Category Archives: Mawaru Penguindrum

Mawaru Penguindrum 18 — Dangling in the Bath

The mysteries are finally starting to unravel. Unfortunately this means there’s less to speculate about. There is one big reveal though: the Takakuras’ father isn’t dead. He seems to be heading the mysterious organization that Kanba has been getting money from. Now, what is its purpose?

Another item of speculation: are the people Masako wants to crush Himari and Shouma? She says “I can’t leave Kanba with them any longer” as they’re having a family hug at the end of the episode. Very interesting.

Scene Composition

The way the scenes were arranged in this episode was beautiful. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

 First, consider the opening scene about Tabuki and his childhood with the piano. There’s some interesting texturing here, it looks like it was done with watercolors. And the picture of the faceless boy with the hat really reminds me of some painting I’ve seen before. Does anyone who knows more about art recall what painting this is?

The scene in the child broiler was beautiful as well, particularly when Momoka ripped her way into it. What a boss. Notice the lighting and the shadows.

I appreciated everything that took place at the top of the building as well, but I particularly liked the scene where Ringo is gripping the door of the elevator. Half her face is enmeshed in shadow, and the reflections on her eyes wobble gracefully.

My favorite scene from the episode was the family hug at the end though. Shouma is holding both Himari and a wounded Kanba in his arms. And then Ringo joins in from behind. Damn. Shouma sure is loved. This was just adorable.

Unwanted Children

This is the second time we’ve seen the child broiler. The first time was during Himari’s sojourn to the library: she met a mysterious boy there who gave her an apple (I’m guessing it was Mario).

In this episode, we learn that Tabuki went to the broiler because he was an unwanted child, unloved by his mother because he couldn’t play the piano. So why was Himari in the child broiler? She was certainly loved by her parents and by her brothers.

In the picture above, Momoka looks somewhat sinister. I wonder if she has a dark secret as well.

Disciples of Christ

Tabuki makes an interesting statement about Momoka:

Tabuki believes that Momoka should not have died: she was supposed to be the savior of the world. This is much like the disciples prior to the resurrection: they thought it was ridiculous that Jesus would die, because he would lead them to rebel against the Romans.

Tabuki later claims, “I’m a victim whose most precious person was killed in your parents’ attacks.” I doubt Momoka would think very highly of this. Tabuki is like those who use the crucifixion as justification for anti-semitism. In a way, he has betrayed her, and plays the Judas to her Christ.

I’d also like to point out that Tabuki is quite similar to Head from Star Driver: he is frozen in time, at the point of Momoka’s death.

The Sins of the Children

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”

— John 9 1:3

I’m not really sure what I’m trying to get at with this, it just came to mind when I was thinking of the idea that the children should be punished for the sins of the parents. This was a hot topic two thousand years ago. I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same.

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Mawaru Penguindrum 17 — Showdown at the Parking Corral

Tabuki reveals himself!


The penguins are moving on to even more ridiculous stunts in the background this week. There is an epic fight ensuing in the background, involving ink, knives, and skewers. You do not want to get on #3’s bad side. Or Himari’s.

The strangest part, though, was when the octopus joined Kanba’s penguin in peeping up girls’ skirts! What was that about?

Survival Strategy!

Damn, this was perhaps the best entrance into the survival strategy so far. I love how they always do this: a normal conversation is going on, and then you notice that Himari has stopped moving. Then you notice the penguin hat on her head. “Oh. Shit.” It made for an even better effect this week since it happened while she was stuffing her face.

Ikuhara is doing some awesome trolling here as well. “Is the diary the Penguindrum?” “No-…. Not telling.” Also consider what penguin hat Himari says of the punishment: “What you treasure the most will be lost.” Obviously, Shouma and Kanba think this means Himari. But based on the wording and how full of surprises this show has been, I highly doubt it’s that simple.

Before, the camera always cut off right after Himari said “Let’s initiate the survival strategy.” But this time, the camera remains, and Himari strips. Sexy times ensue.

The two of them are definitely hiding things from Shouma (and from us). Kanba is putting on an act for Shouma, but breaks down in tears as soon as he leaves through the trap door. Kanba seems to know what the Penguindrum is as well, even though they were both keeping it a secret from Shouma earlier in this scene.

There are still some huge looming questions about the relationship between Kanba, Himari and the hat. Kanba cries because he can’t protect Himari. But who does he really want to protect: his innocent sister, or the being possessing her body he’s busy making out with?

Showdown at the Parking Corral

I loved the scene in the parking garage and how they incorporate the imagery of western movies into the duel between Yuri and Masako.

Yuri is waiting at the appointed place. She hitches her horse to the post at the feeding trough parks her car, and fingers her gun, waiting.

