To say that Pop Team Epic is weird is a massive understatement. This winter 2018 anime, based on the four panel manga of the same name, is so strange that it feels like your brain is melting as you watch it. It stars two foulmouthed chibi schoolgirls named Popuko and Pipimi, who get up to all kinds of bizarre shenanigans in the short skits (rendered in many different styles, like retro video game graphics or intentionally terrible animation) that make up each episode.
Besides its irreverent humor, parodies, and wacky visuals, Pop Team Epic sets itself apart in two ways: Popuko and Pipimi’s voices constantly change, and each episode is split into two versions of the same content. After watching 11 minutes of skits, you get to see a “rebroadcast” with all new voice actors and slightly different jokes. The combination of all this often results in viewers feeling like they traveled through the 2001: A Space Odyssey light tunnel while watching a 10-hour version of Too Many Cooks on fast forward. So to celebrate our new favorite trippy anime, we’re here to count down the top 10 most brain-melting moments in Pop Team Epic!
10. Undertale shout outs
Pop Team Epic sure loves its parodies, but we definitely didn’t expect to see an American indie game get two prominent references in a mainstream anime. Undertale unexpectedly garnered a large Japanese fan base, which skyrocketed once the game received an official translated release in 2017. But since most Western viewers don’t know that, seeing Pipimi transform into Mettaton EX in the 8-bit segment of episode 7 is incredibly jarring. Toby Fox even tweeted about how surprised he was that the reference made it into the anime!
The other shout out to Undertale occurs in episode 5, when Pipimi pets Popuko and her own head gets longer and longer until it crosses all sides of the screen. Apparently she’s like the Lesser Dog and her excitement knows no bounds.
9. Dancing with bad English
The main skit of episode 9, Dancing with a Miracle, is presented as a Hollywood film about a hilariously stereotypical American kid’s life being changed after meeting Popuko and Pipimi. The rebroadcast uses regular Japanese voice acting, but the first broadcast is entirely voiced in English and subtitled for the Japanese viewers’ benefit. The narrator sounds convincingly fluent enough, but the young boy’s English is just... not right.
It’s well known among watchers of subbed anime that Japanese actors being forced to speak English almost always turns out to be a dumpster fire in practice. But since the vast majority of the audience won't notice how mangled the language sounds, it doesn’t matter. For native English speakers, though, the young boy’s voice in this skit is so off that we need our own subtitles! “A maguro!? I can’t dissect that!” Ow... brain hurts...
8. Opening with realistic sound effects
The rebroadcast of episode 10 begins with silence, and then a startling crashing noise with broken glass clinking to the ground. Eventually, it dawns on you that that was the actual sound of the nail-studded baseball bat that smashes the TV in the opening theme. The entire opening song for this episode is played with realistic sound effects!
As mind-bending as this is, it’s actually a reference to the animation studio that worked on this show: Kamikaze Douga. They’re best known for making the OPs and EDs for 2012’s Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, which also added in accurate sound effects in later episodes. Although with Pop Team Epic, the quirky visuals mean that the sound effects include things like paint rollers sliding, toothpaste squeezing, and giant baguettes crashing into the ground. Bonus points for only doing this on the rebroadcast to lure the audience into a false sense of security.
7. Voice actor meltdowns and ghost sightings
Popuko and Pipimi spend the beginning of episode 2 harassing characters in an unfinished anime for being lame. They force the storyboard sketches to do tricks and impressions, which finally causes an outrage among the voice actors recording their lines in the booth. The footage cuts to live action, where the actors scream improvised rants at the producer about how they weren’t told they would have to do impressions and how unprofessional this all is.
As if that wasn’t funny enough, a Ringu-style ghost girl appears in the corner and a spooky voice asks the audience if they noticed. Then the screen zooms in to the ghost... until it moves to the bench below her, where we see Popuko and Pipimi hiding. They even hide in a second ghost’s mouth in the rebroadcast! With this anime, you never know where it’s going to end up.
6. Eisai haramasukoi
Somehow, it’s taken us until number 6 on this list to directly mention Bob Epic Team (Bobunemimimmi). This frequent segment pushes the limits of taste by being so intentionally bad that it wraps back around to amazing. All of the artwork is horribly drawn, the animation is jerky, and the voice acting consists of obnoxious falsetto for every character. The skits also tend to make very little sense, even by the standards of this show.
