…well, that was a thing.
What They Say:
If he sees underwear, humanity will be destroyed!? An original anime series from the noitaminA block, PUNCH LINE centers on Yuta Iridatsu, a high school student, with a peculiar habit. When he sees a girl’s panties, he gets so excited he faints! After a certain incident with a ghost cat, his soul gets separated from his body. Using his special powers, Yuta watches the daily lives of the inhabitants of an apartment and sometimes plays tricks on them. Eventually, Yuta decides to unlock the secrets to why Earth will be destroyed and tries to save it!
The audio has no real issues outside of the fact there are just stereo releases 2.0 of the audio which is Japanese only – this does seem standard for releases done via Sentai as many releases are done sub only so this was expected but still considering the mania that this series brings, the audio is still of a very good quality where I didn’t need to adjust the settings, no delays with the lipflaps or subtitles, the actual audio quality is not faulty – all characters, foley, background noise and songs come out concisely, and is one of the better releases in just the standard Japanese heard on DVD considering am more used to Blu-Ray quality nowadays.
Set in the standard PAL format (anamorphic), with the original 1.78:1 aspect ratio on a full screen format, Punchline is a vivid array of animation, colour and strangeness – it feels like the faces of FLCL meets the colours of Panty & Stocking in this mash of an anime. It is very in your face yet no problems with the speed and the synching of the video with the subtitles and audio, no pausing effects (when the animation fades when you pause it) and comes through very nicely even on the DVD format.
There was no packing for this test release.
On two discs, the menus are quite basic – each has someone who actually isn’t in the show it seems, the first having a blonde haired half-naked woman with a cat (that may or may not be Chiranosuke whilst the second disc has a brown haired girl blowing bubblegum, again, doesn’t seem to be any of the characters in the show – on a blue/purple background almost psychedelic – you select the first episode in the disc (ep 1 or 7) and then it plays all – the menu is scrolling on the left hand side where you select your episode, languages or special features (disc 2). No problem accessing it but pretty standard.
The only extras we have are the clean opening and ending.
When you get new series that you haven’t seen before, you wonder what they are about either from friends, research or just plain looking at the DVD cover. This was one of those that I got a look from and basically they went ‘yeah…just go for it.’
To say that is an understatement is something because I’ve been watching anime for 15 years now, and it is still great when a series just comes along and goes ‘yeah, that’s different…’
The trouble is…different doesn’t always mean good…
Let’s take a look at the first episode and what constitutes the plot for example; our main character Yuta, is caught in a bus hijacking. However, a superhero happens to try and save them, named Strange Juice – the attacker and she are clashing and then Yuta, for some reason, see the panties of his friend/neighbour Rabura….which seems to power him up and then tackled the offender. However, when he recovers seeing Strange Juice, seeing her panties makes him fall unconscious and apparently ‘die.’
…but then his soul connects back at his apartment, where he is introduced to a spirit cat named Chiranosuke, who explains he isn’t dead, but suffering an out-of-body experience. However, some other spirit has actually enters his body, blocked off the room via spirit wards so Yuta can’t return. To stop this, he must get a book (located just somewhere around – no other info than that) but whilst searching for this book, if he sees a persons’ panties (they can’t see him now) he powers up…but if he sees them twice to get too excited, he faints…and a meteor lands on earth and blows everything up.
But it’s fine! He can go back in time slowly as he learns to get stronger spirit powers, find out the strangeness of his housemates, whether it is his robotic hacker friend Meika, the shut in with a bear cub for a pet Ito, Rabura, the mystic who really tries but really isn’t, or the idol Narugino who is also the superhero Strange Juice – whilst trying to avoid arousal and dooming the earth….
