Magical Witch Punie-chan
Magical Witch Punie-chan is absolutely nothing like I expected and I mean that in a very complimentary way.
In this OVA, the story revolves around Punie and her time spent on Earth. As the princess of the Magical World, Punie is informed by her parents that in order to claim the throne she must spend a year on Earth. Why isn’t exactly made clear but you’ll find that this is the case with most things in this release. Arriving on Earth just in time for the culture festival at her new school, Punie will immediately make a new friend named Tetsuko who needs serious help with her curry. But Punie will also make a new enemy right away when the school delinquent, Anego, and her associates decide that they don’t like the way Punie is showing them up. There is no time for that though as over the course of eight fifteen minute episodes, Punie will have to fight off attacks from all sides using her amazing magic and incredible arsenal of deadly submission holds.
Over the course of a year, Punie will fight off attacks from her mascot Payatan, her younger twin sisters who want the throne for themselves and a former princess who wants revenge against Punie and her family. If that weren’t bad enough though Punie will also have to deal with midterms, sports festivals, first dates and more.
Good and the Bad
Studio Barcelona creates an interesting mix of comedy, magic, action and “drama” that wastes absolutely zero time in getting the audience prepared. In the first few seconds Punie-chan, the Magical World is shown in its incredibly bright and colorful splendor. Punie is given her assignment and off we go into a world that makes no sense.
At this point normally one would expect the series to start its slow introduction of characters and a primary story. You’ll find none of that here. And if you were expecting Punie-chan to tone it down in order to appeal to a wider audience than you’ll find yourself sadly disappointed as well. Punie-chan is a parody series that goes out of its way to turn the magical girl genre completely upside down with jokes that will mock just about every cliché you can think of and throw in a few more just for good measure.
Starting with character design, this series doesn’t miss a single beat when it comes to creating a world and characters that could easily be found inside a magical girl comedy. Punie is absolutely adorable in her magic outfit and the very sweet voice that she uses whenever she’s feeling happy makes her the perfect fit for the mold and even makes the mascot, Payatan, that much easier to get into as a character. So when the second episode starts and the mood shifts to a sudden very dark drama where Punie and Payatan are fighting to the death to determine if he will serve Punie as a mascot, you’ll understand why the laughs are hard to stifle.
There are two completely different sides to this series for audiences to laugh at and the first two episodes are great examples of this. In the first episode, Punie-chan is mostly very light hearted: Punie develops an enemy that wants to destroy her so she uses her magic to bring a garden of vegetables to life. They then proceed to beat the holy hell out of her enemies and leave them a very bloody mess. Meanwhile she uses her submission holds to leave a trail of broken limbs in her wake. Just as quickly though, the second episode shifts to the dark side. In this episode, Punie will tell Tetsuko about her trip to the village where she found Payatan and challenged him to a death match to get him as a mascot.
And without any warning, the mood all changes. The animation becomes darker, the voices become lower and filled with menace and the action becomes all the more intense. Completely ignoring the rule of the genre that says the fights must be filled with magic, the staff choreographs an incredible fight filled with counters and near misses as the two characters refuse to give up until one has fallen.
To be perfectly honest, the fight scenes are far better than they have any right to be. Despite the main character being a magical girl, the series never places a huge emphasis on her magic during combat. Preferring to fight one on one, the fight scenes in this series involve Punie fighting her enemy up close with strikes and her wide array of submission holds to create the action and the animators behind this series make that work for them. In fact, you just know that they had to of been spending more than a few late nights watching professional wrestling over and over in order to make the transitions from one move to another so seamless in the animation.
Getting past the insane physical gags and well put together fight scenes though, audiences are going to find that there is little in the way of substance. The first episode of Punie-chan introduces a plot idea but never once in the two hours of this OVA is that idea ever really expanded on. More than a few enemies will be introduced throughout the series but in actuality only two of these enemies will become a real threat to Punie on more than one occasion leaving a string of characters that are introduced but never used more than once. Even Payatan is given a very dark history that is hinted at but beyond a few short scenes throughout the middle episodes, that past will remain hidden. Let’s face it; you could drive semi trucks through the plot holes in this series.
The music is another part of this series that one could understandably enter into expecting very little to stand out as above average and yet once again, there are surprises around every turn. From the blues guitar riff during Anego’s introduction to the very up tempo club beat driven fight themes, the background music in this series really does a great job of selling the scenes.
Following the theme of the comedy, the opening and closing themes to this series do another great job of mocking the genre. Seiyuu Rina Satou (Punie-chan) sings both the opening and closing themes with such different vocal styles that it’s hard to remember it’s her. In the opening theme and animation, Punie will appear on screen dancing and singing in a very cheery, happy voice… which makes it even more bizarre when you realize that she’s singing some very morbid lyrics and is dancing in front of images of burning Japanese landmarks such as the DIET building.
In the closing theme, the style takes a very traditional sound that calls back to the themes of the older epic dramas. With booming vocals that cry out pain and sorrow, the closing theme will bring forth an image of classics from long ago… which again creates a very weird feeling in your mind when compared to the comedy of the series.
For the most part the sound quality in this series remains strong from start to finish. In the early episodes though it was easy to notice how much stronger the background music was coming through the speakers than any of the dialogue. This created some early frustration as a viewer as I constantly strained to hear what was being said.
Dub vs. Sub
Leading the cast as Punie, Rina Satou, creates an absolutely hysterical characterization of Punie by playing the two dynamics of her personality perfectly. It doesn’t matter if Satou is playing the cute Punie or the evil Punie, the performance always matched the animation perfectly and made the shifts from one to the other hilarious.
Taking on the role of Payatan’s dark side, Jouji Nakata is the standout performer of the cast however. Over the eight episodes in this series, audiences will see a fairly equal share between both sides to Payatan’s personality but the dark side is always the one that had me laughing the most. From his secret past in the military to the fights he has with Punie, Nakata really sells this character in a way that easily makes it feel like much more than just a mascot character.
It’s true that this is another parody comedy and thanks to that distinction, it’s very easy to brush this one aside for lacking story or a point for that matter. With hilarious characters and a style that isn’t afraid to jump from light to dark and then back again, Punie-chan is a release that I would gladly watch again and show to others as a great example of what parody anime can be. If you’re a fan of magical girls, over the top violence and parody comedy than this is a release that belongs in your collection. Very recommended.
Final Grade: A-