Mawaru Penguin Drum – 06

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After a wait of an extra week, Ikauhara ups the ante for both the weird and the threat level with episode six of MPD.  I’m not going to board the train of people proclaiming this a classic episode – for me, it was a step down from #5 – but it was still very good.

I haven’t tended to love the eps that feature Ringo as the main character, which might be part of the reason this effort didn’t quite thrill me.  She’s a bit much to take when she dominates the screen time, but at this point I think we have to say she’s the main character of the series.  She’s been the central focus of three of the last four eps and we know more about her than about any of the other cast members.

What do we know?  Well, more and we we’re seeing that the level of her disorder is truly staggering – she’s pretty bonkers.  Her Daddy issues were well-known, but what becomes clear now is that her family split apart over the death of her older sister Momoko – a sister who was Tabuki’s childhood sweetheart.  What a mess – the unhealthy complications from that scenario explain a lot.  Ironically it was her mother that couldn’t let Momoko go and her father who wanted to focus on Ringo (a theme seemingly common in anime) but now he’s seemingly forgotten about her, and Ringo mus live with Mom.  And if all that weren’t enough to make her a Yuno Gasai in training, her birthday – “Curry Day” – is also the anniversary of Momoko’s death.  Her Death Note is actually her sister’s co-opted diary, and her obsession with Tabuki part of her grand scheme to become her sister and bring her family back together.

Poor girl – that’s a psychological shit-box that rivals any I’ve seen in any fiction for a while, and kudos to Ikuhara for the inventiveness to put it together.  I still enjoy watching the other characters more, though, and they aren’t totally absent here.  We don’t see much of Kanba but what we do packs a lot of foreshadowing.  Asumi has apparently totally forgotten him, and when he goes to meet two other ex girlfriends who he believes sent him the email suggesting they knew what he was looking for, Natsume zaps them with grayscale penguin balls shot from some sort of slingshot-gun that looks like something Wile E. Coyote bought from Acme.  After a rather creepy mental implosion, both girls regain consciousness – also having forgotten who Kanba was. 

You have to assume Natsume wanted Kanba to witness that in gory detail – she’s gaslighting him for reasons as yet unclear.  She’s also got her own penguin assistroid, which is interesting – and she refers to the same “Project M” that Ringo refers to in her death note.  She has her own boss she’s reporting to – Penguin Hat Hiromi, maybe? – and remains the most mysterious member of the cast.  I always love hearing Horie Yui voicing a baddie – she tends to get written off as a very specific type of seiyuu, but she really can do almost anything – this reminds me a bit of her work in Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru.

As for Shouma (who remains the most endearing non-penguin cast member for me) he seems to have fallen into a role as Ringo’s lackey – acting as her slave in exchange for a vague promise to get a look at the diary later.  Ringo’s Mum seems to be trying to ship he and Ringo, understandable since she walked in on a feverish Ringo furiously attempting to suck his face off.  But while she’s focused on Tabuki as only a yandere can, that obviously can’t work long-term and if there’s to be a happy ending (and maybe even if not), you have to think those two are going to be paired for real eventually.

Each episode of MPD seems to be good for at least a couple of brilliant gags (penguin reading porn and the diary being two that stand out this week) and Ikuhara’s brilliant imagination shines through even in the lesser episodes.  With 24 episodes to fill, we’re only 25% through the story and it’s clear Ikuhara is going to take his time and keep us guessing for quite a while yet, which is fine by me.  I think it’s inevitable with a director as erratic as Ikuhara and two full cours to fill there are going to be significant ups and downs, so I’m going to try not to be swept away too much by the weekly highs and lows.  It wasn’t a great ep but it was a good one, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

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  1. w

    I do agree that Penguindrum's spent an inordinate amount of time developing Ringo, but I disagree that she is the main character. I do think, though, that she is the key to whatever is going on. Evidently her sister Momoji, or Tabuki, or Ringo herself, or SOMEBODY is very important to both Pingroup and KIBA–the two major corperations who appear to be running everything behind the scenes (look back through the episodes for Pingroup and KIBA symbols; they're EVERYWHERE.)

    Really makes you wonder, though. If Yuri is playing at being Tabuki's girlfriend, and is under the influence of Pingroup, then is she trying to take Momoji's place? If that's so, and if Possessed-Himari is also related to Pingroup (since the penguins come from Pingroup, and they clearly obey her orders) then are Possessed-Himari and Yuri on the same side or is either operating as a free agent? I'm guessing that Yuri is taking orders from Pingroup, so does that mean that the penguins and their master are free agents???

