Anime Review: Punchline

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I admit that I’ve been putting off a review of this anime for awhile now, and that’s a shame. Despite its first glance, I found the series overall to be very clever in laying out such a ridiculous plot and it is one of my favorite shows to have come out of last year. While I naturally recommend everything that I talk about (including stuff I don’t like), this was among my strongest anime recommendations among friends for 2015. To me, this is a series that isn’t properly judged until you see the whole thing. And when it comes to getting to the punchline, this anime delivers!

But before I start this review, I should probably lay out the scope of what I will be talking about.

  1. This is a comedy series. There may be a few times where the show gets really serious, only to sucker punch (pun intended) the audience into how ridiculous it is!
  2. I will not deny that there are lots of panty shots (pun also intended, if you speak Japanese), due to the nature of the show and its characters. You would be right to think I’m crazy to pretend they’re not there.
  3. If you’ve read my other reviews, you should already expect some spoilers. And given that it’s tough for me to explain specific aspects of this series without them, consider this my SPOILER tag that spans to the end of the article!

Meika

If you thought that Meika was just a hot girl, then you’re more of an automaton than she is!

Punchline brings us into the world of Yuta Iridatsu, a boy who enjoys the simple life in the quaint apartment complex called the Korai House. Compared to the rest of the most eclectic of residents who don’t seem to have anything in common, he seems to be the most average guy. But when he gets caught in the middle of a bus heist, Yuta’s soul is separated from his body!

Yuta is determined to get his soul back into his body, had it not been for the fact that someone else now seems to be in possession of it. And to make matters worse, he receives a message from the talking ghost cat, Chiranosuke, that he is now part of a social experiment to help humanity! I’m pretty sure he didn’t sign up for that!

Now, Yuta has to find a way back into his body, save humanity, and somehow pay his rent at the Korai House, with only the power to possess others with cinnamon at his disposal. Sounds simple enough, except for one thing:

Whenever Yuta sees girls’ panties, his nose bleeds profusely and the entire world explodes!

punchline-nosebleed

Ah man! Not again!

I won’t try to reconstruct the entire series just to get to the punchline. However I do find it helpful to watch this series holistically. Some of the elements in the story are inspired by Indian culture, from the use of play-on words that are (or sound like) Sanskrit words,  to the metaphysical properties of Yuta’s body, mind, and soul. The broader Indian philosophy calls for a holistic understanding of the world and oneself, so examining things in parts — while useful — will never capture the complete truth about anything; and that goes for this series as well. I would elaborate some more on this, but I admit that I don’t know enough about Indian philosophy to go any further.

But before I get into the specific details I found interesting in this series, I should mention the girls.

Yuta may be the only boy in an apartment full of girls, but his situation is hardly something to brag about. He shares the residence with the sickly vigilante Mikatan Narugino, the shut-in of circumstance Ito Hikiotani and her baby brother bear Muhi, the witch doctor in-training Rabura Chichibu, and the android landowner Meika Daihatsu.

While I do like all of them, my favorite of these characters is Ito. I don’t consider myself a shut-in exactly, but I do have a tendency to avoid a lot of people in real life, kind of like her. When push comes to shove, she’s more likely to run away, and while I hate to admit it, I can relate to that. But even so, she isn’t one to forget the few who are important to her; and whether or not you believe it, she also knows when to negotiate and when to fight!

punchline-ito

And besides, bears are awesome!

What ensues is hardly what I would consider a “harem” situation, as Yuta doesn’t seem to have any romantic attraction to any of these girls and vice versa. Sure, Mikatan is revealed to be his childhood friend, but their relationship appears to be nothing more than close friends who share the same unfortunate past.

They may be the weirdest bunch of residents, but the ghost Yuta witnesses how they all bond with each other in a short amount of time. And in the critical moments to come in this series, it is all the little moments put together that will establish their unshakable friendship.

Cheermancy

And whatever this is.

Yuta is supposedly tasked to save humanity, but because “humanity” is such a vague concept, he has to learn what it means to be “human.”

Yuta had witnessed the entire world explode several times on accident after he was exposed to two too many panties (his limit is two, okay?). Having the power to destroy the world and redo that part of history seems to be something very powerful and very inhuman. But upon learning from these ridiculous mistakes, there are moments where I think he demonstrates that he is more human than we may realize.

DeathThe simple act of destroying the world would kill every human on Earth, and Yuta has witnessed this many times at the blink of an eye (or a nosebleed). The very threat that all humanity would perish in an instant may be something that many of us fear, but to a normal human being, it seems impractical to grieve for all of humanity. At that point, every life on Earth is reduced to a number, that our very existence doesn’t even matter. But when Ito dies in one of these instances, Yuta grieves for her, and is determined to go back in time to prevent that.

