Colloquium: Mawaru Penguindrum Episode 5

"Can you let me borrow that notebook?"

ajthefourth: Amidst the whirlwind of colors, transformations, violence, and sexual imagery that engulfs the viewer in the fifth episode of Mawaru Penguindrum, it’s easy to overlook the fact that this episode continues its subtle development of the Takakura brothers and their relationship.

Shouma Takakura is always in the background, as is his penguin.  In categorical personality traits, he is the far more feminine of the brothers.  He cooks, he cleans, he’s a bit more soft and clumsy when speaking, and his penguin reflects that; going around needlessly spraying for bugs.  His attitude is played off for comedic effect (like in the second episode where Shouma averts his eyes to the panty shot while Kanba looks on, intrigued) or dramatic effect (like in episode one where he breaks down in an emotional torrent when both of the brothers think that Himari is dead); however, if one thinks back on it, Shouma doesn’t really do much of anything.

In the above scene, Shouma is desperately racking his brain for a way to finagle the diary away from Ringo.  Without the persuasive finesse of his brother, Shouma resorts to flat-out asking Ringo if he can have her diary.  While he asks this, his penguin continues to spray for cockroaches in the background.  As he digs himself deeper and deeper into a hole, the penguin becomes more engulfed by cockroaches until, at the point where Ringo begins to fight back against him, the penguin is completely overwhelmed by insects.  Shouma’s role is a passive one, he nurtures Himari instead of protecting her, and when he tries to act, he becomes overwhelmed.  This is in striking contrast to Kanba who, without the direct help of his penguin, could not have retrieved the hat for Himari.  Kanba is shown almost entirely through actions, compounding his character development in the past few episodes: Kanba is a man who acts.  Shouma is given several other chances to act in this episode; however, they either all fall flat, or he doesn’t jump quickly enough at the opportunities he has been given.

Ringo too, is seemingly a person of action.

ajthefourth: Throughout this episode, Shouma struggles to be taken seriously.  He approaches two different people regarding the penguin hat’s control over Himari and they both brush away his concerns; the doctor with patronizing words and Ringo with her fist in his face.  It’s worth noting that his attempts, though heartfelt are also awkward, clumsy, and passive.  His passive nature becomes even more obvious when he is given the opportunity to take charge when facing the penguin hat alongside Ringo.  Without Kanba present, it seemingly becomes Shouma’s turn to step into the spotlight and finally take action, but that’s hardly what happens.  Instead, Shouma whines for a few moments while Ringo takes charge of the situation, climbs up out of the same hole that Shouma usually gets dropped down every week, runs up and steals the penguin hat.  Like Kanba, she acts.

In flashbacks from the Takakura siblings’ childhood, it seems that Kanba was always the more active brother, while Shouma was the more passive one.  This mirrors our first introduction to their parents, where Mrs. Takakura is attempting to call an ambulance for the ill Himari.  Mr. Takakura steps in, hanging up the phone for her, and tells her that there’s no point.  He then acts by carrying Himari through a typhoon to the hospital.  Both brothers attempt to run out after their father and Himari; however, Shouma is held back by his mother, while Kanba catches up to and accompanies his father.

Note how Mr. Takakura's stance and character design mirror Kanba's and Mrs. Takakura's body language recalls Shouma's.

vucubcaquix: What struck me immediately during the staggered flashback scene was the exaggerated masculinity of the Takakuras’ father. He has a strong jawline, a deep brow, and forward looking eyes. Nearly every camera angle that focuses on him is from a slightly lowered perspective, emphasizing his somewhat larger than life nature. Whether or not this is an accurate characterization of Takakura Sr. or just an idealized vision of him from the perspective of the children is yet to be known.

Another interesting thing to take note of regarding the femininity and masculinity of the brothers is to see who it is that they were directly influenced by. Emily mentioned the siblings’ categorical traits above, and you see from the flashback that their personalities are the direct parallels of their parents, with Shouma taking after their mother, and Kanba taking after their father.

Kanba sets off to try to do something about the situation along with his father, Shouma is held back by his mother.

vucubcaquix: The similarities of the brothers to their respective parents is also reflected in their character designs. Kanba and his father have Tsurime Eyes which denote “strong will, arrogance, or pride” and is a pretty accurate description of Kanba thus far with the patronizing and dismissive attitude he takes toward his brother and to Himari. Whereas Shouma and his mother have Tareme Eyes which are the hallmarks of “a kind, quiet or otherwise soft person”.

