Mawaru Penguin Drum – 09

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As seemed likely after the cliffhanger last week, MPD takes a radical detour from the narrative and leaves us no closer to the truth of what, if anything, is at the heart of this strange and maddening series.

There’s good news here.  We had an episode that featured absolutely no Ringo, which was certainly a breather this series desperately needed.  We also got an episode focused on Himari, who was certainly the most underdeveloped of the central cast.  Those are formidable pluses, though in the end I’m not sure how much we really learned about Himari here.

One thing about Ikuhara is that he really, really likes to keep you guessing.  Getting a straight answer on any topic from an Ikuhara anime is like getting the proverbial blood from a stone, and that can be exhausting.  Watching any of his shows is hard work, and this one is no exception.  We got an awful lot of random elements that won’t turn out to be random, but unless you have hours to study and analyze them they won’t make much sense now.  We know Himari had some sort of dream or fantasy sequence that took her to the “annex” of the Tokyo Central Library in search of the book “Super Frog Saves Tokyo”.  There she meets Sanetoshi (Koizumi Yutaka), who takes her on a trip down memory lane.  There are flashbacks to her mother and an incident in which she was badly injured which was Himari’s fault.  There were the two girls in elementary school Hikari and Hibari, with whom Himari was going to form the “Triple-H” idol group before the accident foiled that, who went on to make as idols (Double-H) without Himari.  And there’s mention of Himari’s “fated one” who might be a young boy who also wears a penguin hat, this one with a crown on top.

What does all that boil down to?  Who the hell knows, and Ikuhara is going to take his damn sweet time clarifying any of it.  My money is on the whole thing being a dream, especially with Penguin #3 being with Himari in scenes where she shouldn’t have existed.  There are strong implications that the “Survival Strategy” penguin queen and Himari may in fact not be two separate entities, but two facets of Himari herself.  I have no idea who the fated one  is, though by the silhouette at the end it appears to be a boy.  Blue-eyed boy might mean some connection to blue-eyed Masako, who knows.  In the end, it’s just a bunch of sound and fury signifying nothing – except it’s not signifying nothing, it’s serving a larger mystery that Ikuhara isn’t interested in having anyone solve for a long time.

I guess it’s going to fall to everyone’s own preference to decide whether or not Ikuhara is playing fair here, and whether all this is worth the effort.  The episode itself dragged for me, though there were a few interesting moments when the same animations weren’t looping endlessly.  As always the eye candy was delicious, especially the “Alice in Wonderland” feel of the unearthly library.  22 minutes of this series is never less than fascinating to look at, and thank goodness this show at least has that to fall back on.

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13 comments

  1. d

    Previous episode has a cliff hanger end. Current episode is a flashback. They pulled a BakaTest!!
    Makes me think that Ringo might have gotten her future diary book from there. Perhaps her diary is her sister's? Sister went to hospital and died and instead of her sister going to the library it is her. Library represents your "life flashing before your eyes" before your death? Wonder why even their father has a shirt of penguin.
    Idol girl from double H = gunslinger penguin redhead girl??

  2. d

    Another post from me??
    Just Joking! sorry for the double…. but my brain struck a cord.
    "she was badly injured which was Ringo’s fault" this statement generally contradicts the statement "featured absolutely no Ringo".
    Am thinking that the long queue at the library = the long line of souls waiting in line. Give away your earthly sentiments (your books, in this case the books represents memories or feelings?)
    But Himari is special, she can see the penguins (angels of death?) and is able to enter the central annex (where all earthly books are kept.
    Although possible that the accident made Himari leave school (poor family having to pay for hospital bills), I doubt that is the REAL/ONLY reason as the 2 bros are still schooling; all the way to high school.

  3. w

    "Strange and maddening" pretty much sums it up! Here I was thinking that Ringo was the keystone of the series and that the whole story revolved around the death and (attempted) rebirth of her sister, and then Ikuhara has the gall to go and turn everything on its head. Can't fault him for being conventional I guess.

