Pop Team Epic is a sketch comedy series riddled with pop culture references and satire. It has a great deal more in common with Adult Swim series such as Robot Chicken, The Eric Andre Show and just about everything under the Tim and Eric umbrella than the majority of the anime that have aired on Toonami. For that reason, many fans have questioned why the series isn’t airing on Adult Swim outside of Toonami. Comedy anime has aired on Adult Swim on Sundays and weeknights in prior years with differing results. It is entirely possible that Pop Team Epic will find its way onto Sunday or weekday nights eventually but it will probably have to do exceptional on Toonami in order to get that opportunity. For now, Pop Team Epic is on Toonami in an attempt to broaden the scope of the block beyond the usual action/adventure and sci-fi fare it is known for. You might feel it’s a hard swerve but I figure that’s exactly what they were going for. Personally, I feel a gag series like Pop Team Epic fits in among a bunch of shounen battle series more than most slice of life comedies would. It does have some action and violence along with several references to shows that have aired on Toonami. Make no mistake though; it will stand out even when placed next to FLCL. The visual aesthetic alone will make sure of that.
So what can you expect from Pop Team Epic when you tune in this Saturday at Midnight? I would say the most appropriate yet cliché answer would be “the unexpected.” I do not intend to spoil the experience for any of you. However, the Toonami promo should have already clued you in on one of the quirks of the show. Each episode runs about 11 or so minutes and then same episode airs again with some modifications. That is the format of the show. The most significant difference between the two versions of the episode is the voice cast but there are often changes to the dialogue and some skits are not done the same way twice. The show likes to keep viewers on their toes by randomly changing up a few skits any given episode. It may feel like a chore to watch each episode twice but I implore you to stick around for both versions. If you have an appreciation for actors in the US dub industry, you are in for a treat. Just as it is with the Japanese cast, each episode has the two leads voiced by different actors. That means for every half hour episode you get to hear two different pairings. You can expect to hear some all-time favorites from FUNimation’s acting pool as well as some guests that reside in other regions. All of the actors put in a bang-up performance. You could try guessing who is in each episode for added fun. It is definitely worth seeing both versions of each episode.
I’ll be honest, I enjoy Pop Team Epic but it is an acquired taste that is not for everyone. Between the format and the type of humor, it is not the easiest show to get into. I would not fault anyone for deciding it is not for them and/or feel it does not belong on Toonami. If it appalls you already, it will only last twelve weeks baring an early morning rerun. I can’t say I believe Pop Team Epic is necessarily the best comedy to try on Toonami but the series has developed a level of notoriety that a lot of comedy anime never manage to achieve in the west. Having some decidedly “Adult Swim” flavor mixed into Toonami may help the block build a stronger cross-over audience with the rest of the network. But if it is not up your alley, then feel free to pass on it. While some might suggest that Pop Team Epic is our one chance to see something out of the ordinary on Toonami, I do not subscribe to that notion. Don’t force yourself to watch it out of obligation or some sense of duty to prevent a total shounen apocalypse. I doubt this will be the only “outside the box” show they’ll try in the coming year. However, I hope you will give it a shot. You may actually find it refreshing. Once you pop, the fun don’t stop.
Editor-in-Chief of ToonamiFaithful.com