Mawaru Penguin Drum – 19

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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.

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  1. a

    It seems every week I end up saying this episode blew my mind. But, man, this episode really blew my mind! I guess the biggest shock was that Shouma is Himari's "fated one"; I really tout it was going to be Mario. If it wasn't Mario I would have guessed Kanba. If not Kanba, I would have guessed Sanetoshi before Shou. I also didn't really believe that Kanba's parents were alive, and was blindsided by the idea that Sanetoshi is actually trying to DESTROY the diary. Wow.

  2. j

    Anyone smell a family love triangle?

    Although you quoted "fated one"
    the subs I got right after she said "sho was my…" then it cut to the text "soulmate"

    Either way, I am loving this anime right now.

  3. A

    Where does this leave Mario? Was he Penguinhat-Himari's fated one or simply Himari's fated one and she somehow has two? I'm really curious where Mario fits in this love dodecahedron, since he has a Penguinhat too.

  4. Mario is an odd-man out in the latest round of developments. And there's an implication that Tabuki and Yuri's role in the story is over, except that Yuri still has half the diary so she has to play a crucial role in the resolution.

  5. J

    @Guardian Enzo

    speaking of yuri, that earlier scene in the rain was pretty sad

  6. K

    I hated this episode. Thru the series so far we could take comfort in one thing… no matter what is thrown at the trio they stood together as a family and persevered. Now we find that Himari isn't even their blood sister. I know the simple PC answer is that they are still a family even if they aren't blood relatives but its not the same.

    Also their parents are douches for letting their kids go thru all the have and not been there to support them.

  7. I'm not convinced they're anyone's parents except Kanba's. And with Ikuhara, who knows about even that…

    James, I'm sad for pretty much everyody in this show – they're pretty much all f*cked up, tragic figures.

  8. A

    Tabuki's role is over.

    Notice the 2nd track that intersects with the mainline station from the last episode. Thats undoubtedly Tabuki's.

    The first one is probably Yuri so she only has two episodes left.

  9. J

    Uh-oh. So I guess this does mean that the brothers' ideals and beliefs are about to tested huh? This looks like it's going to get pretty dark…if it isn't dark enough already O.o

  10. d

    @Enzo: I was getting the impression that Sanetoshi is against the book because it changes fate. Yet the book is the only thing which can bring momoka back. but as he cannot interfere with the world directly- some rule as a watcher of fate… he has to chess play them. as to why he did not just tell yuri to get the diary all those years ago…. i have no idea.
    Qn: why does shouma have the apple? Momoka is diary and Sanetoshi is apple meaning Shouma is of the same kind as Sanetoshi? diary = perm solution, apple = temp solution?

  11. m

    Random thought. Could it be that the destruction of the diary will undo all the previous changes thus bringing Momoka back?

  12. Interesting idea, and not totally impossible.

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