Kanba earns his Tsurime Eyes in this episode towards the end. During the climax of the runaway truck, Shouma was once again held back from being able to affect anything in the grand scheme of things, this time due to his lack of physical conditioning as he tires himself out chasing after Himari’s tether to the living. It’s up to Kanba once again to act on the situation, being proactive enough to affect the fates of him and those that immediately surround him. Up until this climax, the characters’ penguins served mainly as comic relief without affecting the world at large beyond the trivial, such as spreading open a girl’s legs or eating a girl’s lunch, or groping a girl’s derriere on the subway.

However, something important occurred here. During the climax, Kanba was knocked unconscious momentarily. Normally that would be the  end of the scenario, but Kanba’s penguin somehow managed to hold on to the runaway truck and to his partner simultaneously ensuring the eventual success in retrieving the penguin hat. It was at this moment, for Kanba at least, where the penguins ceased to be just the reflections of their partners’ personalities, and graduated to being the extensions of their wills. This is big, and it has far reaching implications.

"That aquarium in Ikebukuro." The end of the line.

ajthefourth:  Another intriguing connection with far reaching implications is the growing role of the aquarium in the series.  We learn, through Ringo’s lunch date with her father, that she used to visit the exact same aquarium that the Takakura family used to visit, meaning, it’s also the location from which Himari received the mysterious penguin hat.  The aquarium is the place where the audience is first introduced to the penguins, and it’s inside the aquarium that Himari supposedly dies.  It’s hardly coincidence that the penguin hat claims to be from the destination of the Takakura brothers’ fate and the aquarium is located at the end of the Marunouchi line in Ikebukuro.  It will be interesting to see if all roads lead back to the aquarium, as it is now not only an integral part of the Takakura’s story line, but the Oginome family’s story line as well; an interesting intersection, especially when the majority of symbolism that surrounds Ringo involves the ocean or illusions of being underwater.

Familiar imagery is now apparent in the ending.

vucubcaquix: Ringo’s lunch date with her father confirmed a suspicion that I had since the ending of episode two. The icons in the ED all have some sort of significance beyond any sort of aesthetic design. The first thing one notices is the caduceus-like twin snakes that are featured on the cover of Ringo’s diary. During the lunch date when Ringo makes mention of the fact that her family all purchased matching penguin charms for their cellphones, the shot cuts to Mr. Oginome and a decidedly un-penguinlike charm. During our conversation afterward, my partner Emily called attention to the fact that the wire globe at the top of the screen had a cameo in the doctor’s office where Shouma’s penguin was haplessly caught up in it. Not to mention the appearances of the horse and frog in the previous frame making an appearance during episode 4, and the kappa in that same previous frame being featured in the Oginome family portrait at the aquarium above. What these icons mean is anyone’s guess, but their presence in the ED foreshadowing their placement in the series proper is a good thing to keep note of, as we tumble further along.

The "flower snake".

vucubcaquix: Well Emily, with another week comes another episode of Penguindrum. I only regret that we haven’t had the time to elaborate on the allusion to Gustav Klimt’s Der Kuss seeing as how this post is already leaning towards the unwieldy side.

ajthefourth: Ah, we wouldn’t want to be unwieldy would we?  Well, since Mawaru Penguindrum isn’t going to air next week, instead of taking a break, we could always dedicate an entire post to themes between the two.  Of course this episode was so dense that there are still other things that we didn’t have room to address here, weren’t there?

vucubcaquix: Not one word was spent on Natsume Masako, was there? Our speculation from last week proved to be correct, as she was indeed the one to assault Kuho Asami of the red heels. We don’t know what her deal is yet, but she’ll prove to be an interesting watch. I’m going to take you up on your idea, next time let’s talk about Gustav Klimt, his history, and the implications of alluding to him in this anime. If I’m not mistaken, you and I have some diverging opinions on the interpretation of The Kiss.

ajthefourth: Yes, it will be our first “blog argument” so to speak.  I look forward to it!  Have a good night, David.

vucubcaquix: Have a good night, Emily.

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29 Comments

Filed under Colloquia, Episodics, Mawaru Penguindrum, Mawaru Penguindrum

29 responses to “Colloquium: Mawaru Penguindrum Episode 5

  1. Some good observations here on how the narrative uses background (flashback) characters to flesh out the main characters, and side semi-characters as well (penguins).

    What I take away from this ep is that the penguinhat is not so god-like after all. Ringo pwnd it/her (I’ll use ‘her’) and showed us another interesting irony: the sheer willpower and determination of anime’s most absurd determinist (or fatalist, if you will). It was really something.

    2 penguin moments that stand out to me:

    #2 losing to the roaches. That was part of some Tales from the Crypt or some other 80s horror schlock I watched as a boy (in Betamax!).

