Colloquium: Mawaru Penguindrum Episode 1

"Because, ever since that day, none of us had a future."

ajthefourth: There’s something inherently fascinating and romantic about train travel.  The idea that a train stops at numerous destinations, offering numerous possibilities and yet is unable to expand beyond where its rails take it is one that makes the train an excellent image to work with in regards to themes of life and death.  Rife with train imagery, Mawaru Penguindrum is the latest anime series to address these themes and it does so with confidence, style, and substance.

Specifically, Mawaru Penguindrum uses many references to Night on the Galactic Railroad, a novel by Kenji Miyazawa.  In Night on the Galactic Railroad, Giovanni, a boy who has dealt with hardship for the majority of his life, and his friend Campanella board a train into the Milky Way.  While on board the train, the two friends meet other children who are essentially being shuttled to the afterlife.

‘You can stay on with us,’ said Giovanni, unable to hold himself in. ‘We’ve got a ticket that goes on forever!’

 ‘But we have to get off here,’ said Kaoru, sadly. ‘This is where you get off to go to Heaven.’

 ‘Who says you have to go to Heaven? My teacher says that we have to create a place that’s even better than Heaven right here.’

-Night on the Galactic Railroad

The above quote by Giovanni is directed towards a pair of children, Kaoru and Tadashi, who have been asked to leave the train at their specific stop.  Tadashi attempts to stay on longer; however, following Giovanni’s invitation, Kaoru responds that they have to get off at this stop in order to get to heaven.  This exchange devolves into a small argument about the validity of Kaoru’s god versus Giovanni’s own.  After all, Giovanni’s god wouldn’t want Kaoru and Tadashi to leave, therefore Kaoru’s god must be wrong.  In addition to this, Giovanni also makes the claim that what one could experience in life is better than any afterlife, provided that you willfully create such a place.  This idea of fighting against your fate and God is exactly what the Takakura brothers are introduced as trying to do in their attempts to save their ailing sister Himari who only has days to live.

Upon her death, Himari is revived by a mysterious entity who orders the brothers to find the “penguin drum” in exchange for the extension of Himari’s life.  The spirit makes the claim that she has come from the destination of the brothers’ fate, and her introduction begins with the words, “Survival strategy!” which, aside from being a cute catchphrase, also describes exactly what the brothers are currently trying to do with Himari.  This reinforces the idea that, like a train on its tracks, Shouma and Kanba Takakura may stop at a variety of destinations, but are bound to a single fate.  Their confrontation with the spirit possessing their sister serves to make it abundantly clear to the brothers that Himari’s life should have already ended, and what was described to them as a miracle by the doctors is now a service that they must apparently pay for.

“I have come from the destination of your fate.”

vucubcaquix: As I watched this last night with my viewing partner, the very first minute of the show had the main character railing against the cruelty of Fate, which had me recalling a few things I read about Deism. Specifically, the notion of the Clockwork Universe Theory that was so popular amongst the Deists of the 18th century. The basic gist is that in the beginning, God designed everything in the universe to behave according to the natural laws that he designed. He wound everything up with all of the energy that would ever be needed in the history of existence, gave existence a little flick of his finger, and stepped back to see the universe proceed perfectly forward like clockwork, never to interfere again. The Deists were enamored with that particular view of the universe when they saw that Newton’s laws of motion not only explained how falling apples behaved, but heavenly bodies as well. Everything behaved according to a certain immutable set of rules, unable to be broken, fated to fulfill whatever grand goal or machination had been set for them since the beginning of everything.

http://twitter.com/#!/vuc_/statuses/89200394865082368

That is Predeterminism and Causality. The idea that nothing in this universe has ever occurred without first a cause preceding it, and those causes are themselves the effects of causes that preceded them, all the way until the very beginning. This even puts the idea of free will under strain (or at least the common perception of it) since if everything that ever occurs is a result of a preceding cause and so on, then I’ve never chosen to do anything under my own volition ever. Why am I writing this? Because I downloaded this show. Why did I download it? Because I enjoy anime. Why do I enjoy it? Because I’ve enjoyed animation since I was a child. Why? My parents purchased animated VHS tapes for me. Why? Because it was an easy way to occupy my time for two working parents.

Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Because. Because. Because. Because. Because. For every single choice you make, if you truly examine its circumstance, you can find a preceding cause that made it so. It even extends to our personalities, since our thoughts and worldviews are the result of the sum of our genetics and the experiences that comprise our lifetimes. Thus each moment that occurs, moment to moment, is itself causing predetermined effects for the future that lead us on unfeelingly to our fates. Everything that will ever happen has a predetermined cause, a meaning that was never really our own to assign.

But that is what the Takakura brothers rage against. They hate the word fate. They choose to believe in a more existential notion that the world and their lives do not have predetermined meanings, but rather ones that they themselves assign. I believe that the narrative thrust of this show is going to focus on that effort, the first inklings of that effort manifest themselves in that quite shocking final image.

ajthefourth: This juxtaposition between the existentialist leanings of the brothers and the Deist trappings of the series (especially with Himari noting in the next episode preview that she loves the idea of fate) is a confrontation that the series likely will concern itself with throughout its run.  This is wonderfully summed up by a conversation that two children have while walking by the Takakura household, which is shown above.  Their analysis of certain themes in Night on the Galactic Railroad, and their inability to understand each other due to their different viewpoints is a fantastic microcosm within this episode; the idea that the world is just beginning upon death pitted against the idea that there is no afterlife and the world is what you make of it in the here and now.

This clash is accentuated in the visuals.  The train imagery reinforces Night on the Galactic Railroad as well as the idea of a train’s inability to deviate from its tracks, much like one supposedly cannot deviate from one’s fate.  Specifically, all flashbacks are shown as destination/arrival tickers, all destinations in the series itself are shown through actual train signs.

Apples are shown throughout the series, including both the OP and ED reiterating the conflict and possibly representing the more romantic ideal that the first boy addresses in the video above.  Contrasting this are the vibrant, almost garish, appearances of the interior and exterior of the Takakura house.  Even at night or on a rainy day, the whimsical house seems to explode outward into streets, startling both the passerby and the viewer.  In addition to this, it’s worth noting that the most vibrant pops of color are always when the three siblings are together in a scene; the interior of their house, the aquarium, riding together in a noticeably empty train car, or in the dazzling sequence that transforms Himari.  What is most interesting about these visuals is how they are almost vulgar in their overtness, especially when they are used in sequences where traditionally a duller color palette would be used.

Traditionally, empty train cars are rare and often shown with muted tones, but this one pops with color.

vucubcaquix: There’s a lot of playing around with the sense of composition and color. For every scene where the three siblings are present and the world is vibrant there are scenes where the color palette is noticeably skewed in one direction instead of the cornucopia of colors usually present.

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vucubcaquix: The way the series plays with color to convey meanings and themes with a sense of both whimsy and just the slightest amount of dread reminds one of the very best fairy tales used to scare children into behaving in a bygone era. Mawaru Penguindrum is seeking out to craft a modern fairy tale about the struggles of three young people who strike out against the fates that have been laid out for them, helped along with the most adorable trio of penguins you’ll see in anime, and forces beyond the comprehension of the protagonists.

Fairytales on the nightstand.

ajthefourth: Well, David, it seems like we’ve had a large amount to say in regards to this first episode of Mawaru Penguindrum.  I was excited about this series before the season started, due to its director’s pedigree, and now have discovered a myriad of reasons to continue watching thanks to this excellent first episode. How about you?

vucubcaquix: Well, I know for a fact that I’m going to be watching this. In fact, I think I’m going to have to start Utena as well, heh heh.

ajthefourth: I highly recommend that you do so.  The same time next week?

vucubcaquix: It’s a date.

*edit: “Ringo” was initially used in this entry as the name for the entity possessing Himari.  Thanks to some sleuthing by Raph, it seems that our research was incorrect and Ringo is actually a completely different character.  Sorry about the mistake.

