Mawaru Penguin Drum – 14

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Lest anyone forget for a nanosecond that this as Ikuhara we were dealing with, this was the week he seriously turns up the dark – and the weird.

While Mawaru Penguin Drum is undeniably suffused with brilliance, I still can’t shake my initial impression that the show is something of a mess.  It’s as if the sands are constantly shifting under our feet.  Every time you think you know something, Ikuhara shifts the focus elsewhere and distracts you with yet more infuriating hints and trolls.  There’s always a new character to confuse you, a new wrinkle to puzzle you.  It’s exhilarating, but as I’ve said many times before, this can be an exhausting show to watch – and to blog.

Much of the focus this week was on Yuri, a character often at the fringes of events in the series so far but rarely at the center.  For starters, we see she’s cheating on Tabuki – but oh, this is one of the most convoluted extramarital affairs you’ll see.  Frankly, I’m not sure after this episode just whose connectors go where between Yuri and Yuuki Tsubasa (Romi Paku, a delight we hear too rarely these days).  It’s strongly implied that Yuuki may in fact be a reverse trap, but after Yuri spurns him after a night of sex “he” threatens to exposé a “secret about Yuri’s body”.  There are several trains of thought leaving that station, but only one of them is an express – and it’s that track that will gain credibility (though of course no confirmation) later in the episode.

At this point my feelings for Ringo have pretty much segued into full-on pity.  Her transformation seems almost too total to be real, frankly, but it’s more fun to feel sorry for her than to hate her so I guess I shouldn’t complain.  Really, the poor girl is just a complete mess.  She’s desperately looking for affection and validation from some quarter, and she’s just not getting it.  Ringo bounces like a pinball from one fantasy and one object of fantasy to another, but none of it really takes.  I don’t honestly know if she really has feelings for Shouma, or he’s simply the next port in the storm.  In turn, we certainly get the confirmation of where Shouma’s darkness – and everyone in this show has darkness – lies.  His self-loathing is alarmingly total, and he seems to take all the blame for everything his family has done onto himself and see every misfortune as divine and deserved punishment.  In his own way, Shouma is as badly messed up as Kanba is – just not as obnoxious about it.

We’re still at that point where I’m struggling to find a POV character with this series – someone to root for, or at least identify with.  None of us is perfect but everyone in this cast is swimming in dysfunction and hidden motives.  Santeoshi’s may be the hardest motives to figure out of all.  He seems to take great pleasure in forcing Kanba into increasingly desperate measures to save Himari, a result which clearly benefits him anyway.  What’s his angle?  Masako appears driven by the twin obsessions of saving Mario and possessing Kanba, who’s driven by his lust for Himari.  Tabuki and Himari haven’t shown us their dark sides fully yet, but that’s because both are still ciphers.  We did see an odd burst of self-pity from Himari, who threw away the scarves she’d knitted for Hikari and Hibari, but Sanetoshi promptly claimed them for his fabulous (I know, right?) self.

As things circled back to Yuri and Ringo, they got profoundly disturbing.  Having spirited the lonely Ringo away to hot spring ryokan, Yuri promptly turns the yandere tables on the girl by drugging her and, seemingly, preparing to rape her.  The dialogue here seems to dispel the theory that Yuri is herself Momoka, but opens up the question as to whether she’s actually a man, or possibly a hermaphrodite.  At the very least, regardless of her bodily secret, Yuri is seriously messed up and apparently plans to rape poor Ringo.  She was in love with Momoka, and her speech to the drugged Ringo is some of the creepiest I’ve heard all year.  How does she plan to “mess Ringo up” and “give her a body totally dependent on me”?  With Masako apparently aware (thanks to Sanetoshi) that Yuri has the other half of the diary, perhaps she’ll be the one to save Ringo.

This anime is full of interesting questions, but I for one would sure like to start getting some damn answers.  The closest thing to a common thread that I can see is Momoka – she’s tied directly to Ringo, Yuri, abuki, Sanetoshi and probably Masako, and indirectly to the Takakura Brothers and Mario.  And she’s a huge part of what happened in 1995 on the subways.  If there’s a grand unified theorem – or at least a nexus point – to this show, it’s Oginome Momoka.   But how do all the pieces fit together?