In episode 8, Popuko comes up with a dance called the “eisai haramasukoi” that she wants to make popular. Pipimi says it’ll never catch on, so Popuko runs away and cries on top of the Statue of Liberty (which makes just as much sense in context as it does here). Nothing much comes of this until several episodes later, when the normal Popuko makes a sweet eisai harumasukoi dance remix. Then the Bob Epic Team girls get a fan letter about how lazy their animation is, so they rotoscope the dance in the most wobbly and gross manner possible. That’ll show ‘em.
5. Time travel in live action
The final Pop Team Epic episode shows Popuko and Pipimi wiping out the studio that was trying to turn them into a normal anime. Unfortunately, their final fusion attack leaves Pipimi catatonic and frozen solid. Popuko frets about what to do, but then a, uh... live action pop star who looks like a blue Peter Pan takes her hand and time travels with her back to the beginning of the episode.
Even though we’ve seen bits of live action in this anime before, they were always clearly separate from the animated world. This is the first and only time that a live action character interacts with an animated one, and it’s also the only time that the two broadcasts are connected with some sort of story continuity. Traveling to the past lets Popuko save Pipimi in the rebroadcast and everyone is happy! But we can never forget the face of blue Peter Pan man...
4. Bob Epic Team’s samba and flamenco marriage
Bob Epic Team’s most brain melting skit shows up in episode 3, where the girls accidentally make a samba master and a flamenco dancer depressed with their half-assed attempts at dancing. The creepy way the samba and flamenco characters are drawn, with excessive shading and minimal animation, is jarring all on its own (not to mention how weird the premise is). But then Bob Epic Team doubles down and dives head first into the bizarro pool by deciding that Popuko and Pipimi’s horrible dancing sparked a romance between the unsettling samba and flamenco masters. Then they get married and that’s that. What the hell did we just watch?
3. Hellshake Yano picture show
Hellshake Yano is one hell of a guitarist. Even when his instrument starts to break down, he keeps rocking until the crowd shouts his name! And how do we learn about this amazing musician who’s known and idolized throughout the world? By watching two live action guys in lab coats breathlessly share his story using a giant flipbook.
This sequence goes on for so long that you spend more time wondering how far these guys can possibly push this story than actually listening to them. By the end, we see that Pipimi has been imagining it in her head while Popuko was trying to talk to her. The line “Sorry, I was thinking about Hellshake Yano” has become a meme now, as well as the flipbook and the crowd chanting Hellshake’s name. Even the official Japanese Twitter page for the new Jumanji movie got in on the action!
2. Popuko idol clones take over the world
Episode 3’s main skit, The Documentary: ~On The Other Side of an Idol's Dream~, can only be described by the phrase “Well, that escalated quickly.” It starts out as a spoof of “behind the music” style documentaries, starring Popuko as a smoking and boozing idol who nonetheless rakes in money. She blows through bandmates like crazy until her producer, Pipimi, finally realizes what must be done. It’s time to bring in the robot clones.
The Popuko clones quickly overwhelm the human population with their strength and wrest control of the entire world. Pipimi perches atop the wreckage of civilization, wearing an M. Bison outfit (of course) and sitting on an industrial throne worthy of Akira. This simple idol parody took a very dark turn...
1. Hoshiiro Girldrop fake-out
When first sitting down to watch Pop Team Epic, a new viewer might be confused. For several minutes, we have to watch the first scene and opening theme of some lame idol anime called Hoshiiro Girldrop. Did we load up the wrong show? But just before we search Google to check if we’ve been pranked, Popuko (with a deep male voice) tears open the screen right as the cute idol girl is supposed to show up and lets us know that we’re in for something completely different.
If there’s one moment that perfectly encapsulates what Pop Team Epic is about, it’s this one. Hoshiiro Girldrop continues as a running joke in both the manga and anime, but we’re really here to watch a show that breaks all of those tired conventions we’re so used to. Bring on the weird!
Pop Team Epic is a truly unique anime with a sharp sense of humor and a style all its own. If you loved watching these 12 episodes, the ongoing four panel manga should keep you laughing until the next season comes out. We can’t wait to lose more brain cells!
What’s your favorite weird Pop Team Epic moment? Let us know in the comments below, and thanks so much for reading!