Funnily enough, this isn’t really a fanservice/ecchi anime…
It Actually Made Sense:
Who would have thought it… Punch Line actually made sense in the end! My experience with this show was weird, to say the least. I watched the first few minutes of the first episode when it came out, and for whatever reason the complete absurdity of it made me stop and groan. And I promised I wouldn’t even bother finishing the episode. As Stilts said in his post, it didn’t make a lick of sense. Things were just happening without any logic being applied to it. Why was one of them acting like a superhero? Why did the main character die and come back to life and speak with a talking spirit cat? At the time, I had no interest in watching it, but I heard good things about half way into the season and decided to give it another shot.
And thank God I did. I just had to accept its absurdity and the GAINAX influence that resonated from it, like many other anime try to replicate. But Punch Line channelled the random wackiness as best as it possibly could, and after episode 6 everything actually made sense. Right down to Yuta’s nosebleeds connecting to the end of the world… it actually made sense! As a result, the concept for the series actually became noteworthy, and a lot more creative than I originally gave it credit for. I’m willing to be proven wrong and have my expectations blown out the water, and I certainly got that with the first six episodes of Punch Line.
Playing with Gender:
Besides the series making sense mid-way through, there was another big reveal that ended up overshadowing it. Yuta was genetically a girl. My first reaction was shock, but then admiration. At the time, I thought we’d been given an actual transgender character without it being the driver of the plot. Many complained that it didn’t make sense for Yuta to be trans, because it wasn’t hinted at before, and this wasn’t the type of series that should have to explore such a thing. Which is utter rubbish, if you ask me. Whilst some reactions to Yuta’s gender identity were pleasant and considerate, some were seriously aggressive to the idea of a character defying their gender expectations. And others simply labelled him a reverse-trap, which annoyed me just as much.
But in the end it came down him being an entirely different person from the body he was stuck in. It tied in nicely with the revelations, even if the ‘trapped in the wrong body’ concept was a little disappointing. I suppose nothing will match Hourou Musuko when it comes to transgender characters being represented in anime. Still, I appreciate that Punch Line had a main character that identified with a different gender from the body he was trapped in. It’s not exactly what I interpreted it as initially, but when the truth was revealed it was tastefully done and never made fun of Yuta for continuing to live his life as a boy.
Strong Buildup, Uninspired Payoff:
You may have noticed that I’ve only mentioned events that happened in the first half of the series… and that’s for a good reason. I loved those parts, where nearly every episode entirely took place in that one building, or on its rooftop or its garden. There were a handful of quirky, colourful characters, and their interactions were funny and wacky enough to carry the series. I would have been satisfied with this remaining as a slice of life with a twist, but when the twist came, the actual plot had to happen. And it wasn’t the best, honestly.
Once we went back in time, it started to feel like a different series. Normally I’d be cheering for a shift in tone to something more serious, but with Punch Line I just wanted things to stay light and fun and weird. The action scenes in particular in the last two episodes just did gel with me. It may have been the choreography, or how they felt like an afterthought just so that the finale had some ‘excitement’, but it simply didn’t keep me as entertained as I had been with the goofier character interactions and earlier mysteries.
The build up to the mid-way reveal was fantastic, especially in a marathon viewing. Once I started watching the aftermath-story take shape week by week, my interest dwindled. Still, Punch Line turned out a lot better than I initially gave it credit for. It had some really quirky characters, and the fluid, light animation always looked great. Despite a rather disappointing shift in the later episodes, I have no genuine dislike for Punch Line, even if I had initially mistaken it for some crass ecchi show that would just be about panty shots. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Panties may have played their role in helping Yuta save the world, but there was a lot more to Punch Line than frilly underwear. Including (but not limited to): faux-exorcism, NEET robots, childhood trauma, and a really cute baby bear.