Then Masako makes her flashy appearance, riding on a stunning steed. She dismounts. The two wheel about and face each other at thirty paces.  Their boots heels click as they walk, and music of the impending showdown plays in the background. They circle each other as they shout out insults and declare their intentions. They do seem to know an awful lot about each other— I wonder why.

If you missed it, check out the great discussion from two weeks ago, spurred by passerby and continued by Noc, about the symbolism on Ringo’s diary and the story of Urashima Taro. In the duel this week, Masako brandishes the diary cover with the picture of the underwater palace as she declares her intent to save Mario, and Yuri shows the back with the turtle. Yuri claims that if Masako doesn’t believe in herself, her life will only be consumed. Masako says that Yuri’s life has already been consumed.

Finally, on cue, they draw their weapons and fire. Masako pulls out a Gatling gun and Yuri brings a crossbow. We’ll have to wait until next week to see the result of their duel.

This is one crazy rivalry though. A naked ping pong match and now this?

A Shadow of Desire

For the most part, Tabuki was actually what he seemed, which is a surprise for this show. He doesn’t hold anything against the Takakura family: only Yuri does.

Recall the scene from earlier in the show, where Ringo is with Tabuki in the park. Tabuki tells Ringo that Momoka taught him how to fly. Once she died, he still knew how to fly, but could no longer treasure anything he saw. He is filled with desire no longer— only a shadow of desire remains.

Those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained; and the restrainer or reason usurps its place & governs the unwilling. And being restrain’d it by degrees becomes passive till it is only the shadow of desire. The history of this is written in Paradise Lost, & the Governor or Reason is call’d Messiah. And the original Archangel or possessor of the command of the heavenly host, is call’d the Devil or Satan and his children are call’d Sin & Death. But in the Book of Job Miltons Messiah is call’d Satan. For this history has been adopted by both parties. It indeed appear’d to Reason as if Desire was cast out, but the Devil’s account is, that the Messiah fell, & formed a heaven of what he stole from the Abyss.
— William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

Yuri fits well with Blake’s Satan— her desire is unrestrained; she wants vengeance. But for Tabuki, nothing remains other than a shadow of desire.

Elevator, Elevator, Himari got the Shaft!

As soon as I saw that elevator, I knew that things would not turn out well. But what a cliffhanger! Is Tabuki going to kill her? What happened to all his talk of forgetting the past?

Could Tabuki be the Goddess of Shouma’s story, the one who passes a fickle judgement?

Further Thoughts

  • I loved Yuri’s phone call with Ringo. “Let’s go to a hot spring again sometime.” “O… ok.” Sometimes you should just say no, Ringo.
  • Those glasses in Yuri and Tabuki’s apartment just scream “evil mastermind.”

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Mawaru Penguindrum 16 — Stinky Poo!

This was a goofy episode all-around. Reminds me of the Nanami episodes in Utena. Still, it was entertaining, and there were some interesting developments.

I Like my ___ Like I Like my ____

This episode made quite an effective use of repetition, particularly of this phrase. The usage first begins with Masako: “Men are like tea: the first cup is always the most satisfying.” OK, so that’s why she’s obsessed with Kanba.

Then the grandfather uses the same phrase multiple times. “I like my women like I like my tea: the younger the better.” “I like my blowfish like I like my women: stripped by me.” and there are several others. The repetition establishes a contrast: Masako is only interested in one man; her grandfather is a chronic womanizer. A lot like Kanba, isn’t he?

We see a similar repetition with the sword swinging scene. At the beginning of each of Masako’s delusions, we see the grandfather swining his sword, chanting “I will not be crushed. I will not be crushed.” Then when we see Mario swinging the sword… oh, shit.

It’s the same thing with Masako’s dreams. She always kills her grandfather in ridiculous ways, but then when he actually dies, it’s even more ridiculous. And then Masako herself dies (or not) the same way her grandfather did. Vision and reality have become blurred.

In the Shadows of Giants

Last week, we learned that Yuri was haunted by her father, and trapped in the shadow of his humongous statue. This week, Masako is overshadowed by her grandfather, whom she still strives to crush.

Where Yuri had Momoka as a childhood friend to change fate at her behest, Masako has Kanba. Momoka has the power to change fate, but Kanba doesn’t. So all he can promise is to keep Masako company if she’s going to be cursed.

Interestingly, both Yuri and Masako end up becoming what they hate. Yuri becomes the epitome of beauty, making a career as a charismatic and popular actress. As for Masako, we see how her morning starts with a single cup of black tea, as did her grandfather’s. Where her grandfather is obsessed with not being crushed, Masako is obsessed with crushing him.

