I’m not sure just what the fuck this is, but it’s either incredibly brilliant or incredibly stupid. Of course there’s no good reason why it can’t be both, and I’m beginning to think that’s exactly what it is. There’s an art to this seeming randomness, and I don’t just mean actually stitching it all together in terms of plot (though I do expect the show to do that). Even the randomness itself is well thought-out – if you just stick a bunch if monkeys in front of keyboards forget Hamlet, you’re not even going to get good slapstick. And this is very good slapstick.
I was dizzy trying to keep up with all the zaniness and odd references here…
- That Engrish!
- Mikatan mistakenly calling a Christmas tree “Yakushimaru Ritsuko” – WTF? Is that a reference to the singer Yakushmaru Etsuko? Mika being an idol I guess it could be, but I laughed (especially at Yuu-tan’s reaction).
- Mikatan trying to fool Ito into thinking she’s not Strange Juice – great physical comedy there.
- A tokusatsu hero named “Miyazawa Kenji” – again, WTF? Miyazawa Kenji was a very famous social activist and author, but of course anime fans know him best as the creator of Night on the Galactic Railroad.
- I think we all know that hero’s true identity…
- That gag about the declining birthrate – oy.
- The whole sitcom gag with Rabura eavesdropping and Meika talking about how “that thing that comes once a month” not showing up was sheer brilliance. I mean, “Handstand Beginner’s Monthly” – come on!
The thing is, of course, that we actually got a whole lot of plot movement here too. We now know what QMay is – either a terrorist group that wants to destroy the Earth or one that wants to expose a coverup that it’s going to happen on New Year’s Eve (which is in about a week). They’re very interested in Muhi, even trying to kidnap him. And Muhi seems to have a miraculous ability to recover from wounds. And whoever is taking over Yuuta’s body is masquerading as a super sentai (who gets his power-ups from panties). I’d thought it was probably Yuuta taking over his own body, but now I’m not as convinced.
The big shoe to drop, of course, is the reveal that Meika is an android (who’s bad at all things physical). Her father was a great inventor, but he’s left only two inventions inside Kourai House – Meika herself and what looks like a fax machine inside a refrigerator (clearly there’s a pun going on with “Reizoukou” but my Kanji is too weak to figure it out). Meika’s role seems to be to somehow save the world in concert with (I think) Ito. Oh, and Yuuta is apparently a lolicon, or else he’s really hot for Mikatan.
There are certainly still some gaps in the resume for Punchline, the biggest one for me being that we’ve really gotten no insight into Yuuta’s character. Is that a function of the fact that Uchikoshi-sensei’s background is writing VN scenarios, or have we just not gotten there yet? One thing you can say about the old Gainax screwball shows like FLCL – you had a real sense of who the MC was right from the start, and it was easy to care about the character. I like Yuuta well enough but he’s just filling a role at this point (though admirably, especially when it comes to reaction shots and deadpan asides), and that’s holding the series back a bit.
Still – every episode of Punchline has made me laugh harder than any other series this season at least once. In the vein not just of old Gainax comedy but also the likes of Monty Python and SCTV, Punchline is showing great mastery of the art of merging smart and dumb humor. It’s also admirably dabbling in the kind of physical and misunderstanding humor that’s as much old Hollywood screwball comedy (think Hawkes and Sturges) as anything anime-related. This show is smart about being stupid, and I get the sense that it’s pretty creatively ambitious too – but this is a high-wire act it’s engaging in, so it remains to be seen if Uchikoshi and the team of Gainax expats running this series at MAPPA can pull it off.