Mawaru Penguindrum 13 — The Second Coming

The last few episodes have been incredible in terms of mindfuckery and fueling speculation. This episode took a step back, slowed down, and built up a tense and melancholic atmosphere to let the viewers absorb the enormity of the Takakura parents’ actions.

Dual Survival Strategies

Sixteen years ago, Sanetoshi met a pink-haired girl who could hear the world crying out to be saved just as he could. But she would not agree to do things the way he wanted to. Based on the timing and the fact that it was a child, I am guessing this girl is Momoka. Furthermore, based on the way the camera lingers on the hat, we can suppose that she is also the penguin hat. Furthermore, we learned that Sanetoshi is saving Mario for Masako. I mentioned how the light and the dark penguins are duals a few weeks ago, but now we can take this a bit further since we know who their leaders are.

First, let’s look at Sanetoshi and his counterpart’s commonalities.

Hm, this seems familiar.

They’re both full of themselves.

There is always a price.

Here is the key difference. Sanetoshi provides a drug to save Himari. He is the one with the power, as he so ardently proclaims. But the girl with the penguin hat tells Shouma and Kanba how to save Himari themselves. This is why the penguin hat, as we learned in the last episode, does not want the penguin drum to fall into Sanetoshi’s hands. Sanetoshi wishes to control fate himself, as we see from his “experiments”. But the penguin hat believes people should control their own fates. This is why the girl in the library would not follow Sanetoshi.

Along the same lines, both the penguin hat and Sanetoshi have mentioned the Scorpion’s heart while referring to Kanba. AJthefourth explains how this is a reference to Night on the Galactic Railroad:

Scorpio was caught by a weasel and was about to be eaten. Scorpio tries to get away, falls into a well, and just as he is about to die begins to pray. He thinks back on the creatures he had eaten and killed in his lifetime, and wishes that, upon his death, he would at least be eaten by the weasel so that the weasel would live another day, instead of his dying in vain in a well. He tells God to look inside his heart and ensure that in his next life, his body will be used for good and happiness. He then turns bright red and becomes a flame that lights up the darkness of the sky.

The penguin hat sees the scorpion’s heart (a.k.a., Kanba’s) as beautiful. But to Sanetoshi, it is hideous and charred.

The Fickle Goddess

The Goddess came across as even crueler in this episode than before. She decides to spare the third lamb, because “it would be no fun if the punishment ended here.” But perhaps the most disturbing part is that the rabbits, which originally led Mary into taking the ashes of the torch, agree with the Goddess. The rabbits were creatures of the Goddess all along; they were “called forth by the world” itself.

Continuing with our discussion of Gnostic myth from last week, we have the unwitting snake / rabbits, which the spirit of the Logos departed from before the demiurge’s curse. And Sanetoshi is developing similarities to the demiurge himself: he believes himself to be the only one in the world, the creator of all that is, before he glimpses a shadow of the pleroma (the girl’s footsteps). But the light will not return to him, and in his anger he seeks to recreate the image he has seen (in Sanetoshi’s case, through drugs and controlling fate). Himari bears a resemblance to Sophia: she is both a saint and a prostitute, for one, and utterly unknowable.

I’m planning to elaborate more on all of this in a future post. For the record, I don’t think that Penguindrum is influenced directly by gnosticism. Rather, myth and anime are both products of the human imagination, and reveal the underlying structure of the human mind. So there should be no surprise that the stories are similar.

Music

I generally don’t pay much heed to the music in anime, but this episode did a fantastic job. I’ll point out two examples.

First, consider the scene where the police come to take the children away. A slow, subdued piano place plays in the background. But when Shouma opens the door, silence reigns. Silence is often the most effective music. Next, we hear a buzzing / ringing sound in the background, indicating that something is not right. As the cop steps into the house uninvited, a lower tone joins into the cacophony. The second officer steps past the threshold, and the phone begins to ring, joining in the mix. Kanba’s anger builds while he speaks with the officers, and Himari offers him the phone. “Stay in your room!” Kanba shouts. Himari jumps back, and all sound ceases. This segment was fraught with tension from the music.

Later, in the hospital, a subdued piano piece begins once again, and continues until the flashback in the hotel. The phone rings and silence returns. Their uncle tells them to turn on the TV, and a sneaky, plodding percussive piece begins, but slowly at first. This piece gives the viewer a gentle tingle of foreboding. It continues until the Takakura parents’ faces are shown on the television. Then, the same ringing noise from earlier makes its return, and builds into a crescendo. Ohhhhhhhh crap.