    #1 in that truck dragging scene… dragged on for too much. It was uncomfortable because from how it was portrayed, no way Kanba should still have a face.

    • ubiquitial

      I dunno, I felt a real sense of tension during that scene, but on a rewatch it might be grating,

      And if we know your names are David and Emily do you really still need those monikers?

      • hikoboshiandorihime

        Yes, because, like all nerds, we have established internet handles by which we have been known in the past…haha.

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      to ghost
      ajthefourth: Losing out to the roaches was one of my favorite penguin moments because, as I mentioned above, I loved how it reflected Shouma’s social clumsiness. The truck scene was a bit painful to watch though.

      Regarding the penguin hat, it’s definitely interesting that they made it a point to show its vulnerability, and more importantly, the vulnerability of Himari again. Thanks as always for the quick response!

      vucubcaquix: Argh! You literally took the words out of my mouth. I wanted to briefly address the irony of having the one character who is obsessed with fate being enacted correctly be the only character to stand up to the Penguin faction who are self-styled as coming from the “Destinations of their Fate”.

      But by the time I was going to bring it up, both Em and I were kind of exhausted and we needed to unwind by watching some other anime for the night.

  2. I’d like to point out something about the truck chasing scene that your post just suddenly made me think of. While I previously interpreted it as a stylistic device on Ikuhara’s part asking the audience to suspend their disbelief – is it possible that the penguins ::are:: their souls? Perhaps the playing around with the style of exaggeration was to be taken literally and physically? Maybe Kanba cannot be hurt – is he immortal because of the fact that his “heart” has been removed (and presumably put into the penguin)? While this leaves questions in regards to Shoma’s penguin operates, it’s interesting to note that Kanba’s penguin at the end of the episode had all the wounds that normally should be on Kanba.

    I like your interpretation of Shoma as the passive and Kanba as the active and recognizing that it’s even in their character designs. I look forward to the day (if there is one) where Shoma is the one to pull a Ringo or Kanba. And pointing out the “destination” most likely being the aquarium is a very good one that flew over my head – the aquatic element of Ringo’s monologues is notable.

    Very good post, like always. I look forward to your post about “The Kiss”. One of the best (and I would argue in some cases, worst) parts of modern art are the great myriad of interpretations that can be assigned to it. Nonetheless, “The Kiss” is a wonderful reference that says quite a bit about the show.

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: If you haven’t already, you should give Day’s link above a read. I think you’ll find a few of her theories very interesting, particularly who she thinks is actually alive and who she believes to be dead. Also, insert the obligatory “soul gem” commentary here, although I’ve already spoken with you about that. ^ ^

      Oddly enough, Shouma was seemingly the more loud and brash one if you’re going by the first episode alone. If you remember, when Himari dies (and before she is resurrected by the penguin hat) it was Shouma who was the most distraught, while Kanba coolly talked about mundane things like contacting relatives. As the series has progressed, we’ve come to find out that Kanba is far more emotionally invested, where as a lot of Shouma’s commentary, though overly emotional at times, doesn’t have nearly as much meat to it. Looking back on it, this was a fantastic way to introduce the brothers, as they appear to be interchangeable in episode one, but are quickly and expertly shown to be anything but in the following episodes. Thanks for the comment!

      vucubcaquix: I’m a bit surprised that no one else picked up on the eye designs of the brothers, since I noticed very early on, but wasn’t confident enough to bring it up until the events of this episode. Seeing Shouma “man up” is going to be another big event in the near future, and I can’t wait to see it as well.

      Or who knows, maybe Shouma doesn’t even need to “man up”…

  3. jreding

    Like catcheratch I am looking forward to read your thoughts on “Der Kuss”! I once saw the painting in Vienna; it was a bit funny – the room with the painting (in a huge security glass box) was overcrowded with people whereas the rest of the museum was almost empty.

    The picture may as well be a reference to another one of my favourite anime (cf. http://tinypic.com/r/2dbpl6g/7 ), although as of yet I have not idea what this reference could mean. It may as well be that it means nothing. Good that I have time to think about it until your post on the painting!

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: Ah…so jealous!

      I haven’t seen Elfen Lied, although I can recognize that your link is to a reference from it, so I can’t comment on the significance of such a reference (if it is one). If you come up with something, definitely bring it up in the comments when we put up our post (which should be sometime around when we usually post our Penguindrum colloquia). Thank you!

      vucubcaquix: Ah yes, I know that anime you refer to, Elfen Lied. I’ve only seen the first episode but I’ve yet to see the rest. I got the impression that it was used mostly as an aesthetic choice since it is a very visually arresting style.

