Mawaru Penguin Drum is certainly bringing its “A” game in terms of emotional impact and suspense, but Ikuhara still isn’t making it easy to feel comfortable in knowing just what’s going on.
Let’s review a few items of import that were revealed tonight:
- Sanetoshi feels the diary is his enemy. He declares that he “can’t win with that thing floating around” and tries (unsuccessfully) to goad Masako into burning it.
- Tabuki and Yuri’s marriage was officially a sham, an attempt to create a “family” surrounding their connection to Momoka. After the failed revenge plan, Tabuki has walked out on Yuri.
- Kanba’s parents (I’m not confident saying they’re anyone else’s) are alive, and pulling his strings. They intend to finish the job they started 16 years earlier, and Masako is determined to stop them.
- If Masako is to be believed, Himari is not Kanba’s sister. She was in fact in the same child boiler Tabuki was, and it was Shouma that pulled her back the way Momoka pulled Tabuki back.
- Himari’s Penguin #3 was reading “How to Make Your Comfortable Place in the World” and Masako’s Esmeralda was reading “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves”. This is a tale of two brothers whose lives took sharply divergent paths after marriage, with one marrying into wealth and one into poverty. After the poor brother finds a treasure of gold coins in a cave, the elder is killed as a result of his greed in pursuing the source of the treasure. Significance? Hard to say. Nothing quite so obvious as the “Night on the Galactic Railroad” and “Superfrog” references.
In watching the episode, a couple of things stand out on the character front. First, this was really the first time I completely and unreservedly identified with Himari as a person. Up until now I’ve always seen her more as a plot device than as a real character, but this ep did a wonderful job of showing just how lost and isolated she really is. There’s a theory that adopted children often feel a subconscious sense of abandonment even if they have loving parents, and this can only be more pronounced for Himari, as whatever drove her to the child boiler must have been awfully severe. She was the odd girl out in Double H, and the odd girl out in her own family. I might argue that this revelation has come a little late in the game, and I don’t think these qualities were as apparent in Himari earlier as they might have been. Nevertheless, in this episode she was truly the lost lamb, and her terror and despair were beautifully portrayed.
The second dominant reaction for me is frustration that Shouma continues to be irrelevant at all the crucial moments in the series. While I still consider him the most likable and human character in the cast, he’s been strangely vestigial in every major plot arc apart from Ringo’s Tabuki madness (and truth be told, that was still Tabuki’s arc). Worse, he’s been made the buffoon at every one of those critical moments, slipping on soda bottles and tripping over penguins and generally being a comic distraction at best, and an non-entity at worst. I’ve kept telling myself that this was bound to change sooner or later, and in last week’s conclusion it seemed very plain that he was really chafing at his own impotence. That’s why I was so glad that it was he that brought Himari back to the world and not Kanba, though I still long to see him be relevant in the present day. If indeed Himari is not Kanba’s sister, where does that leave Shouma? Is he sibling to neither, leaving them all in fact unrelated by blood?
What’s clear is that Kanba’s parents and Sanetoshi are apparently both playing God, trying to set the world on what they see as the right course. Kanba and Masako both seem to be tools in their battle, though the exact nature of that battle is still unclear – are they opposing forces, or allies? Shouma is apparently Himari’s “fated one” though what that says for potential developments from here is not easy to say. It’s also impossible not to draw a connection between Shouma and Momoka, who are the two people we’ve seen with the ability to enter the child boiler and return to our world. What does that make Shouma, exactly? For that matter, we still don’t know exactly what Kanba’s relationship with Masako is, and why Himari is to blame for destroying it. Was Himari simply a stray dog that Shouma dragged home, who took over Masako’s place in his brother Kanba’s affections? I can hardly believe it’s that simple, given that this is Mawaru Penguin Drum.
I can’t help believe that the key to all this lies at least in part in the riddle of just who is who’s sibling, and who isn’t. And in the true nature of the penguin drum, which still looms over everything else that happens.