Suggested Reading

http://gargarstegosaurus.wordpress.com/2011/07/08/mawaru-penguindrum-episode-one/

http://animekritik.wordpress.com/2011/07/08/mawaru-penguin-drum-01-idealism/

http://catchercatch.wordpress.com/2011/07/09/pengidrum1/

57 Comments

Filed under Colloquia, Episodics, First Impressions, Mawaru Penguindrum, Mawaru Penguindrum

57 responses to “Colloquium: Mawaru Penguindrum Episode 1

  1. Awesome write up. The themes and aesthetics of the anime are very much awesome!

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      They’re inspiring a lot of discussion, which is what we love! Thanks for the comment and the compliment!

  2. 2DT

    “Until yesterday I had no idea that there were any families or persons whose origin was a Terminus.” – Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

    To combine yours and AnimeKritik’s points a bit…

    Interesting that the siblings live at the beginning of the Marunouchi Line, and that Himari dies and is reborn at Ikebukuro, where the Line ends. AND that the creature (goddess?) who brings her back is a force from the proverbial “end of the line.” ;)

    Indeed, much to chew on here!

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: Not sure if you meant us to digest that quote; however, we appreciate the fact that it too is also a clever pun regarding trains. A “terminus” representing a railroad station as well as the full stop one’s life would come to for daring to marry beneath their social status. ^ ^

      vucubcaquix: I don’t know if you saw the point that was brought up in the comments at animekritik’s blog, but it’s also fascinating to note that the line that the siblings live on is also colored red. A direct play on the Red String of Fate.

      Oh man, this show.

  3. Yi

    To me, the bright colors almost feel a bit infectious. The colors, while gorgeous, are like poisonous mushrooms in their nauseating boldness. The transformation sequence especially. The unnaturalness of both Himari’s disease and the subsequent revival is perhaps highlighted by these dizzying colors.

    Maybe I’m just a bit cynical, but I don’t feel like it bodes well for our girl.

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: You’re right. In addition to the red/blue/purple color scheme of the brothers, the explosions of color that accompany the three are very unsettling, especially with most other human beings appearing as gray icons in large crowd scenes. In addition to this, the overall chaos of the scene is overwhelming with the amount of material that surrounds the three in their home (especially in Himari’s room). It’s also worth noting (and a fantastic resource is this great post by catchercatch here: http://catchercatch.wordpress.com/2011/07/09/pengidrum1/ ) that the majority of this junk actually has incredible amounts of symbolism, especially relating to God, fairytales, and fate.

      vucubcaquix: I’m glad you brought up how Himari looked when she collapsed. I was impressed at how well they were able to visually communicate her pallor since the lack of color in her was both striking and accurate within the context of the world they’re in. She had a lack of blood reaching the outer layers of her skin, and the medicines used, atropine and epinephrine, are used by EMTs for cardiac emergencies. But you knew this, right ms. smartypants?

  4. Raspberry. Everywhere. :) Just finished watching this for a second time and also regurgitated some thoughts on the bright colors. Fate is always a funny things, especially in what I’m seeing with these thoughts on Deism. One striking idea that might play into this “law of laws” is something which the great minds of the period had absolutely no clue about, and few could probably imagine: the quantum world. Mentioning Newton makes this interesting, because the laws hold for reality measured to our scale, yet to either extreme, large or small, this is not the case. For the macrouniverse we have Relativity, and for the microuniverse, Q.M. What is striking here is that while Fate may designate, the quantum world seems to act completely outside fate, and there science cannot [completely] glue a congruence between what should happen, what is planned to happen, and what does happen (at least for now). The trouble isn’t that particles act out of key, but they act according to probability, moving reality towards chance rather than fate.

    a stone in the water

    On the other hand, there is something peculiar and possibly with the subtleties of Japanese the statement, “I have come from the destination of your fate.” may lead us to destiny. Part of me begins to recognize the brothers hate as naive, almost trivial, because it seems that what they are dealing with is possibly not fate at all, but a destiny which has already occurred. In my belief, fate is often malleable through will and action, but a destination occurred, what does one do?

