Colloquium: Mawaru Penguindrum Episode 2

"Molest and be arrested."

ajthefourth: The phrase above, in addition to being humorous, is a tagline for this second episode of Mawaru Penguindrum given to us by the blue and pink haired girl icons on the train. It encapsulates the entire episode as a whole, which begins as a seemingly harmless romp where the two twins follow a girl from a different high school, Ringo Oginome, having been told that she may have the penguindrum.

As the episode progresses, things take a turn for the dark when the twins discover that Ringo is stalking their homeroom teacher, Tabuki.  The twins’ stalking of Ringo was a bit harmless and playful, giving the episode punches of hilarity, while Ringo’s stalking of Tabuki has a bit more of a dangerous edge.  This is compounded by the fact that she possesses a diary where the future has supposedly already been written down.

The tagline that was used to begin this post suddenly takes a far more ominous meaning when considering what Ringo is doing to her teacher.  It will be especially interesting to see if these two train icons will continue to bring us key phrases that add to the episodes’ overall themes, performing a role similar to that of a Greek chorus in a play, or the Shadow Girls in Revolutionary Girl Utena. (The only additional information given to the audience about the girls themselves is that they appear in the ED along with Himari, and that they are, according to a magazine within the world of the series, icons of the idol duo Double-H.)  If so, this also means that the use of train imagery and trains themselves as a means of transportation for the characters will also continue to be used in every episode.

The end justifies the means.

vucubcaquix: There’s one thing that I noticed about this show, and that is that it has a remarkable mastery over its tone. The general air of this episode was one of levity, until the weight of Ringo’s actions was made clear to the brothers, and the audience, when the show saw fit to reveal her particular inclinations through a single shot of her face. There were other isolated moments where the tone of the episode was being manipulated by a line of dialogue, such as Kanba’s retort to Shouma’s inquiry about the morality of their actions. Shouma is disinclined to act in a way that can be perceived as immoral, whereas Kanba states with absolute conviction that the end justifies the means.

The craft with which this show is constructed is no accident, as was shown by our analysis of the symbolism in our first colloquium, but so too is the audience’s perception of the precarious swings of mood and tone. The first episode ends on a somewhat dreamy note pontificating about the nature of fate and destiny, only to shock my partner and I out of our sense of resignation to it’s ending with that now infamous shot of Himari and Kanba.

I feel these manipulations of tone serve as a type of foreshadowing. There were very subtle hints of it on display in the first episode in the hospice scene and during the transformation sequences, but the second episode cements the idea that there may be a significant conflict in the future between the brothers and how they approach the problems that are presented to them. They both reject the idea of fate, but one brother in particular seems willing to compromise quite a lot of himself in order to ensure their sister’s future. A risky survival strategy, if you will.

"The end of the world is nothing but a hypothesis" is what I'm crying out from the other side of the binary world line.

ajthefourth:  The success of this survival strategy could be hinted at by the continued use of the number 95 within the series.  It appears as one of only three icons beneath the title in the OP (the other two being a penguin and a train).  It appears again in the OP surrounded by the same two red arrows that encircle all of the destination numbers on the train station signs; the benign penguin icons quickly turning into slightly more ominous emperor penguin icons in a ripple effect radiating outwards from the number.

In statistics, 95% is a significant and desirable benchmark of success.  Put simply, a 95% or higher confidence level indicates that the probability of the specific result in question is near fated to occur. Of course 95%, as it is with many statistics, is easily manipulated and, when taking other factors into consideration, the actual confidence that one can have in any study is usually far less than 95%.  What’s most interesting about this is that it reflects the series’ conflicting views on fate that it presents through its major characters.  If one chooses to believe in fate, like Ringo, they can bend the meaning of various life events to fit within the parameters of “fate.”  If one chooses to reject fate, as the brothers claim to do in episode one, they too can bend their experiences to fit their own interpretation; that they have somehow managed to escape the shackles of fate and extend their sister’s life.  Much like the 95% confidence level in statistics, it’s all in how you choose to parse the results.

"Nothing in this world is pointless. I believe in fate."

vucubcaquix: Ringo has in her possession a diary that reveals to her what will be. She parses the information given to her in such a way that the ideas of fate and destiny are not ones of shackles and constraints, but rather ones that imbue life with purpose and meaning.

