Ah, anime comedy, will it ever translate well to the English market? Well okay, a few make it -- Abenobashi and Full Metal Panic: Fumoffu managed it, but my tolerance for anime slapstick is almost legendarily low, so how does PaniPoni Dash fare?
Surprisingly well actually.
The series focuses on Rebecca Miyamoto, 10 year old MIT graduate who inexplicably decides to become a teacher in Japan (kinda lowbrow for a genius right?). Of course, her class is populated by every anime cliche on the planet (a fact it shamelessly acknowledges) all of whom cause her some kind of problem.
The trailer for this series did an excellent job of summing it up - there's the bully, the ditz, the boring one, the cosplayer, the homicidal class rep, the twins, the cat in the vending machine that thinks its God, the depressed stuffed bunny... it goes on and on. But familiarity actually helps this release out, as it spends no real time setting up a plot, it just goes at it head on and shoe-horns in as many jokes and pop culture references as it can manage in 25 minute doses.
For example, episode 1 starts with a parody of Planet of the Apes, where the Statue of Liberty is replaced by a statue of Rebecca, for no other reason than to make the voice over seem more dramatic than it would be otherwise. Forget making sense, PaniPoni Dash is all about machine-gun humour, ridiculous situations and milking everything it can get it's hands on.
Another oddity is the alien spacecraft that is, for no real reason, monitoring Rebecca. All of the crew refer to their leader as "Alien Captain", which is of course ridiculous considering they're all the same species, but it gives you an idea of the sillyness of the whole thing.
Many won't like the dub, since it does the usual ADV trick of changing Japanese girls for valley girls "Oh. My. Gawd" - urgh! But once you get used to it, you can probably live with it. As with most Japanese comedies, the original dialogue may well be preferable. Though truth be told, the Japanese track is just as high pitched as the American effort, so it's really a case of just how much subtitling you're willing to read, as there's a ton of Japanese text being translated on-screen in both versions.
This won't win any prizes for great art, but it is genuinely funny, if not side splittingly so. I really would welcome another volume of this show, and I'll be sure to see if the humour survives more than five episodes, or if this disc is a one-off novelty.