Puni Puni Poemy

Somebody forgot their Ritalin.

Though I am trying not to make fun of ADD sufferers with that statement, Puni Puni Poemy is possibly the most frantic piece of anime I have ever seen. It is madcap on speed. It is a bullet train satire attempting to make fun of as many conventions of Japanese animation as you can possibly digest in one hour. And if velocity alone could make a show work, this would be the greatest OVA series of all time. But in this world, tempo and humor are not always synonymous. Is there a lot of funny material in Puni Puni Poemy? Absolutely. But there's also a lot of garbage in it, enough that when it was all over, I wasn't so much amused as unclean.

Puni Puni Poemy is the story of Poemy, a fifth-grader who lives life fast. Did I say fast? I meant FAST. Her dialogue is mile-a-minute. If the Road Runner were to speak complete sentences, he'd still talk slower. She lives with her father, the director of the show itself...yes, it's one of those kind of comedies that destroys the fourth wall by having all sorts of real-world references. (In another display of this Adaptation-style humor, Poemy typically calls herself by her voice actress' name.) She wants to be a voice actress herself, but it looks like aliens from outer space are going to get in the way. After slaughtering her parents on crosses (in a nod to the ending of Fist of the North Star), the ne'er-do-well otherworlders plan to destroy earth. Not a good sign.

Poemy goes to live with the Aasu family, a bunch of sisters ranging from kindergarten to near thirty. One is Futaba, Poemy's best friend and not so secret admirer. This family is weird. One sister...well, let's just say her bra size rivals that of the circumference of Tokyo. Another has a day job at an S&M joint. And to top it all off, they all have secret powers! Well, yes, secret powers, but whether or not they actually are powers worth anything is another matter. But Poemy finds out that, with the help of a Japanese musician and a hacked-up fish, she can become magical girl Puni Puni Poemy! And being a magical girl is always a help when you need to save the world.

Released in 2001, Puni Puni Poemy is spread over two thirty-minute episodes, and that's about all the brain can handle of it. It is animated nicely enough, not a standout but acceptable for an OVA. The DVD from ADV Films has some nice extras; most interesting is a commentary track with the American voice actors (which, from sampling it, is just as crazy as the show itself). Technically, there's also an extra subtitle track, but instead of something useful, it's the translation in Pig Latin. Hee hee, ho ho. If you like clean opening and closings, it has them too.

Puni Puni Poemy is technically a spin-off from Excel Saga, which this reviewer has not seen but is still familiar with. Its brand of outrageous comedy worked for a lot of people, and though its last episode shocked some folks, I know many folks who think it's hysterical. I thought that, as a spin-off, this might be the place to see what the hullabaloo was about. I was wrong, but not for the reasons I thought.

Puni Puni Poemy is a funny show. It's not hysterical, by any means, but there are several grins and a few laugh out loud moments. The parodies fly by so quickly that they aren't jokes so much as reference points. It's all amusing enough, I suppose. The plot is nonsensical and there are as many misses as hits with the humor, but the shotgun approach does work in comedy sometimes. If I were just ranking it as a farce without giving thought to its one striking problem, I'd give it a B and move on.

The problem is that this show is uncomfortable to watch because of its strong sexuality. Now I've seen enough anime that this would not typically be a quandary for me. The issue here is that a lot of the sexual material revolves around 10-year-old girls. There's plenty of nudity and fan service to go around amongst the older cast members, but the show makes it very clear that Futaba is a 10-year-old lesbian. I think that, even in the name of satirical humor, it's disgusting, particularly when the second episode gets into a parody of hentai anime. It doesn't show anything pornographic, but it's still sordid. The longer the show went, the worse it got. By the time it was done, I realized that though it was good for a few laughs, I could never recommend Puni Puni Poemy to anyone. It crosses boundaries that should stay up.

After looking at a few other articles online, it's clear that the reviewing community is all over the map on this one. Some folks (and, surprisingly enough, the female reviewers I read) think it's great. Others either don't think it's amusing or have some troubles with the same material I do. I can't condemn somebody for thinking it's a humorous take on the anime world. I thought that it was clever and witty myself. I also have a lot of respect for the voice actresses who did Poemy's voice in both versions, because her dialogue is near impossible to pull off. However, can I recommend it? Nope. I can't imagine showing it to anyone without them thinking me a pervert...and I wouldn't blame them.

Puni Puni Poemy -- violence, language, strong sexual content (some involving underage characters) -- D