Review/discussion about: Punch Line
Carl Sagan, a famous physicist, once said, “Extinction is the rule. Survival is the exception.” Whether we are conscious of it or not, our lives are filled with numerous instances of us simply trying to survive. Having a healthy diet keeps our body working well whereas wearing a seatbelt in a car provides immeasurable safety. Even something as simple as looking both ways when crossing the street could potentially save our life. We do these things – increasing our chances to live – because we do not want to die. Sounds rudimentary, but there is not a whole lot more to it than that; we all want to experience a “supremely happy future.” Punch Line is apocalyptic aversion incarnate, that’s random in nature but not quite memorable.
Punch Line starts with a bang, not a punch. After the super hero “Strange Juice” prevents a bus hijacking, young Yuuta Iridatsu has his body taken over by another soul, forcing him to find a special book capable of getting him his body back. But as the tale unfolds, strange events and mysteries come to the forefront.
When a dice is tossed or a coin is flipped, the outcome of either scenario is random. Sure, there are specific outcomes attainable – a number one through six, heads or tails – but if the experiment is carried out with no bias, then the dice or the coin will provide a completely random “answer” on each use. This is Punch Line’s approach during the first half of the anime. Everything involved is absolutely random with no sense, direction, reason, or otherwise rationality placed behind it. There are talking, perverted, ghost cats, invisibility cloaks in the shape of squids, and power-ups provided through panty peeking; cinnamon makes poltergeists stronger, bears that have been genetically modified to further an organization’s plans, and a giant robot that shoots fireworks; and there is even a weird, therapeutic dance that involves putting on a pigeon-head mask.
The randomness is silly and initially seems to have zero purpose, and to an extent that is correct. Punch Line intentionally leans on the wacky and ridiculous to keep the narrative shrouded in the mystery it boasts. It doesn’t want the audience to understand what in the world is going on because part of the fun is trying to put the pieces together while dealing with the zaniness, and the randomness aids in that endeavor. Think of it like the dice or the coin – the randomness encountered is impossible to predict but there is a set amount of “answers” regardless of the probability involved. Besides keeping everything hidden plot-wise, the randomness is at least used for one thing: comedy. Looking at the first half compared to the second half it is clear that the random bits are meant to bring laughter to those watching. This type of comedy is often received well due to the uniqueness it brings and its quick-paced nature, both of which appear here.
In the second half of the anime, randomness gives way to coherency and the comedy is replaced by dramatic elements. What once was unknown becomes common knowledge through the show’s gradual connection of the dots. That robot that shoots fireworks is used by Ito because of her amazing video game skills; the invisibility cloak shaped like a squid is worn to stealthily defeat some bad guys; and the pigeon-head dance finds use when summoning spirits. All the while the show’s smaller plot mysteries are revealed due to the shift in perspective; instead of Yuuta missing specific days or not being able to see certain scenarios, he takes on a more active role in the festivities. Now, not all of the randomness is used to the anime’s advantage – Muhi, the regenerating bear, is apparently incredibly important but is hardly utilized and Chiranosuke, the talking ghost cat, is little more than a guide post – but it manages to cover the majority of its bases.
Also of importance is the time-travel aspect which rests comfortably among the rest of Punch Line’s randomness. Something paramount in any time-travel tale is making absolutely sure that there are no plot holes to speak of. It’s a lot easier having them in narratives that use time-travel because of the paradoxical and cyclical nature of them. For Punch Line, it’s not a vital part to the anime, but it is there nonetheless. To that end, it successfully avoids any massive errors in its timeline near the end through Yuuta’s final actions, making everything as logical as possible.
Beyond the randomness, mystery, and time-travel, there are a few problems that the narrative as a whole maintains. Thematically speaking, there isn’t much; the idea of fighting for the future and the need for friendship is barely explored and essentially lost among the random moments. The actual plot with “W” and the “Qmay Group” is handled poorly since the audience never really sees or learns much about them besides what is said in passing. But worst of all is the timing of the plot twist and the execution of it. Having to wait so long, and thereby needing to sit through so much incoherency, makes the narrative less of an adventure and more of an obstacle before it really gets going.
Punch Line takes place primarily in one area: the boarding house where the cast members reside. As such, there isn’t too much diversity when it comes to the locations visited, but it is present within the house itself. Each character has their room and subsequently their own themes attached to them. Rabura’s is purple and filled with weird objects to match her divination powers. Meika’s is green, mechanical, and futuristic. And Ito’s is dark and blue due to her recluse status, with cluttering rampant. The anime also employs stylistic eye-catches at the break between parts A and B. They often feature the women in nothing but their underwear (panties and bra) but the old-school look to them makes the pictures quite refined.
The character designs are not amazing but at least provide a good sense of individuality. Like their rooms, the characters often have a specific color attributed to them – Ito wears blue-striped socks, Mikatan is all pink, etc. – but they each have their own nice amount of detail on top this. Meika has her glasses and large headphones whereas Rabura has her earrings, sexy dress, and teal-bun hair. Their colorings coincide with their personality: Meika is yellow for happiness, Mikatan is pink for girly, Rabura is purple for beauty, and Ito is blue for sadness, all of which demonstrate the attention their designs received.
Actual animation for the show is roughly around average. There’s surprisingly quite a bit of action involved for the majority of the show, but it isn’t too extravagant. Hand-to-hand combat is the norm, with jumping, floating, and clothes ruffling being located here and there. The characters often have overzealous reactions as well that adds variety. But the greatest sequences come near the end, where the finale involves missiles, tanks, robots, brawls, and swords that increase anything the show did previously.