Even her name is significant: Ringo is the Japanese word for apple. The apple is a famous representation for human knowledge, and if this show is heading in the direction I think it is, her diary may serve as a symbolic representation of the dispensation of knowledge. It may not be the Penguindrum itself, but who’s to say that it’s not the roadmap through which the characters find the item that can affect their fates? Ringo’s Diary, as the vehicle through which knowledge is dispensed to the characters, will become an integral part of the narrative of the show, as a symbol for the wisdom that the characters strive for in pursuit of their various goals.

Apple's wisdom.

vucubcaquix: You know Emily, we haven’t even touched on all of the underwater imagery regarding Ringo and the scenes she’s in.

ajthefourth: Not to mention the role that Tabuki could possibly play within the series, as well as delving a bit more into what Himari would think of all of this should she find out that her brothers may already have, “turned into delinquents.”  However, we only have a limited amount of time, and wouldn’t want our posts to become too unwieldy.

vucubcaquix: Haha, well that is something we’ll need to work on. Have a good night.

ajthefourth: Have a lovely night, David.

Suggested Reading


Filed under Colloquia, Episodics, Mawaru Penguindrum, Mawaru Penguindrum

25 responses to “Colloquium: Mawaru Penguindrum Episode 2

  1. “as well as delving a bit more into what Himari would think of all of this should she find out that her brothers may already have, “turned into delinquents.””
    = Aww, too bad. I’m interested to know yout thoughts on that part.

  2. krizzlybear

    I certainly like the reversal that the show takes regarding Ringo’s opposition to the brothers’ viewpoint of fate. A great tool for writing moral weakness is to take what is normally a morally agreeable trait, and push it to the extreme. Where most people normally regard fate as a romantic construct, Ringo takes it to the extreme by using fate (via the diary) to justify her stalking behaviour. It strikes the same dissonant chord as those who would use fate in a religious sense (ie scripture) to justify acts of violence and terrorism, though in Ringo’s case, the audience is captivated by her enough to not immediately associate her with religious fanaticism.

  3. omo

    95% is a crit on a d20. Kind of neat to see that numerical take without mentioning the Sarin gas attack in ’95.

    • 2DT

      ’95… Trains… Sarin gas attacks. One of which was on the Marunouchi Line.

      Jesus Christ, that is brilliant. Omo, you’re a genius!

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: Honestly, I hadn’t even thought of the ’95 Sarin gas attacks (an oversight on my part). It certainly is an interesting connection (especially with two happening on trains on the Marunouchi Line, one bound for Ikebukuro and one bound for Ogikubo, where Ringo conveniently lives), so I’m glad you brought it up! It gives us one more thing to chew on while watching this show. Thanks a lot for the insight!

      vucubcaquix: That’s a notion that escaped me as well, however I did bring up the Aum Shinkrikyo as an example of a dangerous extremist religious cult in the blog post for the third episode with regards to the idea of the Diary as scripture, so perhaps the show isn’t above a little religious commentary as well.

  4. I appreciate what you guys are saying re “95%” and the cognitive bias that people/characters put in to play.

    Delinquents? My brothers are FREEDOM FIGHTERS! etc etc

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: Yeah, that’s certainly what intrigued me the most, and also ties into ideas of fate and determinism. I also appreciate how this series seems to be playing with the idea that it’s all in how you interpret something and not what the thing is itself. Ringo sees her diary as fate, therefore it is, while someone else who looks at it may see the desperate scribblings of a high school girl (the other 5%, if you will). Thanks for the comment!

      vucubcaquix: It seems as though we were one of the first to examine any possible role that the number 95 may play in this show, even though I had a hard time wrapping my head around the concept at first. However, the idea cognitive bias that you bring up in very interesting indeed, what with the revelations of the fallibility of the diary, and the varying possible interpretations of it.

  5. animekritik

    I’m glad you took on the 95, because it has been bothering me for a time and I didn’t have a real good theory of what I meant. Since the Marunouchi today extends from 01 to 25 and that’s it, the idea crossed my mind that this might be evidence of the growth of the Marunouchi line in the future (extending up to station 95, which would take it somewhere far, far from Tokyo, maybe upward into the atmosphere, and then this show could turn into Night of the Galactic Railroad and Galaxy Express 999, and Harlock could do a cameo appearance). Ok, enough..

