ajthefourth: Backtracking a bit, Mawaru Penguindrum‘s cold open this week is dedicated to reminding us that Shouma was hit by a car in episode eight. Fortunately, Shouma appears to be physically unharmed; however, the consequences of his car accident, and the way that episode nine played with the audience’s perception of Himari’s character cast a very interesting shadow over this tenth episode of the series.
This episode sees the Takakura siblings reunited in Shouma’s hospital room. It also shows them reunited in a bit of a different way, as well, with Shouma and Kanba returning to their “designated roles” that they’ve had since the beginning of the series. Immediately upon waking, Shouma thinks of how he has to make breakfast, Kanba pushes him down on the bed forcefully and tells him to rest. This goes back to their original established characterization: Shouma is the more feminine brother, the more feeling brother, he watches; Kanba is the more masculine brother, the more active brother, he acts. Never mind the fact that Shouma saved Ringo’s life; once he is back with his family, he settles into being subservient to Kanba once more.
Kanba, who has been made to look foolish by Masako for several episodes now, returns to his brash self when Shouma wakes up. His speech to Himari as the two sit in the coffee shop is especially damning where he goes through the things that he can’t stand receiving from girls: cute bentos, giant cakes, and handmade sweaters in that specific order. In addition to hurting Himari’s feelings a bit, it also goes to show that these things, which Masako brings up later on when she sends him on a wild goose chase, have been buried in Kanba’s mind the entirety of the series. Kanba is a less competent Touga Kiryuu. He’s being manipulated by someone (The End of the World, the Kiga Group, Sanetoshi, whoever) however, he still seemingly knows far more about what is going on than the rest of the main cast does. When Masako asks him over the loudspeaker repeatedly whether he remembers, Kanba’s face and attitude are not ones of shock or surprise, but resignation. It’s as if he’s known for a long time that he would have to deal with this, and has resigned himself to finally deal with it now, within the plot of the series.
And what of Miss Himari? Our perception of her character has been significantly and irrevocably altered thanks to the previous episode. It casts a long shadow over her actions in this episode, because we, the audience, are still wondering exactly how much she knows. Seemingly, Himari steps out a bit from being a bystander, especially in her conversation with Kanba at the coffee shop. She asks what kind of presents a boy would like. Following Kanba’s insertion of his own foot into his mouth, Himari tells him that she’s at a good stopping point and instructs him to keep Shouma company. This could be referring simply to her knitting; however, with the specter of her supposed death, descent into the library, and return, everything she says is suddenly rife with meaning. The way she treats Kanba is almost motherly, placing her hand and head on his forehead, as is her message: “I’m at a good stopping point, take care of Shouma.” It’s a far cry from the romantic tension evident in later scenes involving Kanba, and one can’t help but to compare them side-by-side.
vucubcaquix: The next woman that Kanba interacts with leads him into a scene that has none of the warmness of the previous situation, as he finds himself in a room in the dark, being hunted and toyed with. This is a direct reference to 1991′s acclaimed thriller Silence of the Lambs, which has actress Jodie Foster frantically stumbling around in the dark as Buffalo Bill stays just outside or her perception, lusting and longing and desirous of her. Masako Natsume regarded her prey in the same violently carnal way as she toyed with him and taunted him in the dark, only to reveal that her intentions weren’t as murderous as I had thought.
“I am not a pathetic hunter who lets her prey escape.”
She has a physical attraction to him, and looses herself upon him for a moment in a frenzied embrace, locking lips with him, disappearing before he could see her. She is a hunter, but with the dispelling of the tension through some relatively lighthearted music, she resembles less the unhinged and psychotic Buffalo Bill in the clip above, and more the energetic and love-crazed Pepe le Pew. The revelations of this episode, while shocking and interesting to note as a plot point, make me feel as though Natsume Masako was de-clawed to a certain extent. She still retains an air of mystery, as we don’t know who she speaks to on the phone and we’re given only a tidbit of interaction between her and the newly introduced Natsume Mario (whom she strangely addresses as -sama if indeed they are siblings), and she still has the diary and is aware of a certain Project M. I’m not going so far as to say that her characterization has been damaged, since episodes two through eight were all about how obsessive “love” can lead to violent and dangerous behavior. I find it funny how appropriate the use of Dvorak’s 2nd Mvt. of his 9th symphony is during Kanba’s descent in this light.
Dvorak’s “Largo” is known by another name when played during military funerals: Going Home. As Kanba pressed forward after a vicious blow to the head (and several moments missing in an unconscious blackout), there was no fear in him as he experienced his own version of a descent into the underworld. His taunter displaying icons repressed in his memory as symbols of failed love, pressing and prodding him to “remember”. Eventually, he confesses that he does.
