Take cover. Puni Puni Poemy is a visual and aural barrage. The scenes strobe as quickly as the director Shinichi Excel Saga Watanabe can think of anime to parody. Its lead, Poemi Watanabe, is a motor mouth whose hysterical gatling gun approach to dialog is unremitting as it is nonsensical. There is continuous parodying of anime conventions, in particular, absurdly detailed exposition of plots, transformation scenes and groups of women living together. A lead who wants to be an anime voice actress, talks to the viewer and the director playing the part of Poemi’s father dressed as Lupin III, can only be described as self-referential anime post-whackyism. Puni Puni Poemy is an assault. The closest experience I can compare it to is accompanying Tom Hanks up Omaha Beach in Saving Private Ryan.
If Studio Ghiblis’ films are humanist, universal and inclusive in their themes then Puni Puni Poemy exists at the other end of the continuum. Its speed metal approach to anime themes and conventions is truly alienating, existing exclusively for the hardcore who can name, place and carbon date the anime Puni Puni Poemy is referencing. Even the show’s protagonist is mosquito-whine annoying. In attempt to dampen the sensory overload, I switched from the English dub to subtitles only to discover her mach 3 dialog was just as aggravating Japanese.
I will confess to getting very few of the anime in-jokes. The ones I did get were only mildly satisfying in a Where’s Wally? kind of a way — look, there’s the Wave Motion Gun from Star Blazers. Isn’t that the transformation from Sailor Moon? Puni Puni Poemy plays the game of, ‘the more obscure the better’, which left me outside with my six pack debating whether I actually wanted to go to this party.
The problem is that simply regurgitating anime conventions at light speed is not in itself funny. It is a look-at-me exercise in pulling aside the curtain to reveal the backstage. The second episode features an extended scene poking fun at S&M and tentacle anime. Because Puni Puni Poemy has nothing to say about this anime beyond some basic visual gags, it actually comes off as only slightly less distasteful than the original subject material. Why? We already know the source material is inherently gratuitous. Puni Puni Poemy never aspires to use parody meaningfully and ends up pandering to the material it is meant to be commenting upon.
Puni Puni Poemy’s hard and fast execution, like speed metal, seems designed to appeal to only the most fanatical. It traps itself in the tiny ghetto of those ‘in the know’. Here the ‘real’ otaku can stake their claim as the ‘truest fan’- the one who can point out the references faster than the next one. Puni Puni Poemy’s cacophony of sight and sound cannot hide its shallowness. It fails because beneath its extreme veneer it has nothing to say.