Or is he obsessed with not being crushed? Everything we see of the grandfather is seen through the lens of Masako’s eyes. The tea scene, which mirrors Masako’s morning, turns out to be part of her dream of killing him. The scene where he heads to the boardroom, as Masako did earlier, again turns out to be part of Masako’s murderous delusions. Who is the grandfather, really?

From Masako’s perspective, he has committed three sins: 1) he believes that people are divided into winners and losers, 2) he sees Masako’s father as a loser and drives him from home, and 3) he doesn’t take good care of Mario, as evidenced by his possibly deadly training regime. Yuri overcomes the idea of being one of the “losers” through Momoka’s love. Masako overcomes this by becoming a winner through her own power: she is the huntress, not the hunted. This is problematic, because Masako doesn’t learn how to love.

Look at how Masako deals with Mario. It’s clear that she does love Mario: just look at what she’s done for him. Masako finds herself in a role similar to Momoka in protecting Yuri, and to Kanba in protecting Himari. But where Momoka can tell Yuri that she loves her, Masako’s way of showing her love is by crushing others and shielding Mario from the world. Also, look at how Masako loves Kanba. By crushing him(?), wiping the memories of his ex-girlfriends, and blackmailing him into meeting her in the hospital.

As Masako dies from blowfish poisoning, she says the she wanted to hear she was loved from someone, but she passes out before she can say who. It isn’t her father. Is it Kanba? Her grandfather? Mario? All three? It’s unclear. The same can be said of her catchphrase, “I need to crush him soon.” Does she need to crush Kanba? Her grandfather? Quite possibly it’s the same person she wants to hear she is loved by.

Survival Strategy

This was the weirdest survival strategy yet. Masako’s maid is spying on penguin hat Himari, and the hat brings the maid into the subway tunnel world. There, she transforms the old maid into a young woman and takes suggestive photos of her. I… don’t even know what to make of this. Since neither Kanba nor Shouma is there, Himari stands on top of #3 and a blowfish.

Identity Theft

So it appears that the grandfather has possessed Mario: this is quite literally his curse. If Momoka is the one possessing Himari (as seems increasingly likely due to the hair color / eye color match) then this could also be a form of a curse: possessing the children of the perpetrators of the subway incident. Kanba has fulfilled his promise and become cursed along with Masako. Of course, Momoka doesn’t seem to be the vengeful type, and the penguin hat is trying to save Himari. Another possibility is that Momoka changed fate, and is responsible for the Takakura parents becoming the perpetrators. So it is not a curse but a penance.

There also seems to be a link between Sanetoshi and the grandfather. First, while Mario is in the pond, Sanetoshi calls Masako to tell her about the dangers of eating blowfish. It seems that he is somehow involved. Second, this one phrase of the grandfather’s caught my attention:

Is the grandfather Sanetoshi? Perhaps so, perhaps not, but either way, they have a lot in common. The main difference seems to be their attitude: Sanetoshi is sly, while the grandfather is quite up front about everything.

So what can the grandfather tell us about Sanetoshi? Honestly, I’m not sure. The grandfather believes people are divided into winners and losers, so perhaps Sanetoshi believes the same thing.

I am Not Taking that Train

From the train scene at the end of the episode, it seems that Masako’s father may have joined the group that Kanba is getting money from, and was tossed aside when they were done. Or this could simply be referring to how Masako’s father was tossed aside by her grandfather. Either way, with the parallels drawn between Masako’s father and Sanetoshi (the presumed leader of the suited men) the implications are sinister.

Sanetoshi claims that these men have been chosen to “put the world back on track.” Sanetoshi’s goal is to “take back the world.”After Momoka changed fate in some way, Sanetoshi wants to put it back on the original track. The way the world was originally, Mario (and Himari, I would assume) didn’t die. So perhaps Momoka feels guilty for Himari’s death, and is possessing her out of guilt.

Why is Masako so resistant to joining the men on the train, even if it will save Mario? What happened to her father could be enough of an explanation, but she clearly knows more than we do about what’s going on.

In the train scene, Mario passes an apple to Sanetoshi. Sanetoshi takes the apple out from behind the book of fish he’s looking at, and it transforms into one of Masako’s slingshot balls with the pingroup logo. Then he drops it on the ground, and steam is coming out of it. What is this about? Any ideas?

Further Thoughts

  • To have prepared the replica to speak, Yuri must have known Masako would attempt to steal the diary. Why? What is their connection?
  • Himari is reading a book on adult knitting at the hospital. Ok…?
  • I loved the Nutcracker music this episode.
  • The ending song worked really well after this episode.
  • We only had one scene with Shouma and Ringo, but it was a nice one. Ringo has become Shouma’s stalker now. D’aawww.

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Mawaru Penguindrum 15 — Transferring Trains

Um… what just happened?

