Wednesday, April 08, 2015

:anime: HardDoor's Seasonal Anime Preview 2015 Special:: noitaminA (Spring)

It's the beginning of the spring anime season and with it comes another slate of noitaminA programming—but it comes with a catch this time around…

As you may know, Fuji TV's premier anime block is in the midst of celebrating its 10th anniversary and part of its commemoration has included a slew of theatrical movies. With the PSYCHO-PASS movie bowing in January, the three Project Itoh films arriving in the later in the year, and an anime original movie from the anohana team, The Anthem of the Heart -Beautiful word, Beautiful world (Kokoro ga Sakebitagatterun da.), debuting in the fall, the producers' deep coffers will certainly be getting a workout this year. This, however, does not even begin to count the killer batting line-up of television anime that are debuting this year, as well:

—Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace (Mysterious Stories of Ranpo: Game of Laplace)
[Official Site]
[Studio: Lerche (Danganropa The Animation, Assassination Classroom) | Director: Seiji Kishi (Angel Beats, Arpeggio of Blue Steel) | Screenplay: Makoto Uezu (Katanagatari, School Days)]

—Subete ga F ni Naru (Everything Becomes F: The Perfect Insider)
[Studio: A-1 Pictures (anohana, Your lie in April) | Director: Mamoru Kanbe (Elfen Lied)]

—Koutetsujou no Kabaneri (Knocking on the Walls of the Armored Fortress)
[Studio: WIT STUDIO (HAL, The Rolling Girls) | Director: Tetsuro Araki (Attack on Titan, DEATH NOTE) | Screenplay: Ichiro Okouchi (Code Geass, Valvrave the Liberator)]

As you might wonder, that is a lot of big films and shows to be dishing out money for. As such, some belt-tightening had to be done and that, ironically, lied in the block itself. For this year (at the very least, the next two cours), noitaminA will only be one half-hour long: meaning, approximately, one show per cour. While that is a bummer and the lack of a concrete timetable for the upcoming works makes doing these previews a little awkward, at least what is coming appears to be primo. The first (and only) up to bat for spring (with Game of Laplace to follow in the summer?) is PUNCH LINE, a most un-noitaminA of titles that generated a good deal of controversy the moment its first trailer dropped!

© PUNCH LINE Production Committee

Alt. Title: Punchline

Debut: April 9, 2015
Director: Yutaka Uemura
Studio: MAPPA
Links: Official Site, ANN Entry, MAL Entry
Video [Free {Streaming}]: Crunchyroll
Picture Source: As is from Official Site (top image)

Synopsis: An encounter with a ghost cat leads to a high-schooler's spirit to become dislodged from his body, and now, he must find a magical book if he wishes to reverse his current existential state. While searching throughout the mansion he awoke in, he also decides to use his newfound abilities to peer into the lives of its female denizens. However, his propensity for getting worked-up and fainting at the sight of panties may also spell mortal doom for the entire planet!

Personal Take:  Well, well…

By looks of the trailers alone, PUNCH LINE is anything but your usual noitaminA fare. Even as far as ecchi shows are concerned, it is certainly in-your-face with its fanservice and brazenness. Naturally, it has ruffled many feathers as to how such a show could possibly air on the normally high-brow block, with more extreme doomsayers lamenting it as the fall of the block. I imagine some must have forgotten about some of the racy or envelope-pushing gags in The Tatami Galaxy and Nanana's Buried Treasure (and, IIRC, Welcome to Irabu's Office :) [‹—actual title]), as well as some of what was done in Fractale and the few little (if not superfluous) fanservice bits in the beloved anohana.

To be fair, PL looks to have many of those shows beat in that area, but I would imagine that it was not without reason that the producers would have such a title in their lineup if it were not more than the sum of its apparent parts. Those familiar with screenwriter Koutarou Uchikoshi's work on the Zero Escape and Ever17 adventure visual novels have sung his praises and expressed reassurances, so there may indeed be something to that. While I am not a huge fan of ecchi titles or content, I have less of a problem with it if the show is good and/or it's done in humorous way, which this one might lean more towards.

Considerable attention has also been paid to its GAINAX/TRIGGER/Imaishi-esque art style. Perhaps that is only to be expected of a director in Yutaka Uemura, who has almost exclusively worked on GAINAX and Imaishi productions, and a character designer in Shouta Iwasaki, who himself has a résumé dominated by GAINAX titles and worked on a number of KILL la KILL episodes as an animation director and key animator in varying capacities. With their credentials, the show's look, and Aniplex's involvement, one of PUNCH LINE's raisons d'être is almost certainly to capitalize on the recent successes of KILL la KILL and other such shows from TRIGGER and its co-founder (not to mention one of the characters sporting a distinctive hairdo from KlK and costume accents reminiscent of a lead character from GAINAX's Top o Nerae 2! Diebuster (Gunbuster 2)). From a less-cynical stance, though, the show doesn't feel unoriginal and still seems like it could be a whole lot of fun to watch. It does not appear like MAPPA will be slouching in their effort, either, though that tends to go without saying for the second house that Masao Maruyama built.

PUNCH LINE might be among both the most scrutinized and most anticipated series to debut this season, thanks to its seemingly-disparate presence on noitaminA and its disregard for subtly. It definitely looks silly, but everything could very well be a red herring, as well, lending to its title. Twists or not, I am still looking very much forward to it for all of its colorful- and wackiness.

First Ep. Review: For everything that PUNCH LINE appeared to offer and what it might be, it, surprisingly, hit many of those points. PL is, indeed, as wacky and off-kilter as you would have imagined from the trailers and promotional illustrations. It has a spirit and rambunctiousness that evokes the aforementioned studios and Imaishi, not to mention sharing their penchant for inventiveness (very much enjoyed the show's use of shifting camera angles) and references (predominately anime- and video game-related). It also feels, moreover, that the series is setting itself up as a commentary on ecchi material/fanservice—which should be interesting to see if it actually plays out as such.

Not terribly much was given about its plot until recently, and for the most part, the above description (which took numerous sources to literally piece together) is largely correct (albeit said "mansion" is actually just a very nice-looking apartment building that main character Yuuta lives in. There are a few other bits, but that would spoil parts of the episode…) . The animation is also as good as you might surmise from the trailers and MAPPA's involvement. The familiarity to GAINAX/TRIGGER is strong in the beginning, but fades away much quicker than I expected it to, allowing PL to feel more like a show of its own. The fanservice is certainly there, as well, but it does not feel as "in-your-face", either, as such moments are dished out in more of a humorous or story-driven way than for throwaway or base scintillation.

The direction, acting, and characters are pretty good, and the music, by former TM Network member and possessor of great and checkered past Tetsuro Komura, is quite fitting and good, as well. Clearly, PUNCH LINE is content with not divulging all of its particulars in its premiere episode, but it does explain and set up enough to give everything a good foundation to start from. That does not automatically pen it for eventual greatness, but there is a definite confidence in where it wants to go and what it wants to say. If nothing else, the promise, at least, is there…

-Extras Gallery-

© PUNCH LINE Production Committee
[Edited from past background image on Official Site]

P.S.: As part of HD's own ongoing commemoration of noitaminA's 10th anniversary, PUNCH LINE is also April's Free/Low-Cost Anime Pick of the Month!

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