Cry, Monkey Bitch…
This was certainly an episode that’s everything glorious and maddening about Mawaru Penguin Drum. It was a fascinating muddle – hilarious and infuriating and confusing and mysterious. And it seems pretty clear Ikuhara isn’t keen to give away many of his secrets just yet.
There’s a certain sense of disappointment in learning that Masako appears not to be a supervillain or a terrorist, but just another stalker. Most of her actions can more or less be traced to her obsessive love for Kanba, at least in terms of motivation. The zapping of the girls memories, the kidnapping of Shouma, the bizarre gifts… If you imagine what Ringo could do if she had the seemingly limitless funds Masako does, that’s pretty close – except Masako seems to have even more twisted and fetishistic impulses (and horrific artistic sense) than Ringo. There’s also the matter of the emperor penguin Mario, of course (“he” still looks like a girl to me) and that’s the other half of her motivation. It appears she needs the diary for the same reasons Sho and Kanba do, and it appears to be connected to a tragic event with Mario that occurred 16 years earlier – though we still don’t know the details or even who Mario really is.
Ah, 16 years ago – that infamous day in 1995 that clearly provides the dramatic spine for this series. It was a bad year for Japan – the Kobe earthqauke in January (referenced in episode 9) and the Sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway in March. That (March 20, to be precise) appears to be the key date in this story, as we learn a whole bunch of new information but not how to piece it together. Not only did Ringo’s sister Momoko die on that day, but Ringo was born. That certainly explains her conviction that she’s the reincarnation of her sister, but fate has an even more unlikely interest in that date – Kanba and Shou were born on march 20th as well. For reasons that aren’t clear to me, Shou even uses that as evidence that the two boys are responsible for Momoko’s death – though perhaps he was merely being symbolic.
While psychotic Ringo was indeed back in the saddle this week, the episode at least benefited from the fact that the focus was spread out amongst all the major characters, and she’s a lot easier to take in the recommended dosage. Her repeated beatings on Shouma weren’t funny and were beneath the dignity of this show, but hopefully they were a one-time misguided comic choice by Ikuhara – other than that, there was some meaningful movement in terms of Ringo’s character and her relationship with Shou. It was he who confronted her about her misguided sister-fixation, and it was that seed of doubt that he planted that probably caused Ringo to have second thoughts when she’d finally maneuvered Tabuki into bed.
And yes, about that. Did that whole frog thing actually happen – and actually work? Even for Ikuhara that’s out there and I was half-convinced it was another fantasy, but it appears to have actually occurred – Ringo’s continued experimentation with the 16-year frog (at least she used herself as the test subject this time) yielded a very gross but effective love potion that made Tabuki mad with desire for her. But in the end she couldn’t go through with it, and even when she ran into Yuri when fleeing the over-amorous frogman the older woman told her she was in love with Shou. He certainly doesn’t deserve that, poor boy, but it’s not as if the series hasn’t been pulling that way almost since the beginning.
Also of special note this week was a strong comic performance by the penguins. Starting with Esmeralda’s sexual conquering of Penguin #1 in samurai garb and moving right on to the sight of Penguin #2 (still my favorite) using his butt as a microwave and then using his farts to launch himself into flight (though as pointed out below,this is likely another allusion to the Sarin gas attack), the penguins were a steady source of laughs this week. And is it me, or has this been an especially strong couple of weeks for yanderes and generally batshit crazy girls in anime? Preparing the field for the impending arrival of Yuno Gasai, I suppose – though all will bow down to her when her luminous insanity is revealed to the world this fall.