If you've been seeing images of a strange-looking, smiling anime girls scattered throughout your Twitter feed or your Facebook timeline, then you've probably caught a glimpse of Pop Team Epic. The duo is made up of a short, twin-tailed blonde sporting a vacant grin, and a taller girl with long, blue-black hair and an elongated face. Both are usually posing with eerily realistic middle fingers up, mimicking familiar scenes from other anime, or trolling in general. Sound familiar?
Those eerily blank grins belong to Popuko and Pipimi, the stars of Pop Team Epic, which just began airing as an anime series via Crunchyroll and Funimation. But the manga series has been running since 2014 on Takeshobo's Manga Life Win website, serving up four panels of laughs with each individual comic. It's surreal, sometimes vulgar, and nearly inscrutable at times, but it's always hilarious. That's why it's catching on like a wildfire in the anime community, and why social media has embraced the meme-tastic abilities of Popuko and Pipimi so fully.
Whether it's drawing the girls like other popular anime characters, lamenting trying to "explain" the show to new viewers, or replaying some of the show's best scenes, the denizens of Twitter are fully smitten, and for good reason. Pop Team Epic flawlessly and effortlessly executes the random outbursts, references to pop culture, and bizarre changes in art style, and tone that are seen in the original manga. It's a joke a minute, never letting up even a moment during its 12-minute runtime, as the jokes fly out at a rapid pace.
For instance, the first episode begins with a parody of your typical magical girl/idol series called Hoshiiro Girldrop, complete with its own opening theme and plot setup, right down to episode name eyecatches, and more. But it doesn't last, as Popuko rips through the scenery and the show gets underway. Jarringly, both Popuko and Pipimi have mens' voices. They then switch to a comedy act where Popuko continually jabs at Pipimi in the stomach and asks if it's upsetting her. The next thing you know, we see a montage of Popuko waking up in her home, then running out of her house and immediately getting caught up in a parody of series like Kemono Friends, or popular JRPG Chrono Trigger.
From there, it's an all-out smorgasbord of weirdness, a collection of skits barely 30 seconds long sometimes, mishmashed between live-action segments that include the voice actors in the studio, an animator in France working on a special part of the show, or "Bob Team Epic," a series of crude shorts with a particularly strange animation style and nonsensical nature. Honestly, they may be some of the best part of the series thus far, and are gleefully, willfully bizarre. The main characters cease resembling their normal selves and devolve into strange approximations of their normal character designs, and it couldn't be more hilarious.
Pop Team Epic is a breath of fresh air, a cure for the stagnancy that's been plaguing most anime seasons for some time now. It doesn't always make sense, and it doesn't have to. It's not rife with one-dimensional moe characters that you can read like a book, nor heavy-handed drama with a ton of pretty boys. It's the kind of humor that's sorely needed in anime, not relying solely on romantic snafus or jokes that would only be funny to anyone deeply invested in a series. It's a chance to sit down and shut your brain off for about 15 minutes per episode, wondering the entire time where the series is going to go next.
That's why it's so simple to see its appeal. In a world where we're constantly being barraged with difficult and upsetting situations, Pop Team Epic is a burst of pure, unadulterated fun. There's no story to keep track of, no character bios or profiles to make sure you're on top of, and no plot to make sure you remember from last week while waiting for the next episode (which you'll definitely do after finishing the first few, which are available for streaming now). And even if they were? It'd be a hell of a lot more fun than most of the shows out there currently running.
Unfortunately, the first season (of several, hopefully) is currently only set for 12 episodes. There's a ton of comic material to sift through, and a world of opportunities from here, so it can go on for a long time. From felt figurines of the girls performing pop songs to the seemingly endless parodies that could be done, there's a lot of ground left to tread for Pop Team Epic, and one thing's for sure: the fans are all here for it.