Reviewby Carl Kimlinger,
Magical Witch Punie-Chan
Fresh from the candy colored whimsy of her homeland, Punie is a magical princess on a one-year stay in the mundane world. She transfers to a school in Japan, where her innocence and button-cute looks soon win her a devoted following among the male students. She has a magical stick, weird but cute magic, and a cuddly mascot named Paya-tan. But what her enchanted fans don't know, and her enemies soon discover, is that under her smiling, dewy-eyed exterior beats the black heart of a brutal tyrant. Punie subscribes to a Darwinian worldview that would make a fascist wet himself, and once deprived of magic she's quick to resort to sadistic bone-breaking violence. The citizenry of Magical Land is hell-bent on killing her, and even her own mascot hates her with a homicidal passion. Nonplussed, Punie meets all opposition—be it from a deposed princess, the local gang boss, or her own sisters Pyun and Potaru—with a combination of coldblooded cruelty and realpolitik deviousness that renders moot both might and right.
Think of Magical Witch Punie-chan as the oft-ignored little sister of Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan. No one really pays attention to her, but like many younger siblings she's got spunk—and a seriously twisted personality. Unlike Dokuro-chan, which while crude and gory was charmingly and cheerfully so, Punie-chan's humor is blackly nihilistic. There is no kindness in Punie's world. Contrary to initial impressions, Punie is no dream-filled innocent, she's a cold, calculating death machine with all the human warmth of dagger in the back, and her homeland, despite its gaudy magical trappings, is an autocracy maintained by raw power. Selfishness and ambition underlie even the most seemingly innocent actions, and frilly cuteness is merely one of many tools of oppression. As it turns out, it's a great strategy for humor. Even the most mundane of events—sports, dates, tests—constantly teeter on the edge of bloody anarchy, and there are some hard laughs to be milked from the ugly realities underlying cuddly magical-girl clichés. When Punie forces her magical vegetable underlings to make curry of themselves (a task they accept with samurai stoicism) or reveals the nasty, grubby truth behind her mascot-seeking trip to Exciting Mascot Village, the series reaches heights of dark hilarity that few comedies ever scale.
Like Dokuro-chan, Punie-chan is propelled at a breakneck pace by dense gags and a stalwart refusal to dwell seriously on anything. A limited budget prevents Tsutomu Mizushima from replicating the absurdly frantic antics of Dokuro-chan (which he also adapted and directed), but it doesn't stop him from cramming every corner of the screen with sight gags—some inspired (Exciting Mascot Village), some merely crude (Pyun and Potaru's poor bladder control), and all of them delivered at a speed that makes rewatching a virtue. The series has its share of fanboy winking—one particularly fruitful sequence references 2001, True Lies, Tora! Tora! Tora!, Hamburger Hill, Deer Hunter, Platoon and Apocalypse Now (twice) in under three minutes, much of it while playing a remarkably accurate rip-off of The Doors' “The End”—but the self-referential back-patting is rarely a scene's raison d'être, and it is never anything less than machine-gun paced.
The only time that the low-budget energy that Mizushima squeezes from his bright, simple magical-girl visuals ever shows signs of OVA budgeting is during the fights. Yes, fights. Approximately every other episode ends in a fight, and, even beyond the built-in appeal of watching two magical girls (or a magical girl and her mascot) go at it like UFC pros, they're good. Mizushima doesn't shy away from disappearing-background shortcuts, but he pays careful attention to choreography and body language. The final showdown between Punie, with her grasping talon-hooked fingers, and the kickboxing ex-princess of Magical Land is a fluid martial-arts showboat that is far cooler than any scene featuring a pair of magical girls has any right to be.
If the series' pedestrian character designs, oft-repeated animation, and busy, colorful, but not particularly attractive settings are another element in the series' broad parody of magical girl tropes (it replicates even their visual flaws), then the same can be said for Ryuji Takagi's score. It has the same mindless bounce and forgettable artificiality as actual magical girl fare, it is used in the same obvious and unimaginative ways, and even features an incessantly repeated, gratingly upbeat transformation theme. For that very reason it's perfect: in episode three after Punie's victory, as her victim is carted off, shattered limbs splayed like badly-cooked spaghetti, the episode ends with a happy little victory ditty. Pure cliché, and pure gold. Both the poppy opening and the enka-esque closer are sharp little jabs at anime clichés that are more remarkable for their humor than their musicality.
It's fast becoming Media Blasters' standard operating procedure to release their series sans dub and with only a bare minimum of extras. Given current market conditions it's perfectly understandable, and as far off the beaten path as it is, one just has to be thankful that Punie-chan made it stateside at all.
Ultimately, of course, Punie-chan is as heartless as its heroine. It's an unapologetically mean comedy without even aspirations of warmth. But, clocking in at under two hours and divided into twelve-minute bursts of manic energy, there's little time for the series' casual cynicism to fester. Even if it does, if you laugh hard enough just about anything is forgivable. And when Punie-chan is at its black best, the laughs are hard indeed.
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : B-
Art : C+
Music : B-
+ A black comedy for that part of every anime fan that wants to see magical girls and their mascots get pummeled.
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