ajthefourth: It was in episode five, when their parents were introduced, that the Takakura brothers really began to cement themselves as separate entities in viewers’ minds. Kanba was the more active one. He took after his father, who was also a man of action. Shouma, on the other hand, took after his mother. He was more domestic, emotionally messy, and a bit of a worrywart. In this episode, Shouma takes action, although hardly in the same way as his brother would have.
In the past, whenever Shouma has been discussed, it has been in regards to his uselessness, especially in comparison to his more competent, reliable, and attractive brother. However, signs had pointed to Shouma’s role beginning to take a more significant turn within the plot, especially in last week’s episode when his penguin finally had a concrete impact on the series’s proceedings when it immediately wolfed down the eggs that a mystical frog had laid on Shouma’s back. This marked the first time in the series that Shouma’s penguin had a direct effect on what was happening in the plot instead of spraying for insects (metaphorical or otherwise) or being the culprit behind a mysteriously vanishing lunch.
I love episode eight as a character study for Shouma, especially in contrast to his brother, who has been more absent in these past few episodes. As mentioned before, Shouma is someone who is emotionally expressive, and seemingly unable to understand when others suppress their emotions. This is especially true to his character when he calls Ringo’s bluff in this now-infamous bedroom scene where she effectively tries to rape Tabuki.
When he says the above line to Ringo, a part of Shouma’s character is fully revealed: he’s grown to care about Ringo. This may seem obvious; however, it doesn’t make it any less important. (As an aside, I also get the feeling that we’re learning more and more about Shouma precisely because Ringo has been growing more fond of him herself.) Kanba would have never worried about Ringo’s emotional instability, he would have taken the diary already and presented it to the Princess/Penguinhat in order to discover if it was the famed penguindrum or not (unless he’s just another Touga Kiryuu or Tokio Tsunashi and buying time). Shouma, on the other hand, decided to try and save Ringo’s life, twice in the same episode, no less. When Shouma decides to take action it is less focused, and perhaps more emotionally messy, but just as effective if not more so.
vucub caquix: It has come to my attention through the conversations that we have had, that occasionally we have a bit of a different perspective on Mawaru Penguindrum. Where others have focused on the plot and proceedings of each episode, we tend to be attracted to the symbolism, and characterization involved.
While my partner, Emily, noted that the diverging paths of the Takakura brothers were beginning to cement in episode five, the foreshadowing of this has been in place since the very first episode. Through the meal that the siblings first shared, as they sat down, Kanba and Himari remarked on Shouma’s domestic abilities, which included all of the aforementioned connotations attached to them. It was in this same episode that the themes of determinism and existentialism were being obliquely laid down for the audience. I theorized that the main narrative push of the series was going to be the conflict between determinism and existentialism; specifically, that the show has a very deterministic universe, whereas the characters (minus Ringo) have very existentialist attitudes. While much hasn’t been made of it since then, Kanba’s symbolic first strike against the determinism in this universe was his kiss on a sleeping Himari. Seemingly, Shouma’s equivalent first strike was his successful attempt to prevent Ringo from fulfilling her so-called destiny that was laid out in her deceased sister’s diary, the proverbial Project M.
The universe has struck back against Shouma’s existential actions by playing on his selfless nature as he pushed Ringo out of the way of an oncoming car. If it wasn’t for Shouma’s presence, there’s a very real chance that Ringo could have successfully enacted her interpretation of Project M thus, acting as the universe’s lymphocyte, the car attempts to remove Shouma from the equation.
I am of the opinion, that the reason why the universe has not acted against Kanba thus far, is that the brothers are fated to have opposing roles; one, the active, and one, the passive. There hasn’t been an overt action on the part of the universe against Kanba, but there has been one against Shouma, precisely because he has stepped out of his predetermined role as the passive brother. We would not have noticed this if we hadn’t been paying particular attention to the characterization of the brothers from the beginning.
ajthefourth: The characters in this series are key. Although we haven’t learned nearly everything it’s becoming apparent that, for the majority of this first cour, Mawaru Penguindrum is going to be more of a study in characterization as opposed to being more plot-driven. Personally, I really like this idea, especially when you consider the small references in the series to the Sarin Gas Attacks. If the series is a study on the after-effects of the gas attacks on the populace (and I am well-aware that this is a big “if”) then one of the strongest ways to go about this would be to establish interesting, multi-faceted characters first and then follow it up by introducing the specter of the gas attacks hanging over the series, much like the specters that were placed at the top of Penguindrum‘s interpretation of Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss.”
