**SPOILER FREE REVIEW**
Punchline is a fascinating and ambitious, but ultimately failed experiment by Studio MAPPA to tell unique, non-chronological, wacky, plot-twist filled story much in the same vain as Haruhi Suzumiya. What went wrong? To make a long story short: incompetent writing. This anime introduces a plethora of confusing and poorly explained plot devices that turn out to be completely pointless, totally nonsensical, and/or dead ends, making the show a ridiculous comedy at best and an incomprehensible mess at worse. But let’s talk about that:
Synopsis: Whenever out protagonist, Yuuta Iradatsu, sees a girl’s underwear, the world explodes. How? I don’t know. Why? Not important apparently. Does this ever become a necessary plot point? No. Just roll with it. Anyway, Yuuta’s soul has become separated from his body, and his goal is to save the world, his friends, and himself by observing a particular series of events over and over again in spirit-form, with each iteration ending in a time reset.
Explaining exactly why a show doesn’t make any sense is not an easy thing to do to somebody who hasn’t seen it, especially without spoilers, but I’ll do my best. If I had to sum up the reason Punchline’s plot is absolutely awful in a single sentence, it would be this: Everything is pulled out of their ass. There is NO logical consistency or flow to the events of the show. Things that have no good explanations behind them just appear out of nowhere at random intervals as if the viewer is supposed to understand what is going on when nothing is being explained. I guess they were hoping that people would overlook the lack of explanation in favor of the fun factor, but that did not end up being the case because it’s TOO vague and TOO “out-there”. Most anime fans are willing to overlook minor or even major discrepancies if the rest of the show makes sense, but very few were willing to tolerate the sheer amount of incompetence that Punchline vomited onto our screens. If ever there was an example of throwing shit to the wall to see what sticks, this anime is now the quintessential case. To reiterate once more, since I can’t stress it enough, this show makes NO sense, and the very limited amount of mindless fun that it occasionally provides is not nearly enough to compensate for that.
Perhaps the main reason Puchline fails to connect with the audience is because its characters are so flat and one-dimensional. Any semblance of a backstory or motivations that a character receives are always the barest of barebones, not to mention that they don’t even make sense more often than not (have you spotted a pattern?). In fact, every time this show attempts to answer a question about one of its characters, it just raises three more. The show really banks on the fact that the viewers get attached to these basic archetypes and feel the chemistry/friendship that they have with each other, but they simply never give us a reason to. I didn’t care about these characters because I had no idea who any of them were, and that includes the protagonist, who is on screen over 90% of the time. That’s a major, MAJOR issue. Oh, and the pointless plot devices that have no reason to exist that I mentioned earlier? The characters have a ton of those. All I can guess is that they are an attempt to make the show seem more “crazy” and “fun”, when really they just serve to make it even more incomprehensible. I don’t remember any of their names; that’s how truly unmemorable and uninteresting they are. Oh, and I’m still pretty confused about who the villain was supposed to be and what his motivations were. This show is just one big giant clusterfuck of disorientation.
Being animated by Studio MAPPA, Punchline is not totally without its strong points. The art, art direction, cinematography, and animation in general are easily the highlights of the show. Actions scenes are made more fun with unique and experimental angles as well as over-the top choreography that can be pretty entertaining at times. MAPPA continues distinguish themselves with their stellar visuals. As for the use of sound, it’s pretty standard. The OP and ED themes are catchy, but I’ll forget them in a month. The OST is also pretty run of the mill and sound design was pretty hit or miss for me. To sum it up, Punchline has above average animation and average sound.
If you’re looking for an over-the-top, mindless-fun sort of show, Punchline tries too hard to have a plot. If you are looking for a complex, Suzumiya-eque, intertwining story, Punchline is too confusing and nonsensical. As a result, this anime gets caught somewhere in the middle to these two target audiences, satisfies neither of them, and fails to establish any positive identity of its own. All things considered though, I must applaud the attempt at creating an original, multifaceted show. I truly hate the fact that I have to bash this anime because I really wanted to like it, but writing was simply too awful to tolerate. I do not recommend Punchline to anyone.