#1 The mixture of Japanese and American animation
Panty & Stocking was heavily inspired by Western animation, more particularly the adult branch of it that revels in crude, dark comedy. Shows like South Park and Adult Swim’s programming undoubtedly influenced this production and are even directly referenced with visual gags.
The result is an anime that is a lot wilder in terms of story and visual style than its contemporaries. The design of the characters is more in a Western style, but it will suddenly switch to a beautiful, Japanese-style animation whenever the two sisters have transformation sequences, and some episodes have a different aesthetic entirely. When viewed from the other perspective: Panty & Stocking‘s story has a lot of similarities with mahou shoujo anime, but with characters that are the exact opposite of cute and pure, thus feeling more like a Western parody of the typically Japanese sub-genre.
While the American overtones are more present, influences from both animation styles and homages to series from both cultures keep Panty & Stocking in a fun in-between area that no other show truly occupies.
#2 Magical girls with a twist
Panty and Stocking are two sisters, angels from heaven that have been banished to earth due to their unruly behavior. Panty is a dense, layabout sex-maniac that will sleep with almost anybody, whereas Stocking is a goth with a serious case of gluttony and a love for sweets.
To earn their way back into heaven, they must assist the priest Garterbelt in protecting Daten City from evil spirits. Panty does this by turning her panties into a pistol, whereas stocking can take off her stockings and turn them into two swords. However, the ghosts tend to be more than a little vile or unpredictable, with the first episode (for example) starring a poop monster that causes everybody to unstoppably vomit. Every ghost is different and varies in competence, making every new episode kind of a surprise.
With two foul-mouthed girls as main characters, a perverted priest as their mission support, and a pet dog that is constantly abused and frequently killed as the companion, it’s fair to say that this is far from your everyday magical girl show.
#3 The masterful soundtrack
While I much enjoy Panty & Stocking myself, I have to admit that the soundtrack is way better than it has any right to be considering the show attached to it. The first episode had me doubting whether to keep watching, until the ED “Fallen Angel” kicked in and I was stunned at how good it was.
Even beyond the ending theme, many songs in the soundtrack are absolutely stand-out examples of music that really enhance the show. The electronic dance music and the Cartoon-style rap opening feel really special and help the show feel more impactful in the few moments where it tries to be serious with villain showdowns and plot developments. Tracks like the Scanty & Kneesocks theme, Fly Away, Chocolat, and D. City Rock became mainstays in my playlists and helped solidify my fondness for the show as a whole.
#4 Diverse humor
So right away, I recommend going with the English dub of the show because it better fits the animation style and American influences found within, without doing any harm to the more Japanese moments. It’s a highly competent dub with great performances, but also benefits from sharp writing and a script that often had us pause due to laughing fits or because we were amazed that some of the darker jokes actually got approved.
In many ways, Panty & Stocking is not entirely unlike the infamous dub for Ghost Stories. It has dark humor that isn’t afraid to mess with good taste and it has the confidence and quality to do so without seeming cheap. Mixed in with this dark comedy, however, is also a fascination with sex and bodily fluids, which may turn away many that aren’t used to anime being outright vulgar or disgusting. If the poop monster from episode 1 bothered you, then you honestly may want to drop the show because it will address S&M, inflation, vore, and incest on more than one occasion.
Also nice is the well-written dialogue for Panty and Stocking themselves, which are both hilarious anti-heroes. This only gets better later when they get a nice dynamic going between them and a pair of demon sisters who repeatedly try to hatch schemes involving the evil spirits. Sure, a lot of it is angry cussing, but it’s well written and the acting for it is spot-on.
#5 double the storylines
While the show technically has 13 episodes, each one is actually split up between two mini-stories. This allows Panty & Stocking to cover a lot more content and means gags like the zombie infestation storyline or the Transformers parody don’t go on for a full 22 minutes.
Towards the end of the anime, it changes course to make the last few episodes more straightforward and (relatively) serious, instead of standalone villain-of-the-week plots with comedic solutions. While it doesn’t make the story suddenly feel important, the anime did succeed in making the characters fun enough that this change of pace works out well. The finale is big, bombastic, everything you could ask for, and it has a few nice twists.
Many people find themselves being down on the true final ending of the anime, but personally I can appreciate the random joke Gainax pulled at the expense of the viewer and don’t mind it too much. There is also a bonus episode with a few extra shorts.