This focus on characterization is especially apparent in the developing relationship between Ringo and Shouma, which admittedly I have found very engaging. Ringo, although I had previously argued to see less of her and more of Himari, has become the most entertaining, tragic character in the series thus far. Her imposition of the moray eel into the delusions of the destruction of her family is a perfect example; moray eels are typically thought of as volatile, when in actuality they’re rather shy and reserved. In this latest episode Ringo sees her father with a new woman, a new daughter, and a new life. Previously her father was seemingly Ringo’s only defender when she was younger (to her own mother no less) so she can’t help but impose the moray eel image on these two, and it kicks her warped mind into overdrive. If the series is trying to paint a portrait of how a large-scale tragedy can warp one’s mind so soundly, in spite of the fact that she had never known the person directly affected, her dead sister, Ringo is the perfect (and far more personal) example.
vucub caquix: For all of the attention that we pay to the Takakura siblings one can forget that Ringo’s character is completely submerged in irony. She has the most deterministic mindset coupled with the most existential actions. If the series continues to use Ringo as an example of the negative effects of the 1995 Sarin Gas Attacks through the death of her older sister in said attacks, that will only serve to heighten the irony surrounding her character even more.
I say this because I read an interesting theory about the relationship between Ringo’s sister Momoka and the wild card that is Masako Natsume. The theory goes that Masako may be the reincarnation of Ringo’s sister Momoka. There are many small things that support this, such as a few extraneous details that were read from the diary describing situations that Masako was in. For example, the diary mentions a girl in red heels; Ringo never actually came across her, but Masako assaulted her. We had previously speculated on the connection between the diary and Masako, but having Masako know and specifically refer to Project M only further entrenches this idea in my mind. There’s a lot of other circumstantial evidence that supports this assertion as well: Masako’s apparent age being similar to that of Tabuki, and having a penguin of her own. The only entities in the universe that have been shown to have the power of resurrection are the penguins; therefore Masako’s association with the penguin faction may hint at the idea that she could have been resurrected or possibly “saved from her fate.” There is also the fact that Momoka’s name means peach, which in Asian tradition is a symbol for immortality. The irony involving Ringo’s character is that, if Masako is indeed Momoka, by attempting to fulfill the words in her dead sister’s diary, Ringo may be inadvertently in direct conflict with her sister (Masako) who is still alive.
At the end of this episode, after Ringo has been thwarted by Shouma a supposedly unrevealed character swept in and attempted to steal the diary away. The show doesn’t explicitly state who this character is, but I don’t think that it’s a large logical leap to say that this was Masako. Ringo has made it a point to be secretive about her diary. I was under the mistaken impression that she was more of an evangelist regarding its powers and the idea of it. Through the revelation of her protectiveness of the diary, one can assume that she is the only living person outside of the Takakuras who knows of this diary’s existence. Who else could possibly know about the existence of a diary that supposedly has the fates of the characters written within?
ajthefourth AND vucub caquix: Our apologies for the lapse in a Penguindrum post last week; however, circumstances arose in both of our daily lives that needed attending to, David with school and work, and Emily at her job as well. We (hopefully) made up for it by watching this episode together (as in, not 541 miles from each other over Skype) while eating Ringo’s curry. You can find the recipe here, courtesy of Baka Laureate.
25 responses to “Colloquium: Mawaru Penguindrum Episode 8”
ajthefourth: I certainly enjoyed it; however, I was also the chef, so you’ll have to ask my partner for a more unbiased opinion. ^ ^
I will add that if anyone else wants to try out that recipe, adding chicken broth to cook with instead of water and a tiny bit of curry spice is fantastic in the rice!
vucubcaquix: I’m telling you, it’s the apples.
The chef kept them crispier than what was called for in the recipe I believe, but it works to the dish’s benefit because the sweetness really does play with and enhance the spice of the curry on your tongue. It’s totally unexpected if you haven’t experienced it, but believe me, it is wonderful.