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: Yes! Space Pirate Captain Harlock appearance please! In all seriousness, thank you very much for exploring the Marunouchi Line in depth. I enjoyed reading your post and am glad to understand more about the train line going into the rest of the series. Thanks for commenting!

      vucubcaquix: Speaking of Harlock, what’s a good introductory anime into that franchise? I’ve been interested in checking out for some time, since the idea of Space Pirates is a concept near and dear to my heart with FLCL being my favorite anime of all time.

  6. Yi

    Oh wow, never noticed the 95 thing. The statistically significant thing is really interesting indeed, especially with regards to fate and determinism.

    Determinism was a really popular until quantum theories came along. The idea that the outcome of all situations is predetermined because the conditions will lead to that is undermined by Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle: we can never know exactly the conditions of certain pairs of physical properties (e.g. momentum and position). With this uncertainty built into our physical world, fate becomes less of a certainty.

    Perhaps 95% is the certainty with which we know the conditions of the world of Penguindrum. But what of the 5%? Is that significant enough to make the outcome uncertain?

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: Building upon what you bring up in your excellent comment, the most important thing about the 95% confidence interval is that it’s interpretation is incredibly fluid. Where one can seemingly take a 95% as absolute certainty, the reality of the matter is that, with virtually all statistical testing, the remaining percentage is actually a much larger possibility than 5%. It’s all up to interpretation and what paradigms one decides to bring to the table when looking at the results. For Ringo, the results are certain. She only sees the 95% and bends everything to fit her parameters. For us, we can see more of the flaws, and even if the statistics say one thing, we can look beyond the limited perspective of “just the results” in order to see that other factors also have a significant effect on the outcome. Thanks for bringing up such interesting things to talk about, Yi. I always enjoy reading and responding to your comments! ^ ^

      vucubcaquix: I like that people are bringing up Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle in response to the ideas of Determinism I brought up in the first episode, because the idea of statistics and uncertainty are potentially supported by the interpretation of the number 95 as a representative of the confidence interval, so the duality of the conflicting themes is inborn into the anime and we’ll see the conflict play out as it goes along.

  7. I wonder if there are more items like the diary out there? Guess it would be possible after all the penguin hat is somewhat magical and the penguins walking around. Hopefully this doesn’t turn int a collection anime, unless they need certain items to guide the brothers to the actual drum.

    As for Ringo’s character it reminds me a bit of Harima Miki from Durarara just more extreme, like sleeping under the teachers house! Then again she probably wants to keep watch.

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      vucubcaquix: You know, I didn’t think that this show would be in that style to have multiple items to look through, since I’m still not sure that the Penguindrum is an actual thing that even exists, but there are some interesting things that pop up in the OP, so I’m not sure…

      ajthefourth: Harima Miki, hnnn? That’s an interesting comparison. The contrast is even more interesting, when you consider that Harima was someone who was willing to go as far as changing her own appearance for “love.” Harima is far more concerned with changing herself to match Seiji’s wishes, while Ringo seems to take the opposite approach, bending everything else to fit her will. In my opinion, Ringo’s method is even a bit more disturbing than Harima’s. Thanks for the comment!

  8. 2DT

    Are we sure yet that the diary has the power to control fate? The language seemed to suggest equally that she just wrote things and made them true. But I could have missed something.

    Also, not quite related, but if anybody has a thought on this, I figure it’s you guys: What do you think about those stars coming out of the toilet?

  9. Awesome stuff. I interpreted the 95 in a different way, although I recognized the reference to the “confidence” interval, as well. I thought it would be a tie back to an event that is essentially “certain”, but not, as that 5% would suggest. Can the destination of the future that Boushi-sama comes from be changed? There are a lot of different ideas (like many of the aspects of the show) regarding the 95.

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: Thank you! That’s actually what I’m looking for if 95 is indeed a confidence interval reference. The destination of their future is supposedly fixed in stone: the 95%. What’s more interesting is the interpretation of the remaining 5%, as you point out, since it hints to the fact that the future isn’t set in stone, and that far more is up for interpretation (and up to chance, or the brothers) than “fate” would initially suggest. Thanks for the comment.

      vucubcaquix: About interpreting the 95 in different ways, Omo brought it up in a previous comment, but I didn’t see the connection to the sarin gas attacks whatsoever. So assuming that we’re not totally and completely baseless in our analyses, then this show does indeed have many layers for one to traverse.

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