This week, I want to give some more attention to Pop Team Epic‘s most undervalued—and perhaps most artistically brilliant—contributions to the anime canon: The between-sketch eyecatches! You know, the one-to-two-second-long bits where the title flies onto the screen, and we’re reminded multiple times per episode that we are, in fact, watching the glorious cultural monolith that is PTE?
I’ve been searching all over for other publications that have given these eyecatches the proper critical appraisal that they deserve, but for some reason, nobody has ever taken the plunge as of this writing. That means, obviously, that the burden falls to me.
Now, I don’t want to give too much away, since my dozens of hours of research have led to the creation of a 500-page opus of pure, raw, unadulterated Anime Criticism™ that I’m sure our new partners at Kadokawa will be absolutely chuffed to publish for mass market book retailers here within the next year [Editor’s Note: We cannot stress enough that there is absolutely no circumstance in which Kadokawa, or literally any other publisher on Earth, would ever do this].
That said, I thought I could give you all a taste of my months’ of hard work with an internet-friendly Listicle! So, without further ado, here is my humble list of The Top Ten Greatest Eyecatches in Pop Team Epic Season 2:
Note the clever, disruptive rearrangement of the letters in the logo, paired with the “coincidental” timestamp of “06:16”. Clearly, this is a subtle jab at the ubiquitous nature of Disney’s omnipresent Marvel Cinematic Universe (with “616” being the designator for the primary plane of existence in which the original Marvel Comics stories take place). King Records clearly has ambitions to dethrone the House of Mouse as the global community’s premier provider of pop-culture entertainment, and Pop Team Epic will surely be its Avengers.
This might seem like an ordinary eye-catch, but the clever and emotionally thundering crash of orchestral music, not to mention the annoying rattle, harmonized perfectly with the actors’ cheerful shoutout of the title. This would be great, in and of itself, but the way the eyecatch is juxtaposed with the live-action footage of the guy screaming about how the game he’s playing is “shit” makes for a perfect multi-media symbol of our modern ennui.
This one had me moved nearly to tears, what with how it pairs the haunting sound of crickets with the imminent sketch about the diet of Nanachi, the popular Made in Abyss character. That might not sound like it means anything at all, but trust me, if you’ve seen Made in Abyss, you just get it, you know?
I know we’ve all been hyped over the crazy spectacle of MAPPA‘s Chainsaw Man adaptation this Fall, but for my money, this eyecatch, and the way the letters trace in one at a time in graceful, fluid motion, is the best sakuga I’ve ever seen in a work of animation.
The way these letters are all falling out of space is a perfect ballet of chaos. If you map the spinning of the letters to a logarithmic grid and factor in the speed of descent as the X axis to the Y axis of the spin, you’d get a Fibbonacical spiral of hypnotic beauty.
The way that the voice actor shouts “Pop Team Epic!”, in conjunction with the thundering crunch of the title-card’s descent, reminds me of the guttural yawps that would come out of legendary actor Toshirō Mifune in Akira Kurosawa‘s samurai epics. Complete coincidence, or intentional illusion that provides a total thematic recontextualization to the analysis of the entire “Bump Boo Crusaders” mythos? Ha! As if you even needed to ask.
Find a dark room. Make sure all of the lights are off. Turn this eyecatch on repeat. Watch it at least five times. Whisper out loud the words “This is shit!” exactly five times as you watch. I personally guarantee that, if you do this, you will find a check for seven dollars and fifty-two cents in between a couch cushion within 24 hours.
This one is a Metal Gear reference. ‘Nuff said.
What’s that? “This is literally the same exact eyecatch as the #10 spot, but with different voice actors”? Ha. Hahahahaha. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! Oh, you sweet, innocent child. I wish I could still know what it was like to be so ignorant to Pop Team Epic‘s power and beauty. Life was simpler, then, in some ways…easier, certainly. I slept more back then, and I didn’t have so many people bombarding me with concerned messages about “my mental well-being” and whether or not I “possessed enough psychological stamina to actually do my job and just review Pop Team Epic like a rational human being”…
I was an atheist before I saw this eyecatch. I’m not anymore!
Pop Team Epic Season 2 is currently streaming on
James is a writer with many thoughts and feelings about anime and other pop-culture, which can also be found on Twitter, his blog, and his podcast.