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!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Punchline is starting its second loop through its run, allowing for all sorts of crazy things to happen. If this episode is a taste of things to come, however, there’s a few things to be worried about. None of the problems are fatal, and all are likely to improve over the course of the next four episodes, but it’s not the best start to what should be the payoff phase of the series.
Before getting into the plot development, it should be noted that the production quality takes a bit of a dip in this episode. While there’s a bit of re-used footage, as might be expected with a time-loop situation, it’s mostly the newer footage of Yuta being smacked around that lacks the usual polish. Punchline hasn’t had any especially standout episodes in terms of sheer animation quality, so it’s disappointing to see material this weak at the halfway point. Hopefully, more time is spent on far more crucial episodes.
The episode starts off back at episode 1 of the series, with Yuta having been fished out of the river by Strange Juice. After being possessed by his future self, he snaps up in full Ebenezer Scrooge mode asking Strange Juice what day it is. It’s once again December 21st, and Yuta has 10 days to stop the world from ending. After taking a brief bit of time to enjoy being in a physical body again, Yuta catalogs the events that will take place over the next ten days, and tries to figure out the best way to prevent the asteroid’s collision.
Luckily (or unluckily?) for Yuta, all of the spirit training in his ghost form paid off, and now he can still see Chiranosuke in human form. The cat once again takes a mentor-like role in guiding him, and also in explaining to him what has happened. In fact, he over-explains things, one of the primary problems of the episode. The key to saving the future, according to the less-than-trustworthy ghost cat, is to refrain from changing most of the events that allow the events of Korai House to bond and get closer, and instead make certain, key decisions at a critical point in order to save the world. Previous Yutas, almost 7 billion of them, apparently, refused to take Chiranosuke’s advice, taking radical action that changed things too much, and all 7 billion of them had failed. If Yuta fails this time, he WILL actually die, although Chiranosuke will go on to guide the next Yuta in another parallel timeline.
We also get an explanation for the connection between seeing panties and world destruction. As some had predicted, Yuta is the key actor in the “Human Preservation Product,” and if he is incapacitated in any way, the world ends. Panties not only cause Yuta’s spirit to faint, but because of a spirit’s increased sensitivity, seeing panties twice will cause Yuta’s body to die. The cause and effect relationship is nowhere near as ridiculously direct as one might have assumed.
This leads to the third problem with the episode: Now that Yuta knows he is at mortal risk if his spirit form sees underpants, he decides to take drastic action in order to prevent it. Unfortunately, this is in the usual form of tackling and knocking over his female dorm-mates, ending up with the usual harem antics of accidental groping, screams of “pervert,” and violent retaliation. Despite the fanservice in the series, Punchline had always steered away from this gutter-class humor, so it’s depressing to see it brought out now. Fortunately, the importance of panties waned as the episodes went on, so hopefully this is the last we see of it. If not, though, that is a dire mark against the second half of the series, and one that was completely unnecessary to the best elements of the series.
The final problem with the series is that a key few developments seem to be made a lot less interesting. For one, the swapping of Mikatan’s script “Punch perms and Chiraishi sushi” for Ito’s “Harakiri Harassment” is just a case of books being dropped while Yuta’s body bumps into and knocks over the other characters. I expect this to just be an example of how the story comes around full circle, but I was hoping the scripts had more importance to the story. The real disappointment comes in the revelation of Yuta’s escape from the Yuba Labs 9 years earlier. Apparently, while escaping, Pine, Chiyoko, and Guri were struck by lightning while Yubafied. Because of this, Pine’s spirit was transferred into Guri’s body. This takes the wind out of any material with a trans or lesbian main character, and makes the previous “aaah! pervert!” harem antics that much staler and played out.
While I consider this reveal to be a fake out by Uchikoshi (I expect Yuta’s real identity to be something even more complicated), it still brings Punchline far closer to bog standard harem material than I want. Change course, Uchikoshi! Punchline has so far been incredibly engaging, and there’s no need to let dumb anime humor kill in during its payoff arc.
Punchline this week was far too overly obvious, in overexplaining things, in using dumb anime tropes, and in seemingly undercutting previously amazing twists. There’s a good bit of evidence, however, that the series will be moving away from all of these things in future episodes, especially with the next episode preview hinting at revealing the events at the as yet unseen Christmas Party. Punchline can recover, but it had better, or I’ll be incredibly disappointed.
Streamed By: Crunchyroll
Sony VAIO 20″