Last week’s episode was all shojo romance and Marilyn Monroe, this week is all shogi, shonen, and YouTube. Those all go together, right? Well, maybe in any other anime it wouldn’t make a lick of sense. But, in the world of Pop Team Epic, it fits right in. Plus, the characters this time were voiced by VAs that Toonami fans might know. Or, at least, they know who they are by the shows they’re on.
The first segment has Popuko telling Pipimi she was scolded at career counseling because she wanted to be a paladin, which she thinks is a fine job. However, Pipimi is not listening whatsoever. She’s too busy fantasizing about Hellshake Yano. Continuing with this after the opening, Popuko wants to change careers and become a Demon Hunter. Pipimi is still not listening. Popuko thinks she is still thinking of Hellshake Yano. However, Pipimi’s mind has transitioned to another person, Magma Mixer Murata.
Then it’s on to the episode title, “The 30th Cyber War.” This takes place in Japan’s Shogi Association, with an amateur challenger, Popuko, facing shogi’s “Big Four.” Her first challenge is “Underdog” Shoichi. However, the pressure isn’t on Popuko, it’s on Shoichi. Seeing as she has no openings with her own spirit standing by her (which looks like a Stand from JoJo), he concedes the match, as Popuko made no moves at all. The spirit next to her is Pipimi, and she tells Popuko this is as far as she’ll get before she can use her “Divine Move.” It’s a Nice Heian style, though. But the next challenger arrives, saying the “Underdog” wasn’t even strong. She is #3 of the “Big Four,” The 35th Queen, “Tempo Loss” Chieko.
Also at this shogi tournament is Interviewer Ayumu Ichirohashi and Analyst Kakutarou Matsubayashi. Matsubayashi knows all about shogi, so he tries to explain in full to his colleague all that’s happening between Popuko and Chieko, and how Popuko is countering her moves. However, Ichirohashi is basically lost in all that’s going on (as are most watching this who don’t know how shogi works, including me). As the battle ends, Chieko can see she was clearly the underdog. After 73 moves, Popuko beats her, and she disintegrates into ash. Popuko was impressive.
The next challenger then arrives. In what is clearly a reference to Tekken, a big old man is the #2 of the “Big Four.” His name is Billion Quadrillion, the 123rd Permanent Grand Master. It’s been awhile since he had a good match and promises he won’t use machine guns or missiles. The shogi announcer tries again to explain what is happening, but Ichirohashi quickly changes the subject to something completely different.
Even so, the match is pretty quick as Billion Quadrillion feels the mighty pressure of Popuko and Pipimi, and in one move, the big dude gets destroyed. Literally. Billion Quadrillion, it turns out, was a robot all along. But he still has one more thing to tell Popuko since she earned the truth. He tells her to go to the top floor of the tower they’re in and there, she’ll meet the #1. As they get there, they find the “True Master of the Divine Move”. It’s Pipimi, or as she calls herself, Mother AI PP1000.
As she reveals the others were holograms (don’t ask how), her goal all along was to create the top shogi player out of flesh and blood, and then crush them. The spirit of Pipimi that was next to Popuko leaves her and goes to Mother AI PP1000, creating her Perfected Model. She wants to see Popuko’s human potential. Matsubayashi points out how AI shogi was progressing, but he didn’t know it would be this far along, since the AI wanted to control players to improve the shogi world. Frightening, isn’t it?
The battle gets very intense, as it comes to its conclusion. The final move is this, which you all have seen before.
— King Meow (@cedric_alpha) February 10, 2018
The best part is, they somehow combine a Dragon Ball Z reference and used Your Name’s Japanese name (“Kimi Na no Wa”) to reference the infamous move (“Kame Hame Ha”). Anyway, the building explodes, leaving behind a big mess. Popuko gets up from this and looks for Pipimi. She hears her voice, but all that’s left is her ribbon. Popuko is sad and asks Pipimi if she was okay with this. Pipimi’s response? “Okay, bravo!” The two commentators are battered and torn, but alive and well, as Matsubayashi points out that Pipimi’s AI core was in her ribbon all along. It ends there.
On to another “Bob Epic Team.” The girls are at Hankyu Koshien for the first time. Since they’re there, Popuko has to do the “regional” hand stand. She does, and it confuses Pipimi. Then she has to do the “regional” flip, followed by a “regional” body link formation, and then a “regional” first pinch from the mound, with a “regional” 3 strikes and you’re out! All of this is confusing to Pipimi, even as she is forced into it. Pipimi is then given a “regional” 1st-round elimination on a train, as she is all sad and confused.