    KIBA also appear to have their hands in it as well, since Masako's Project M shares the same name with Ringo's, which I'm guessing she either picked up from her sister or somehow made up herself. Unless it's a total coincidence? I'd also venture that Masako's memory-erasing pellets probably expel all memories of KIBA from people's minds–which would mean that Kanba is associated with KIBA, since people seem to forget Kanba whenever their minds are expunged? Is the Takakura family associated with KIBA, and Kanba has picked up the family profession while leaving Shouma in the dark?

    There's a ton of other theories floating around too, like that everyone in the show died during the Sarin Gas Attacks in 1995, and that Ringo's diary comes from some sort of alternate timeline that both corperations are attempting to manipulate in order to control fate. At any rate, as you said I really doubt that the picture will become clear until the very end of the show. It is pretty fun speculating, though, which I think says something about the crazy amount of foreshadowing and reoccuring imagery as a whole.

    Now that we know that Ringo's sister is named Momoka, though (which I think can be read as "peach?") it adds a totally different meaning to every time Ringo stamps her diary with a peach-shaped "destiny" stamp. Not to mention the peach on the door of Ringo's apartment building, the frequent discussion of eternity…

  2. Wow, you have more theories than I do. Sarin gas victims from the subway attacks, eh? I did notice the fruity themes to Ringo's family, though I haven't attached any specific meaning to it yet.

  3. A

    i was thinking that Natsume is Ringo,s sister
    maybe they just think she is dead for one
    thing she knows about the diary and another
    they havent told us how she died

    just a thought

  4. w

    Yeah sorry for the ridiculously long post! On reflection it was pretty excessive. Think it speaks to the density of the show, though, that there's that much stuff to pick through after only six episodes.

    Just picked up on something regarding the ridiculous amount of water imagery throughout. It's usually associated with Ringo, but if you think about it, it relates to the aquarium as well–the last stop on the train line that the story takes place on, and "the end of the line" so to speak(every location in the series is on the same line in Tokyo–it's a fact!) Not only does Himari "die" at the aquarium, but Ringo almost drowns in episode 4. Could water imagery symbolize the inevitability of fate? Or even death? (That's not even mentioning the fact that penguins are water birds)

    I'd say that Tabuki's words regarding Schrodinger's Cats are pretty suspicious too, if death plays a major role in this show. What does it mean for something to be dead and alive at the same time? Could Momoko somehow be in between? Could everybody?

    Considering Shouma's quote in the next episode preview, I have a vague suspicion that he'll be busting out the magical fighting WH idol girl transformation next episode or something in order to protect Ringo and kick ass. Probably won't happen, though–the novel readers probably would have spoiled it by now. Although the picture of Penguin #3 standing at the top of a flight of stairs is pretty intriguing, considering Ikuhara's apparent obsession with ascending to dueling platforms.

  5. Please post away – your comment wasn't too long at all! It's just that you've thought this out more than I have, I think. I do feel strongly that water and the aquarium are way too prominent for it to be a coincidence, and the notion of Natsume being Momoko does make a certain amount of sense. But in the end, I suspect Ikuhara will pull much more random out of his you know what and surprise us all.

    I don't see Shouma as the hero, kickass type. He's the sensitive nice guy.

  6. S

    Oh Ringo, you're so crazy! Wonder what made her so horny all of a sudden XD
    Has it ever been established that Kanba and Natsume are actually acquainted? It seems like she's merely using Kanba's exes as pawns for a grander plan. Kanba might not be completely in the dark too since he correctly pointed out there's someone pulling strings behind the scenes.

  7. Seishun, I also get the sense that Kanba is less in control here than he's letting on. He may know a lot less than we think.

  8. w

    Seishun Otoko: Kanba's recieving money from KIBA, which means that he at least has one toe in Masako's organization. It's also pretty suspicious how he's able to pick locks and sneak around just like that. Then again, maybe Enzo's right–he could very well be in way over his head. Though if Possessed-Himari is working with Pingroup, and owns Kanba's heart, then perhaps he's a double agent of sorts? Probably too early to tell.

    A thought: what if MOMOKO is the Penguindrum? What if Project M and the search for the Penguindrum are both the same thing? That would put Ringo in a pretty precarious situation, since if Ringo is imitating her sister, and her sister's death/existence is some sort of cosmic lynchpin capable of manipulating fate…

  9. J

    I also wonder one thing: just how powerful is Momoko's boss? And who is that other penguin?!? What kind of evil is it?

    Otherwise, this episode made me think a lot about Ringo and her circumstances a bit more. It's actually pretty sad…

  10. w

    Further evidence that Momoka is super important–the peach on the door of Ringo's apartment building, indicating that Ringo's entire family is trapped inside the construct of Momoka's death. Furthermore, the shot of Tabuki in the OP, with the bird in the cage. Initially he appeared sinister, but what if he's trapped in the cage of Momoka just like the bird, and can't escape?

    Actually, if anyone needs help understanding this show then the post below is probably one of the best I've seen in ages:

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