      Another anime that featured Klimt’s style prominently was Sora no Woto:

  4. It didn’t occur to me Shouma being held back both time as Kanba was the focus of my attention. I guess willingly or not, Shouma is destined to be the passive one who can only watch as his active brother try to save Himari.

    I really like the theory of Ikebukuro aquarium being the destination of their fate. To be honest, I had no idea what I was translating when she said “I have come from the destination of your fate,” but now it makes a lot more sense. I’m pretty sure there are alternate meanings to that line though, we’ll see :)

    I just noticed Ringo’s dad is holding “sea otter + shell” and Ringo’s mom is holding “kappa + cucumber” in that picture. They’re both “emblems” in ED as well (the set before “snake with flower”). Seems like Ringo’s past is going to be even more important to the story in upcoming episodes.

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: I'm sure that there are multiple meanings to the "destination of your fate" line, much like there seem to be multiple meanings to nearly everything in this series. That's part of what makes it so fun! I can't wait to be proven wrong (or right!). Best of luck translating, we're excited that you like our discussions!

      vucubcaquix: I had noticed an episode or two ago that the design of the twin snakes of the diary was featured in the ending, and brought it up in conversations with Emily even, but I wasn’t confident enough to write it down in one of our colloquia until the flower snake and the wire globe made their debut in the latest episode.

      I have to second what Emily said, we are really grateful that you look to us for analysis and commentary on this show, and that you like what we have to say. Please continue on knowing that there are thousands of fans out there who depend on your translation to brighten up their Thursday nights just a little bit.

  5. Whoa Ringo was so awesome during this episode! Climbing out of the trap door, breaking the cuffs and snatching that penguin hat LOL Amazing stuff and I can’t forget Kanba wow that was some epic-truck-face-surfing right there!

    Anyway this was a great episode and seems like were getting introduced to the girl with the odd gun from the opening video, I still wonder who she is?! Then again we don’t really know who the “bad guy” really is. A fun twist would really come down to the penguins = baddies but that might be a bit cheesy >.>;

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: Being the most absurd character in the series thus far, both in a literal and philosophical sense, it was awesome to see Ringo take charge, despite the fact that her actions led to Himari’s death (again). It definitely gave that much more depth to her character, reiterating that she too is a person who acts, which is a bit contrary to her adherence to “fate.”

      Also, let’s face it, it was sheer awesomeness when Ringo snatched the hat off of Himari’s head. I’m pretty sure I yelled aloud at that scene. ^ ^ Thanks for the comment!

      vucubcaquix: The bad guys being the penguins would be an awesome twist, and it would make the whole “Fighting Against Your Fate” thing really interesting, since the penguin hat claims to have come from the destination of their fate. So we’ll see! As for the girl with the slingshot gun, man, I don’t even know. I couldn’t write anything about her because we don’t know anything yet, but I think she knows Kanba already somehow…

  6. In terms of the eyes, the penguins also show who’s the toughest—and It’s 1. Certainly, each penguin somehow reflects the character of their “master”—although I’m not sure if that’s really their relationship but for now just for simplicity, I’m assuming this . In addition, I’m thinking maybe the penguins are like “dæmons,” but of course less the fact that they can’t speak.

    Ringo stood out the most for me in this episode. I was surprised how she managed to get back and even ran into the penguinhatter, plus how the penguinhatter became so defenceless against Ringo. Also, it made me wonder what would happen just in case the hat is being worn by somebody else.

    • Ooh, I also thought they were like dæmons – from His Dark Materials, right? Though, in the latter case, they’re more like manifestations of people’s souls, whereas the penguins have similarities with their human counterparts, but what with their alien origins….

      Anyway, quite frankly, I still don’t know what to make of this series, lol, but one of my favourite moments in this epi was witnessing the powered-up Himari’s dressing down of a certain creepy psycho stalker girl – blunt, but true!

      • hikoboshiandorihime

        ajthefourth: Half of the fun is not knowing what this series has in store for us. We can guess and speculate (and have an incredible amount of fun while doing so) but until the series reveals its hand, we won’t know. I look forward to being proven wrong (or possibly right!) in light of what the series will eventually show us! ^ ^ Thanks for commenting!

        vucubcaquix: His Dark Materials, ah that’s a title I’ve not read in ages. It was one of my favorites in high school. As for their comparing to the penguins in Mawaru, I saw an immediate if shallow resemblance early on but refused to remark on it because I thought the connection was pretty tenuous at best. But now that I saw that they can indeed interact with the world in a meaningful way, the daemon analogy may be much more apt.

