Magical Witch Punie-chan Anime Review
Dai Mahou Touge
Great Magical Mountain Pass
US Release By
Hard-Boiled Magical Girl Parody
4 25-minute episodes
2006-03-17 - 2007-03-17
What's In It
- Magical Submission Holds
- No-holds-barred Brawling
- Street Racing
- Schoolyard Bullies
- Schoolyard Epic Warfare
- Suicidal Vegetables
- Violence: 4 (heavy)
- Nudity: 2 (moderate)
- Sex: 2 (moderate)
- Language: 2 (moderate)
Punie Tanaka is your standard magical girl: Eldest daughter of the ruler of a Magical Kingdom, she has come to spend some time on Earth attending high school as a regular girl. She carries a magical candy cane that can be used to animate vegetables to come to her aid and has a cute little sidekick, Paya-tan.
What makes her a bit different is that her mother took control of the kingdom in a brutal coup and has trained her children in the techniques that give a ruler her true power: Bone-crushing submission holds.
Woe to anyone who stands between Punie and victory.
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What Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan did for super-girlfriend shows, Magical Witch Punie-chan does to the poor, unsuspecting magical girl genre. It combines a magical girl concept with the psychology of a blood-soaked, hard-boiled drama to produce one thoroughly twisted comedy. A funny one at that, if the humor works for you: Incongruent sequences of cute, frilly Punie describing her grisly backstory or twisting her opponents' limbs in directions they were not meant to go, watching Punie and her cute sidekick critter go from saccarine-sweet to icy badass in zero seconds flat, and a variety of references and extended parodies ranging from samurai drama to Evil Dead. A lot of the humor rides on the skilled shoulders of the Japanese-only voice acting, particularly Rina Satou, who gives Punie her turn-on-a-dime split personality (and sings the appropriately cracked opening and end themes). There are also some surprisingly good no-holds-barred-wrestling-style action sequences.
In all Punie-chan is a funny, if rather horrifying, two-for-one parody of magical girls and manly-man badass drama. It's pretty much guaranteed to make your brain hurt, but some of the particular jabs border on demented genius, so if it sounds like your thing give it a go. Fans of Dokuro-chan, by the way, shouldn't expect a clone--it has its own style, replacing ultraviolence and rampant innuendo with a different sort of gritty brutality.
Full ReviewSwitch to Quick Review
What Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan did for super-girlfriend shows, Magical Witch Punie-chan does to the poor, unsuspecting magical girl genre. It combines a magical girl concept with the psychology of a blood-soaked, hard-boiled drama to produce one thoroughly twisted comedy. A pretty darned funny one at that, so long as you find cute girls beating their opponents into submission funny.
Basically what would happen if Joseph Stalin got together with Oda Nobunaga and a pro wrestling heel to design a magical kingdom, the title character's home is an iron-fisted dictatorship where strength prevails over all else. Punie, being heir to the throne, strives to be worthy of the title--worthy in this case being defined as capable of victory over any adversary, at any cost. So, she mercilessly applies magical cheap shots, and, when that fails, her joint-crushing submission holds, to everything from school festival cooking to battling demons.
It's not that Punie is explicitly evil (it's a bit ambiguous how much of the collateral damage is intentional). It's just that her mom taught her children that only the strongest deserve the throne. Her sidekick, fittingly, is the ex-commando/samurai character from any number of hard-boiled action movies. He just happens to be named Paya-tan, looks like a cute knee-high stuffed animal, and speaks in baby-talk unless nobody is looking. The two relate to each other in that macho, best-of-enemies, stab-you-in-the-back-if-you-let-your-guard-down (literally) way, and it's played straight apart from what they look like.
Look for two main kinds of humor: One, incongruent sequences of cute, frilly Punie describing her grisly backstory or twisting her opponents' limbs in directions they were not meant to go. And two, watching Punie and Paya-tan go from saccarine-sweet to icy badass faster than you can say "Wait, what?!"
The former is pretty darned funny by itself, framed by the horrified reactions of normal Earth-girl friend Tetsuko. Plus pretty much everybody else, viewer included--a lengthy shot featuring nothing but two increasingly faint faces reacting to the nauseating crunches offscreen had me cracking up. Elsewhere there's a played-straight but conceptually hilarious extended backstory sub-episode ripped right out of a samurai show.
In fact, the whole thing is almost as much a backhanded parody of manly-man badass drama as it is of magical girls.
On that note, it's the strength of the (Japanese-only) acting that tips the show from merely cracked to not right. Sidekick Paya-tan is so extreme he actually has two entirely different voice actors, with gravel-voiced Joji Nakata playing the grizzled veteran entirely straight. Yes, Roy from Solty Rei is the cute critter--it's practically the same character. Punie's turn-on-a-dime split-personality is performed so well by Rina Satou you'd believe it if there were two people behind it. Satou, best known for the title role in Negima, has a colorful resume that hints at her range; her ability to switch from perky schoolgirl to growling warrior in mid-sentence is a thing to behold. The writing, though the subtitles don't fully capture it, is just as good--from baby-talk to iron-fisted ruler and back in the space of a single scene.
There are a few amusing secondary characters, most notably bad-girl classmate Anego (the only one who seems to get Punie, and terrified of her as a result) and her posse of crazed mutant schoolgirls (see: Mari from Project A-Ko).
The other thing to watch for are an assortment of in-jokes referencing a wide range of other material. The best are the vegetables Punie animates to do her bidding: Honorable samurai minions through-and-through, at one point a potato sets up an entire seppuku ritual with a peeler. Elsewhere look for extended samurai war drama riffs, an Initial D sequence, and a nice little Evil Dead nod, among others. I also love the ridiculously long episode titles--a solid wall of text opens every mini-episode.
