"Puni Puni Poemy": Parody at the Speed of Light
Imagine watching on fast forward an R-rated and completely insane Sailor Moon and you’ll have something close to the Puni Puni Poemy experience. I think this is the first anime I’ve seen that might require therapy to get over. You may recall the incident several years ago in which Pokemon TV broadcasts gave some Japanese children seizures. That is a walk in the park next to Poemy. After a while you’ll feel like someone tossed the ol’ cerebral cortex in a Cuisinart and hit puree.
A truly definitive description of the OAV eludes me. It really is absolutely nuts. Suffice it to say that the two episodes on the disc revolve around the antics of the irrepressible and insufferably effusive schoolgirl Poemy as she pursues her dream of becoming a voice actress. Oh, and she saves the world along the way. Or something. This is all played for laughs as a marathon of parodical non-sequiturs parade across the screen at lightning speed. For the most part the humor targets anime genre clichés, with occasional shots at the production process and Japanese society at large.
The plot involves, well, a whole lot of nonsense really. Basically Poemy is your typical, if crazy, schoolgirl who tries hard but usually ends up causing trouble. Her best friend Futaba has a more than friendly interest in her, but she only has eyes for mysterious and unfortunately disinterested classmate K. Her parents are the director and art director of the show itself (!), and may be familiar to Excel Saga fans. All is relatively normal (or marginally insane in this case) until some sort of alien menace shows up intent on … Well, a little general mayhem to start with. This comes in the form of a leering, pantless gangster-type who kills Poemy’s parents, and a massive robot that threatens to destroy the Earth. The distraught Poemy is adopted by the ecstatic Futaba’s family, which turns out to be composed exclusively of nubile teenagers who double as superheroes. Poemy herself is transformed into the Sailor Moonish superhero Puni Puni Poemy by a benevolent alien and starts fighting the forces of evil incognito. The above description may sound vaguely coherent, but rest assured the presentation is not in the slightest.
For the purposes of this review I watched the English dub, although there is also a subtitled version. As usual, the dub invents a lot of unnecessary profanity, which American dub editors have apparently considered the height of comedy ever since the mid 80s. The rather large cast does a capable if not exceptional job. Unfortunately for the mostly female cast of actors, their dialogue is comprised primarily of shrill screaming, whining and general babbling. It’s hard to say whether to praise or damn Poemy’s voice actress. On the one hand, the inhumanly fast speed at which she tears through miles of nonstop chatter is most impressive. On the other, her performance may be the single most annoying cacophony I’ve had the misfortune of hearing in a film. Eventually you’ll be begging someone to run nails down a chalkboard to drown out the noise. I presume the actress just delivered what the director wanted, but god only knows what he was going for. Speed Racer on amphetamines perhaps.
The animation is generally of television quality, with a few impressive money shots interspersed. The cutesy design scheme is very reminiscent of Sailor Moon, although here and there once can see touches from all sorts of other anime. For example the mouth of the giant robot opens up to reveal, strangely enough, the bow of Space Battleship Yamato. I wonder if he asks dates to sink his battleship.
A parody like this lives or dies by the quality of its jokes. Those with a deep knowledge of anime and Japan will probably be better able to appreciate the material. Certainly, there is no scarcity of jokes, with something whizzing past literally every few seconds. But I generally found the humor just too tired, forced, or wildly nonsensical. Every once in a while though there would be something so gloriously wacky that I couldn’t help but chuckle: The alien who kills Poemy’s parents has a bizarrely shaped, er, endowment that he comically swings all over the place. At one point Poemy flips out and decides to beat the heck out of her pet peeves, including kogals dating middle-aged businessmen, teenagers loitering at convenience stores, and perverts watching porn on the net. When the villain kills the scriptwriter (storyboard artist?) the director scoffs that he can go it alone, prompting the scriptwriter’s corpse to awake and exclaim “Since when?!” There is a lot of humor revolving around fan service, and while it’s mostly rather flat, it still manages to be quite entertaining on other terms, particularly when the villain finally reveals his gloriously lascivious master plan.
The DVD is put together quite nicely compared to the last ADV film I watched, the horribly-packaged Once Upon a Time. The menus are all very slick, and the special features are decent enough for an anime DVD.
Of greatest interest is the English cast commentary, which features most of the principals. The part one commentary is quite interesting because the director joins in and explains some of the various in-jokes from Excel Saga and other anime. However he is absent during part two and the cast itself is rather boring, offering very little in the way of insightful comments beyond a lot of giggling (“Look, boobies! Heeheehee!!”).
The character sketches and art gallery may interest budding artists who haven’t mastered disproportionate cleavage yet, but otherwise they’re just basic collections of the finished designs seen in the film.
The behind-the-scenes feature is truly one of those special features included just to pad the list. It is merely video of the cast recording the first ten minutes of their commentary in the studio. I suppose it’s interesting to see what the actors look like, but my curiosity about whether they possessed the same amazing dimensions as their characters was satisfied about ten seconds in. It would have been infinitely more valuable to include some discussion on the development of the dub script, which must have posed a major challenge given the bizarre humor involved.
I can’t honestly recommend Puni Puni Poemy. The constant screechy chatter was a chore to sit through, and there weren’t enough real laughs to make it worth my while. It definitely isn’t appropriate for younger viewers, even though they might be the ones most tolerant of the high volume hysterics. However, if you love magical girl shows and think a sexy parody would be great you may want to consider a rental. There are some decent jokes if you look for them. Just keep that mute button handy.
Puni Puni Poemy will be released on DVD by ADV Films today, April 6.