Punch Line is a terrible piece of garbage, and I absolutely love it. Okay maybe love is a strong word, but I haven’t found a show this confusingly awful yet amazing in a long time. And when I say awful, I mean awful. The plot here is ridiculously idiotic, the fan service is so over the top it seems like it can’t go any further, and it’s attempts at comedy are laughably generic. However, and I say this completely sincerely, the aesthetics are amazing to look at, the character writing is strangely naturalistic and tonally jarring with the rest of the show, and there seems to be something potentially great lurking underneath the surface of panty lines and ridiculous ghost time travel. This show is the weirdest combination of terrible content, and amazing talent that I have ever seen. So let’s talk about it!
Let’s start off with the plot, which out of everything in Punch Line’s vast almoganation of ideas and WTF moments, is probably the most cohesive part of the show. Not that it’s particularly good though. Anyways, our story here follows main character Yuuta Iridatsu, a young adult who accidentally ends up getting involved a bus hijacking incident. Luckily for him though, super idol hero Strange Juice saves the day, though Iridatsu still has to push the ringleader off the bus. Sadly, this in combination with his terrible ability to not nosebleed when seeing panties, leads him to pass out. Eventually he wakes up, but instead of being in his body he’s now a spirtual entity, along with his feline guide Chiranosuke. Chiranosuke then explains that his body has been taken over by some unknown person, and that the only way to fix it is to find the Nandala Gandala book in his apartment complex, aka the Korai House. However, if he sees too much panties the world will be destroyed!
Despite being the most promising part of the show, Punch Line’s story is currently a hot mess. The basic concept for one thing is completely stupid on every level. When a boy sees panties the world gets hit by an asteroid that destroys all life… Why? Who thought this was a good idea? Of course, then they add a bunch of stuff that just makes that nonsensical plot point seem tame in comparison. Currently there are so many government agencies, online hitman, and other strange things happening that watching a single episode feels like a game of spot the new, under explained plot twist. Still, there is potential, but as these episodes have gone by it’s felt like the show has just been getting more and more confusing. If they don’t explain something soon, then by the end I don’t even think I’ll know what I’m watching anymore!
If there is one thing I can compliment the screenwriter for though, it’s that he definitely isn’t incompetent. Kotaro Uchikoshi is the writer for the Zero Escape games, which are apparently pretty damn good. In fact there a lot of really subtly great things about Punch Line in general. For example, the characters are always introduced very well, relying on very little exposition and instead focusing on naturalistic conversation scenes filled with little character details. It make the overall atmosphere feel a little more realistic, well as realistic as you can get for a show like this, and it comes off as a lot less clunky than your average anime character backstory. However, you can also see some of his video game roots become flaws within the show itself. For some reason, Kotaro also included a weird spiritual power level up system, which feels like it really should belong in an adventure game rather than an anime. I get the feeling it may be a joke poking at his visual novel roots, but it still feels pretty useless.
Overall though that seems to probably be the biggest problem for Punch Line; it feels aimless. This show is very obviously inspired by FLCL, considering that the staff is made up of a lot of ex-Gainax employees, but right off the bat Punch Line seems to be lacking the strong themes that show had. Punch Line may be full of creativity and passion, but I’m having a very hard time really latching onto any of the show’s characters and plot points because there is no grounding. It feels like it’s just randomness without a purpose. And yeah, not every show has to be meaningful and thought provoking, but when your show is this crazy for no reason, it’s no surprise when the final product ends up feeling a little hollow. It also doesn’t help that the show just very funny. While I did get a few chuckles out of the “adult” humor, it mostly came off as juvenile and lame. For the most part it’s generic fanservice gags, and that honestly isn’t very interesting.
Luckily though, the direction and animation for the series is really good! I know some people are bound to be turned off by the over the top use of color and moe art design, but in my opinion it looks really nice. Movement is fluid, the character designs are easy on the eyes, and the experience is very visually cohesive. Still I will admit that the overabundance of sensory detail can get tiring at times, and the bright colors can be a bit jarring during more serious scenes. In the end though, if there is one thing MAPPA has proved with their recent output, it’s that they know how to animate and animate with consistent quality control.
Despite my praises though, none of them really excuse the many complaints I currently have for Punch Line. The plot and characters may have potential, but currently the show seems more interested in presenting more new and crazy twists, rather than expanding upon its large abundance of already established content. Yes, this may change in future episodes, but in my opinion if you’re going to bait your audience, that bait should be pretty high quality. As it stands these beginning episodes have had mixed to positive results. In episode 4 they started introducing some nice character conflicts, but on the other hand the large amounts of fanservice has still yet to disappear. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see how this show delivers its final punchline in order to truly judge it.