    @Yi It is very bright, although I’m still trying to pinpoint why there is such a use of magenta.

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: It’s interesting that you make a distinction between destiny and fate; destination/destiny being something that is a fixed point in time, with fate being a bit more of a (to borrow a phrase) “wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey ball of stuff.” “Nadine” or whoever the entity is that possesses Himari announcing that she’s come from a destination makes her presence far more concrete (in addition to her attitude and confidence).

      One point regarding the visuals that is most interesting to note is that blue and red make a sort of magenta color when mixed together don’t they? Also note the hair colors of the two girl icons on the train bulletin (when the three are traveling to the aquarium) and the girls in the ED sequence.

      vucubcaquix: The red and blue motif shows up in a lot of anime as a trope known as “Red Oni Blue Oni” and is a visual shorthand in Japanese mythology. It’s kind of a convenient shorthand for the personalities involved based on what color they are (think Mugen and Jin from Samurai Champloo).

      I’m also very interested in the differentiation you make between Fate and Destiny. To go along with what Emily was saying, if we continue with the train analogy we can see Fate as the tracks that our life travels along, whereas Destiny is the inevitable destination which is Death. The idea that you describe a naivete or triviality to the the brothers’ hate of Fate is an interesting one because one can view it as a hatred for one’s own inevitable mortality, which IS naive for an organism that is aware of it.

      • I happened to watch Usagi Drop last night and noticed the same lining technique (using the reddish strokes with or in place of black). Might not have any symbolism, although the red string of fate is all over the place in Penguindrum, as it’s been mentioned.

        The Red/Blue trope is pretty apparent in the brothers, but I believe I was focusing on is something less related; it’s closer to the red string. (Also I just spent 10 minutes looking up colors and meanings, fail) I’m beginning to think most of the red might simply be aesthetic placed for stimulation. (It does come off striking.)

        Fate and Destiny, eh. It’s a simple construct I guess: Destiny being the end, and Fate being the means. When these characters are cursing Fate, it’s difficult to say if it’s directed towards the mechanism that brought them to this point (Fate of the past), or Fate which has become unchangeable, leading them to Destiny. To be honest, I’m not sure they even understand their [revised] Fate or the destination; has it hit them? Regardless, they are cursing a Fate which seems to have stolen and returned Himari’s life.

        Needing more to chew on, waiting for the next episode :)

  5. God as a parasite, as only anime can depict:

    The question is why does god-like hat require dead human host? This is the question. After all, the hat that comes from the Destination of Your Fate has power over death, ergo over fate… the fate of himari just changed. She was dead, now alive.

    I don’t expect you to answer this, as this is something that the show must reveal to us. But have a go at it if you please.

    • Why indeed? Okay, I’ll take a stab at this for the fun of it! ^ ^ Vuc says that he is unable to comment, not having seen Utena, but perhaps will add to this upon watching it.

      It’s interesting to note that the penguins first appear behind Himari and Shouma while they are at the aquarium. Himari wanders off after having tried on the hat, Shouma buys the hat, Kanba meets up with Shouma and the two find Himari collapsed. Later, she dies. She is revived by the penguin hat, and miraculously cured.

      I can’t help but think that the penguins (and spirit within the hat, who comes from the Destination of Their Fate) are specifically meant for this family, these brothers, in particular. If there was one thing that stood out in comparing allusions to and themes from Night on the Galactic Railroad, it’s that people are very unwilling to accept their own deaths or the deaths of people that they love. The railroad is a kindly Charon, shuttling children to their death or destination while at the same time helping them come to terms with it.

      Death is something that none of us can escape, and yet we sometimes rail against it regardless. “It’s not fair!” “Is this a punishment?” “Take my life for hers!” These are all things that were said by the brothers in regards to Himari’s death.

      The End of the World was created for one specific pair of siblings, I can’t help but think that the Destination of Their Fate is something similar.