The beat changes slightly, and the song continues. Once Himari wakes up, the bells fall back and the brass enters in. Shouma continues the goddess’ story as this jazzy little tune carries on. The Goddess begins speaking her line, “It would be no fun if the punishment ended here.” The snare speeds up and plays a steady beat for a small crescendo. Then silence once again, while the Goddess continues speaking. As she finishes, the last two notes play, ending without closure, leaving us expecting a few more notes. “That’s right!” the rabbits supply. And we stop for a commercial break.

The music in these two segments and the way it was aligned with the animation and voice acting were exceptional, and allowed me to become fully engrossed in the story.

Further Thoughts

  • After the attacks, they built a sky metro? Could this fit in with Masako’s talk on how light and darkness must coexist? The underground Hole in the Sky?
  • I enjoyed how Sanetoshi broke the fourth wall.
  • Ringo has moved on from trying to become Momoka, with some excellent advice from Tabuki. But I like how she still believes in fate, despite all that has happened.

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20 thoughts on “Mawaru Penguindrum 13 — The Second Coming

  1. Mmm, you were able to describe the fantastic quality of the music better then I could. I would add the melancholy yet hopeful piano melody that played over Ringo’s affirmation of fate juxtaposed with Kanba’s rejection of the notion of his parents as criminals that led into the absolutely beautiful Gray Wednesday ED.

    I swear, I was misting up by the time the credits were rolling at how effectively they amplified everyone’s sentiments.

    Then reading the lyrics… sigh, so good.

    1. Indeed, I love the new ED. I like it better than the old one— it’s quite moving. Perfect for the darker, timeless tone the series has taken on.

  2. Thinking about the Scorpion’s heart, I’m starting to think that the Princess was trying to validate Kanba and his desire for self sacrifice by trying the Survival Strategy last episode. She knew that it would only keep Himari alive once, and maybe she went through with it again for Kanba’s sake instead of her own in order to help him break out of his guilt based, largely self inflicted hell. Sanetoshi’s behavior this episode contrasts heavily with the Princess’s, since he seemed dismissive and mocking towards Kanba for even trying to do something of value with his sacrifice. With this in mind, and keeping what we know of the two, it’s not a stretch to think that Sanetoshi, a good candidate for the Goddess, may not be trying to punish Kanba as much as to keep him and Shouma from getting free by thinking that they can amount to anything.

    1. That seems pretty feasible. The Princess does seem to have a thing for Kanba as well.

      I’m not sure about Sanetoshi as the Goddess. The Goddess is fickle, Sanetoshi is not. Everything he does seems to have a reason, even if it is a secret for now. At the moment I see the Goddess more like fate herself.

  3. I love your comparison between Penguinhatted Himari and Sanetoshi. Sanetoshi seeks to control, or at the very least, be the only option to turn to when things become worse (i.e. what happened with Kanba), whereas the Penguinhatted Himari (possibly Momoka) gives the siblings and Ringo a possible path to find the Penguindrum, or their answers, for themselves. She reiterates this attitude on the train before she collapses, saying that their finding the Penguindrum will be the only thing to truly save Himari. Great catch.

    The rebuilding of the Sky Metro really caught my attention. Presumably, the Sky Metro was built as a response to the attacks, and a symbol that Japan was moving on from them. However, that last line of the reporter “Our actions must reflect our humanity. We must never repeat such a tragedy,” stuck out to me as a slight against the Metro, possibly hinting that building a new shiny train line is meaningless if the attitudes in society that created people who would perpetrate such atrocities don’t change as well. Perhaps it’s because I see this response reflected in not one, but several sarin attack survivors’ interviews in “Underground.”

    1. Thanks for pointing out the references to this and Night on the Galactic Railroad, as always. I wonder what she meant by “our actions must reflect our humanity.” Perhaps there is some collective guilt for the attacks. We still don’t know the parents’ motivation yet.

