How do you make a series laden with references to violence, sex and bodily excretions starring two thoroughly unpleasant women entertaining? If Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt is any indication, you give it to GAINAX. Suffering the same initial incredulity as Lucky Star's promotional material had when it was first revealed, the series is a riot of aggressive stylisation, wildly varying animation and a barrage of provocative jokes. Puritans will denounce its cavalier depiction of fornication, the no-holds-barred treatment of various human fluids or the utter crudity of it, but in only three episodes there has been nary a repeated scene or situation. But most of all: it's just plain fun.
Splitting the running time into two separate segments, two story of angels sent from heaven to defeat marauding ghosts is only background noise to the bickering and bedlam the two sisters get up to. The pace at which each story moves is astounding with some beginning right in the thick of the action and only coming up for air when the credits hit. There is no character development here, each one wears their personality - foibles and all - on their sleeve and instead of being hindrances, end up as ammunition for the bedlam that every episode entails.
An amnesiac girl falls to earth. Girls fight until their clothes fall off. A man stands pure and oblivious amidst a brothel's worth of females. A beleaguered viewer has seen it all before. Take your pick from Queen's Blade, Ikkitousen (any flavour) or Tenjou Tenge and Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Girls (Hundred Blooming Flowers Samurai Girls) will follow both logically and thematically. The premise is simple and familiar: put as much flesh on display as frequently as possible with only a hastily scrawled story to keep it legitimate.
The series' aesthetic draw beyond the curvaceous dolls on parade is the odd blend of chunky, flat characters against abstract watercolour backgrounds which expertly evoke ancient Japanese vistas. So too does the ethos of the characters, steeped in the bushido code of the samurai, the chaste speak of honour and fealty to their master while the unclean employ subterfuge and dirty tactics - as well as servicing their fickle master's sexual whims. It could easily be taken as naive patriotic propaganda with the opening episode's exposition of weapon-wielding girls taking down squadrons of World War 2 planes.
Given such an auspicious and confusing opening three episodes, it would have been easy for ef to fall into obscurity and abstraction with deep symbolism and obscured plot; thankfully this is not the case and the series manages to make the absurdly stylistic symbolism part of itself while still a sometimes unique, not wholly original story which ends well at a petite twelve episodes.
the grayscale visions of Hiro, the stained glass technicolour of Chihiro and the sunset beaches for everyone
In between the astounding opening and changing ending are two stories: one about a high school boy trying to find colour in his world while trying to deal with the affections of two girls, one overt and another covert; the other is about a girl whose memory lasts only a scant thirteen hours before events begin slipping away and her relationship with a boy she meets at an abandoned train station. The plot may sound akin to an atypical dating-sim territory but the storytelling is first rate and deftly draws one into the world and its characters. The supernatural elements that nagged the opening episodes are present but downplayed; the ephemeral figure of a long haired woman who imparts advice to all of the central characters and then vanishes is never explained even slightly, the same with the silent, world weary caretaker of the memory-challenged protagonist. The only time these elements are brought to the fore is in the final moments of the series, hinting more at a desire for a second season rather than anything that would affect the first.