      • The easy answer is to figure out what the Penguindrum is, what it does, etc. I think it’s more “Sword of Dios” than it is “Miki’s Stopwatch” if you know what I mean.

  6. Blackholeheart

    This show is so densely packed with meaning that I feel I’ll need to rewatch it a few times to do any proper analysis but for now I have a wild guess about one of its themes. For some reason it made me think of post singularity spirituality with the brother’s internal and external worlds awash in fantasy, the later being almost idealized but flawed reflections of the former ah la Vanilla Sky.

    While this isn’t the summer show I’m enjoying the most (Mayo Chiki but don’t tell anyone, it’s embarrassing) or the show I’m most in love with (Usagi Drop, IMO the best non sexual love story ever), it’s easily the most intellectually nutritious one this summer or years for that matter.

    Please keep making me think with great posts like this so I don’t give myself brain damage by watching too much brain off anime!

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      vucubcaquix: It took me a moment to parse what you were suggesting because I had not seen Vanilla Sky yet, but my partner gave me a rundown of why that movie can be interpreted in a variety of ways regarding the internal and the external worlds. It reminded me of the 2nd half of Total Recall in that one can interpret Quaid’s various adventures in multiple ways. Doing a tiny bit of research, I learned that Total Recall is based on a Phillip K. Dick novel, and many assume Vanilla Sky was based on another as well given the presence of the themes of presence and reality. I’m interested in noting what specifically you refer to as the internal and external, I imagine the internal is the fabulous transformation sequence that Ghostlightning referred to above, and the external is the whimsically idealized yet flawed home-life the siblings live?

      ajthefourth: The only thing I have to add to David’s response above is that, if we are comparing this to Vanilla Sky, the moment Himari wakes up is the proverbial car crash. Everything after that is especially suspect.

      Tell who about what? ;]

      • Blackholeheart

        @vuc: What is really engrossing is it depends on interpretation and who’s viewpoint we are being filtered through so for simplicity sake I’ll call the transformative realm railworld and home-life nestworld, my suspicion is both are unreal. If Kanba is our focal point I’d say railworld is internal as a way of granting himself permission to explore his desire for Himari in the guise of her Nadine persona. If we’re following Sho railworld is probably internal reflecting his subconscious sense of isolation from Kanba and Himari or perhaps something to do with the flashes of guilt and anger he showed after breakfast and at her deathbed. Himari is the fun one, for railworld to be internal for her Nadine must be a manifestation of herself and her recovery due to some other agency but if Nadine is separate then nestworld and railworld are equal, this is true if we are being given an objective viewpoint as well. What would make me happiest(and is most likely) is if I’m completely off base and something else entirely is going on.

        @AJ: I’m going 50/50 on the deathbed or the missing parents before the start of the episode.

        @hikoboshiandorihime: Regardless I’m adoring having a show around that gets me and all my internet friends firing up our imaginations and analytical engines to this degree in one episode. That and I think I’m addicted to hearing Nadine shout “Survival Strategy!”

  7. Given the apple motif and Galactic Railroad references, it’d make sense if the person taking over Himari’s body was called Ringo, but I don’t remember her introducing herself as such during the episode. There’s definitely a character called Ringo in the series (the girl fourth from the top on the official site’s character page: http://penguindrum.jp/character/), though; she’s one of the girls who walked past Shoma and his friend(? acquaintance?) during the after-school scene. The fact that she’s called Ringo marks her as significant and raises some questions… who exactly is she in this, as someone who isn’t a Takakura sibling? Why’s she been given a name that links in with such an important symbol? I look forward to finding out soon.

    Thanks for this great post, guys. All these pieces of information and investigation were very interesting and they were tied together so well. It was especially nice to read some analysis on the train imagery. Can’t wait for more of this series and to read more from you.

    • Fixed! Thank you for the info and sorry about the mistake. I was the one who did the research for that section, so it’s on me. Womp, womp.

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: ADayWithoutMe does a lot better job expanding on what the apples mean in Night on the Galactic Railroad, as well as drawing allusions from Judeo-Christian philosophy in her post. The first child in the exchange in front of the house hints at this saying that the apple is a reward for those who chose love over everything else. He also adds that death is just the beginning.