        Let’s see how much further down this hole we’ll tumble along…

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      to Snippett
      ajthefourth: Even following the events of this episode, I wonder about the penguins’ purpose, although now it appears that they are able to directly affect what is happening in the narrative. Since they were sent to the Takakura household with the same penguin emblem that was on the money envelope Kanba received, it makes me think that Kanba is far more invested in whatever is going on than Shouma. Certainly, he’s more informed than what he lets on (much like Touga from Utena). Thank you so much for the comment!

      vucubcaquix: I purposely avoided using the term master when I wrote about them, since I wasn’t sure that that was their relationship either. ‘Master’ implies that the penguins would do their bidding with no repercussion and obey their every whim, but that isn’t the case given that #2 has repeatedly thrown Shouma’s trap door when they’re in Penguinspace. As for the penguins being a sort of “daemon”, Socrates’ meaning of it is closer to that of a slightly more materialized or manifest conscience, which would make sense prior to this episode, since they didn’t really affect proceedings at all. After this episode however, I wouldn’t be averse to likening them to the daemons of His Dark Materials like Hana does here.

      The idea of someone else wearing the penguinhat? You are blowing my mind…

      Also, I’m totally stealing “penguinhatter”.

  7. Yi

    Great point on the aquarium scene. It seems that in addition to penguins being a running theme, aquariums itself is as well. And perhaps related, the idea of looking at things through glass. Throughout the series, we have various moments of this besides the obvious penguin zoo. Kanba and Shoma observes Himari from behind glass doors as she’s rushed through the hospital. Ringo looking at Yuri and the teacher having lunch at a restaurant from outside. And perhaps this is even more of a stretch, but the broken glass from that stormy night.

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: Hnnn…I really like that theme of “looking through glass” as I honestly hadn’t noticed it before. This could also tie in to your various musings on an “Alice in Wonderland” theme with Himari possibly playing the role of Alice. Frequently when glass is used, it’s to show a world similar to the “real” one with a bit of distortion that makes it off-putting. This will be an interesting thing to look out for! Thanks Yi!

      vucubcaquix: Man, I didn’t even consider that before. Funnily enough, the other half of the Utena Dream Team was obsessed at looking and doing things “through the glass” vis a vis Star Driver, so there may be more to this than any of us initially thought as well…

  8. Personally, Shoma being designated to a passive role in the anime actually helps the narrative move forward.

    Taking a purely “mass communication” view of the episode, relegating Shoma to passiveness helps in smooth progression with his sort of pairing with Ringo in which her own personal struggles with destiny slowly intertwines with Shoma’s own personal struggles to be in an active role.

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: For some strange reason, Shouma interests me. Perhaps it is due to the way his passive role contrast with his brother, and the pace of the rest of the narrative. As you say, Shouma’s passiveness helps the plot move forward, but at the same time it shows how the plot, along with everything else, is moving a bit too swiftly for him to keep up with. Thanks for the comment!

      vucubcaquix: So, what you’re saying is that Ringo’s struggles with enacting destiny are similar, if not parallel, to Shouma’s struggles to become a proactive member of the story? I think I get that, and it’s interesting. It’ll also explain why there’s so much buzz in certain circles about shipping these two characters together since their personalities may be a bit dissimilar, they’d still complement each other since their struggles are similar in spirit to each other.

      We shall see!

  9. Excellent spot matching the ED icons to objects in the series. This actually lends itself more to the game theory, perhaps something in the spirit of Yi’s mention. Think about each item as a piece, such as in Monopoly each player selects their token to play with, but unlike a board game, the Penguindrum pieces each have their own attributes, merits, or purpose. Or another guess would be that each token plays a specific role in the game. There are interesting ways to work this aspect, so I hope someone takes a stab at it as we move along the line.

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: Yeah, I loved what Yi had to say about the game show and board game qualities of this series and hope to see her expand on it in future posts. As for the icons, David was the one who caught on to that fairly quickly with the symbol on Ringo’s diary. I’ll let him expand on it more. ^ ^ Thanks for the comment!

      vucubcaquix: I caught the twin snake caduceus pretty quickly, but I wasn’t sure of what the significance could be. Interesting that you allude to Yi’s Game Theory post, since that adds a significance to these icons that I didn’t see before. If they are pieces in a game, then the outcome, while not necessarily pre-determined, is still definitely outside of their domain. They are all pawns on the chessboard that is the narrative that is Mawaru Penguindrum.

      As to who the players are… well, we’ll find that out soon enough, won’t we?

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