Spring Season 2015: Initial Impressions: Punchline, Mikagura School Suite & Show By Rock!

[HorribleSubs] Show By Rock!! - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_15.03_[2015.04.08_04.14.32]

 

Otherwise known as First Impressions: Random Edition

Punchline

[HorribleSubs] Punch Line - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_12.04_[2015.04.11_01.36.18]

Punchline literally opens with a girl dressed up in an 80’s Dirty Pair-esque costume, looking a cross between the outfits Haruko from FLCL and the lead character from Gunbuster wear (both Gainax shows btw), before doing the trademark Akira slide on her bike, only to get knocked away from the bus she is chasing in an exaggeratedly cartoonish manner, reminiscent of Kill la Kill. This show doesn’t wear its influences on its sleeves so much as it has them tattooed all over its face!

It’s rather difficult to know what to say about Punchline, what with the majority of the first episode focusing on random humour and panty-shots. Personally speaking, it almost feels like the folks at Mappa watched what their ex-Gainax co-workers over at Studio Trigger did with Kill la Kill and became insanely jealous; vowing to make their own equivalent and reap the creative and financial rewards. However, rather than acknowledge the (mostly) fantastic animation, solid characterisation and in-depth symbolism, they took away three things that made Kill la Kill the success it was: fanservice, references and absurdity.

You can certainly make a decent enough series out of those building blocks if executed well enough; Witch Craft Works proved that a few seasons back. The problem is there’s very little here that works. So the main character can power up to the point of Armageddon after seeing girl’s panties? That isn’t funny in of itself; you need to construe a humorous scenario around the act, otherwise it falls into the Scary/Epic/Date formula where the act or reference is the joke. And what’s with the constant exaggerated nosebleeds? Admittedly I don’t watch much in the way of ecchi, but it’s been a while since I last saw that particular gag used in a show, figuring it had finally died a drawn out death somewhere in the late 2000’s. It was lame back in the Love Hina days, there’s no need to dredge that particular corpse back up. The few completely deadpan jokes centred on the cat-mascot were pretty funny but I don’t see the rest of the show being so understated.

I think lame about sums up my thoughts so far. It’s not offensive, just a sludge of random scenes that don’t really gel together. This first episode comes across more like an amateur fan-made project: plenty of ideas and passion, but kinda lacking in talent or experience. I have to believe there’s more here. Mappa have proven themselves with likes of Rage of Bahamut, Garo and Terror in Resonance that they can make decent (if so far unspectacular works), while writer Kotaro Uchikoshi (of 999, Virtue’s Last Reward, Ever 17 fame) might struggle with logical, flowing narratives, but knows his way around interesting plot twists. Honestly, the closest thing I recognised to Uchikoshi’s previous works was in some of character designs (which someone else did!) and the brief game-like puzzle scene.

I’ll give it another few episodes to see if this was just the calm before the storm, but I don’t think the allure of panties alone can keep me invested.

 

Mikagura School Suite

[HorribleSubs] Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_11.19_[2015.04.11_01.38.09]

I’m a little conflicted. Pretty much of what I said about Punchline’s randomness divorced of any substance can also apply here, and yet I actually found myself quite enjoying it despite not really being able to give a concrete reason why. I think the hook lies with Eruna, the female lead. Granted, I can see her whole ‘upfront and forward lesbian’ shtick getting old fast, but there’s just an energetic and upbeat quality to her character, while the show has this happy-go-lucky vibe that makes it a fairly pleasant experience. It’s still your standard ‘character goes to an elite school and fights fellow students’ scenario, but as that didn’t really get shown in the first episode I’ll refrain from making a judgement on how well it’s done.

Apparently this is based around a bunch of vocaloid songs which is a little odd, considering as there’s next to no connection to music, although I could see some kind of videogame tie-in, what with all the dating sim references. Either way, there was enough energy to keep me entertained, but that alone usually lasts a few episodes before I get bored. I hope there’s more of a central story here, but if previous vocaloid adaptation, Mekakucity Actors was anything to go by, I’ll not get my hopes up just yet.

 

Show By Rock!

