I don’t know just what to make out of this week’s Mawaru Penguin Drum – it was almost… Linear. Ironic for the episode when the subway line takes a sharp bend to the left.
I enjoyed this episode a lot, I guess in part because it’s very balance and conventionality places it in sharp contrast with the rest of the series. For the first time in a while – maybe ever – every major character had a significant role in the episode. There was a very straightforward narrative flow from start to finish with only minimal use of flashbacks and recycled animation, and a running penguin gag from start to finish (and a grisly one at that). In fact, I think it’s even been quite some time since Kanba and Shouma had extended screen time together, much less a meaningful conversation.
Those boys seem pretty well settled in their roles at this point. Kanba’s “You let me worry about the money, and just keep smiling like you always do” was obviously a meaningful line of dialogue. It was condescending, as Kanba usually is towards his brother, but with a healthy dose of protectiveness as well. If you’re a believer in flags that’s not exactly a hopeful moment for Kanba, nor is the Survival Strategy montage this time. Ikuhara can’t live without a little trolling even in a straightforward ep like this, so he gives us a little tease that the Penguin Queen might just tell us what the Penguin Drum is – but you knew it wouldn’t be that easy. It’s something of Kanba’s, judging by TPQ’s words – but Kanba strongly implies that whatever life force he’s using to sustain Himari is running out, and may in fact be depleted. And if the Penguin Drum is something mundane like Kanba’s, let’s say, ahem, “essence” – why has she been sending the brothers on a quest to “find” it?
Of more immediate urgency is to find Himari, who’s gone on a shopping trip just when she was supposed to get her special medicine from Sanetoshi. I know, right? The funny is that while the Bunny Boys are fretting ominously about her absence and warning of dire consequences if she doesn’t get her fix by that night, Himari is telling Ringo – who’s now the most normal cast member, worryingly – that she had the Doctor’s permission for her yarn-hunting trip (the sweaters are for both Kan and Sho, heh). A lie for Ringo’s sake, or a little game by Sanetoshi that not even his bunnies know anything about?
As Sanetoshi is mysteriously predicting “war is about to break out” we see Tabuki for the first time in a while. While there seems to be a disagreement between he and Yuri about whether the Takakura siblings are liable for the sins of their parents – the attacks of 1995 that Momoka apparently died due to switching realities in a failed attempt to stop – with Tabuki taking moderate’s position against Yuri’s extremism, by the end of the episode he’s apparently changed his mind. I’m not sure if that’s a misdirection – although announcing the “revenge” against the Takakuras (in the person of Himari) is about to be completed seems pretty unambiguous. The irony is that just as Ringo has become the normal one, it’s Masako that we’ve come to root for – when she arrives in the garage for her showdown with Yuri, there’s an inescapable sense that she’s fighting the good fight and Yuri is the crazy one.
It seems foolish to predict events yet to happen in a series where it’s hard enough just to figure out what already has. Yet there is a sense after this episode that things are starting to move towards a real conclusion, that things aren’t simply being stirred up for their own entertainment value. I suspect many viewers may find this episode boring because it’s lacking in the randomness and impenetrability that’s Ikuhara’s meat and potatoes, but just as last week’s largely comic episode came at just the right time so this expository and relatively direct episode did. It was a much needed grounding in the reality of the series, a hint that things might actually start to make sense before it’s all said and done. And the running warfare between the penguins and the octopi was one of the better penguin bits since the first cour.