This episode was a small step backwards in terms of craziness, but a giant leap forward in terms of Shouma and Ringo shipping.
The Joy of the Hunt
Kanba visits Masako’s mansion, and we learn that Masako sees people as hunters, hunting for the “true form of the object of one’s affection.” What is the true form of her affection? Just as it was with Ringo, I doubt that it is as simple as wanting Kanba as he is. She also claims that love is just a hormonal imbalance in the brain. But her masked allusions to a childhood promise to Kanba and Kanba’s portrait suggest otherwise. This brings us back to last week’s discussion of dualism: Ringo, who claims to be hunting for love, actually isn’t; and perhaps Masako, who claims not to be hunting for love, actually is. Ringo tries to construct a false fate, and Masako attempts to deny a true fate.
Let’s look at one piece of interesting imagery from this segment: When Kanba accuses Masako of being a stalker, images of the stalk of a plant appear. Masako claims she is not a stalker, but a hunter, and the stalks are replaced by crosshairs on an elephant. Hunting and stalking are functionally equivalent, so why is Masako so fixated on being known as a hunter? Observe how Ringo and Masako both engage in the hunt: Ringo seeks to build up a relationship with Tabuki, while Masako destroys her rivals and tries to gain control of Kanba’s life forcibly. Ringo desires a slow, growing love (like a stalk), while Masako (claims she) desires fealty and power, like a hunter.
But the symbol on Masako’s teacup is a stalk, not a hunter. And Masako’s penguin spends the entire segment making out with Kanba’s. Plus there’s the portrait and childhood promise. So is Masako truly a hunter, or a stalker disguised as a hunter? The guise of a hunter may be designed to hide from herself the fact that she is in love.
I’m completely biased, but I liked how they made Ringo realize that she loved Shouma. I prefer relationships where the couple doesn’t fall in love at first sight: this is too convenient and easy. I prefer when they have to jump through hoops and struggle, as Shouma and Ringo certainly have. So having the two lovebirds start out hating each other gets bonus points from me.
The epsiode begins without Ringo realizing how she feels towards Shouma. The audience knows, however, from a few hints, such as Ringo’s reaction to Shouma’s accusation that she shouldn’t have given up the diary. I should point out here that Shouma had the same reaction as Kanba in the previous episode: preventing his kidnapping didn’t merit risking the only way they had to save Himari. He is actually angry at Ringo for giving up the diary to save him. So for those predicting a fallout between the two brothers, it doesn’t look like we’re there quite yet.
On the train, Shouma tells Ringo “you’re you, not your sister!” and says that he won’t help her. “You’re you, you!” is one of the lines that pisses me off the most in anime— it’s so common, and so profoundly meaningless, yet it never fails to cause an immense transformation in lovelorn girls. Here, though, with Ringo literally trying to be her sister, it actually made sense for once.
After this, Ringo leaves the train, angry that Shouma has abandoned her (another not so subtle hint), and makes another love potion. We could interpret the frog as representing Ringo’s perceive destiny, as she is the princess (Momoka) transformed into a frog (Ringo), and when she kisses the prince (Tabuki) she will turn into a princess and everyone will live happily ever after. But here she is afraid of the frog, and unwilling to press it to her face. Ringo is having second thoughts about this destiny thing. Later, when reading the directions, she repeats the line “he’ll fall head over heels for you” to herself. Could she be thinking of someone else, after her fight?
This time, the love potion actually works, and Tabuki turns into a love-crazed mutant frog. This makes me wonder, though: perhaps the last love potion worked as well. Shouma’s penguin ate it. I believe that that one didn’t only last for a night, too.
Anyway, Ringo says no to Tabuki at the last minute, and Yuri saves Ringo from being raped by a drugged-up Tabuki. Perhaps as an effect of Ringo’s desire for Tabuki wearing off, Yuri doesn’t appear quite so evil at this moment. Yuri has realized before her that Ringo is in love with Shouma, and even gives her some advice. Ringo returns home and meets Himari and Shouma.