Punch Line’s weakest link is by far the characters that traverse it.
Of particular note is the antagonist; Ryuuto – who is really Guri in Pine’s original body – acts as the main adversary, but this is not explicitly known until much later. For whatever reason, though, even when he is introduced, the show continues to keep his motivations a secret. She wants her friends to join her on the ark that will escape the meteor’s blast, but why she is so bent on murdering nearly all of humanity is not explained. That is, until right near end in an attempt to make her plight a bit more relatable or at the minimum understandable. It makes sense, that she wishes to enact the “same” pain on the people who did this to her or anyone else in the future, but her development comes too little, too late to be meaningful.
Interestingly, Narugino – who is really Chiyoko in Guri’s original body – doesn’t fare much better. Growing up, she was slated as being a “hero of justice,” due to her overwhelming powers through Uberfication and training at the hands of Meika. When the anime gets underway, she does not do much outside of attempting to conceal her identity, and even then, when she is revealed to be “Strange Juice,” nothing really comes of it. In essence, her character is there to expound on parts of the past; her, Pine’s, and Chiyoko’s younger days, what she went through following their separation, and what led her to the point she is at now.
She is not an incredibly deep or complex character which would not be a bad thing, and is even handled nicely, except at the finale. There, she rather selfishly goes against orders and indirectly kills her best friend. The idea was to create a scenario in which Guri “atones for her sins,” Pine, who has lived literally 6 billion and more lives, completes his duty, and Chiyoko follows her “hero of justice” mantra by sacrificing her person to protect Pine. But her actions were quite unnecessary considering what happened and even contradictory because of the results.
To make matters worse, Yuuta – whose soul is actually in Chiyoko’s original body (confused yet?) – is quite the lame main character. As was briefly talked about earlier, the first half has him taking on a passive role; the second half an active one. But throughout the whole season, it is difficult to determine what he wants or what he wishes to accomplish. Through him, it becomes quite evident how story-driven the anime is; his character is all comedy and information gathering without granting him much in the way of development. The anime attempts to make his drive more personable through a few situations involving all of the residents, but he never comes off as “one of the gang” and subsequently his reason for fighting to save the world – protecting his friends – is rather weak. This in turn makes the ending a moot point, since his decision does not have much of a basis nor was there enough focus on his actual character to make him worth caring about.
The rest of the main cast – Meika, Rabura, and Ito – likewise find themselves sitting low on the totem pole. At least with Ito, the anime gives her a transitional phase, where she moves away from shy and lonesome to determined and friendly through the experiences she has at the house. As for the other two, Meika is a robot and Rabura works with ghosts, but that is the extent of who they are. If anything, they all have one commonality: an everlasting bond.
The opening theme is pretty good, with various tempos filling the piece to make it a very fun listen. The various vocalists, combined with the strange instruments and catchy beats, create quite the random arrangement, which is undoubtedly fitting given the anime’s content. The ending theme also manages to be well-composed, with the first half having some nice guitar playing while the second half has an easy-to-follow beat.
As for the rest of the soundtrack, it’s mostly filled with electronic instruments (such as in “Pressure” and “Agility”), tracks consisting of otherworldly sounds (such as in “State of Tension” and “Invisible Fear”) that, like the OP, find themselves fitting snuggly within the confines of the show’s randomness and dooms day setting. Others, like “Victim,” are signature to the anime – it’s the song that plays when Yuuta is viewing some panties. Others still, like “Deep in the Past,” are very melancholic, rounding out the depressing moments poignantly. While some of the tracks blend together, it is still an interesting OST that does its job.
Voice acting for Punch Line is somewhere above average. Special shout-outs are deserved for Sora Amamiya as Mikatan for her girly voice and Marina Inoue as Yuuta for giving a more androgynous voice to match the character’s predicament.
I can’t say that I liked this one. Part of me wished that the show focused solely on the “ecchi” elements, since the panty viewing was not as critical to the plot as it was originally made out to be. This became quite evident when the second half had nothing to do with the first half’s problem of Yuuta seeing said panties; no longer was it about avoiding them entirely but instead only seeing them now and again when the plot demanded.
At the same time, super random comedy like this one had is not up my alley. I do not mind a bit of randomness, but events like the pigeon-head dance and especially Chiranosuke the talking ghost cat were not funny to me in the slightest. Along these same lines, I was not too fond of the characters themselves. Mikatan could be cute, but Yuuta was not comical, Ito and Meika were somewhat annoying, and Rabura did not have nearly enough screen-time to make her relevant.
Punch Line is completely random and, oddly enough, simultaneously not. The art and animation is good, as are certain musical pieces. But the story’s minor flaws, the poorly executed characters, and the stale comedy prevent the anime from being something more. While the cast members might have achieved a “supremely happy future,” the whole package certainly did not.
Story: Fine, the randomness is used effectively, the time-travel aspect makes sense, but issues such as little thematic presence, a lackluster plot, and poor timing on the twist weaken the experience
Animation: Good, nice art style, nice character designs, about average actual animation
Characters: Bad, Ryuuto (Guri), Mikatan (Chiyoko), and Yuuta (Pine) are all rather weak, with Rabura, Meika, and Ito barely being passable
Sound: Good, good OP, okay ED, interesting soundtrack, above average VA work
Enjoyment: Bad, the “ecchi” moments are boring, the random comedy is a huge miss, and the characters are largely forgettable
Final Score: 5/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3