      Taking these two allusions together, they fit nicely in with the struggling perceptions within the Takakura family regarding destiny and fate. On the one hand, the apple is the fall of man, on the other, it’s a reward and an introduction to the afterlife. I too am curious to see what Ringo has to do with the story. Her disappearance into a plume of fire in the OP is intriguing, as is the fact that she seemed to know Shouma when she saw him in the street.

      vucubcaquix: I’m not really sure where to go with this, but the apple is also a symbol for human wisdom (the knowledge of good and evil) and is symbolic for the beginning of the discord between man and God. Given how the series is very concerned with the struggle against fate, it’s no coincidence that the apple will be an important reoccurring motif for its various symbolic meanings.

  8. I feel unwilling to dive into such a difficult topic. I’m only little and the mulberry bush calls to me. I don’t mind dancing around it as long as it continues to bear wonderful fruit.

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      Come! Let us frolic together and partake of the fruit of the knowledge of Good and Evil this will bear for us.

  9. That’s a copious amount of symbolism, the only one I caught on to on my first watch through was the connection of fate and the destination metaphor. I never realized that it was borrowing heavily from another source so it seems like I will need to do some extensive background research in order to keep up with the hidden details (or better yet, just refer to your posts and the suggested reading list).

    As someone who is into the visual aspect of anime, I had to facepalm for overlooking the color themes that correspond to their respective scenes. That was such a big gimme.

    I have to say, this was a brilliant post. Very thought provoking with a good amount of reasoning to back up your views. Looking forward to more of the same from the both of you in the future. It definitely gives me a different perspective on this anime, beyond the cute penguins and the pretty colors.

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: It’s an immense amount of symbolism, and it’s impossible to catch it all. I’ve watched this episode 3 times now (twice for this post and once to show someone else) and caught different flashes of symbolism and hidden meaning with every single viewing. I had to do research for this post and look forward to doing more in the future as the series introduces more fascinating imagery and alludes to various other sources.

      Yeah, I’m sure for any visual person the colors stood out. I know that they did for me, and I’m not surprised that you, being an artist, picked up on that immediately.

      Thank you for the compliment! We look forward to continuing to watch, talk about, and perpetuate discussion about this show!

      vucubcaquix: Don’t feel so badly about not catching everything the first time around. The only reason we did as decently as we did was that we saw this together and pointed out various things to each other as the episode progressed. For instance, I missed out on most of the significant train imagery while Emily caught on to that, and I was fascinated by the show’s competing themes of Determinism and Existentialism in the dialogue where Emily missed that at first. And catchercatch did a great job of explaining the imagery in the transformation sequence that the both of us mostly missed.

      We’re glad you stopped by, and thanks for the comment!

  10. Nice write up you two I wasn’t sure about this anime when I first saw the trailers coming out, but glad I checked it out really amazing show just from one episode I am hooked.

    Agreed the use of color is very nice, such a bright show really catches my attention.

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      Thanks a lot pal! Yeah it’s super colorful, but what’s even crazier is that’s there’s meaning behind why it’s so colorful. Catches our attention, too.

  11. Great write up. Looks like I need to do some reading to understand this one a little better. In it being a self contained episode, it also leaves us with questions to be answered. This could be the best show this summer if it can keep this up.

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: Thank you! I know we both enjoyed talking about it and then trying to remember what we had frantically said to each other in order to write this post. Making it coherent was another story. If you’re curious about Night on the Galactic Railroad, there’s a translation of it here: http://www.grex.org/~n8rxs/main.htm

      We hope that this show keeps it up too. Even with great debut episodes from Kamisama no Memochou, Usagi Drop, and No. 6; Mawaru Penguindrum certainly blows all of them out of the water with this episode.

      vucubcaquix: One mark of a great work is it’s accessibility and depth. We were lucky enough to be able to parse some of the literary allusions and imagery in the first episode because one or either of us were familiar with something that was brought up, but even if we weren’t, the show was still entertaining enough to leave one satisfied by the images, dialogue, acting, and entertaining spectacle that it was. This is both easily accessible and can be scrutinized with a fine-toothed comb. I’m looking forward to this one every week myself.