[HorribleSubs] Show By Rock!! - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_11.16_[2015.04.11_01.42.10]

Seeing as this has slowly morphed into the post for the most bizarre shows this season, I may as well round up with Show By Rock, which ideally would be better summarised with a selection of pictures. It starts off with a shy girl called Cyan being too nervous to join the school light music club but I guess that was merely to establish her character, as she’s quickly transported into the world of her cell phone game (the show is based on an app), and has to play the guitar in a band to destroy monsters, or some nonsense like that. Honestly the plot seems secondary to the visuals, which centre around weirdly digitized anthropomorphic chibi designs.

This almost feels like a training project of sorts, where Bones have given the staff free reign to do whatever, the end result being a collection jumbled, but oddly creative ideas. The aforementioned cgi looks particularly impressive, despite being jarring next to the rest of the animation. There’s this a schizophrenic glee to how the show operates, manifesting itself in the surreal and rambling humour. There’s also a moustached egg that enjoys being whipped by a blonde, mouse-girl in a business suit. So that’s something I guess.

[HorribleSubs] Show By Rock!! - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_22.06_[2015.04.08_04.15.49]

Ultimately it still is a pretty light moe show, while the main character’s voice acting in the first episode is mostly dedicated to insufferably high-pitched screaming that probably has the neighbours believing I’m into murder porn now, but there’s enough spectacle and generally funny jokes to make me want to see what’s in store next week.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all this talk of whips and screaming has given me the sudden urge to the watch the first season of Moyashimon again.

[HorribleSubs] Show By Rock!! - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_18.52_[2015.04.08_04.15.29]

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3 thoughts on “Spring Season 2015: Initial Impressions: Punchline, Mikagura School Suite & Show By Rock!

  1. As soon as I got a whiff of the new season, Punchline was on my list of shows I really need to check out. That was probably because I like comedy and that a lot of Japanese humor is based on humiliation. And humiliation of others isn’t my thing by any means. I just want to see this Noitamina show to be a black comedy like The Humanity is Declining and bring the audiences to be aware of the whole humiliation thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m going to refrain from judgement on Punchline until I watch a few more episodes. There’s certainly an element of embarrassment in the fanservice, but I’m not ready to call the show out on being shameful or humiliating just yet. It seems sillier and gleefully immature than it is trying to malicious.

      Honestly, I’m past the point of expecting anything from the noitamina timeslot anymore. We may still get some interesting shows in the future, but from now it’ll basically be crapshoot between the odd experiment and another LN/VN/manga adaptation. I held on hope far longer than I should have, but I put noitamina out of my mind as something to be counted around the time Nanana’s Buried Treasure aired. Besides, many of their shows ended up having more potential than competent execution. I don’t think a decent sci-fi show has ever come out that timeslot, and goodness knows they’ve tried enough times!

      I feel you for wanting a show that has a wry jab that some of the fetishes and tropes found in anime, but ultimately it is an escapist medium and people don’t want to see a show point out or perhaps judge them for some of the things they like, even in an affectionate way. Those fans are happy in their own in bubble and get extremely defensive if they feel something is trying to take away their toys. The few that have tried have ended up bombing, eg. Kon’s Perfect Blue, which partially serves as a giant middle finger to how fucked up the Japanese idol/entertainment industry is, or Flowers of Evil, which had less than savoury things to say about Japan’s whole ‘purity’ fixation, yet only had people interested in talking about the art style. Sadly, people usually only see what they want to.

      For the most part Japan doesn’t normally go in for the type of deadpan, sarcastic humour that Humanity attempted. Instead you’ll get something fluffy and silly, or completely cruel and nihilistic (eg Azazel-san or Nekojiru Gekijō). In either case, it’ll be extremely difficult to insert any kind of commentary without it getting drowned out or misunderstood.

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  2. Totally agree with you on the whole noitamina BS. They had some great shows early on like Nodame, Tatami Galaxy, Eaden of the East, Moyashimon and others but most other things have usually tanked or have been your run-at-the-mill anime. Don Quixote style. Although I did like the Lie in April and how it was the kind of show that an older audience can relate to and have a tissue moment. Kind of like Bunny Drop. But GOD DO YOU HAVE TO SPOIL THAT SERIES WITH SO MANY CHIBI SCENES? Then that’s just me having a personal preference. I think what noitamina needs is to change their slogan from “expanding the target audience beyond the typical young male demographic” to “we’re not going to have kids as main characters”. At least for a few seasons.

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