The name of the musical piece that accompanies Kanba’s descent is indicative of Natume Masako’s perspective if she is indeed sincere in her feelings for Kanba. By teasing him, taunting him, goading him into moving forward and to “remember”, from her perspective, he is coming home.
ajthefourth: We also must consider the use of the New World Symphony as a reference point. If the majority of the people present in this series are already dead, or straddling what the opening calls, “the binary world line,” the line between life and death, then the railroad takes on a similar significance as an effective shuttle to the afterlife. In Night on the Galactic Railroad, Dvorak’s composition is played at a key point in the journey, immediately after two children, presumably from the sinking Titanic, have boarded the train. Giovanni (the only character on the railroad who could be considered as alive) immediately becomes jealous of his friend Campanella’s attentions to the two, especially the girl, Kaoru, since Giovanni had had no one he could consider a friend until Campanella came along. The New World Symphony plays as the train barrels through imagery of the Great Plains of the United States where the train’s passengers happen upon an American Indian, an archer (who has also been described as an allusion to the constellation Sagittarius), who’s pursuit of its prey has been stripped of all of its bloody violence. Instead, the hunt is described as a dance; he fires an arrow into the sky, the crane he is hunting falls. Interestingly enough, these are described as two independent events, without the harder edge that comes with killing something through a hunt. As the train pulls away, the American Indian holds the crane in his arms. It’s a bit more romantic of a description than one would expect, and ties in beautifully with what David mentioned about Masako’s harshness having been removed through her actions towards Kanba in this episode. What does Masako do upon capturing Kanba? She embraces him.
Now, let’s apply a few themes of Night on the Galactic Railroad to the odd one out: Ringo Oginome. This poor girl has dedicated the near entirety of her life up until this point, into turning herself into her sister Momoka so that her parents will not split up permanently. In a(n admittedly oblique) way, Ringo has dedicated all of her time to her family, much like Giovanni has to his own family in the book. Neither of them have had the time to develop much of a friendship with anyone. Ringo isn’t exactly teased at school; however, if one remembers episodes two and three she certainly doesn’t seem particularly close to anyone. That is, until Shouma comes along and forcibly breaks down her barriers in an attempt to understand her (and steal her diary). These themes will become especially interesting as the friendship continues to develop between Ringo and Shouma. Shouma already has a few of Campanella’s “nice guy” qualities. Not so oddly enough, there is already a drowning connection between these two (with Shouma saving Ringo from drowning in episode four).
If Mawaru Penguindrum is paralleling Night on the Galactic Railroad to this extent, the “Hole in the Sky” (Sanetoshi’s library) could refer to the Coal Sack, a black nebula in the Milky Way located near the Southern Cross that is only visible to those who live in the Southern Hemisphere. It is here where Campanella disembarks, still unable to tell Giovanni that he is already dead. It will be interesting to see if Penguindrum uses the same reference point. In addition to this, episode 10 marks the a turning point in that all three siblings now have gone through circumstances that they could have died from, calling into question their individual statuses of being “alive.”
vucubcaquix: Himari collapsed in the aquarium and is revived after a visit to the Hole in the Sky. Shouma dives into a pond to save a drowning girl, paralleling certain events in Night on the Galactic Railroad, and is also hit by a car. Kanba passes out for a moment and is dragged along the street for several blocks face first, and also suffers a wicked blow to the head during this episode that causes him to black out and lose several moments. There is a horrific violence that is inflicted upon the main characters that seems to be casually brushed off. There are no consequences for the events that transpired. While this happens all the time in various animation that we consume, it doesn’t fit the internal logic that the show is presenting to us. Consider how violent these events have been to the characters, only for them to come out relatively unscathed. Now compare it to what happened to Kuho Asami of the red heels after she was pushed down the escalator. While she lay in her hospital bed, we gleaned that her injuries were serious enough to warrant concern over her memories which indicates a possible concussion. In that same episode, Kenzan shields Kanba from an errant pane of glass, with a cut up right arm in a sling as a result. In episode 9, Chiemi prevents a mirror from falling on Himari when she was younger, resulting in permanent scarring.
The Takakura siblings seem to be exempt from physical consequence, in a way that no other character in this series is. We understand why Himari would be so, since it’s been known since the first episode that she is dead, however the state of the older siblings thus far has been more ambiguous. There is an ambivalence that the show has towards divulging the state of the siblings that resembles a certain famous paradox.
Who is alive? Who is dead? Why does it matter? How can we find out? We are nearing the halfway mark of the series, and I can’t help but feel that the unboxing is coming soon.
ajthefourth: Well, we’ve certainly managed to cover a lot more than we had expected with this particular episode. As always, however, there are still a few small things that we could have touched upon. For example, I’m still concerned with the role of the diary within the series. What if placing the diary on top of the Death Note in the sixth episode wasn’t a mere shout-out? I can’t help but be taken with the idea that there is more of a similarity between the two than we had previously thought. Masako’s actions in this episode slightly stray away from her being a reincarnation of Momoka. If this is the case, then why would anyone want the diary unless it too possessed some sort of power outside of the scope of Momoka and Ringo? Write a name in the Death Note and that person dies, write something in the fate diary and it becomes your destiny.
vucubcaquix: I certainly had more thoughts on this episode than I anticipated as well, given that I had a hard time being as immersed in the story immediately due to some issues with the visuals and animation. From what I know, Keiji Gotoh was responsible for all of the animation of this episode and appears to have done everything nearly single-handedly. It’s impressive when viewed in that respect, but I’ve come to expect a certain standard of quality from this show that I suppose can only really come from the quality assurance of a staff of assistants backing you up. I’m glad that I didn’t let this deter me from seeing the continually interesting story underneath, since we wouldn’t have been able to write the more than 2300 words that we did on what we’ve learned thus far.
ajthefourth: Oh my gosh. Well, I’m sure we’ll have even more to say in the comments section, so let’s turn it over to the readers, shall we? Have an excellent night. Here’s to hoping that next week’s Penguindrum will bring back the lush, vibrant, and lively visuals that we’ve so come to adore from this series.
vucucbaquix: Have a good night Emily. We’ll no doubt be laboring over the symbolism and meaning behind a show about three teenagers and their penguins yet again.