PANTY & STOCKING WITH GARTERBELT (Panti ando Sutokkingu wizu Gataberuto), by Tagro and adapted from the series by GAINAX. First published in 2010 and first published in 2015.
Panty and Stocking are two fallen angels who have been tasked with combating demonic forces if they ever want a chance to get back to heaven. It's too bad then that they're too obsessed with sex and snacks to care much about their mission unless it's forced upon them. Still, they have their hands full with all the demonic vending machines, parfumiers, and moon creatures that come their way.
It's one of those simple facts of life, at least for manga fans: manga adaptations of TV shows are always inferior to the original. They tend to be slapdash affairs done only to serve as cross-promotion. The stories are always horrendously condensed if not changed outright, and the art is usually done by some no-name newcomer with middling results. Then there's the fact that Panty & Stocking is not a show that seems like it would translate well to manga in the first place. It's purposefully vulgar and random and it was always meant as a showcase for director Hiroyuki Imaishi's fondness for American animation. This manga should have been a formula for disaster, and yet it's possibly the best TV-to-manga adaption I've come across since starting this site. How the hell did that happen?
Ironically, Tagro was able to capture the tone of the show by essentially throwing everything but the basics out. Many of these sorts of adaptaions are determined to retell the story beat for beat. With a show as random as Panty & Stocking, that simply wasn't going to work. So Tagro instead makes up his own adventures for the angelic duo freed from any concern of continuity and free to do whatever it needs to in the name of a good gag. That devil-may-care attitude to continuity is perfectly in line with the original show's devil-may-care attitude towards...well, a lot of things, so whether by accident or choice he managed to understand the show's tone perfectly and translate it to the page.
Now, he didn't throw out everything. The characters are precisely as you remember them. Panty is libidinous and vulgar. Stocking tries to be more prim, but often she can be just as crude. Garterbelt is there to try to keep them on task with stern, moralizing lectures, even when he's in the middle of screwing altar boys. Everyone else is...well, they're mostly just there as demon fodder. The villains are nothing remarkable, but they all strike the right balance between silly and crude, and the solutions to their schemes are often much the same. It also helps that the pacing is snappy, so all the gags and insults fly fast and free. Thus, so long as you are down with this particular brand of juvenile humor, this is a very amusing book, and truthfully that's enough for me to like it. After all, the show wasn't aiming for much more, so why should its manga counterpart be different?
Adapting the look of Panty & Stocking was just as much of a challenge as the story (as much as there is one). Imaishi went for a very extreme style that owes much more to Genndy Tartakovsky and the many shows on Adult Swim than to more traditional anime styles. It's loaded with bright colors and big blocky cartoony sound effects. It's a style that could turn to garbage on the page faster than you can say "DeviantArt." That's why I have to give Tagro even more credit for managing to capture the show's look so faithfully. It's not just that everyone is on-model, it's that he captures a lot of the visual flare of the show. He captures those extreme angles and the crazy sound effects and the general liveliness of the art all in black and white. You could argue that it doesn't say much for his own personal style, but after seeing so many half-assed adaptations I'll happily welcome a manga that not only looks like the show it's adapting, but looks good in general.
Admittedly, this book will likely only appeal to those who were already fans of the Panty & Stocking series. Still, it stands as one of the few times where the manga adaptation of a TV show manages to work as both an adaptive work and as a stand-alone piece.
This book is published by Dark Horse Comics. It is currently in print.
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