Pop Team Epic: Second Season

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 and Maya Rosewood.

It’s hard to get all the humor at the start of the second volume of Pop Team Epic without all the buildup that came with it. Pop Team Epic, the manga, was pretend cancelled, and the author was going to start a new work in the magazine called Hoshiiro Girldrop. There were even some promos for it. Then we get the chapter you see in this volume, and, well, surprise! (It wasn’t much of a surprise – everyone expected something fishy.) Now, of course, we not only have the anime using the series for its previews, but there’s also doujinshi anthology books with other artists writing genuine Girldrop stories. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was an OAV at some point (well, yes I would, no one does OAVs anymore). With all that said, Girldrop is just the opening gag here, and the rest of the volume gives the reader what they want – more of Popuko and Pipimi.

Fans of the anime will be pleased to know that they will still recognize quite a few gags, although a lot less than the first volume. The Undertale stretching head gag is here (in fact, a lot of the video game stuff is seen here) as well as Popuko ordering latte art. For the most part, though, these gags were left out, and so the reader can enjoy them in their original environment. There aren’t a lot of gut-busters, but Pop Team Epic doesn’t really go for gut-busting humor. It’s a nerd manga that revels in its nerdness even as it tears down nerds gleefully, knowing that having its cake and eating it too is part of the reader appeal. And for those who look for that sort of thing, there are again one or two strips that imply that Popuko and Pipimi really like each other, though this is never going to be a comic that will commit to yuri in any way that isn’t present for a gag. I am also very fond of the “Holy shit, you’ve ruined it, like everything you do” strip, which definitely falls in the category of “too real”.

Towards the end of the volume, it’s become clear that the anime had been greenlit, and so we get a number of strips making fun of that fact. There is another “fake cancellation”, which also didn’t stick (I suspect Vol. 3, when it comes out, will be called “third season”. There’s also some mocking of the fact that Popuko and Pipimi aren’t cute or moe enough for the anime market, and are being replaced with more “natural” moeblobs – the anime did actually mock this, with the hegemony scenes at the end, showing off the yuri schoolgirl series that PTE is never going to be. And so Popuko and Pipimi, shunned by their own production companies and publisher, end the manga in a literal cage, making one last joke about bad ratings before the end. I have no idea how good the ratings were in Japan, but PTE definitely became a bigger phenomenon, both in Japan and the West. How will a third volume deal with the fame? God knows, but for now please enjoy more of this shitty manga.

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.