Sakamichi no Apollon. Zankyou no Terror. Shingeki no Bahamut. GARO. All shows from the Maruyama Animation Produce Project Association, or MAPPA. All regarded by RABUJOI staffers as well worth the effort of watching them.
Which brings us to Punchline. Despite knowing nothing about it going in, I knew it probably wouldn’t be crap, because nothing from MAPPA has been crap. Disappointing or inconsistent in parts, perhaps? Sure. But each of those other shows also had sparks of true greatness that again, made us glad we tuned in.
In the first five minutes, our ignorance of what Punchline is about was thoroughly washed away, and the protagonist Yuuta gains superpowers and saves a bus full of people, along with the two young women who were trying to save said bus. And how do those powers awaken, you might ask? When he sees a woman’s panties. That’s right: his powers turn on…when he turns on. Which…I’m not going to lie, is kinda dumb. BUT.
Fortunately, fanservice and sophomoric hero dynamics aren’t all Punchline has to offer. Right after saving that bus, the bad guy possesses his body and kicks his spirit—everything that makes Yuuta Yuuta—out, leaving him a roaming, body-less spirit.
Even so, his powers are still activated by the sight of panties, but if he gets too turned on, he ends up incinerating the Earth. Ask me how I know all this (yes, it was a talking cat…why the heck wouldn’t it be?) The cat is able to turn back time and un-destroy the world, so Yuuta has a second chance to look for a book that will help him get his body back.
He does so by searching his apartment building, which is naturally populated by a colorful mess of comely females: the pink-haired idol Narugino Mikatan (Amamiya Sora), the layabout blonde glasses girl Hikotani Ito (Kotobuki Minako), the brunette gadget girl Daihatsu Meika (Kugimiya Rie), and the green-haired spiritual medium Lovera (or Rabera) Chichibu (Tomatsu Haruka).
Interestingly, Yuuta himself is voiced by a female, namely Inoue Marina (whom I know best as Zetsubou-sensei’s Kitsu Chiri). That’s one strong voice cast, and they all excel at bringing their distinctively-designed charges to life. None of them can see him, but Lovera can sorta detect him, being a medium and all. We’ll see how he ends up reconnecting with them.
Still, even she doesn’t detect him this week. Instead, Yuuta resolves not to get to excited and re-destroy the earth, and meanwhile Meika scours the news for bad guys doing bad stuff and sends out Mikatan in her alter ego as superheroine “Strange Orange.”
Her maho-shojo-style transformation scene is nicely subverted by a picture-in-picture showing what’s actually going on: that she’s just doing an awkward little dance and has to put on her costume the old-fashioned way. That means disrobing in front of Yuuta, who somehow manages to suppress an apocalyptic reaction.
The anointment of powers on Yuuta through means that ensure a steady dose of ecchi will pervade Punchline is mitigated by the fact that other than his heroic bus act he doesn’t have that dominating a role in this episode, despite the fact he’s in almost every frame. He’s an inert observer, watching a side of his neighbors he never knew. I also enjoyed all the various elaborate ways his nose ended up bleeding. There’s quite a bit of appealing Kill la Kill zaniness to the animation in general.
There’s also whole double-edged sword of those powers of his, which demand a certain degree of moderation and restraint—a lesson I hope Punchline will take to heart. When he does blow up the world a second time, before the very cute (and non-ecchi) credits roll—it’s not because he perversely seeks out girls’ panties, but simply the fact that a “Chekhov’s loose thread” in Meika’s knit dress gets caught in Mikatan’s motorcycle, causing it to rapidly unravel. IT COULD HAPPEN TO ANYBODY.