Chiranosuke thinks that this is a very selfish act on Yuta’s part, and that may very well be. It’s hard to deny that there is a selfish aspect to our existence, but what I find to be even more troubling is reducing all humans to an abstract thing called “humanity.” We may all be of the same species, but there isn’t much we all have in common. What Yuta is responding to isn’t as selfish as it is acknowledging his friend’s existence, namely Ito. And he’s willing to do anything in his power to ensure that she will continue to live in another life. Saving a friend seems more human to me than trying to save all of humanity in an instant.

But saving the world he must. Because come December 31 of their fictional universe, an asteroid is set to slam into Earth, and no one was there to intervene with it, thus, destroying humanity as we know it!

But perhaps there is another way, when Yuta returns to his body…

Fight

They’re here to kick ass and look at panties. And they’re all out of — whoa, wait!

Nine years prior to these events, Yuta and Mikatan were two of three test subjects — Pine and Chiyoko respectively — known as Uberfiers, along with another girl Guriko. Uberfiers are people who are given superhuman powers, and were tested in these three to accelerate the process of human evolution. Each one has a different catalyst for channeling their Uberfier power; and if you haven’t guessed, Yuta’s is by looking at panties.

As you can imagine, Pine, Chiyoko, and Guriko never chose to be test subjects for a power they never wanted to begin with. And to make matters worse, all three of them are scheduled to be terminated after the Uberfier project comes to an abrupt end, probably due to government funding or something. Thus the three of them were on the run when a life-threatening accident happens to them, and in an evolutionary response to survive, Pine, Chiyoko, and Guriko switch bodies with each other: Pine in Chiyoko’s body, Chiyoko in Guriko’s body, and Guriko in Pine’s body.

This is why anatomically-minded folks like Meika identify Yuta as a girl, even though Yuta identifies as a boy.

What happened to Yuta and Mikatan was terrible, but being an Uberfier has become a part of who they are, and they can’t let go of that so easily. But as crazy as it sounds, they, along with the rest of the residents at the Korai House, will come together to form an entourage of unlikely heroes known as Justice Punch.

Justice Punch

Justice Punch: Assemble!

A long time ago, Meika’s creator Prof. Tenga Daihatsu received a strange prophecy through a fax machine sent by a mysterious witch doctor (ahem… foreshadowing). The fax outlined the events that would lead to the end of the world, from the asteroid heading for Earth to the rise of the cult group Qmay that would attempt to liberate a select few people in its own selfish way. But in the wake of this critical point in the future, a hero called Strange Juice will also rise and form a band that would save humanity: Justice Punch.

“Justice Punch” was aptly named from the English word for justice (duh) and the Sanskrit word “pancha,” meaning Five. And Strange Juice is none other than Mikatan, the Ally of Justice (another pun, if you know Japanese).

No one would expect the residents of the Korai House to become heroes who would save humanity, and to some extent, they wouldn’t either. But because of the friendship they developed in those little nonsensical moments throughout the series, they had something else that’s arguably more worthy to fight for: each other! To make their happy memories last, to ensure they would continue to make more memories together in the future, the Korai House must stand. Saving the world is just an added benefit toward that goal!

Earth

I don’t know about you guys, but that Earth is freakin’ kawaii!

But if Justice Punch were to save humanity, what does that entail? While there doesn’t seem to be any problem on the surface, both Yuta and Mikatan (or should I say Pine and Chiyoko) have a bigger dilemma on a personal level: the leader of Qmay is Guriko.

When Justice Punch fights Qmay and hacks into the US Military’s nuclear arsenal to blow up the coming asteroid, the three Uberfiers meet once again, but on the battlefield. And while Guriko is in direct opposition with both Yuta and Mikatan, the fact remains that they were all once friends, and have a distinct past that made them more unique than any other human on Earth. The external battle of their bodies rages on, but an internal battle of their minds is also in the balance. And when Mikatan is close to drawing her very last breath, Yuta makes a final decision.

Climax

I’d prefer you watch this series for yourself to get the full meaning of this scene, but Yuta decides to switch bodies with Mikatan. Guriko sees this as an act to possibly return their souls back to their original bodies, but Yuta declines. Instead, Yuta plans to die as Mikatan, and hopes that Guriko will remain in her current body to contemplate on her sins for the rest of her life. Nothing could be more fitting to save both of his childhood friends: Chiyoko for her body, and Guriko for her soul.

And thus comes the actual punch line to the series (yes, I was getting to that): Yuta Iridatsu’s ghost had set up this entire narrative the whole time! And why not? Yuta’s mind dies with Mikatan’s body, thus setting the ghost premise. And since he can slip through time, he went back in time to possess the young Rabura to send a fax to Prof. Daihatsu, so that the residents of the Korai House will help to save the world! See? I told you it all comes together on the whole!

So is this really a series that makes no sense whatsoever? Is it really making critical points on how we view the universe, humanity, and our sense of self? Or is it really just about the puns and the panties? I’ll let you decide that for yourself, but for now, I think of this as one very clever anime that pulls some of the most ridiculous punches!

Panties

And we’ll just leave it at that.

So if you like a clever comedy anime that might make you think about truths of the world, or if you really like panties, watch Punchline!

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