By Bkub Okawa. Released in Japan by Takeshobo, serialized in the magazine Manga Life Win. Released in North America by Vertical Comics. Translated by Yota Okutani and Maya Rosewood.
It’s hard to get all the humor at the start of the second volume of Pop Team Epic without all the buildup that came with it. Pop Team Epic, the manga, was pretend cancelled, and the author was going to start a new work in the magazine called Hoshiiro Girldrop. There were even some promos for it. Then we get the chapter you see in this volume, and, well, surprise! (It wasn’t much of a surprise – everyone expected something fishy.) Now, of course, we not only have the anime using the series for its previews, but there’s also doujinshi anthology books with other artists writing genuine Girldrop stories. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was an OAV at some point (well, yes I would, no one does OAVs anymore). With all that said, Girldrop is just the opening gag here, and the rest of the volume gives the reader what they want – more of Popuko and Pipimi.
Fans of the anime will be pleased to know that they will still recognize quite a few gags, although a lot less than the first volume. The Undertale stretching head gag is here (in fact, a lot of the video game stuff is seen here) as well as Popuko ordering latte art. For the most part, though, these gags were left out, and so the reader can enjoy them in their original environment. There aren’t a lot of gut-busters, but Pop Team Epic doesn’t really go for gut-busting humor. It’s a nerd manga that revels in its nerdness even as it tears down nerds gleefully, knowing that having its cake and eating it too is part of the reader appeal. And for those who look for that sort of thing, there are again one or two strips that imply that Popuko and Pipimi really like each other, though this is never going to be a comic that will commit to yuri in any way that isn’t present for a gag. I am also very fond of the “Holy shit, you’ve ruined it, like everything you do” strip, which definitely falls in the category of “too real”.
Towards the end of the volume, it’s become clear that the anime had been greenlit, and so we get a number of strips making fun of that fact. There is another “fake cancellation”, which also didn’t stick (I suspect Vol. 3, when it comes out, will be called “third season”. There’s also some mocking of the fact that Popuko and Pipimi aren’t cute or moe enough for the anime market, and are being replaced with more “natural” moeblobs – the anime did actually mock this, with the hegemony scenes at the end, showing off the yuri schoolgirl series that PTE is never going to be. And so Popuko and Pipimi, shunned by their own production companies and publisher, end the manga in a literal cage, making one last joke about bad ratings before the end. I have no idea how good the ratings were in Japan, but PTE definitely became a bigger phenomenon, both in Japan and the West. How will a third volume deal with the fame? God knows, but for now please enjoy more of this shitty manga.