‘If he [Yuta] sees underwear, humanity will be destroyed!?’
Yuta is on a bus. The bus has been hijacked and is about to crash. Super girl Strange Juice comes to the rescue. But then terrified Yuta catches a glimpse of her panties – and suddenly gains super powers of his own to help save the day. Unfortunately a second glimpse of panties provokes a volcanic nosebleed which precipitates the destruction of the earth by an asteroid. Rewind… and Yuta finds himself a disembodied spirit with a white cat spirit guide, Chiranosuke, who proceeds to tell him that he has to save the earth from the asteroid. Which is going to be difficult as he no longer has his own body…as it seems that someone else is using it. Luckily, as Chiranosuke tells him, the laws of temporal physics don’t apply to disembodied spirits; Yuta must just go back and create a different future. But no more nosebleeds!
The craziness of the first episodes of Punch Line may put some viewers off. The panty shots may put off some more. But bear with this series; all kinds of little hints are there from the get-go. It uses the teenage boy/harem/nosebleed trope in an inventive and different way to tell a story that has much more in common with Groundhog Day, Re:Life and even Steins;Gate than your average ecchi titillation show. Yuta’s four female housemates in House Korai: NEET Ito; spirit medium Rabura; scientific genius Meika (who inherited the house) and idol Narugino (Strange Juice) make an appealing if ditsy group of friends (a little reminiscent in their eccentric ways and strong bond of friendship of the Amars in Princess Jellyfish). Mix in super powers, international conspiracies, a twisty plot and a dazzling mélange of humour and nail-biting drama and you have a truly entertaining watch.
Punch Line is not based on an existing manga, game or novel – and this is one of its advantages as it isn’t hampered by the restrictions of shoehorning an existing narrative into anime form (the script writer, Kotaro Uchikoshi, comes from the world of video games). The individual components may not be very original in themselves but the clever way they are thrown together, matched with some dazzling animation and surprising (yet well-timed) revelations make for a tightly-constructed drama and a satisfying ending.
And those panties? How many anime TV series have a Lingerie Designer on their staff? Yes, they’re a recurring motif but used in a knowing, post-modern, ironic way. (The elegant eye catches could have been designed for an expensive lingerie catalogue…) Should I, a woman viewer, have been bothered by the objectification of female underwear – and the females wearing it? Well maybe, but that isn’t what Punch Line is really about. Even the title of the show – that instantly makes a western viewer think of the last line of a joke – is not what it seems. But you’ll have to watch the show to find out its true meaning!
The Blu-ray release from Animatsu delivers an easily navigable menu and superb quality of sound and image.
The series is presented in the original Japanese with subtitles and the translation deals rather well with many of the jokes and puns in the script. (Although the few English lines spoken by ‘Americans’ don’t convince; is it so hard to find a US voice actor in Japan?) The voice actors for the main quintet of housemates deliver lively, attractive performances, with Marina Inoue particularly well cast as Yuta and Yuri Yoshida mischievously feline as Chiranosuke.
The Opening Theme,”PUNCH LINE!” by Shokotan ♥ Denpagumi, delivers a wild variety of different moods from hyperactive to dreamily trippy to match the colourful collage of images on show. By contrast, the Ending Theme: “Mitsu Mitsu Mitsu” by Ayumikurikamaki, is upbeat J-pop matched (in most episodes, though not all!) with charmingly (yet ironic) children’s book-style artwork depicting the main quintet. There is even an insert song in Episode 12: “Yakusoku no Kana” ( Beyond Our Promise) by Sora Amamiya which is a more thoughtful/soulful ballad. Interestingly, the soundtrack for the series has been composed by veteran composer and music producer Tetsuya Komuro (Vampire Hunter D, Street Fighter II) his first anime score for a long while.
The extras comprise textless OP and ED and four trailers for other Sentai releases.
Punch Line is a refreshingly different, clever and watchable show which will repay several viewings, whether you’re into panties, asteroids or cat spirit guides.