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It’s worth noticing 2 got hit too. Now, if we go by the theory the penguins represent their masters will, then it means Shoma actually wanted to save Ringo here, not only out of moral obligation like in episode 4.
I’m also curious as of what will happen with penguin 2 next episodes now that Shoma is either dead or badly injured and maybe in coma.
ajthefourth: You know, I had completely forgotten that Penguin No. Two is also lying in the middle of the road, which does tie in nicely when contrasting this with episode four. It’s also worth noting that these two episodes go hand in hand with their cost-cutting (and adorable) ways of presenting Ringo’s delusions/perspective, and the fact that neither episode had a “Seizon Senryaku!” transformation sequence. How far Shouma has come since his days of being forced to tag along with Ringo by Kanba.
In that entire sequence in the park, the penguin turned away from Ringo to snack on a fish, but Shouma saved her regardless. Now he’s not only willingly spending time with her, but he’s trying to stop her self-destructive behavior (especially upon recognizing that she doesn’t really love Tabuki) and ends up getting hit by a car (and his penguin gets hit by a car) in order to save her life.
If Shouma is injured, I would assume that his penguin would be as well; however, the more interesting scenario would be if Shouma was in a coma and his penguin was walking around, munching on stuff per usual. What would that mean, I wonder? ^ ^
Thanks for that great point and the comment!
vucubcaquix: “Moral obligation.” That is a FANTASTIC way of describing the growth of Shouma’s character. With the penguins being extensions of their wills in addition to being reflections of their personalities, the rescue in episode 4 of a drowning Ringo shows that Shouma acted perhaps not of his own volition and that his true desires lay elsewhere at the time. He acted out of obligation, which meant that he was habituated into this particular action through being taught that not acting so would incur some sort of punishment for him.
It’s dyed into the wool of his character. You see this in his penguin diving after Ringo at first (which is the reflection of his personality), but veering away to find fish at the last moment (which is the reflection of his will).
But pushing Ringo out of the way of the car? The penguin was also hit, which means that his will was in full accordance with his personality, and that his actions were reasoned and of his own volition. That’s important, because as we saw last week, Shouma’s penguin has graduated to being a fully-fledged aspect of the show in that it can now affect his surroundings.
Shouma and Ringo’s relationship is getting pretty interesting, especially since I can’t really narrow it down to friendship or love. They’re very quick to point out each others’ flaws on the fire escape, but Ringo seemed genuinely affected by his words when she hesitated to pick up the diary and Shouma could have easily just tried to take the diary by force and never have to deal with Ringo again if he wanted to. It looks like Shouma getting hit by that car hit her pretty hard too; I don’t know where the two of them are going after this, but this episode seems like a game changer.
I also think that Masako is either Momoka herself or working with her. Two Project Ms can’t be a coincidence, and if Masako is the motorcyclist then she had to have an idea of what the diary is. And we already know that people can come back from the dead in this setting, and Masako has a penguin of her own…
ajthefourth: Shouma and Ringo’s relationship definitely intrigues me. It’s as if we’re getting to know more and more about Shouma as his esteem rises in Ringo’s mind. Honestly, I’m not really interested in them from a shipping aspect, but it was certainly fantastic to see them airing out each others’ dirty laundry only to find out that they are far more similar than they had realized. Notably, the main difference is that Shouma would never go so far as to resort to hurting people as Ringo seemingly has. I loved how he recognized that she didn’t really want to rape Tabuki, and how she paused before picking up the diary (which was what caused the timing to be perfect for the motorcyclist, I’ll let David tackle that). Thanks for the comment! ^ ^
vucubcaquix: There are too many coincidences for this to not be significant. The creators behind this series have proven to be very adept at playing with subtle symbolism and foreshadowing and themes that are introduced early on are revisited through other elements in the show. So these little things that connect Masako and Momoka such as the mundane details in the diary like the girl with red heels, Project M, all together seem to be screaming at me like a bullhorn.
What still trips me up is the motivation of Masako. Why does she act in seeming contradiction with the Takakura penguin group? Part of me wonders if this is related to the fact that there are two penguin emblems seen all over the show, one from the Kiga Group, the other from the Pingroup (according to Newtype magazine). So this establishes that there are penguin affiliated corporations that may be working in direct opposition to each other, which may explain Masako’s seeming antagonism.
