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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14 thoughts on “Mawaru Penguindrum 15 — Transferring Trains

  1. I think you may be coming at this from too Western-centric a viewpoint. The imagery on the diary is far more reminiscent of the story of Urashima Tarou – note the bubbles on the cover, indicating that that pagoda is underwater. This also fits with all the underwater imagery associated with Ringo.

    1. Well, since I’m from the West, that’s how I see things. There’s no reason it can’t also refer to Urashima Tarou though. Do the snakes / eels and the turtle fit into that story somehow?

      1. An abridged version of the story is, Urashima Taro reaches the underwater palace of the dragon king by riding a turtle. The underwater palace is a place where time passes differently, making things seemingly ‘eternal’, for when Taro returns home he finds that 300 years have passed. Going beyond this common tale, the underwater palace of the dragon king is called Girai Kanai in Ryukyuan mythos and is closely linked to Nirai Kanai, which is known as the place from which all life originates- and thus the place from which the fate of these lives originate as well. Also, many of Ringo’s delusions and flashbacks are set in a watery world where sea creatures take on the roles of humans, just like the palace occupants Taro met during his visit. The snakes/eels on the cover of the diary could be a reference either to these creatures or to the dragon king himself, since Japanese stories tend to depict dragons as being snake-like in appearance.

        1. Cool, that does have a lot of imagery we could fit into Penguindrum. Perhaps Momoka has been trapped in the palace / library / penguin hat. And with the underwater aspect, the brothers mentioned in the first episode that penguins waddle about on land but are at home in the water.

        2. I thought of something else: Yuri has the side of the diary with the turtle, which Urashima Taro rescued from being tortured. Could Yuri’s “torture” of Ringo fit in with this?

          Masako having the half with the palace and the dragon king is easy: time has stopped for her when Mario died (as evidenced by the continuation of her childhood infatuation with Kanba).

          If the castle is the destination of fate, then Momoka could fit well with the story. She rescued the tortured turtle (Yuri, or perhaps later we will see how Tabuki and Sanetoshi fit in?). Her actions led her to the library, where she was trapped, able to leave only as a hat.

          I’d like to put Ringo in the role of Urashima Tarou, but I can’t see how much fits except for the underwater imagery.

          1. Well, the turtle that Taro rescued ended up being the princess of the underwater palace, so I have trouble thinking of the turtle as anyone other than Momoka, Ringo or Himari, as Himari takes on a role of nobility when she dons her penguin hat, the hat is Momoka, and Ringo is supposedly her reincarnation…in Taro’s story, the princess gives him a box when he decides to leave the palace, telling him to never open it, but of course he does, and in it contains his old age. The princess was trying to save him from his mortal fate, as no one can survive living for 300 years. So princess= one who changes fate= Momoka?

            As for Urashima Taro, its hard to say. In one of the versions Taro is swept away in a storm before he can save the turtle, so failing to save what they hold dear= Ringo? Kanba? But usually, Taro saves the turtle princess and enjoys the wonders of the underwater palace, only to find misfortune upon returning home…this actually fits with Shouma more than anyone else, I think. He helps Ringo, Himari and the penguin hat, any of which could the princess. Afterwards he is happy and gets taken to a strange world when Himari puts her hat on/ gets dragged into Ringo’s crazy antics which are foreign to him, and then falls into despair later on…

            There are just so many angles one could look at it from, I’m honestly not sure at all, but its nice to think of how things might tie together.

          2. Half the fun of this show is coming up with ways to fit everything together afterwards. 🙂

            I really like the idea of Momoka / Ringo / Himari as the Turtle-princess who changes fate. Urashima Taro does fit Shouma with his adventure to the underwater kingdom, dragged along by Ringo, and eventual return trip home. If Shouma is Urashima Taro, then perhaps Ringo would make the most sense as the turtle, since Shouma saved her from being stranded on the beach of trying to become Momoka. Shouma already showed hints of leaving the princess behind in the previous episode then.

  2. New opening <3

    But notice Momoka's fingers? Then remember Tabuki's? Maybe there is some kind of connection…
    *low level speculation*

  3. Contesto en español: Este capitulo me hizo acordar mucho a Shigofumi con el drama de Fumika: padre artista que tortura a su hija para encontrar la belleza.
    Me gusto mucho más la parte en la que Sanetoshi pone en duda a Kanba sobre que tipo de amor profesa a su hermana.
    Shoma como rescatista es ridiculo pero con Ringo son ridiculos los dos, asi que de verdad hicieron una buena eleccion en juntarlos.
    La pregunta que me hago es si la Princesa quiere el Penguindrum ¿que destino quiere cambiar? ¿el de Himari, el de ella o el de Momoka (para mi no son la misma persona, hasta que se confirme)?
    Saludos

    1. Todavia no he visto Shigofumi, pero debo. Si, estoy de acuerdo, Ringo y Shouma hacen una gran pareja.

      No es claro todavia lo que la Princesa quiere. Tal vez quiere cambiar lo que ha hecho para evitar los ataques teroristas del pasado? Es posible si la Princesa es Momoka o si es Himari. Momoka a si mismo ha muerto en los ataques (?), y Himari quiere ayudar a sus padres.

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