Punchline – 04

pl41

P[anty]line continued its trend of creating more questions than it answers. It tosses a lot of plot and character elements out, hoping some of them stick to the wall, and some of them do. But its small successes are undermined by a stubborn lack of focus, and its underlying. There’s a lot of juicy intrigue lurking beneath the surface, but PL doesn’t seem that interested in letting us in. It’s un-ironic propensity for showing panties for panties’ sake doesn’t inspire confidence it ever will.

pl42

Part of our frustration stems from Yuuta’s molasses-slow progress. Sure, he’s now able to manipulate objects and even briefly possesses and talks through Rabura, but this progress is meaningless if he doesn’t capitalize on it. All he manages to do in his seven minutes as Rabura is thoroughly confuse the girls.

pl43

For the rest of the episode, Yuuta is back to being an inert observer. Instead we’re treated to a weird date Rabura set up with a gentleman caller she claims is from Gliese 832c, who turns out to be an NSA agent who was only using Rabura to try to initiate contact with Daihatsu Meika, whom the U.S. believes is the best person to try to eliminate the virus enabling the Qmay Group to prevent the launch of orbital nukes at an approaching asteroid. If the agent is to be believes, Qmay is actively trying to eliminate the human race. So I guess they’re nihilists?

pl44

Rabura isn’t happy about being used, but still protects “Gliese-sama” when he’s attacked by “Miya-ken”, which brings me to my next grievance with this show, along with its scattered nature: I really don’t like Miya-ken. After Samurai Flamenco, I’m all hapless Super Sentai’d out. He helped out last week, but his presence here is baffling, and not in the way that makes me want to find out.

pl45

I liked how the NSA agent created a rift between Rabura and Meika, with the former taking out her frustrations on the latter. There’s a familial vibe to their drying-off around the kontatsu scene, but then Rabura’s frustration leads her to lash out at Ito, who then turns on Mikatan, mocking her efforts to be the “good girl” and “hero.”

All this fresh clashing of obviously very different personalities is welcome, but it all feels a but rushed and inorganic, especially considering what we’ve learned from these characters thus far via flashbacks. Speaking of those, in the one in the cold open, we see a young Mikatan as one of many captive child test subjects. But it left on the back burner the rest of the episode, like Yuuta’s half-assed possession attempt.

This show is full of enticing tastes of things, but at the end of the day it’s just a bit too all over the place.

7_sesdroppedblank

Punchline – 03

pl31

Punchline has generally a lot of fun to watch, but I’ve found myself struggling to like it as much as I want to, mainly due to its erratic personality. Rather than simply straddle various genres, it tries to operate in every genre, which is a tough proposition for any new show on the block, because it risks not offering enough of one thing to satisfy anyone. It’s throwing everything but the kitchen sink at us, but I’m almost too busy dodging it all to appreciate when something sticks.

pl32

It’s one thing to keep your audience guessing or on their toes; it’s another to frustrate them by constantly tripping them up. So, did this third episode do anything to put the show’s meandering milieu into focus? Yes and no.  It offered perhaps more randomness than previous two episodes, but it gradually built the foundation of something recognizable and admirable, which is this: Korai House is no ordinary teanament.

pl33

“Yeah, we kinda figured that,” you say, but while we knew everything was weird, we didn’t know why until now. Korai house, in fact, is the headquarters for a force for good, in a world that may be ending on the 31st of December. As such, it has drawn numerous seemingly disparate individuals into its walls.

pl34

This all comes to the fore when, in a random attack by some weird masked commando with a turtle biting his junk destroys Mikatan’s mask in an effort to kidnap Ito’s pet bear cub, revealing the secret identity Mikatan worked so hard to keep from Ito, Mrs. Doubtfire-style, before.

pl35

Another “freak” appears in a spandex bodysuit, who is ineffectual against the commando at first, but beats him back with authority after a brief trip into Korai House to do…something that powers him up.

We also get the reveal that Meika is a robot built by a famous genius inventor who told her one day a girl (Mikatan) would come to Korai and Meika would raise her up to be the superheroine she is now. I’m guessing bodysuit guy’s a robot too.

pun36

How the scientist knew all that, along with how the bear healed from a bad knife wound so quickly, and how, if ever, Yuuta will get his body back, are questions that remain unanswered this week. But even though there was still a lot of volatility in the storytelling, I came away from this third episode with a slightly clearer picture of what’s going on.

What still concerns me, however, is the humor, which can be juvenile and obvious at times. Meika and Mikatan’s easily misinterpretable chat elicited some chuckles, but Yuuta blowing up the world at the slightest glance at panties is wearing thin fast.

7_ses

Punchline – 02

pl21

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.

pl21a

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.

pl22

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.

pl23

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.

pl24

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.

ok25

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.

pl25

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.

7_ses

Punchline – 01 (First Impressions)

pl11

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.

pl12

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.

pl14a

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.

pl14

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.

pl15

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).

pl16

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.

pl17

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.

pl18

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.

7_ses