I'll go ahead and be forthcoming with the statement that I'm probably what some might consider a Gainax superfan. But I always stop at calling myself a fanboy of anything, because while I might feel strongly about certain brands and properties I will always point out their flaws if any exist.
Gainax I will admit I probably defend more often than they sometimes deserve. I will also admit that the current Gainax is somewhat of a post-modern version of their former self. This is part due to most of the founding members moving on to bigger things (*cough* Studio Khara *cough*), or leaving due to making brilliant critiques of 2chan members. So what is left of Gaianx is a studio of people constantly trying to reach the greatness of their early genre defining works such as Nadia, Gunbuster and Evangelion (what three things do those shows have in common I wonder).
Where some people have given up on the "new" Gainax, I have found their new face quiet entertaining. What they have come to specialize in is a sort of hyper action super camp. A lot of the humor falls into well executed camp, but at the same time can turn on a dime and get deadly serious without showing it's hand. And slowly, over the years, it seems they have turned more to the former and less of the later.
This is where Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt comes in. One of the campiest and grotesque anime in modern times (or ever).
I love camp. Army of Darkness might be my third favorite movie of all time, behind Citizen Kane and End of Evangelion of course. I also love cheesecake. I believe my posts defending Queen's Blade and Highschool of the Dead prove that. So it seems like a show containing both those elements would be right up my alley. Well... you are right, but maybe not as much as I thought.
Let me try to explain. When Panty and Stocking (here within referred to as P&S) first aired and I watched it I was not impressed in the least. The first episode was about a giant poop monster attacking the city, all which has been covered in Dogma. The dick jokes went limp and the whole poop thing seemed like a pandering mess. So I instantly denounced the show.
Then, after a few more episodes aired, I decided to give it another go. After watching a little more into the series, I got the joke.
I think maybe the first time I tried watching it, I was watching with "South Park" eyes, when I needed to be watching with my "Evil Dead" eyes. It's a different kind of comedy then you might expect. It isn't so much poking fun of western culture as much as it is acknowledging it as a type of homage.
And before I go further, I must explain exactly what P&S is. The style of P&S is a direct reference of Western animation. Looking like something from Cartoon Network from the early 2000's. Maybe a little Dexter's Lab and Powerpuff Girls, mixed in with a dash of Invader Zim.
The thing is, Gainax really REALLY did their homework when it comes to the western references in this show. It really feels like an anime made so that people in America will catch all the jokes. A send up of Ren and Stimpy appear in one episode as a husband and wife. Panty and Stocking steal the spark from Optimus and Megatron in another episode and turn into Transformers in probably my favorite episode so far. Their dog companion Chuck looks just like Gir from the aforementioned Invader ZIM. These go on and on. Panty constantly quotes American action movies, and she is even seen wearing a Slave Labor Graphics (creators of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac) T-Shirt in the newest episode:
That right there is a hard-core reference to western culture.
In that respect the show is really well done, and I think worth the viewing of anyone who would appreciate such references.
Since it comes from Gainax, the show is not without it's commentary on society, as one episode completely ditches the pop art style and goes instead for hyper realistic depictions of Japanese business men and women working a thankless existence. And Garterbelt's shocking backstory to live through hell on Earth to make up for his past transgressions. Both these examples, while dark and depressing both end with a ridiculous and upbeat finish, which makes the dreariness of the tale stand out even more and remind the audience that all they are watching is escapism in it's purest form.
Though with all that said P&S still isn't as amazing or ground breaking as I had hoped it would be. Being Gainax I know I set my expectations too high, and while I eagerly look forward to each episode and really enjoy myself each time, I know I am not laughing at the jokes as much as the creators probably wish I was. It's more like a fun, refreshing ride, than it is a rule breaking piece of art. But the series isn't over yet, and like many Gainax shows I'm somewhat expecting them to turn the series on it's head so that by the end it won't even resemble the first episode.