Yeah, seriously this is a tad strange…
O.K, so the plot as it were seems to be a bit of an excuse for fan service, a lot of quirky interaction, the idea that Yuta is a ghost and trying to use that to his advantage, with a lot of bizarre hijinks. The strangest thing is though, as the series progresses, there is an underlying plot which does began to form. First of all, we learn of an organisation that seems to be aware of these phenomenons and the group has a lot more keys to this asteroid than it first appears. Secondly, a costumed hero named Kenji appears who seems to have very similar powers to Yuta, before you realise who he really is and that Yuta’s powers have another effect, and thirdly (and most importantly) there are flashback sequences to three children named Pine, Guriko and Chiyoko who are in a laboratory which suddenly link into three of the characters in the present time. The strange thing is that these are important characters and it does tell the story about which they really are, as well as seeing how the soul sucking and returning are pivotal to this story.
The main issue though is it isn’t told that well, which is a shame because there is ongoing story and development throughout.
One of the girls Ito for example is on a list of people that are going to be killed, yet the people also on the list are girls who caused Ito to become a shut-in due to bullying. It is actually a quite sad and truthful take of the hikkomori effect known in Japan or NEETs as also known, and the story behind the list and the reveal of who was doing it is a little predictable (and creepy) but it does lead to the bigger picture when Yuta has to go back in time – one of the rules he is given is to not change the course of history, however through little things he still manages to which considering his job is to basically save the world, there is some leeway on it. And with things happening with spirit Yuta then make sense in the last half of the series, there are some actual ‘ah ha’ moments when everything is done.
The other thing which was decent was the fact the three kids in the flashback turned out to be three people in the show, except their souls got mixed up – with two of them central characters and one of them being the villain, it does make sense after watching it and it leads to a final attempt to be successful in stopping the asteroid (it is hinted that Yuta has tried over a million times and failed) – the group all help in their own ways (Meika hacking, Rabura connections with spirit Yuta, and Narugino using her own powers (she, Yuta and the eventual villain Guriko/Pine are known as Ws, people who are able to tap into power in their own ways from the lab experiments in the flashbacks – just Yuta’s tend to be more fanservicey) which leads to an actual rather sad but happy ending at the same time.
So the show does come to a good conclusion, and it does seem to make sense. So why do I have problems with it?
Well, the obvious issue is the fact that it does rely on fan service to activate Yuta’s powers feels very tacked on (especially as Narugino and Guriko DON’T rely on the same method) and really doesn’t make any sense that after 2 panty shots, his spirit faints and he can’t be brought back before the asteroid strikes. It feels entirely unnecessary and only detracts on time that could have been used better.
Like with character development – sadly, none of the characters even Yuta are very memorable. Meika at least is interesting when we learn of her robot nature, Rabura does has some fun comedy moments (though why cinnamon works for her spirit channelling isn’t explained well), Narugino is fun when she is in her superhero form but doesn’t really engage well with Yuta bar the final episode, Ito’s past is quite sad and hey, baby bears are adorable, but outside of that arc she isn’t pivotal to the end, and the villain sadly is very poor, as whilst the idea of the lab kids and their souls being switched was smart, there wasn’t enough time after the reveal to really establish Guriko’s motives and just felt like it was a weak villain.
The comedy moments also are very hit and miss – the reliance on the panty shots gets old quite quickly and whilst there are genuine fun moments as well as some sweet moments, there wasn’t any major moment where I was laughing out loud. It was a series I felt that doesn’t know what it is trying to be, an ecchi comedy, a time travel story, a sentai show, end of the world apocalypse, it is a hybrid of all these things, and because of it, the show tends to clash in what it wants to me, making it a bit of a cluster mess of a series.
I would say it is worth giving it a shot, only for the sheer insanity it brings. However, you may have to watch it twice to really get everything and what it is trying to say.
And after the first time you watch it, you may not really care to do so…
Punchline’s title actually gives an example to the problem of the series – it doesn’t seem to know what the punch line is going to be. From fan service to spirits, to time travels to action, to comedy to superheroes, it includes all these elements and for that it loses its focus. It does tell a story from beginning to end, but the focus is so over the place you have to really get it by the second half of the show. Certainly not the worst series ever, but one that will definitely be a bit more confusing than your standard offering, and sadly not for the better.
Japanese Language, English Subtitles Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: C-
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: August 29th, 2016
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: PAL
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.