As much as I like certain elements of this show, the dominant impression for me is one of unfulfilled potential. Most obviously I wonder what sort of series this would have been if Uchikoshi Koutarou had simply written it as an anime, rather than as a visual novel joint project. The script is so full of hedged bets, half-developed characters – but the unusual thing is, even half-developed is enough to make them interesting enough to want to see what they’d be like with a full treatment.
Unfortunately, this being the penultimate episode and so many loose ends still hanging, it’s mostly given over to the kind of plot gymnastics that are characteristic of Punchline. I suspect (we’ll see) that last week marked the peak of the character side, which is much the stronger element of the series. Because there’s such an element of randomness and half-assed nature to the plotting, action-driven eps like this one show of the weaker side of the show, and the result is unsurprisingly an episode that’s not to engaging or memorable.
The one great mystery still out there is Chiranosuke, but for now the focus is on the rest of the cast. Pine has finally come clean with the rest of Kourai House (well, with Meika – the rest were eavesdropping) about his unusual circumstances and, given everything else that’s going on, they may as well believe him as not. Meika hatches a plan to hack into the U.S. missile deployment systems and launch everything at the asteroid to re-deflect it away from Earth, and that plan hinges on Pine holding off the assault on Kourai House that Meika promises will come. And that hinges on Pine seeing her panties.
What follows is perfectly competent but not especially noteworthy stuff: a little bonding party at Meika’s request. The reveal of a giant mobile suit she’s built (you just know Ito will end up piloting it). The invasion, first by police assault teams riddled with Qmay agents, then by the U.S. Army. I don’t think there’e been quite enough legwork put into the group dynamic for the bonding to really take off, and the action scenes are pretty boilerplate. The Engrish is predictably terrible, but I did find it amusing that Mappa seems to have found a British seiyuu to play one of the bit American parts (he really stands out amongst all the Japanese actors, but makes no attempt to hide his accent). And as the kicker, future (or past, depending on how you look at it) Yuuta shows up to help out the cause in a shower of cinnamon.
The two really appealing elements in Punchline (along with the visuals) are the outlandish comedy and the surprisingly tender moments between certain cast members, especially Pine and Chiyoko. The former has been largely MIA since the first couple of episodes, and the latter reached its apex last week. I’m hoping against hope those aspects of the show will somehow rise up in the finale, though my fear is we’re going to get another balls-out ep like this one where a bunch of stuff just happens because it’s needed to wrap up the plot.