distracted, and otherwise not paying attention. They watch Becky from out in orbit as she goes about trying to teach her class of misfits.

That is about all there is to the actual plot of Paniponi Dash. Each episode follows Becky as she goes to school and interacts with the freaks in her class. If that sounds like a strange setup, you are right. Paniponi Dash is one very strange and ridiculous show. I can’t say “strange” enough. The whole show appears to be an excuse for the staff to throw in as many obscure anime and video game references as they can. Who needs a plot? What is character development? In a way “Paniponi Dash” is like those old “Police Squad” or “Naked Gun” TV shows in the sense that there is never a scene, never a shot, without some sort of joke or crazy reference going on, either in the foreground or randomly in the background. The chalkboard that Becky stands in front of is constantly filled with an ever-changing array of pop-culture references, both western and Japanese. You’ll see quotes from video games, Japanese movies, internet memes, western TV shows, anime, comics, and more. Everything from Reservoir Dogs and Gomer Pyle to Gundam and Initial D gets a mention. All of this is thrown in so quickly that you will need your finger on the pause button to catch it all.

The character designs are cute, and while the school uniform skirts are ridiculously short, the fan-service is kept to a reasonable minimum. Most of the characters are female, and there are so many of them that they need title-card introductions with video game-like personality stats. Even then, it is difficult to keep track of them all. Each character has her own particular gimmick that sets her apart, but that is as far as this show goes in terms of fleshing them out. Something that did amuse me is that every student in the school, aside from the main cast, is a clone of one or two generic character designs. What a great time-saver for the production staff.

“Paniponi Dash” Volume 1 contains the first 5 episodes of this 26 episode series. That is a generous number of episodes, but it may be a bit too much oddness to watch at one time. Don’t expect a grand sweeping epic or heart-wrenching drama. “Paniponi Dash” is high on cute, low on plot.

Video:
“Paniponi Dash” is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, and looks great. This is a bright, colorful, and intense show, and the video quality fits it perfectly. My only complaint would be the scrolling credits in the ending credits sequence. They are awkward and jagged, and just don’t look very good.

Audio:
This disc provides a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround English track, and a Dolby Digital 2.0 Japanese language track. I watched this disc in Japanese with the English subtitles on. While there is a lot of activity going on in this show, it isn’t exactly an action series that would need an elaborate audio stage. Most of the craziness is dialogue-based. The 2.0 track suited this purpose just fine.

Extras:
We get a great selection of extras on this first volume of “Paniponi Dash”. First there are 2 brief TV commercials. They are subtitled, and the video quality is noticeably worse than the regular episodes on the DVD. Then there is a set of clean ending animations. Each episode has slightly different ending animation, so all 5 versions of it are presented here. The animation is funny, and the theme song is cute enough that listening to it 5 times in a row is very easy to do. Next is a special opening sequence, which is ridiculously cute and bright. Finally there are AD Vidnotes. The AD Vidnotes are my favorite extra. As with “Excel Saga”, the jokes in “Paniponi Dash” move at the speed of insanity, and it is impossible to keep up with them all. The AD Vidnotes are pop-up text notes that explain many of the more obscure references. Sometimes there are so many references in one shot that the notes fill the entire screen. Also listed as a bonus feature is a chalkboard contest. The English voice cast has posted some movie quotes, and if you figure all of them out, you have a chance at being selected to have your name appear on a later volume.

–Miscellaneous–
This DVD comes in a clear case with a reversible cover. The artwork on the cover’s reverse side consists of several silly comic strips that discuss some plot points that are key to each episode. There is also a booklet insert that has brief character descriptions of the students in Becky’s school. Considering the large number of students, this is a handy reference to help keep track of them with. The only other extra I would like to see with this series is a plush Mesousa. That would make my day.

Film Value:
“Paniponi Dashi” is a crazy show that doesn’t make much sense, and has very little in the way of substance or plot. However, it is funny and cute, and if you consider yourself to be a knowledgeable anime fan, trying to keep up with all the anime and video game references is an excellent challenge. I recommend watching it once through normally, and then again with the trivia track on. It is a very different experience each time, and both are fun.

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