The more I think about it, the Zero Escape series is one of the biggest influences I had to start writing proper stories and developing whatever odd idea that popped into my head into a short story, novella, or novel. It’s been almost three years since I started, and I feel that I have gotten far, far better at writing, storytelling, characterization, plot outlining, and so forth. Sure, no one really gives a toss about my work, but I’m enjoying it and am doing exactly what I want to with a story that I hope I do finally put to bed, once and for all within the next few years… Anyhow, the writer of Zero Escape, Kotaro Uchikoshi, wrote this anime, I watched it, and here’s my thoughts on it in the form of a review.
Available on Crunchyroll
Punch Line focuses on Yuta Iridatsu, a young man who finds himself separated from his body following a bus hijacking, and becomes a spirit. Guided by a ghost cat, Yuta must use his powers in order to regain his body and also save the world, which he blows up at the end of the first episode after Yuta sees the panties of two of his flatmates, because he summons a giant meteor if he gets too excited. I feel I should explain that the show is not even close to as goofy as that initial premise may seem to be, as it does bring up childhood abuse, the deaths of loved ones, cults, genocide, fun stuff like that. But when trying to look at its twelve episodes at large, from its balance between slice of life antics and a finale that had me shaking in my seat, I’m left more than a little indecisive about the show’s quality.
Not whether or not it is good, mind you, as I found the series at large to be fundamentally enjoyable, and if you are wondering if it is worth a watch, I would say simply yes, especially if you enjoy Zero Escape in addition to some silly anime bullcrap. However, sadly going back to Zero Escape as if I feel the need to tether this show to its writer’s most popular creation, I feel as if the story suffers from its reduced amount of time to detail its world. For example, the show at large has an incredible fascination with panties, not really in a gross or pervy way, aside from one groan worthy joke, and Yuta himself gets more powerful by looking at them and getting excited. Yet, it is later revealed that Yuta should have seen a plethora of panties throughout his life, and his reaction to them becomes all the more questionable.
There’s also Muhi, a bear cub cared for by a girl whose backstory does not amount to much of anything meaningful in the plot, aside from her love of Steel Battalion Online. Muhi is supposedly the key to allowing a race of superhumans to exist, but not only is the how never detailed, that plot point amounts to nothing as well. As for how the race of Superhumans exists, the details are almost nonexistent within the show itself, same with an organization hell bent on replacing humans with superhumans. The viewer never learns how this cult works, how they have their own army, or how one character really managed to becomes its leader. I would be willing to push this aside, but unlike the cult from Virtue’s Last Reward, they are very relevant to the story at hand, and the story of Punch Line ends definitively… or at least I wish it did.
You see, at the halfway point, Punch Line reveals a concept that makes me believe that this was at some point intended to be a visual novel, and while it could ultimately end at episode twelve with everything moderately happy, it more or less brushes it off and implies that the story continues, and what was shown is only the a good ending, not the true ending by any means. The intention makes sense in the context of the show, but it also effectively says that the story is not over by any means, and the lovely conclusion you just witnessed doesn’t really matter. I suppose the fact that I care so much about this decision does show how much I care about the show, and as I said it does certainly have a lot of humor and high points.
On the subject of high points, I was actually rather fond of the show’s appearance. The character designs of the main five are all distinct and appealing, it has a good color pallette and the often bubbly and lighthearted appearance of everything works well for the more humorous bits, while still being versatile enough for more dramatic moments. The animation itself also has its moments, namely during the final episode and a half where it more or less shifts genres from what I suppose could be called a slice of life mystery into something else entirely.
The sense that there could have been more to Punch Line has honestly been causing me a bit of anxiety for roughly a week. I did truly enjoy what was there, and felt that it addressed enough to make the story work, but the goofy antics also distracted away from plot details that, even looking past the writer’s previous work, I genuinely want to know about in a story like this. However, what I am left with is the sort of feeling that is the main reason why I tend to avoid reviewing anime, that there exists a superior experience out there, but either due to the medium or my own idiocy, I was unable to receive it, and should feel bad about that.