I really wish Punchline were a better show. That seems like a forehead-slappingly obvious sort of statement, but it really isn’t. Yeah, on some level you wish every show was better than it is, even the good ones. But truthfully, I think one spends most of the time with the good series appreciating that they are good, and rarely cares enough about the mediocre or bad ones to bother wishing too hard about anything. There’s actually a pretty small window in-between, and only a few less than successful shows invest me enough to really long for what might have been.
Punchline is definitely one of those shows. I like it more than the content probably justifies, but not enough to get past its glaringly obvious shortcomings. What I like is glaringly obvious too – the marvelously creative visuals, the offbeat sense of humor, the manic energy. I also feel real affection for it, because this is a series which not only has heart, but whose heart is in the right place (in this case, worn on the sleeve). The characters are genuinely likeable, and so is the series itself – there’s a kind of innocence about it that I find appealing, even if it’s hard to put that feeling into words.
I can’t get much beyond that, though. The plot just seems so arbitrary, and it really falls victim to a potential trap inherent in any magic or fantasy-based story in that there’s nothing keeping the author honest except his own conscience. I think even these kinds of series should follow a loose variation of the rules for mystery fiction – there has to be an internal sense of logic (even if the laws of physics as we know them don’t apply, there have to be laws the story follows). And the audience should have all the information they need to figure out what’s going on. And I don’t think either of those things apply to Punchline.
Once again, though, plot is happening so if we’re talking about Punchline, we have to acknowledge it. Most of what we get again amounts more to confirmation of what’s been hinted at that anything – the three-way body switch is confirmed to be exactly as expected. Qmay is indeed trying to force the asteroid into Earth, rather than away from it – though just why we don’t know. Guriko really does seem to be in charge of Qmay or close to it – though the shocker here is that Gliese was Guriko all along (thanks to Face Maker, one of the biggest cheats Uchkoshi can and does use to trick the audience). The two burning questions hanging over the series haven’t changed – just why did Guriko seemingly go to the dark side, and just what is Chiranosuke’s angle? And on those fronts, we got no advancement as far as I can tell.
The good stuff is the same as usual – the comedy and the sincere moments between the cast. I liked the scene where Pine-Chioyoko finally admitted the truth to Chiyoko-Guriko – very real and powerful. I loved the background humor like Chiranosuke slipping in through the faucet, then calmly slipping back to turn off the water, and the “Yuk!” sweatshirt Yuuta changed into. But I can’t shake the feeling that if Punchline had focused on one relationship in Kourai House rather than splitting Yuuta up five ways, it would have been much the better for it, because there’s a lot of untapped potential in his relationships with all the girls (and woman, and robot). But that’s not an uncommon result when VNs turn into anime – which is what really feels like what’s happening here, even if the anime technically came first.