      Thanks for the comment, buddy!

  12. animekritik

    There is no free will. Bwa ha ha ha ha!

    Great analysis in this post.

    • Haha thanks. I think anime as a medium likes to concern itself a lot with ideas of fate and destiny, often to varying degrees of success. But I guess the reason I felt that I could safely expand on the ideas of determinism and causality (in my limited philosophy 101 capacity at least) is that Ikuhara seems to be incredibly confident that he knows what he wants to say and is backed up by a solid and logical presentation of the symbolism in this first episode.

      Thanks for the comment! I hope you stick around for our upcoming posts!

  13. Great job, guys, as expected from vuc and co.

    Beyond what’s been said, I think it’s appropriate to add that the similarities in direction style to Utena in just the first episode are striking. The wild, bizarre visuals on the edge of believability, esoteric philosophical commentary by random passerby, the rampant symbolism, etc, etc. Even the faaaabulous rail scene with Ringo seemed like an updated pre-duel spiral-staircase sequence for the 21st century. And the way everything comes together in its own arcane sort of pseudo-logic is simply great.

    Nice work, keep it up.

    • Thank you! I’ll field this one solo, since David hasn’t seen Utena yet.

      In addition to what you said above, I absolutely love the way you described the two Night on the Galactic Railroad boys as “walking thespian devices” in comments elsewhere. It makes me wonder whether Ikuhara is going to rely on passersby as his Greek chorus element or whether this delicious omniscient side commentary will pop up in different ways with each episode.

      I’m in complete agreement with your assessment of the transformation sequence, and I love how both sequences tie into respective themes from each series. I get the feeling that Ikuhara is definitely having fun with the production values that more modern animation techniques afford him, and can’t wait to see more from this series!

      Thanks for the comment! Also, as an aside, I look forward to a possible Nichijou soundtrack review from you!

  14. Pingback: Fashioning a Fairy Tale – Transformation of Alice in Mawaru Penguindrum | Listless Ink

  15. Very good post. I particularly liked how you mentioned the idea of the train as a vehicle of fate, and its importance in the show as well as serving to an allusion to Milky Way Railroad. While Penguindrum is fully enjoyable without having read Railroad, I feel that having read it presents the viewer with a bit more of a method to understand the artistic flair behind the train and transformation scenes.

    Come to think of it, instead of my reference to predestination, I believe that your interpretation of the fate struggle contained within this show with deism and determinism is much more accurate. It’s nice to see that we’re both getting the importance of the colour-scheme in relation to the twins – it speaks for how universal that imagery is.

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: It definitely does. Immediately I noticed the train imagery, but I had only known of the general story through Bungaku Shoujo of all things. However, as soon as the two boys passed talking about the apple, I immediately recognized Night on the Galactic Railroad. Upon reading it in its entirety I realized how phenomenally well the themes from Railroad were reinforcing the train imagery and giving added depth to it by introducing conflicting thoughts on death, fate, and the afterlife. It’s not necessary to understand Railroad to understand the plot, but like you, I appreciate how much knowing that specific story added to the themes and imagery presented in this episode alone. I can’t wait to see what else Ikuhara has in store for us.

      vucubcaquix: I was really impressed with how much you teased out of the imagery of the transformation sequence, since I’m guilty of just letting the pretty pretty colors wash over me at that point. As for the idea of the main conflict being born of the contrast of determinism and existentialism, I got that directly from contrasting Kanba’s internal dialogue with Himari’s next episode preview. It was a mere suspicion on my part until Emily corroborated that the themes were pretty much spoken plainly by the two boys discussing Railroad, then I couldn’t NOT see it all over the show.

      Thanks for commenting! We hope you’ll stick around, we’ll definitely be keeping an eye on what you write as well!