    2. I completely agree with your take on the reporter’s lines. So much of what Murakami (and others who wrote about the attacks) were trying to say seemed to be condensed in that short scene.
      Since you also read Underground – or more specifically, The Place That Was Promised with the Aum interviews – I have a question I have been dying to ask. Does the Child Broiler room make you think of Satyam No. 7 and Cosmo Cleaners? The descriptions given of Cosmo Cleaners used for the Sarin processing plant at Satyam 7 and other large buildings were – I’m going from memory – large, metal air filtering devices used to keep the Aum safe from “chemical attacks”. They were also, I think, used to keep the air clean in the facility that made the sarin. I may be linking the Aum too closely with Penguindrum, but I never expected the anime to reference the attack so obviously, and now all I can think is that everything ties in to the Aum incidents very closely. Ikuhara seems like the kind of guy who doesn’t use tragedies as a way of making numbers for his show; he has a message, and I’m hoping that the message has to do with issues like that of Murakami’s novel. One question brought up only very briefly in the novel is “what happens to the children of the members of the Aum?” and I think by addressing how society views them, Ikuhara can address a number of the social problems that led to these attacks and their aftermath.
      …If he wants to.

      PS I hope this is readable because I wrote two halves at two different times trying to put my thoughts together and it all seems like gobbledygook to me now.

      1. I can’t answer your question, unfortunately, since I haven’t read the book. I really should. It does seem like there are many connectiosn with Penguindrum. Ajthefourth has more about the connection to Murakami’s book in her post, which you can find here..

        1. I was trying to “reply” to Ajthefourth’s comment, I’m not sure if I replied properly. I’ll ask my Murakami questions on her blog, sorry for the spam and thanks for the link.

          1. Oh, no, it worked properly, I was just worried she wouldn’t check this page to see it. :)

            I don’t consider it spam at all, your comments are always welcome.

      2. Hi! Sorry it took me so long to respond, I’ve been very busy at work.

        Anyway, Satyum No. 7 and the Cosmo cleaners. There is a bit of a tie-in there, I suppose; large, airy, factory-like air purifiers. If you pay attention to the imagery, there are many above shots of ceiling fans slowly rotating, specifically in the hospital in episode 1 (when Himari is revived for the first time), in episode 10 (when Shouma is hospitalized), and again in episodes 12 and 13 (when Himari dies and is revived again). As to what this means…no clue, honestly, but it’s another attention to detail that we should probably keep our eyes on.

        If I had to hazard a guess (and I’ve actually avoided throwing myself whole-heartedly into guessing one way or the other) at Ikuhara’s message, it would be a simple, introspective one. So many of the people interviewed echoed the sentiment that society needed to be examined following these attacks. Rather than a visceral, “I hate Aum, they should die!” reaction, the majority of interviewees wanted justice, but also bore no overwhelming ill will at the time of their interviews. Many of them stated that “hatred like that” would get them nowhere, and to reflect back on the social climate that would create such attitudes, as well as the inefficiency of the emergency response and communication. As Murakami says himself, “The immediate, on the ground errors of judgment were the result of existing holes in the system. Even more dangerous, little if anything has been learned about what actually happened as a result of those failings, because the information is classified.”

        As an aside, the use of Kasumigaseki station as Kenzan Takakura’s boarding point interests me in that it may be a subtle hint to his true character. The most casualties occurred on the Hibiya Line, where the most devoted Aum members were stationed to release their sarin packets. It could be a hint that Kenzan (and possibly Chiemi) were either very high up in the Penguinforce organization and/or highly devoted.

        I hope that helped possibly answer your question! Sorry (to both you and Draggle) for the wall of text.

  4. The new ED was great, featuring Himari and the red string of fate. At the end, there is a light and a dark hand reaching for the string. Is that good vs. evil symbolism, or is there another way to interpret that?

    1. Good question, I’m not sure. The one thing that the purple hand does make me think of is Tabuki’s hand, which is also disfigured. Not sure whether there’s a connection or not.

    2. , who would be Mario’s hat? Plus, has Kanba been talking to Momoka ever since? The idea that Momoka is the hat and thus Himari’s alter-ego reeucds Himari back to a passive character who doesn’t do anything. It also seems to counteract the idea established in the ninth episode that Himari has been actively searching for her true love. Then again, if the hat is Momoka all along, we can look back to the ninth episode and realize that the silhouetted kids exchanging apples wasn’t about Himari and some boy at all but rather Momoka and Tabuki instead.

      1. Since I’ve seen the full series now, I don’t want to spoil things for you. :) But suffice to say your questions will be answered by the series’ end.

    1. Ooh yes! That scene seems to fit in perfectly with the idea of Momoka as the hat. Now I wonder who the fated boy was: could it be Sanetoshi, or perhaps Tabuki…?

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