Ringo expresses her love best through violence.
Her accusations against Shouma lead us to the next question: what is fate?
I’ll be honest: I think that the idea of fate, in the sense that every aspect of your life is predetermined, is downright silly. Even if we don’t have free will, and everything is controlled by hormones in the brain, we still have the illusion of free will, which is much the same.
But there are other understandings of fate which are less nihilistic. The word fate has a variety of different meanings, and usually people neglect to clarify which meaning they’re using. So most conversations of fate tend to leave me bewildered: what are they talking about? Let’s look at a select few versions of fate, in decreasing order of the control it exerts on human lives.
- Predeterminism. Everything is fixed, and you can’t change it.
- Destiny. The final result is fixed, but there are many ways to get there. (e.g., Stein’s; Gate, predestination) The idea of soulmates, where destined lovers are connected by the red string of fate, is an example of this.
- The Gentle Hand of Fate. There is a “fate” of sorts, but it strongly influences reality rather than controlling it directly. Astrology is an example of this.
- Conciliatory Views. There is a fate, but it is fully determined by freely made human choices. (e.g., much of Christianity) There may be exceptions for things which are fully outside of human control, such as predestination.
- No Fate. There is no fate, and all is the result of human choice.
There’s another spectrum that views of fate fall along: is fate fundamentally a good thing or a bad thing? Some see fate as a good thing (such as with the idea of soulmates), some see it as a bad thing (such as absurdists, who consider it “despicable”) and others see it as neither strictly good nor evil (the astrologists and the conciliators).
So when Mawaru Penguindrum discusses fate, which version is it referring to? This seems to vary depending on the context. The Takakura seems to have quite the absurdist view, with fate being the despicable death of Himari and their parents. Ringo ascribes to the idea of a positive gentle hand of fate, attempting to bring reality back in line with its supposed destiny so that her family can be restored. Masako professes to believe in predeterminism, claiming love is a chemical reaction in the brain. Tabuki takes a more mixed view, similar to a popular Christian perspective (replace fate with God):
Sarin Gas Attacks
So it looks like everyone talking about the 1995 Sarin gas attacks was on to something. In this episode, Masako mentions a “curse” from 16 years ago, and Ringo claims that her sister died 16 years ago, on the day that she, Shouma and Kanba were born. Does not sound like a coincidence, especially with all the “95”s on the subway.
Furthermore, Shouma and Kanba consider themselves responsible for the death of Ringo’s sister. How could this be possible if the attacks happened on the day that they were born? Perhaps it has to do with…
There has been plenty of recycling imagery throughout the show. First, in the OP, there is the red circle with two arrows that crops up next to the librarian (also, in the train for the previous picture). The penguins make their first appearances in recycling bins. Then there’s Himari in the child broiler. And in this episode, when Ringo says that her sister passed away and she was born on the same day, the sign appears again. I believe there are other appearances as well.
Note how all of these appearances center around death. This makes me wonder if the idea is that lives are being recycled. Ringo seems to think that because she was born, her sister died. And since Shouma and Kanba entered the world, two other people must leave it. By being born as twins, they have screwed things up, and so an extra person must be removed from the world to restore balance. Perhaps this is their sin. Himari’s time in the child broiler gives off the feel of recycling as well, like she is waiting her turn in purgatory to return to life.
Which brings us back to Masako’s metaphor at the beginning of the episode. The emperor penguins hover at the edge of the iceberg, waiting for another penguin to dive into the sea first to see if it gets eaten by seals. Both Himari and Mario are afraid to venture on from death, and are waiting for someone else to step off the galactic railroad first.
Final Thoughts and Questions
- Himari’s “Little sister’s orders!” seem quite similar to the penguin hat Himari’s attitude. And the above shot was rather suggestive.
- Masako’s group does not have the other half of the diary. Who does?
- What is Kanba’s secret?
- What is the source of the memory-erasure balls, that Kanba also seems to know about?
- I like how Himari’s penguin tells Shouma’s to stop being a glutton here: