Things took quite a predictable turn on Punchline this week, as the show seems to be following the script I more or less expected it might be – but on the bright side, it did so in about the most entertaining fashion it’s done anything for a good while. We’re finally getting an arc for the main character (albeit a fairly rote one) with well over half the series gone, and the mysteries underlying the larger plot are – so far – being addressed in Occam’s Razor fashion.
I do think the horse has left the barn as far as Yuuta is concerned – I just don’t buy the sincerity in waiting until this late in the fame for the protagonist to matter, though it’s pretty classic VN storytelling. But it’s better than nothing, and both literally and figuratively it’s playing out as if an invisible boy-girl had suddenly become visible. Not only do Yuuta’s circumstances sort of matter at last, but the rest of Kourai House is actually acknowledging he exists – even expressing some concern about him in the wake of the bus incident.
Yes, we’re back in the wake of the bus accident, as Yuuta has successfully U-turned. And yes, I’m comfortable using “he” (though we do see him in a dress in the cat’s “supremely happy and peaceful future” – that may imply he and Chiyoko switch back) as Chiranosuke confirmed that Yuuta is in fact Pine in Chiyoko’s body. I guessed here in light of the revelation last week that some sort of body-switcheroo was going on, and this one was the most popular fan theory (and these are fans who know Uchikoshi’s writing style). As a boy quite literally trapped in a girl’s body it seems fair to call Yuuta a boy (yuri fans everywhere have whipped out the torches and pitchforks or entered denial mode hilariously), but the real mystery remaining is Guriko – why has Pine’s friend from the lab seemingly become the leader of a terrorist organization? Has she wigged out from the gender-swap much more than Pine, or is there a deeper reason? Well, this is Uchikoshi – you pretty much know it has to be the second option.
Another thing I know is that I don’t trust the cat. I believe he’s telling the truth to Pine/Yuuta about the body swapping nine years earlier, and he may in fact be trying to save the human race – but there’s a whole shitload of stuff he’s not telling. All these rules – “don’t change history unless I tell you to!” – seem pretty arbitrary (but then, a lot of the plot feels pretty arbitrary at this point), and he’s definitely got his own agenda. I suspect there’s more to Qmay than meets the eye, and thus more to Guriko/Pine’s seeming move to the dark side. Has Chiranosuke really done this dance with Yuuta 6 billion times? Maybe – but I’m taking anything he says with a pound of salt.
Truth be told, my engagement with all this is pretty modest at this point – it really does feel like Uchkoshi shoehorning a lot of plot in because he can – but I’ve come this far so I may as well see things through to the end. And I do still feel a certain affection for Punchline – it looks great, it has great comic timing when it chooses to exercise it, and there’s an authenticity to the zaniness that actually still does recall the great Gainax comedies of the 90’s and early 2000s. I suspect that it’s going to make an excellent visual novel, but as an anime it’s more in the range of pretty good.