On to the next segment, and there’s a couple on TV. Now, before I go on, here’s the thing with this one. On Crunchyroll, they went with what they said in Japanese, which was “pippi-beau.” But on HiDive, they used what it was actually translated to, which was “bae.” So yes, they are saying “bae.” Anyway, the girl says he is her “pippi-beau,” or “bae,” as Popuko asks who actually says that. But Pipimi herself does actually like what they say. In which Popuko replies to her, “Pipi…pippi,” or “b-bae.” Insert your own ship if you want to.
The next segment has the girls at a concert, but a voice speaks to Popuko. It’s her glowsticks and it asks her for its name. Popuko holds them up and guesses Dymlos, but she guessed wrong. The next segment is another “Pop Team Cooking.” The girls are honoring La-Saint Valentin coming up by making “du chocolat.” (Or if you somehow didn’t catch that, they’re making chocolate for Valentine’s Day.) Pipimi is going to add the sugar to the bowl, and tells Popuko to tell her to stop when she added enough. She starts and adds a few scoops until Popuko tells her to stop. But Pipimi doesn’t. It ends there.
Hey, do you remember the Blankie segment at the beginning of episode 3?
Well, we got the same segment, except done in the style of “Bob Epic Team.” It’s all the same, but worst. This time Blankie is joined by his friends Mattress, Curtain, and Comfie Pillow, along with Alarm Clock, who blows up when he rings. They all tell Popuko to go back to sleep, and she does.
Ah, the stuff of nightmares. The last segment has Popuko promoting her YouTube channel. She thanks them for watching, and tells them to click on the subscription button in any way possible. And for those who don’t subscribe to it…she’s coming for you. The screen goes static, then dark, and then an ominous phone rings in the background. The Hoshiiro Girldrop preview has the gang at a hot spring, and the two main characters sleeping in a room together. No, not that way. But it could quickly go that route. In my fantasies.
Now it’s time for the male voices. The first segment has Popuko this time wanting to open a fried chicken shop. For “The 30th Cyber War,” the episode title panel has random Spanish now. And Popuko is now “Popko” this time. In the “bae” segment, Popuko’s female VA says “Who actually says pippi-beau?.” Here, the male VA says “No girl says pippi-beau.” After the concert, one of the VAs saying the name of the show has their voice crack during it. During “Pop Team Cooking,” Popuko has trouble saying stop the second time around to Pipimi. After it, the VAs mess up saying the show and just give up. And on the YouTube segment, instead of the phone ringing, you can clearly hear someone going up a flight of stairs.
With the actors this time, we have a fun treat. The female actors this time around were Yūko Sanpei and Kaori Nazuka. I don’t know how many who watched it subbed, but these were Renton and Eureka’s VAs on Eureka 7. So, they reunited and became another canon to the Pop Team Epic universe. (Hey Funimation, I don’t suppose you can somehow do this with the dub with the Johnny Yong Bosch and Stephanie Sheh, right?) Oh, and if you want a more recent anime for this example, Sanpei herself is the VA of Boruto. As for the males? Attack on Titan people know who they are. As Hiro Shimono and Yuki Kaji voiced the girls. Or as on that show, the VA’s of Connie and Eren. So for two weeks now, we had AoT voice actors. Kaji has other roles as well, like our favorite sexual harasser in Meliodas on Seven Deadly Sins, Todoroki on My Hero Academia, and Koichi on JJBA: Diamond is Unbreakable.
Overall, this was a pretty okay episode. The whole “30th Cyber Wars” was bananas. I mean, how do you combine JoJo, DBZ, Your Name, and Tekken references into one big thing, which is actually one big Hikaru no Go reference? They made shogi into an epic shonen battle, and I couldn’t be more happier. And I know nothing about how shogi works. The things I did have an issue with was “BET” ruining the cute Blankie segment into never-ending unseeing-ness, and I guess the YouTube segment as well. Don’t get me wrong, it was a damn good segment. However, when it first started up, I thought it was going to be THIS YouTube joke.
Then again, we are halfway through the series now. So, there is still a lot of time to see it happen. Overall, the last two episodes were a bit better. But still, this show has kept up with how good it is, as even an okay episode is still…Epic. Also, if you want more on this shitty anime, the folks at Sakuga Blog translated this interview that the producer of Pop Team Epic did about the ins-and-outs of the show, what went into it, how they picked the scenes, the voice actors, the music, how they presented it, and even the Twitter Q&A about it. It’s a fascinating and fun read that you should really check out.
Pop Team Epic is simulcasted on Crunchyroll and HiDive, and can be seen at 12:30 PM ET Saturdays. The dubbed episodes of Pop Team Epic are on Funimation. The simuldub can be seen on Funimation Now at 5:00 PM ET Mondays.