Pop Team Epic

By Bkub Okawa. Released in Japan by Takeshobo, serialized in the magazine Manga Life Win. Released in North America by Vertical Comics. Translated by Yota Okutani.

Many who read my reviews are familiar with me saying “This was made into a popular anime, which I haven’t actually seen.” That’s not the case here, as I am very, very familiar with the Pop Team Epic anime. In fact, this manga may be operating at a slight disadvantage in that I think almost every single person who buys it will be someone who has seen the anime that came out at the start of 2018. So, the question here is not so much “is this book funny?” (it is, in a PTE sort of way) or “is this book worth my money?” (yes it is, if only for the cover not having mosaics like the CR anime OP did) but more “what does this book have that the anime didn’t?”. There are several comics that weren’t adapted into anime gags, of course, and I will admit that for the most part you can easily see why they chose what they did. But the gags are still fun and worth reading, and it’s interesting to see hwow one gets translated into the other.

In case you are that rare person who bought this sight unseen (and given that cover, I can imagine it), Pop Team Epic is a 4-koma gag strip about two girls, Popuko (the short one) and Pipimi (the tall one). They’re dressed in school uniforms, but we never see them attending any classes. Instead, the strip is an excuse for various pop culture gags, fourth wall breaking exercises, and whatever random humor Bkub thinks of to throw at us. A good comparison might be Nichijou or CITY, though I worry comparing Pop Team Epic to anything just invites criticism. For anyone who’s seen the anime, all the most famous gags are present and correct: “Are you upset?”, “Beef or Chicken”, “Doesn’t get it at all”, etc. In fact, some of the gags look odd for an anime watcher, as Bob Epic Team used them for their own distorted art, and seeing things like the scorpion or zoo scenes as normal quick gag strips is actually a bit unnerving.

For those who had been wondering about how they would translate possibly the most memed of the PTE memes, “You Are Mother Fucker?” is left as is, which might be seen as cheating but is probably the safest option. The translation is, appropriately for a series like this, a bit of a mish-mash. Translation notes are minimal, with the occasional explanation of things like the Slit-Mouthed Woman. For the most part the pop culture gags are left alone, relying on the reader being as big a nerd as the author. There is the occasional adaptation that I noticed – in particular, I’m pretty sure the M*A*S*H reference wasn’t in the original comic – but for the most part the translation is fairly straightforward. Popuko swears quite a bit, though again, not as much as I think the “fan” reading the manga would like.

If you enjoyed the Pop Team Epic anime and want to read how it began, this is an excellent manga to buy. If you didn’t watch the PTE anime and are just curious, I’d make sure you like gag comics with a liberal definition of what “humor” is first. And if you’re a yuri fan, yes, “I wuv you lots” is in here, though don’t expect any hegemony.

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