Mawaru Penguin Drum – 12

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The opposite bank of the invisible river turned a sudden red and its waves glittered like needles, throwing what looked like willows into stark silhouette. A large crimson fire was burning in a distant field, its towering smoke threatening to scorch the deep violet of the sky. The flame was more transparent red than a ruby, more exquisite than lithium.
‘I wonder what’s causing that fire,’ said Giovanni. ‘What could be burning to give off a flame as red as that?’
‘It’s Scorpio’s fire,’ replied Campanella, his head buried in his map.
‘Oh I know about Scorpio’s fire,’ said Kaoru.

‘So what is it then?’ asked Giovanni.
‘Scorpio burnt to death. My father told me millions of times that the fire burns to this very day.’
‘A scorpion’s an insect, right?’
‘Uh huh, it is. But it’s a nice insect.’
‘A scorpion’s not a nice insect! I saw one in alcohol at the museum. He’s got a huge stinger on his tail, and the teacher said if he stings you, you die!’
‘I know, but he’s still a nice insect. My father told me that a long long time ago Scorpio lived in Valdola Vale and he survived by killing teeny bugs and eating them up. Then one day he was caught by a weasel and it looked like he was going to be eaten all up himself. He tried to get away with all his might and he was about to be pinned down by the weasel when he saw this well and he fell right down into it, and there was no way in the world he could get back up, so it looked like he was going to drown for sure. So then he began to pray…
Oh, I can’t remember how many living creatures I have killed in my lifetime, but now I found myself trapped by the weasel and running for my own life. Woe is me! Everything is so risky in life. Why didn’t I just give my body to the weasel and be done with it? If I had, at least he would have been able to live another day.
Dear God, please look into my heart and in the next life don’t throw away my life in vain like this, but use my body for the good and happiness of all!
‘That’s what he said. And Scorpio saw his body turn bright red and burn into a beautiful flame, lighting up the darkness of the night sky! And he’s burning now too, that’s what my father said. That fire…it must be him.’
‘Sure, look! The triangular signs are lined up exactly in the shape of a scorpion.’
Giovanni could clearly see beyond the tower of fire…three signs making up a scorpion’s front legs with five others nearer to him forming the tail with a hook in its stinger. The red flame burned brightly without so much as a crackle.

Wow. Well, that was certainly both a dramatic and extraordinarily dense episode – what an overload of information to try and make sense of.  Some of the connections Ikuhara drew for us seem pretty clear.  Tabuki lost Momoko in what looks like a lightly fictionalized version of the 1995 Sarin gas attacks.  He seems to blame himself, and he and Yuri would certainly be in a position to be plotting for revenge now.  Sho and Kanba’s parents (or are they) were involved in the group that executed the attacks, so Shouma blames himself for Momoko’s death.  The group is either Pingroup or closely connected to it, and both the parents were involved in a “Antarctic Defense Group” at some point in the past.

What was interesting about the flashback, for me, was when Takekura-san took the call that his son had been born, he used the singular and not the plural.  Well obviously, that strongly implies that either Shouma or Kanba – I’m assuming Shouma, since Dad looks just like Kanba – aren’t his son.  Just why is it that this event triggers the operation – the subway attacks?

And then there’s the whole matter of Himari’s second death.  Revelation here?  Well, first of all, as some have speculated Kanba gave some of his life force to the penguin queen so that Himari could be brought back from the dead.  He tried to do so again, and failed – but not before giving up some more of his life force.  How much does he have left, I wonder?  And there’s the matter of just what the penguin queen’s agenda is.  I read her cautionary dialogue as warning Kanba that another attack was imminent, or some other terrible event anyway, and that the penguin drum had to be obtained in order to prevent it.  As Shouma rightly asks, isn’t the diary the penguin drum?  Perhaps not, after all.

So is Himari really dead?  Well, Sanetoshi from the library in episode 9 shows up again, appearing to be some sort of Shinigami (with an apple, appropriately enough) and two assistants, with the strong implication that he’s there to take Himari to the other side.  All of her monitors are certainly flatlining, anyway, and have been for a while.  Her penguin disappears, too.  It’s a pretty powerful moment, though the drama is somewhat undercut by the icky near-sex scene between Kanba and Himari (in her penguin queen guise) that implies more about the transfer of life force than I care to know.

It’s stimulating, it’s interesting, but man this is one exhausting series to watch.  In addition to the incredibly busy visual style, there’s just so much plot thrown at you and it’s almost all cloaked.  Every time you get a piece of information it slips two more mysteries in while your guard is down, and almost all the information we do get is in the form of cryptic hints and cultural references.  If you’re not inclined to live on 4chan and surf the “decoder ring” websites that have sprung up, it’s a lot to take in.  You had the above “Night on the Galactic Railroad” reference this week, whose meaning seems obvious enough.  But what of the two black bunnies?  And just what are we to make of Shouma’s twisted take on “Mary Had a Little Lamb” –  which sounded a lot like Adam & Eve, with the ashes standing in for the apple?  It’s pretty obvious who the sacrificial lamb is – but just who’s Mary, and what was the real-life act akin to stealing ashes from the Goddess’ fire? Can Mary be Takekura-san, who stole the ashes by initiating his own “survival strategy” in the subways of Tokyo in 1995 – and had to give up something precious to him as punishment?

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  1. d

    Whether he a shinigami or not, I think not. his 2 helpers and the briefcase, something tells me he also wants to change himari's fate of dying. He answers Kanba "why can't i save her, why can't it be" moment with a "of course it ain't you [cause it is me]". Mr Fate man loves? himari (he did try to kiss her before). giving away life is akin to love.
    So Mr fate aint there to take her away but to save her… is my conclusion.
    next week, we will see.

    P.S. Himari is hot.

  2. d

    P.P.S. Anyone knows what the red orb of life symbolizes? Is it the fruit from the withered tree, an apple or the red scorpion?

  3. w

    Yeah, of all the elements in this episode I think I was most confused about the rabbits. They came out of nowhere!

    They could represent fertility–rabbits breed quickly (faster than penguins?) and so probably occupy a high place on the Survival Strategy umbrella. On the other hand, maybe they represent death as the right-hands of Sanetoshi?

    I don't know, I'm starting to think of Sanetoshi now as less of a shinigami than as a Conductor of sorts. I guess it really depends how much power he really has.

  4. One possible interpretation is that the bunnies are the snake from the Adam & Eve story – "Eat the apple! Eat the apple!"

  5. S

    This show is certainly mentally taxing. I just hope Ikuhara actually gives us some satisfactory answers by the time the series ends. We're halfway through the show and I'm not sure I know more than what I did in episode 2.

  6. M

    well i don't know about the rabbit thingy.. or the whole "Mary had a little lamb" but i don't thing the pink hair dude is here to take her life :S cuz kanba's "why can't it be ME" or something like that 😛 I think this episode had quite an interesting revelation.. maybe its also got to do with himari's friends not talking to her anymore (maybe it was found out then??) and more mysteries to figure out!! It was also a bit hard to understand the episode so reading this blog helps thx 😀

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