Punchline – 02

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First, the good news: Punchline doesn’t belabor its admittedly dumb “guy gains power by looking at panties” concept; in fact, he doesn’t blow up the Earth once this week! Instead, there was quite a bit of halfway-decent world-building in play this week, with the world in question being Korai House, which feels like a purgatory where its tenants are safe from the harsh reality of the outside world.

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The bad news is that Chiranousuke the cat’s perverted character is already played out, because he’s little more than a font of exposition and lame boob jokes. Also, Yuuta has very little to do this week, and while I like the fact the show feels it doesn’t need to rely on its protagonist to carry and episode, nearly excising him from just the second episode when we barely knew him was a risk. I’m not sure it totally paid off, but I appreciate the fact such a risk was made.

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Mikatan acts as a kind of a cupid of cheer this week, even as she rushes to switch off the TV when her super-heroic alter ego is being interviewed. Here at Korai House, her heroism is limited to offering apple pie, cinnamon, and understanding to Lovera, who is depressed about being a fake exorcist who doesn’t even believe in spirits.

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Despite this, she wants to carry on her family legacy. And while spirit-Yuuta doesn’t do much, he does manage to break a vase Lovera was trying to get the spirit she thinks is there to break. We also get a flashback similar to the one in which he met Mikatan, in which we learn that Yuuta’s sister was once a tenant too, which is how he knew and became pretty close to Lovera. Not romantically, mind you (there’s a clear age difference), but as a little brother-slash-shoulder to cry (or complain) on.

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As Yuuta floats about unseen and unheard, the girls unite in the room of Ito, who despite several increasingly desperate and funny attempts to do so, is unable to conceal the fact she’s harboring a rescue bear cub, in violation of Korai House’s no-pets policy. Meika is ready to throw the book at Ito, but Mika and Lovera talk her down, convincing her to allow further investigation of said abandoned bear prior to summary judgment.

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After the confrontation in Ito’s room, Mika joins Meika on the roof (where Yuuta is also hanging out) and ponders why Ito is a hermit who no longer goes to school. We then flash back to Yuuta playing a video game and then hearing someone shouting next door as he’s beaten, confirming that the person who beat him is in fact his neighbor Ito. Her truancy has afforded her ample time to get very good at MMOs.

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This is my favorite Yuuta flashback, because he neither bumped into Ito nor knew her through his older sister. Rather, the two met each other through an activity they mutually enjoy, and sensing she was in need of a little escape, showed her a beautiful secret place in the game even she didn’t know about. He’s not able to say much without being branded “insensitive”, but he was able to do something that put a smile on her face.

Then Mika (and we) learn what he knows from Meika: that her father is a powerful politician who essentially disowned her because she was a liability. Furthermore, even as her neighbors plan a party to cheer her up, she appears on an online New Year’s list of “victims,” making us curious as to what “craziness” exactly went down at school to cause her to stop going.

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Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku – 02

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I’m really digging Mikagura’s reverse-gender shonen story and its boisterous, manic energy. But as rowdy and enthusiastic as Eruna is, she remains homeless and hungry, and joining the Going Home Club only netted her an extra minute in the shower and a tiny portion of natto. She has to start winning battles…but how?

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Eruna decides to visit all the high-ranking clubs seeking advice. Kuzuryuu ignores her, Himi will only help if Eruna buys her dessert (which she can’t afford), Seisa doesn’t even let her in the house, and while Imizu Asuhi is so cute and feminine Eruna could swear he’s a she, she ends up accidentally setting off his telescope gun. The recurring theme of these encounters is clear: this is something she needs to figure out for herself, as they did. If she can’t, she doesn’t deserve to be there.

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With no direction whatsoever, Eruna takes a game Shigure up on his offer to assist her, and while she comes up with cool names for the moves she tries on him, at the end of the day, she’s only hitting him with her bookbag and sleeping bag, then getting pulled back into her dating sim and her beloved 2D GF Yuriko (the timing of this joke is great). The rest is merely her delusions…and she knows that…but she’s not sure what else to do.

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When she crosses paths with Seisa, she delivers a confession of sorts; that the whole reason she came to the school was because she wanted to hang out with a lovely person like the girl in the brochure, and she’s committed to trying her very best to make her proud of her.

The exchange reminds me of what a male character of similar background and personality might say to the girl he likes (if he had he the guts to do so), only Eruna happens to also be a girl (and does have the guts). She’s just a super-likable character I can’t help but wanna root for. I know, that’s the point, but she show hit the mark well.

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But as her battle neared, and Eruna showed no signs of being remotely prepared, I’ll admit I started to feel a little apprehensive. Eruna can imagine whatever positive outcome she likes and delude herself that’s it’s going to happen, but she gets a cold dose of reality when what she considers a pretty clever ambush attempt is foiled easily by the experienced Himi. Himi is also pretty cocky, remarking how she wants to wrap this dawdle up soon so she can go eat some snacks.

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Just when the weight of what defeat would mean begins to slowly descend upon a limping, winded Eruna, she comes across a door covered in seals that release when she touches it. Inside is a room full of light where a slightly more throwback version of herself tells her to awaken her power; the power she had inside all along, but just didn’t know how to tap into. After this encounter, a switch goes off, and suddenly Eruna is dodging Himi’s attack with ease and flying through the school like a bat out of hell.

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As Eruna’s strength, speed, and agility rise exponentially, she’s overcome by a combination of disbelief and excitement, and the animation of the episodes gets bolder and jauntier to keep up with her. With a great beam of light emanating from her index finger, she shatters all three of Himi’s crystals simultaneously, earning her a decisive upset win.

Perhaps her delusions of greatness were really an expression her hidden power trying to emerge. Now they have, and that greatness is no longer just a delusion.

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It’s a win the whole school watched from their smartphones, including Seisa, who certainly looks impressed with what she saw, and all of a sudden Eruna is no longer the over-fantasizing, hapless rookie underdog…but an imposing upstart who’s only just cracked the surface of the potential her bloodline has passed down to her.

Perhaps most important, people will start to stop looking down on her; not just because she can soar high into the sky now, but because she made the same breakthrough all of them made before her. Now she really is one of them.

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