    Random observations:
    -Himari's connection to Double-H has been foreshadowed all the way from the first episode, if you think about it–not only is merchendising for the group is all over her house, but all the insert songs in the series are apparently sung by "Triple-H"
    -A mirror falls on Himari's mother…just like a mirror fell on Kanba's father? Connections?
    -Thought that this episode captured the occasional thoughtlessness and cruelty of childhood really well–Himari rejecting her mother because the ribbon she bought didn't match her friends's, beating the koi fish with a baseball bat…
    -Not sure if you've seen Utena, but the librarian character reminded me a lot of Akio. That can't be good.
    -If Himari has a mystical connection to a "fated one" but Kanba loves her somehow, then will there be some kind of fallout later? Complications!

    This series is really starting to remind me of a young-adult Haruki Murakami novel, actually. There were in-episode references to his stories and everything!

  4. d

    @wendygo: mind telling more about the Haruki Murakami thing?

  5. w

    Haruki Murakami wrote "Super-Frog Saves Tokyo," a short story tied to the Kobe quake that occured in 1995. He also wrote "Underground," which interviews victims of the sarin gas attacks and I think can briefly be seen in the underground library.

    Then there's the general tone of the series, really–regular (albeit incredibly messed-up) people attempting to live life and find happiness while mired in surreal events beyond their understanding. Admittedly the typical Murakami protaganist is nowhere to be found in Penguindrum, but there are a handful of parallels to be seen.

    Actually, now that I think about it I think a Kunihiko Ikuhara-directed "Kafka on the Shore" could be pretty amazing!

  6. "she was badly injured which was Ringo’s fault" – damn typos! Fixed.

    I would love to see any kind of adaptation of "Kafka" – it's a great book. I love Murakami and it is nice to see him references here, but other than the allusions I actually don't see that much similarity to Murakami in MPD. Thematically, maybe – but even Murakami's more bizarre novels always have at least one identifiable character at the heart of the storm. I really haven't seen that here yet.

  7. V

    Did you guys recall the 7 sins on the tablet in front of the library? Will Himari (or others) be completing all the sins? Because Himari seem to quilify in wrath, when her mother was injure.

  8. I saw it, Vansonbee, but I'm not quite sure what to make of it yet.

  9. w

    Yeah, that's the one big difference between Murakami's work and Penguindrum, I think–the narrators of Murakami's work are generally everymen (from what I've seen, with the probable exception of a few) but Penguindrum's characters are quite literally all emotionally damaged in at least some respect. The exception might be Shouma, although I think we've seen evidence in the show (and especially in the novels) that Shouma is dealing with his own issues.

    I think there was actually a musical adaption of Kakfa on the Shore a while ago, but I'm not sure how great it was since it appears to have been forgotten since then. But yeah, in case anyone here hasn't read Murakami, you really should try! Although I've heard that a few editions of his work here (i.e. Wind-up Bird Chronicle) were cut by a couple dozen pages.

    As for the seven sins–I have no idea. Actually, episode nine was FULL of strange symbols that I'm probably missing the significance of. Child broilers, anyone?

  10. Unless I'm forgetting something, wendeego, none of Murakami's novels or shorts have been adapted into anime, have they? That seems like a shame, especially given how visual his writing is and the fact that he's supposedly a big anime/manga fan and would probably happily approves such a project if it were in good hands.

  11. A

    I havent read every post so someone might have already pointed this out but Ringo was born on the day of the gas attacks right? So what year are they in now if anyone knows? Also whats up with the apple. I just hope its not realated to the most obvious reference.

  12. Apple=Ringo=fate, as far as I'm guessing. The context, who knows.

    Ringo was born in '95 and she's 16, so presumably this is all 2011. Why there are isolated futuristic elements (like the train signage, more advanced than anything I've seen even in Tokyo) I don't know – either Ikuhara's conceit or there's some hidden meaning to it.

  13. A

    Ok cool. Im trying not to fall back anymore episodes but sometimes MPD falls off my need to watch now list.

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