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  1. j

    totally WTF episode… didn't expect Yuri to be like that at all…
    Poor Ringo… just as you washed off your darkness… you are about to be tied and raped…
    Shouma should be shot this episode 🙁
    My question is more on the henchmen working for Kanba… it seems he gathered a dangerous crowd here…

  2. K

    I don't think Ringo's feelings for Shouma are a fantasy. I think they are very much real & genuine. So much in fact that when she sees Shouma hurting because of her she doesn't want to be near him. She's sorry that she didn't think of his feelings. This is the complete opposite of how she was when she was obsessing over Tabuki. She never considered Tabuki's feelings once.

    But in this case I think both Shouma & Ringo are wrong they DO need each other.

  3. I'd like to believe that, Kim. But Ringo is obviously – among her many disorders – an obsessive person. She has to be obsessed over something or someone at all times, and Shouma was in the right (wrong) place at the right (wrong) time.

    I certainly think whatever she feels for Shouma is a lot healthier than her Tabuki obsession. Shouma is her own age, and she seems to have feelings for the actual person and not a fantasy, idealized version.

  4. A

    Anyone else facepalm when they thought about Yuri's name? I did. >.>

  5. Yeah, me too. Then I thought – does it count as yuri if she has a penis?

    I also should point out the animation of her car was absolutely stunning. Wow. I also loved how H & H were on the cover of Ringo's magazine, and Yuri was on the back.

  6. S

    Pretty disturbing episode. When will Ikuhara stop throwing us curves? If Yuri does indeed have a penis, then would that mean Kejiu hasn't done it with her yet? ;P
    I'm not a fan of the dark and moody Shouma. His reasoning for being such a dickhead doesn't quite add up. Being the considerate person he was potrayed to be, shouldn't he try to make it up for Ringo's losses if he's suffering from guilt? It's like a 180 degrees change in character and emo for the sake of being emo…

  7. e

    *pops in*
    I'm still on the fence with this series and following it by your posts only to see if it's worth marathoning once it ends, Enzo XD.

    But… I must comment on Yuri's appereance. In the third screenshoots at the mirror she looks a lot like Oscar Francois from Rose of Versailles (oh, the irony. Oscar was raised as a man and dressed like one, but was born a woman. Orientation-wise.. well you'll have to watch the series :p).
    And even in the Ryokan scenes with her hair up… there's a RoV episodes where Oscar has basically the same hairdo.
    Again, considering RoV influence alreday on Ikuhara's Utena I shouldn't be surprised…

  8. e

    P.S.: sorry for the typos >.<

  9. e

    P.P.S.: I meant *Tsubasa*, not Yuri. Gah. I need my coffee.

  10. e

    Goodness, I've mixed up the names. Sorry. I meant the blonde lady anyway XD. Sorry. I'll stop spamming now… hopefully.

  11. d

    @Enzo: Hmmm, thought the guy was called TABUKI not TSUBAKI. Must have been my recent exams, mixing me up. And I can really see Mirai Nikki's influence on you- "But Ringo is obviously – among her many disorders – an obsessive person. She has to be obsessed over something or someone at all times"

    So Ringo drugs Shoma to rape a guy. Now she gets drugged to get raped by a guy?gal?something?
    I am against Ringo getting raped by Yuri. Ringo belongs to Shoma. His "prize" for putting up with her. Although he deserves a kick this ep.

    P.S. Kanba was cool. Defeated a sling wielding Psycho Girl and just let her go.

  12. d

    P.P.S. How is Momoka related to Masako or Mario?

  13. m

    Thank goodness I just read the translated novel (told from Shouma's POV) so his inner darkness didn't come as too much of a shock.

    As to Yuri, I'm guessing 'trap' more than 'reverse trap'. Oh the irony of the love triangle.

  14. m

    For the translated novel, if anyone's interested.

  15. S

    I don't think Ringo is an obsessive person. I think it's really easy to pass judgment on people too. I think the diary had some hold on her that has been pretty much dissipating from literally the second she lost the first half and asaw Shoma hit by the car, and then left completely later, after the second half was lost.

    I see her as someone that thought as a little kid she had a roadmap for life. People do the same thing with religion, and often because they were exposed to it as children and continue to do so. I've seen people who treat the bible more obsessively than Ringo has acted.

    Whoever said Yuuki was a guy? I thought she was a woman from the second I saw her and heard her. She always talked like a woman talking like a man, too. Everything about Yuuki seemed like a woman acting in masculine role, especially at the party where Yuri announced her engagement.