Everything moves along at a brisk clip and the level and style of humor is consistent, so if it's your thing then it should stay funny through the end.
I should probably mention that Dokuro-chan fans shouldn't expect a clone--Punie-chan is its own show with its own deranged take on a classic genre. Ultraviolence and rampant innuendo are replaced by a different sort of gritty brutality, and the style is substantially different as well. In particular it's not as twitchy; unlike its cousin's ADD, the jokes tend toward extended half-episode-length mini-stories rather than random scattershot. None of this is to say it isn't disturbing, just in a different way.
It may not be completely random, but there also isn't is any plot to speak of past the half-episode encounters with various foes, and it has a tendency to reset somewhat after apparently killing half the cast in the crossfire. The world is still coherent enough to make the jokes work, so that's not much of a liability.
Visually, Punie-chan is much better looking than I was expecting. The character designs are generic--which is appropriate--and the backgrounds unremarkable. The animation, however, is very good--both the non-action pratfalls and the funny-but-animated-as-straight action sequences. There are also occasional shots using a completely different art style, mostly in reference to other, far more serious, anime (for those wondering, thankfully less frequent and much less hideous than Dokuro-chan's caricatures).
As for the action sequences, they're surprisingly good, though not at all of the sort you'd expect (like a decent bit of didn't-see-that-coming drift racing). The best are the fight sequences; Punie's specialty is submission holds, and true to form the fights are essentially extreme, anything-goes wrestling. A couple are frankly more unusual, and more interesting to watch, than the brawls in a lot of straight action shows. That the participants are wearing pink skirts is just mind-breaking icing on the cake.
Dokuro-chan fans will be happy to learn that the intro and end credits--both sung capably by Punie's voice actress--are equally cracked. The former is a chipper song full of nonsense fitting for a magical girl show, except the lyrics are disturbing and the visuals feature Punie dancing happily as the world burns. The end, in contrast, goes with the other half of Punie's personality, with over-the-top dramatic images accompanying a samurai-drama-appropriate, at-least-an-octave-lower martial ballad glorifying submission holds. Rina Satou's vocal range is, again, truly impressive.
In all, Punie-chan is a funny, if rather horrifying, two-for-one parody of magical girls and hard-boiled drama. It's pretty much guaranteed to make your brain hurt, but some of the particular jabs border on demented genius, so if it sounds like your thing give it a go.
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The most obvious match is of course Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan, although that series focuses heavily on gore and filthy jokes. Excel Saga is the other standard mention for a series that does disturbing and inappropriate things with various genres.
Notes and Trivia
There are four episodes, each of which is composed of two sub-episodes, each with its own title. There are also four short (one or two minute) bonus episodes that were included with the Japanese DVD release. These feature Punie taking Tetsuko to visit her kingdom, and of course marveling at the fascist brutality and social inequity of it. For some bizzarre reason these weren't included in the US DVD release, though fansubs are easy enough to find on YouTube and elsewhere (search for either the Japanese title, "Dai Mahou Touge," or try adding "omake").
Tsutomu Mizushima directed and wrote the screenplay for this show, as well as its spiritual predecessor Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan. Punie-chan is, however, based on a short manga series by Hideki Oowada, who wasn't connected with the earlier project. Some of Mizushima's other notable works include the anime adaptations of XXXHOLiC, Hare+Guu, Kujibiki Unbalance, and the Genshiken OAVs.
The original title, Dai Mahou Touge, is probably a play on Dai Bosatsu Touge ("Pass of the Great Bodhisattva," aka "The Sword of Doom"), a classic samurai drama. It is, appropriately, about an amoral and bloodthirsty samurai known for his icy nature and willingness to kill anyone.
To cover a few other references:
Punie's magical incantation, "Lyrical Tokarev, kill them all!", is presumably a reference to early Soviet weapons designer and government agent Fedor Tokarev, and/or any of the famous handguns and rifles that bear his name.
Tetsuko's name and hobby are probably a reference to the nonfiction manga and anime "Tetsuko's Journey," about a railroad aficionado who has visited every train station in Japan.
At one point Punie lists the other magical girls crushed by her mother in pursuit of the throne; these are all main characters in classic magical girl shows.
The Necronomicon is a classic book of evil secrets, but this particular one is specifically a reference to Sam Raimi's Evil Dead series--the book pictured looks exactly the same.
The savage inequity of Punie's homeland even brings in a background joke that most Japanese viewers probably didn't get; in Paya-tan's home, Waku-Waku Mascot Village, one establishment sports a sign reading "Whites Only."
US DVD Review
AnimeWorks' DVD is what you'd charitably call basic. On the bare necessities side, it's fine; clean 2-channel Japanese (only) audio, and nice-looking 4:3 video (no compression artifacts that I noticed and a clean, slightly soft-focus look). The reasonably-accurate subtitles make use of a few Japanese suffixes and aren't hard-coded, though they don't translate some of the background text. The menu has an on/off option for the subtitles, plus a set of four chapter stops for every episode.
And that's it--not even a clean opening as a tolken special feature. Conspicuously absent are the four short (and rather funny) omake episodes about Tetsuko visiting Punie's homeland included as bonuses on the Japanese DVDs--disappointing. At least the box design is fun, and the physical disc itself, sporting a lineup of horrified-looking vegetables, looks spiffy.
Probably qualifies for the 16-up AnimeWorks put on it on account of grisly violence and incongruently mature themes; you might even call it 13-up depending on how you view parody.
Violence: 4 - There's a lot of not-necessarily-cartoony violence, and it gets pretty brutal, but it's not wildly graphic and played entirely for laughs.
Nudity: 2 - Some fanservice-level underwear, little more.
Sex/Mature Themes: 2 - There are some general mature themes, but nothing substantial.
Language: 2 - Some moderately coarse language in the subtitles.