Are you looking for an action-packed NARUTO-style show to dive into? Do you want to find a new romance anime to watch and fantasize about it in secret? Or perhaps you need a good scare from a horror anime. Well, POP TEAM EPIC isn’t like any of those. In fact, POP TEAM EPIC is nothing like any anime you’ve seen before.

POP TEAM EPIC is a surrealist, acid trip of a comedy anime directed by Jun Aoki and Aoi Umeki. The main characters, two 14-year-old girls named Popuko and Pipimi, participate in sketch-style comedy armed with middle fingers and swear words. They throw conventions and typical anime tropes completely out the window in favor of random, oddball skits and parodies. POP TEAM EPIC is essentially the anime world’s version of Adult Swim’s ROBOT CHICKEN.

The series started as a four-panel manga, written and illustrated by Bkub Okawa. Website Manga Life Win published the manga in 2014, and its success led to two book volumes. The anime adaptation of POP TEAM EPIC, produced by King Records, was announced last April. After a three month delay, the anime adaptation premiered on January 7, 2018.

Everything about POP TEAM EPIC screams insane and surreal. The art and animation style is bizarre, and the sketch show structure is highly unconventional for anime. POP TEAM EPIC is exactly what you don’t expect a great anime to be, and it’s all the better for it.

POP TEAM EPIC OP Tears Up the Charts!

Absurd Art and Animation

The art style of POP TEAM EPIC is indescribable, to be honest. Popuko and Pipimi are 14-year old school girls, drawn like short and tall blobs with blond and blue hair. They both have the furled lip that cats typically have in anime, and huge, often crazed eyes. Popuko, the short one, is usually angry and violent. Meanwhile, Pipimi, the taller one, is chill and reserved. Everything is crudely animated and curates to a special kind of weird. Some of the scenes are joyfully cringe-worthy, and the art is generally hilarious to look at.

Almost every sketch is animated in different styles, sometimes with live-action scenes smashed in. They use several artists and animation studios to produce each sketch, in varying qualities and formats. The primary POP TEAM EPIC animation studios are Kamikaze Douga and Space Cat Company, the latter owned by Director Jun Aoki. Both directors hired staff with minimal experience, including animators who have never worked in the anime industry before. This is a positive for the anime, as each sketch is stylistically unique compared to other skits in the same episode.

Felt dolls featuring characters from POP TEAM EPIC
Popuko and Pipimi in stop-motion felt form | Image: Crunchyroll

The wide range of formats used in POP TEAM EPIC is impressive. There are often a few clips in each episode with 8-bit video game graphics applied to Popuko and Pipimi. They’ve even used stop-motion animation, with felt versions of Popuko and Pipimi dancing on a stage. Perhaps the strangest skits in the show deal with live-action shots. One running gag involves a French animator, Thibault Tresca, who works for the POP TEAM EPIC animation crew. In the first episode, Tresca, speaking French, describes his own POP TEAM EPIC sketch called, “Japon Mignon.” Tresca renders his sketches in 3-D, and the characters speak French instead of Japanese.

What Did I Just Watch?

What really sets POP TEAM EPIC apart from your day-to-day anime is its sketch show style. Sure, the clips tend to poke fun at anime tropes, but all manner of pop culture is vulnerable to POP TEAM EPIC’s antics. The average length of each skit is about a minute or so, but some last just a few seconds. The subject matter rotates quite often, but each one is as bizarre as the last. There’s often violence, profanity, and general crudeness in every clip, with Popuko and Pipimi there to destroy all of your favorite anime and pop culture icons.

The show references video games quite often. For example, there’s a Skyrim sketch featuring the opening cart ride scene. There are also references to Mario Kart, Pokémon, Persona, and Hyperdimension Neptunia. The 8-bit video game sequences (titled POP TEAM 8-BIT) are directed by Makoto Yamashita, who is still attending university. His 8-bit sketches are very reminiscent of Super Mario World.

POP TEAM EPIC characters in the city and grass, separated by a light.
POP TEAM EPIC references the hit film YOUR NAME in this sketch called “Encounter” | Image: Crunchyroll

POP TEAM EPIC also targets film and television culture with parodies involving titles like HAL-2000 from 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, COOL RUNNINGS, and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. Occasionally, they’ll blur out the more popular and obvious references, most likely for comedic purposes rather than legal reasons. For instance, in one sketch they use a blurred out version of Pipimi as Totoro from MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO. They also have a skit where Pipimi makes a Mickey Mouse impression, but they bleep out every time she says, “Mickey.”

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POP TEAM EPIC: The Anti-Anime

POP TEAM EPIC might not be for the average anime fan, and that’s okay. What makes POP TEAM EPIC such a great show is its escapist attitude. Let’s be honest: a lot of anime follow the same tropes and formulas that have been popular for the past 30 years. This show is unlike anything anime fans usually see, yet it isn’t afraid of causing a stir within the realm of popular anime.

POP TEAM EPIC’s half-hour run time is a bit misleading. The show is really about 10 to 15 minutes long, and each episode runs twice, back to back. Aoki and Umeki each direct their own episodes of POP TEAM EPIC. There are different voice actors in each version, and there are other slight differences between the episodes. Aoki’s episodes have Pipimi and Popuko voiced by male actors, and Umeki’s Popuko and Pipimi have female voices. This, of course, is especially hilarious, and looking for the subtle differences between the episodes makes watching both versions worthwhile.

Two weirdos force feeding a scorpion to a pig
A truly painful scene from the BOB EPIC TEAM segment of POP TEAM EPIC | Image: Crunchyroll

The self-proclaimed “crappy” anime doesn’t hold back, making POP TEAM EPIC a refreshing alternative to the often copycat culture of anime. POP TEAM EPIC is already one of the most popular anime of 2018, so it will be interesting to see how far the series will go.  You can watch POP TEAM EPIC on Crunchyroll. New episodes broadcast on Saturdays at 12:30 p.m EST.

Featured image courtesy of Crunchyroll

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