They say the internet is forever, so when our kids look back on this generation, there’s going to be one thing that sticks out to them like a sore thumb: memes. These days, it feels like new memes are being born every day, spreading through the internet like wildfire. Ironically, though, while some of these jokes are likely to last the test of time, many of them aren’t going to make a scrap of sense in years to come. In fact, there’s so many out there right now, some of them barely make sense in a matter of months. Pop Team Epic has used this as a premise for an anime series, and it’s absolutely brilliant. The show compiles some of the most iconic references of our time and crams them into each bonkers episode. It’s one crazy ride.
Pop Team Epic actually started out as a simple comedy four-panel webcomic that follows the adventures of two obscene teen girls, Popuko and Pipimi. The comic is nothing short of bizarre, as the girls come across strange situations and respond with their own uncanny behaviors. Aside from its weirdness, Pop Team Epic gained plenty of popularity thanks to its brilliant use of pop culture. Having amassed a cult following in both Japan and the West, it was only a matter of time before the webcomic finally got its own show.
Fittingly enough, the anime is just as quirky and outlandish as its source material. The first episode starts out with what seems to be a typical anime about Japanese idols. Everything feels normal until after the opening when a large hand suddenly bursts out from the title screen. It’s around here when the actual show starts, with Popuko and Pipimi constantly shifting between different nonsensical scenes filled with plenty of references. At one point, Popoku rushes out of her house and bumps into Pipimi at the corner of the street, triggering a scene from the Your Name film. There is also another short clip where Pop Team Epic briefly brings up the iconic Skyrim opening scene, with Pipimi riding a carriage and asking the viewers if they are finally awake. The use of short clips reflect the webcomic’s four-panel style, and it seems like the studio was trying to adapt this to the anime.
There’s no point in trying to make sense of the plot as there doesn’t actually seem to be one. Instead, the anime is essentially a collective of fanservice and clever references. Pop Team Epic even breaks the fourth wall with a scene where a group of shady men agrees that there was no way a four-cell manga could become a full-fledged anime (and then suddenly bust out a random fidget spinner). The show seems to accept the fact that it’s basically a joke, nothing to be taken too seriously. In spite of this, the anime picks its mishmash of topics smartly and knows which references will click, along with effectively rendering them into Pop Team Epic’s crazy world.
There was one peculiarity of the show that doesn’t seem to have stuck with its audience, though. While the anime lasts around 20 minutes, the show basically repeats itself during the second half. The ending credits only take about twelve minutes to roll and then the show restarts with very subtle changes. The main difference between both cuts is that Popuko and Pipimi have burly voices during the first half. This didn’t really compel me to watch it through the second time, and there doesn’t seem to be a particular reason why the loop exists at all. What I can say is that if it was supposed to be some sort of gag clever gag, it didn’t land.
Mild criticism aside, Pop Team Epic has plenty of potential. It could very well shape up to be one of the biggest anime highlights of 2018. And, hey, if the rest of the episodes turn out to be a complete disaster, maybe we’ll get another hilarious meme to remember it by! For now, though, Pop Team Epic’s unpredictability and clever pop culture satire of its first episode tee up a series that feels as though it might have an edge over even the most anticipated anime series in 2018.