    Remember the Tarazaka Revue – women can play male parts just as we have a history of male playing female parts in Shakespeare

    I still don't understand why people are expecting that we're going to have all the answers before the last episode. It's a mystery here. Sherlock Holmes doesn't solve the mystery and share his answer halfway through the story!!!! – then what else would he do? LOL

    I'm betting the secret about Yuri body is not that she has male parts – It's probably some type of disfigurement/injury/scar, along the lines of that injury to Tabuki's fingers. They did know each other as children, after all. And someone in Yuri's place is always concerned about beauty and perfection.

  16. @deafvader

    Tabuki,indeed – brain freeze…

  17. I don't think anyone is expecting all the answers before the ending. I think some of us would like an occsasional answer here and there. S;G, for example, always gave a few answers to keep you feeling you were moving forward, even as it kept some of the mystery alive.

    I don't know how Momomka is related to Masako yet – that's why I said "probably" – but I do think the indiredct link to Masako and Mario is already establishd, through the diary.

  18. S

    But there has been plenty of answers given:
    The parent's involvement
    How Momoka died
    WHy Momoka is important to the story
    Who has each of the diary halves
    Who Natsume has been speaking to on the phone
    Why Shoma blames himself
    Why Natsume chases Kanba
    Who Himari was knitting the scarves for
    That Sanetoshi is the one pulling the strings

    etc etc etc

    Plenty of answers so far actually….

    Just not the answers to the big questions, which should most likely be answered within the very end of the series.

  19. S

    I also remember thinking how in the hell did Tabuki know a famous actress like Yuri in the first place? That question was certainly answered as well.

  20. Some of those are pretty minor questions, and some are intentional distractions – though I'll grant that the parents involvement in the 1995 attacks is a legit answer (though there's still a lot we haven't been told about that, too).

  21. M

    @Guardian Enzo
    I do not think it was a terrorist attack.I think it was either an attack to kill or help fake the death of Momoka.

  22. S


    So what questions exactly do you think should have been answered by now? Or a few episodes ago or whenever?

  23. m

    Argh, I was supposed to go and get some sleep… and now I almost spoilt myself too much.

    But geez, I hadn't realized Yuuki was voiced by Romi Paku, now I definitely can't wait to see it! <3

  24. A

    Just adding the info that Tsubasa and Yuri are members of a Takarazuka theatre troupe, which feature all girl casts. So we've really known she was a woman since episode 7. I've seen many people around the web thinking her being a woman was a TWEEST, but it really isnt…

  25. A

    @Guardian Enzo

    S;G, for example, always gave a few answers to keep you feeling you were moving forward, even as it kept some of the mystery alive.

    But Steins;gate isn't really mystery genre, it's a pretty straightforward time-travel/thriller story with most of the plot following the generic dating-sim adaption structure, i.e. Okabe running around helping the different girls (with the twist that he's not actually helping most of them, but instead "unhelping" them, by erasing their D-Mails).

    If you're gonna compare Penguindrum, compare it to something like Lost Season 1 which hade the same basic setup: a big cast without a clear self insert main character, where everyone has a dark past and there are plenty of mysteries and weird shit.

    In comparison to Lost, the mysteries resolved / new mysteries introduced ratio is much higher for Penguindrum I'd say, and I get more the feeling that the author has a plan than I did with Lost. Ymmv.

  26. S

    ^What the poster above said. Good stuff, Anon!

  27. w

    Hey, you know what's kind of terrifying about Mawaru Penguindrum?

    Looking back at episodes that originally appeared to be filler and decoding how they fit into the main plot. Episode 4? First instance of master disobeying penguin/potential key for Yuri's character development. Episode 7? First major apperance of the Tragedy of M, which turned out to be crucially important to Yuri's character. How much of the stuff that initially appeared totally irrelevant in Penguindrum is actually important to comprehending the whole?

    Granted, we still don't know what the deal with the frog magic was, and all those fantasy sequences on Ringo's part were a little excessive. But maybe these elements will be extrapolated on later? Unless they turn out to be about as important as Miki's stopwatch?

    On another note, all the Project Ms in this series presumably stand for different things–Ringo M for Maternity, Natsume M for Mario, Yuri M for Matrimony (?). But could they all be related to Momoka, the most important M of all? Are Momoka/Mario binary forces or is one stronger than the other?

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