Daddy Issues

So Yuri’s past was overshadowed by the specter of her father (quite literally). I’m not the biggest fan of ascribing all of peoples’ problems to their parents. And Yuri’s father is pretty messed up, even to the extent of physically mutilating his own daughter with chisels.

On the bright side: little Yuri is pretty damn cute.

The Knight in Shining Armor

A few things to mention: first, Ringo is the one to call Shouma. This is clearly a call for attention.

Conveniently, Ringo’s room is right next door to Shouma’s. Or is this a coincidence? Perhaps it is the result of Yuri’s meddling.  She doesn’t seem to be in that much of a hurry to get started with Ringo, for one thing. When Shouma trips on the bottle and loses consciousness, she comments on how jealous she is of them.

The Great Escape

Shouma just happens to be next door to Ringo. Masako disguises herself as a maid, has a conversation with herself, strips to a swimsuit, and jumps out the window with Yuri. They have a naked ping pong match, in the dark, with Masako’s slingshot balls in the hot tub. Masako makes her escape with scuba gear. And after all that, the diary turns out to be a fake.

I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry at this point. It was certainly… unexpected, to say the least. There’s being filled with surprises, and then there’s being ridiculous.

The Diary

I hadn’t thought about it until this week, but what do the symbols on Momoka’s diary represent? On the front we have two entwined serpents, opening up to surround a pagoda with their heads. On the back is a tortoise.

The twin snakes are reminiscent of Hermes’ Caduceus. Hermes gave his lyre, made of a tortoise shell, to his brother Apollo to make up for the cattle he stole. In return, Apollo gifted Hermes with the Caduceus. The Caduceus is a symbol of balance and reciprocity, so it is fitting for the cover of Momoka’s diary, where transferring between fates comes at a cost.

Next, note when the diary is torn in two, who has each half. Masako has the side with the two snakes, the Caduceus that belongs to Hermes, the cunning trickster and messenger of the Gods. As Mario’s hat’s / Sanetoshi’s agent, Masako is indeed the messenger of the Gods. And her theft this episode and earlier kiss with Kanba certainly appear to be the work of a trickster.

On the other hand, Yuri has the half with the tortoise, Apollo’s lyre. Apollo is the god of music and poetry, things that are beautiful. Yuri is a beautiful actress and singer. Furthermore, Apollo had plenty of lovers, both male and female (although I don’t think this was particularly unique among the Greek gods).

Savior of the World

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
— John 15:13

Last week’s title was “Princess of Lies,” and this week follows up with “Savior of the World.” It’s a pretty easy connection to make between the title and Momoka. For Momoka loved Yuri so much, that she gave her only life, so that Yuri would not perish but have eternal life. Of course, given that this is Penguindrum, I doubt that it’s this simple: Momoka probably has some dark secret as well.

But let’s run with it for a bit. If Momoka is the Christ, and Yuri is Satan, where does that leave us? The situation is quite similar to Victor Hugo’s incomplete work La fin de Satan. Unfortunately, this isn’t readily available in English, so here’s a summary:

…God is trapped by Satan in his own creation, which God therefore repeatedly tries to destroy, without success. God is clearly not almighty, yet his Opponent cannot unseat him for one unexpected reason: As a former Angel, Satan is desperately in love with God and detests the fetid darkness in which he is compelled to abide, which is tantamount to saying that he hates himself as much as he cherishes his enemy. Eventually the two must come to terms, lest God’s creation be irremediably spoiled and Satan altogether disgusted with himself and his foul surroundings. Strangely enough, the stakes of the final reconciliation of the two mighty opponents is the destruction of the world, envisioned as a positive outcome.
The Tree of Gnosis, p. 255, Ioan Couliano

That could fit our story so far perfectly. Momoka is trapped by Yuri through her own choice to mess with fate for Yuri’s sake. Yuri desperately loves Momoka, and hates the fetid world she has been left behind in, where nothing is beautiful, almost as much as she despises herself. This leads her to oppose the world Momoka has chosen. Let’s see if the endings match up.

I’ll also note that this fits in well with the association of Ringo with Eve in the gnostic narrative. Eve is given the breath of God, and becomes a divine being trapped in a body of matter. Likewise, Ringo inherits a portion of Momoka’s spirit (through reincarnation). The snake leads Eve to remember her divine roots, as Yuri leads Ringo to abandon her quest to become Momoka and become more fully herself. Alternatively, the archons (Yuri) lust after the reflection of the divine they glimpsed, see the same thing in Eve (Ringo) and rape her. Take your pick.

Random Thoughts

  • I just realized Masako’s catchphrase “I want to crush it” seems awfully familiar in the context of the Eden story. God curses man and the snake: “He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
  • I wonder what this banana could possibly symbolize…? Poor Shouma.

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