Six years in the past in the present day, the celebrities aligned and with the ability of some cosmic entities, Bkub Okawa’s gag four-panel manga sequence Pop Crew Epic started serializing on writer Takeshobo’s web site Manga Life Win. The sequence is on the market in English from North American writer Vertical, all surreal goofs intact. Nevertheless, Pop Crew Epic notoriously defies neat categorization. In truth, the back-and-forth bickering of its two 14-year-old protagonists, Popuko (brief and aggressive) and Pipimi (tall and principally reserved) veers into the outright obscene. Violent, even. For as many memes and in-jokes Okawa’s manga has given us, what’s up with this easy set-up that completely drives everybody bonkers?
For as eccentric and reference-heavy Pop Crew Epic’s humor is, the essential premise is extremely easy: Popuko and Pipimi hang around, have a bizarre dialog, and due to this fact bizarre issues occur. Humorous jokes about YouTubers or video video games solely go to date, although. If Pop Crew Epic is something, it’s a comedy of characterization and the matter of “getting it” in relation to the pleasant deserves of being blunt and dumb on goal. In different phrases, you may say Popuko and Pipimi are two trigger-happy jokesters having fun with life on reverse sides of the identical coin: the straight man and the humorous man.
"Oh sorry, I used to be serious about Hellshake Yano."
Man, What's Up With Manzai?
Two-person stand-up comedy is a long-established custom. Manzai routines — Japanese comedy units composed of two roles, the boke (the humorous man) and tsukkomi (the straight man) — will not be simply leisure, however a meticulous artwork kind in itself. The identical will be stated of Okawa’s intent to put in writing Pop Crew Epic as a yonkoma (four-panel manga strip). To throw yet one more time period at you, most yonkoma comply with a four-step punchline components often known as kishōtenketsu: introduction, improvement, sudden twist, and naturally, the punchline. If Pop Crew Epic excels in a selected class of this construction, it’s making that third step — the twist, or “ten” a part of the phrase kishōtenketsu — as monstrously absurd as potential.
Did you discover it? Did you discover the twist?
On the floor, the boke and tsukkomi roles appear two-dimensional. The boke is normally simply provoked, outlandish, and fewer put collectively. Let’s say it’s Popuko. This may make Pipimi the apparent tsukkomi, the one who no less than tries to right or mitigate the boke’s daring assumptions. The extent to which Popuko and Pipimi totally embody these roles, nonetheless, varies. If something, these two solely exist within the boke/tsukkomi duology spiritually, merely two wandering souls, caught in liminal house serious about lovely Hellshake Yano, two hopelessly corrupted youth …
Warfare … warfare by no means adjustments.
Proper, okay. Telling jokes.
Mixing It Up
In a 2018 interview with Animate Occasions, Pop Crew Epic anime producer Kotaro Sudo defined his method to adapting a preferred three-volume gag manga right into a fully-fledged sequence. After working with voice actress Sumire Uesaka on Uesaka Sumire no Yabai Maru Maru, a live-action selection present (with Okawa supplying the uncanny mascot design), Sudo defined wanting to make use of his newly acquired “know-how” on Pop Crew Epic. Selection exhibits, significantly these airing throughout "golden time" typically fall right into a class of comedy routines with ensemble expertise. “As a result of everybody learn the [Pop Team Epic] manga at completely different speeds,” Sudo commented, “we made changes alongside the best way to make it really feel proper.” This distinctive technique allowed a number of groups concerned to frankly, go ham, riffing on the unique materials reasonably than taking part in it straight. Pop Crew Epic’s anime totally leans into the energy of its numerous “twists” by by no means letting the viewer get too snug. How will you adapt a surreal, meme-rich yonkoma higher than that?
"Do you notice what you've carried out?"
Pop Crew Epic’s anime adaptation notably splices up skits from the unique with new content material, together with plot-heavy skits like a homicide thriller and managing an incorriguble idol group. This construction isn’t not like the arrange for standard packages just like the M-1 Grand Prix, a significant annual broadcast manzai competitors, or the a number of tv packages devoted to the profitable manzai duo “Downtown” consisting of comedians Hitoshi Matsumoto and Masatoshi Hamada. Teams like “Downtown” are in themselves half of a bigger modern comedy scene known as owarai, thriving on selection exhibits the place teams are assigned duties known as “corners.” This trope is outright mocked by the crudely animated “Bob Crew Epic” section, the place that tagline “new nook” is tagged atop the title card. Popuko even has a cooking present. Whereas selection exhibits are quirky, on this world they exist solely to be parodied due to their unusual staples.
Do you want a hand? Hahahaha …
A Comedy of Comedies
Unsurprisingly, the punchline is that Pop Crew Epic isn’t only a comedy — it’s an ironic comedy about comedy. Popuko and Pipimi carry out a number of skits the place they start a manzai routine that by no means ends proper. In a single skit, they carry out as a “hand” and “coronary heart,” making cringe-worthy puns about “needing a hand.” In a bonus episode, they carry out a full routine that ultimately turns into a severe drama in regards to the Vietnam Warfare. The manzai set-up clearly isn’t the purpose, it’s simply the automobile to get someplace else. Whereas Popuko and Pipimi loosely match within the boke and tsukkomi archetypes, Okawa teases their friendship is extra profound than only a few knocks. In a basic strip, Pipimi proclaims she is a god and can inform Popuko something she desires. Popuko solely asks how a lot she loves her, to which Pipimi says she loves her “a … complete … lot.” If Pipimi is an excessive amount of of a straight man, then it’s solely as a result of she cares.
Finest. Associates. Endlessly.
As maddening and unusual as the ladies will be, the Popuko and Pipimi dynamic works not due to strict ordnance to the principles of humorous, however as a result of their weirdness is honest. If boke/tsukkomi routines work, it’s solely due to chemistry. And the identical will be stated of even essentially the most fastidiously constructed yonkoma punchline. It’s all in regards to the supply. If Pop Crew Epic can train us something, it’s that after you get the fundamentals down, the basic guidelines — and even your individual writer’s fictional evil headquarter — will be blown away into smithereens. Smash normalcy huge open.
Now, if solely everybody would cease “flossing” and let “eisai haramasukoi” catch on as an alternative.
"Hey! My identify is Popuko and I want to share with you essentially the most superb guide"
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Blake P. is a weekly columnist for Crunchyroll Options. He is considering Hellshake Yano. His twitter is @_dispossessed. His bylines embody Fanbyte, VRV, Unwinnable, and extra.
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