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Series / PEN15

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"This is Maya. This is Anna. They're 13 years old. They're best friends. In the year 2000."

PEN15 (pronounced "pen-fifteen") is a live-action Hulu original Coming of Age Story and Cringe Comedy series created by, and starring, Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle playing fictionalized versions of their thirteen-year-old selves. It premiered in 2019.

Maya Ishii-Peters and Anna Kone are two best friends in the seventh grade during the year 2000 as they strive to navigate the changing world around them, from mean girls and first boyfriends at school to family problems at home.

The second season premiered on September 18, 2020 and continued with an animated special episode. The series concluded on December 3, 2021 with the remainder of the season.

Tropes in this series include:

  • A Day in the Limelight: Maya’s mother Yuki has a centric episode, aptly titled "Yuki," in the second season that focuses on her unexpectedly reuniting with Shuji's father.
  • All for Nothing: Feeling insecure about her family's wealth, Maya begs her father to buy an expensive necklace for Becca's bat mitzvah, despite her mother's disappointment. Upon being gifted it, Becca is flippant and unappreciative. Maya steals the necklace back and gives it to her mother instead as an apology.
  • Ascended Extra: Gabe, one of Sam's friends, goes from being an extra with a few lines in the first season to having his own subplot in the second about coming to terms with his sexuality.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Maya is diagnosed ADD in the second season.
  • Aww Look They Really Do Love Each Other: Though still a Big Brother Bully, Shuji genuinely compliments Maya's performance in the school play and even gives her a hug.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Shuji delights in insulting his younger sister, but is horrified to learn she's been dubbed UGIS, "Ugliest Girl In School". Later in the season, as Maya struggles with racism from her classmates, he brings her to a friend who can help.
  • Caught with Your Pants Down: Ume walks in on Maya in the bathroom during "private time". Maya later tries to convince her that she "fell".
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The second season is much darker and less humorous than the first, focusing on things like Anna's struggle with her parents' divorce and Maya's ever-worsening self-esteem due to constantly being rejected.
  • Coming-Out Story: Gabe’s storyline in the second season involves him coming to terms with his sexuality, although he hasn’t come out yet.
  • Country Matters: Maura calls her mother a cunt when she interrupts a hangout with Anna and Maya. Later on, Anna and Maya adopt the term, much to their mothers’ horror. Following the end of their friendship with Maura, the word doesn't pop up nearly as much.
  • Cringe Comedy: Given the show follows two wildly awkward teenage girls, it could hardly not be. Most humor focuses on either the girls trying to be cool, or finding themselves in horribly uncomfortable situations.
  • Formula-Breaking Episode: The second season has a special animated episode, "Jacuzzi," which covers the girls taking a trip to Florida.
  • Gag Nose: In "Jacuzzi," a caricature artist gives Anna a huge nose and Maya a moon-sized head. To illustrate the blow this gives to their self-esteem, the girls' perspectives show them taking on these exaggerated features.
  • Jerkass: Brandt and his buddy Dustin delight in calling Maya UGIS, but then the former shares a moment with her and even tells her he loves her. Afterwards, all of Maya's attempts to talk about it are met with a cold shoulder. As he grows more annoyed with her, Brandt mocks her to his friends, then finally blows up and tells her she's ugly and that he hates her. While reasonably fed up with her stalking, Brandt seems unable to care less about Maya's feelings.
  • Meat-O-Vision: Anna fasts to protest racism and later sees Maya as a walking piece of ham.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Maya is horrified when she realizes just how terribly she's been treating Ume, and apologizes.
  • Period Piece: This show takes place in 2000 when Anna and Maya were 13 years old. One episode focuses on the girls using an online chatroom and treating it as an incredible invention.
  • Parents as People:
    • Yuki and Fred love Maya dearly, but between the former's strictness and the latter's tendency to be away on tour, Maya feels uncomfortable seeking them out regarding troubles in her life.
    • As Kathy and Curtis' marriage deteriorates, Anna is caught in the crossfire. Following their separation into different households, both try to be supportive of Anna, but Curtis in particular pressures Anna into moving in with him.
  • Photo Montage: The opening credits show photos of Erskine and Konkle when they were thirteen. In "Yuki," the photos are changed to that of Mutsuko Erskine's.
  • The Problem with Pen Island: Invoked in the show's title.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Maya for Brandt, at least as much as a thirteen-year-old can be. She joins the wrestling team to get close to him, then puts her hair into his locker during a psuedo-witchcraft phase. She stops when Brandt brutally tells her he hates her.
  • That Nostalgia Show: Does this for the Turn of the Millennium, dealing with specific early 2000s trends.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: After hanging with Maura, both Maya and Anna end up acting more obnoxious and spoiled, even calling their respective mothers "cunts". Maura's eagerness to cause trouble quickly drives a wedge between Anna and Maya.
  • Turn of the Millennium: The first season takes place in the year 2000 and is dripping with references to the pop culture and fashions of that time (Crash Bandicoot, Tamagotchis, curtains, and long cargo skirts).