Your version of bondage lacks self-control.
With that statement, it's almost as if the immortal afro priest himself is addressing this possibly series-concluding episode of Panty & Stocking. Compared to the last twelve episodes, many of which received widespread complaints for being too chaotic or unfocused, episode 13 takes all those previous exercises in calamity, combines them, multiplies the result by an ungodly figure, lights the whole thing on fire and then dumps a Niagara Falls-sized amount of gasoline onto the resulting product.
Never has the question "What the hell did I just watch?" been more appropriate for a finale. This episode is a masterpiece, and the amount of effort the production team has put into it is more than evident. Gainax's trademark has been, time and time again, to increase the wow-factor to the point of arguable genre transcendence. I can honestly say that the elongated battle sequence here contains such a stunningly original array of colorful visuals that my eyes had a difficult time keeping up. About half-way through the proceedings, I was bordering on lightheadedness from all the action taking place on screen--I made the conscious decision to pause the video and step outside for a bit of fresh air. This may be partly attributed to my generally substandard health, but I'm pretty sure the content of what I was witnessing kick-started a near-miss fainting spell.
If you're still in the "Panty and Stocking is dumb and I'm never going to watch it" camp then, at this point in time, I really can't do anything for you. I've grown tired of futile persuasion speeches. If you don't like it, rather, if you don't want to like it, then you probably won't like it. I'm just not sure how someone can align themselves with this medium in any sort of capacity if they lack the mentality, patience and flat-out humbleness to respect a project as brazen, and ultimately successful, as this.
I never thought there would be an occasion within the confines of Panty & Stocking's world when I would see Panty, the sex-crazed cumdumpster that is this show's heroine, vomiting at the very sight of intercourse. Yet, this episode opens with our leading angel disgusted with the act she once was addicted to. Garterbelt has ousted her from the Church because of her last mission failure, and she's stuck within the typical hero-must-find-themselves-in-order-to-move-on state of mind. In what may be the episode's only moderately weak section, Panty ventures back to her hometown to live out some fantasy of normalcy on a farm run by her grandmother. I don't find these countrylife scenes to work all that well; they just seem out of place for Panty's established character, even if she has begun to edge towards a change. Soon enough, though, the Panty Longstocking triteness gets busted up by a hail of gunfire from a biker gang that wouldn't seem out of line with something found in Gurren Lagann. Through the murder of her grandmother (which turns out to be an extensive hoax set up by Garterbelt), Panty is given the spiritual boost necessary to return to Daten City and save the world along the one person in it that she has left to trust: Brief.
Not only do the visuals of "Bitch Girls"/"Bitch Girls 2 Bitch" transcend genre standards: Panty's star-power scene in which she defiantly strips down to a symbolic nakedness as she climbs the demon staircase to confront the enemy is one of my favorite character moments in any anime this year. She, for once, is not disrobing in preparation for a casual round of random sex, but to seal the holy key-locked covenant with Brief and foil Corset's devious plans. Of course, things don't go quite as expected for the protagonist just yet, but the return of Stocking, Garterbelt and Chuck to the battleground is more than enough to quell the momentary disappointment. While the Angels take on the Demon Sisters with a transformed ghost-Chuck as their new ride, Gartetbelt and Corset go at it in a hilarious BDSM showdown. Corset takes off his body's bindings to reveal a bulked up frame and promptly hands a machine-gun wielding Garterbelt his destruction. Though, it is later revealed that the devotedly badass afro priest cannot perish from the mortal sphere until his holy duties are completed (an event that, it seems, may never be fully realized).
The majority of this shitstorm of a climax, fittingly, transpires atop the demon tower and the freshly spawned reborn recreation organ of Hellsmonkey, which resembles a giant uncircumcised penis. With each blow dealt to it by the opposition, what appear to be massive loads of semen are jettisoned out into the collapsing Daten City. Different from some of the combat sequences in other Gainax projects, there exists not a single point during this episode where I thought to myself "Damn, these guys might not pull things off with any grace." When Garterbelt dies for the first time, the Angels' reaction is cocky and uncaring, subtracting any sort of major drama from the intense (at surface-value) situation. The only character who exudes any breed of emotion is Brief, who is basically tossed around the battlefield like a ragdoll before his key-penis lands directly into the slot that unleashes Hell's terminal fury.
Victory arrives in a manner in which no one could have accurately anticipated. After Garterbelt's apparent death and the trouncing of ghost-Fastener and the mammoth uncircumcised demon penis by ghost-Chuck, the Angels discover the priest's heavenly credit card and order a whole mess of expensive Heaven Products. One of which, luckily, is the trump-card Heavenly Garb onslaught ability, which amalgamates the Angel's powers into a fusion with the strength of their most high gods. What results is an utterly insane gattai-style armament: a sight on par with the true form of Atomsk in FLCL's now-classic finale. The Angels, demonstrating their lack of natural common sense, aim the weapon's firing end towards the sky instead of at Corset's face. It turns out this method is far more effective: as the dark clouds part, incandescent light shines down upon Daten City and God itself, in the form of a gargantuan, lingerie-clad female body from the neck-down, violently stomps on a screaming Corset and his demon tower with the spiked heel of a giant white-laced pump. So, so beautiful. Words cannot justly describe the brilliance.
The oft-abused Chuck proves his ultimate worth as the closing credits overlay, using his magical zipper to encase the wrath of hell in the underworld, hopefully forever (uh-huh). If you haven't seen this episode yet, I suggest you stop reading right about...now.
Oh hey, spoiler alert: Stocking was a demon all along. Just when everything seems like an all-too-tidy ending, Panty's sister, once believed to be the lesser of two vice-centric kinda-evils, takes her sword and slices her kin into 666 tiny pieces. Corset materializes out of nowhere in a miniaturized format and claims that in order to revive Panty, Garterbelt, Brief and Chuck must literally recollect the fragments of the sacrificial angel. A fetch quest? Really?
I have to wonder, for now, is this method the right move on Gainax's part? They obviously went into this episode not knowing for sure if they would be doing a second season (as the staff has indicated numerous times in their live streams), so is it wise to have such a blatant twist-cliffhanger of this caliber? To top it off, they've peppered in faux-hints of a continuation after the credits here and at the end of the OST as well. Ben Huber (this seems so long ago...) and I were weighing our predictions yesterday, and we both agreed that this would have to carry on to be a pretty elaborate troll if it is indeed a troll at all.
Regardless of what happens in the future with this property, as it stands now, I've grown incredibly fond of the majority of what has been put out. Where plot structure is hit or miss, the pure stylization, soundtrack and memorable characters make this a series one worth watching from start to finish. For the 2010 fall anime season, there is no doubt that Panty & Stocking was a weekly communal event that a wide assortment of industry fans looked forward to. Each outing sparked numerous arguments, discussions and, above all, a wide range of emotions spanning across the reaction spectrum. Love it or loathe it (there's hardly a middle-ground in this case), you really can't deny that no other series this year was such a frequent topic of conversation.
So let the fanbase unite in hope and pray, to whoever or whatever, that the debate returns for another round somewhere down the road.
[Watch Panty & Stocking on Crunchyroll while you still can, as Kadokawa will be removing the videos soon.]
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