  16. Fuu

    Fantastic post. Very well-thought out and excellent in its ability to link to philosophy and aesthetics. Kinda reminds me of another animeblog that similarly used the former and latter in discoursing Bakemonogatari some years back.

    Btw, is it just me or does the artstyle just not match the depth of Penguindrum’s themes? I would’ve really enjoyed something less generic. Nevertheless, I’m sticking with this one. Let’s hope another gem is discovered. Once again, cheers on the great post!

  17. hikoboshiandorihime

    ajthefourth: Thank you for the comment!

    I’d have to disagree with your assessment of Penguindrum’s themes, or at the very least, say that the visuals are very purposeful in their execution. The juxtaposition of the sometimes simple visuals with the depth of the themes is another directorial choice to reinforce those themes within the series. Not to mention choices of color, angles, imagery in and out of the house, and the use of icons (while they’re on the train, the penguins, in the Louis Vuitton/Murakami background in the OP, apples in the ED, and to represent passersby in the streets) all with specific purposes and allusions of their own.

    Not to mention that they were probably saving up all of their budget for that fantastic transformation sequence. ;]

    vucucbaquix: You wouldn’t by any chance know which anime blog used this format previously? I’d be very interested in seeing their format and the tone and content of their posts.

    I’m not sure if I’d take issue with a generic style if I feel like it’s being served to further a purposeful aesthetic or idea. I wrote a post many moons ago about Ika Musume and Pixar and how animation has a great ability to convey the ideas of their images with much more efficiency than live-action could. A generic design with no purpose can indeed be somewhat infuriating to watch, but this show is so rife with symbolism and iconography that what can be perceived as generic can instead in my mind be perceived as an efficient means to convey the ideas that show wants to put forth.

    But hey, let’s see where this show takes us, eh? Thanks for commenting and I hope to see you again!

  18. I’ve got nothing to add as it pertains to the Serious Business portions of the episode, but as someone who enjoys Ikuhara’s weirdo sense of humor (all the Nanami episodes of Utena are my favorites), I have to say that I love the penguins, especially the one who casually Raids the cockroach. He is my favorite. I want that penguin as my personal exterminator.

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: Oh man, that cowbell episode is priceless, isn’t it? The Raid penguin seems to be everyone’s favorite, but I’m partial to the one with the band-aid on his head. Gives him an edge. Thanks, as always!

      vucubcaquix: Guyssssss I need to watch Utena. Anyway, brushing penguin girl for life!

  19. A very informative entry *_* I don’t know much about those theories. Thank you =D

    Wow, this show’s more meaningful than I expected *_*

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      Thank you! We’re really hoping to increase discussion and thoughts about the series, and we’re happy that you may have discovered a few more things to think about regarding Penguindrum through our blog. Thanks a lot for the comment!

  20. jreding

    Thank you for this excellent analysis!

    I am not sure if this is of interest here or has already been written, but when I watched the ED the pictures seemed somewhat familiar to me. After watching the same ED again in ep. 2 yesterday it came to my mind that e.g. this ( http://www.4freeimagehost.com/show.php?i=1588554caced.jpg ) and also the following shot with the music instruments somewhat reminds of the classic theme of the three graces like pictured by Botticelli ( http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/61/Primavera_01.jpg ), Raffael and others.

    Of course, there are many diferences (most importantly that the girls don’t touch each other), but the way they are positioned in a circle looking at each other and their extravagant poses (which admittedly may just be warming-up for sports) still evoke the theme of the three graces in me.

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: Yes, it certainly is of interest. I’m really glad that you pointed this out. It’s also interesting that it evokes the three Graces and not the three Fates instead; however, I suppose that that would have been too perfect. Comments like yours are exactly why we made this blog. It makes both of us incredibly happy to see people posting up random things that they noticed for discussion as well. Please continue to keep us posted on your insights and thank you!

      vucubcaquix: I love seeing each of the comments bringing something to our attention that we didn’t notice before, so I’m very grateful for what you brought here to us. Thank you, and stick around!

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