There’s so much to find out yet…
Nice post you two! Always a good read and I agree the characters are really fun to watch even thou Ringo is quite twisted in her views of getting closer to Tabuki. I knew something was up when Ringo added those “sparkles” to the special cake for Tabuki nice try Ringo! But Shouma saved the day, well he did get run over and I totally thought about FLCL and Kore wa zombie Desu ka? for a moment…Then I realized this wasn’t a comedy series…
I do think Ringo has something for Shouma! After all they spend a lot of time together, sure they might be nothing more than friends at this point but he might be able to knock some smarts into her xD
ajthefourth: Thank you! Your comments are always a good read as well! Yeah as soon as the cake came out I was like, “Oh man, I bet she drugged it or something.” I was pretty shocked when Shouma was hit by the car; however, the way his body went flying was fairly comical, and somehow horrifying at the same time.
I think, instead of then having “a thing” for each other, it’s more that they’re both fairly emotionally susceptible people who have decided to cling to each other in spite of their exclamations to the contrary. We’ll see how this plays out with Shouma now (presumably) injured. Thanks for the comment!
vucubcaquix: That’s what gets me every time when I watch this show. One moment, I’m laughing out loud at how ridiculous the penguins are, the next moment I’m kind of cringing at how dark everything is getting with people getting assaulted, attempted rapes, incestuous kissing, people getting run over, hints about the Sarin Gas Attacks… yeah now that I think about it, this show is way darker than most people realize.
I’ve been really torn about Mawaru Penguindrum recently–the plot is slow-paced to the point of absurdity, Ringo receives arguably too much focus and a couple of episodes feel much like misplaced filler. The fact that the show is so unpredictable also means that whether or not the show will succeed is, as far as the viewer’s concerned, way up in the air. In some ways it’s even stranger and darker than Utena, which is saying a LOT.
Then again, as I think this post proved, there’s so much going on under the surface–interlocking symbolism, character dynamics, hints at what is going on hidden in the most innocuous of comedy sequences–that I’m still fairly certain that Ikuhara and co. have a pretty good idea viz. what they are doing. The question is, why the pacing? Why the egg-laying frog, the repeated over-the-top fantasy sequences, the seeming focus on Ringo to the exclusion of almost everybody else? What does it all mean???
In terms of the mysterious biker girl introduced in this episode, I’d guess that the culprit was either Masako (for Project M) or Yui (under the employ of Pingroup for a Project M-like?) If Yui is also trying to take on Momoka’s role, then could there be some sort of cosmic competition being staged for…something? Tabuki’s child? Was Momoka supposed to have a baby or something? What? What???
ajthefourth: Utena definitely had a more relaxed pace from the viewer’s perspective. That is to say, when I watched Utena for the first time, I knew that the series was long, and therefore didn’t mind the interjection of the Nanami episodes, or the somewhat relaxed pace. Penguindrum on the other hand, has me a bit apprehensive as a viewer, although I still sense the same confidence in its direction. No matter where it’s going, as you stated, it’s going somewhere purposefully. I have the feeling, as stated above, that this first cour is going to be much more of a character study where the second cour will more than likely kick the series into high gear. There are so many plot threads and character emotions that are being laid out that one can only hope they’ll come together coherently (for the most part, I still think Ikuhara has a few tricks up his sleeve) and I keep having to remind myself that there’s a huge difference in expectation between watching a knowingly completed series and a currently airing series.
That being said, each of these past few episodes have meandered with characterization before introducing even more questions as they have neared their conclusion. I can’t even begin to say what one thing means over another and what’s important. Personally, I’ve been keeping the story of the Night on the Galactic Railroad in my mind, waiting for him to tie back in with that story, since I feel like that is decidedly important. Other than that, who knows? However, I’m certainly having fun guessing! Thanks for reading.
vucubcaquix: Hmm, I honestly don’t think Yui (one of Kanba’s exes) is capable of taking the diary since all three of them have been rendered near catatonic because of Masako’s penguinshot. It just feels more appropriate to me to have Masako be the motorcyclist since she’s already been established as an Action Girl in previous episodes whereas the Exes have not.
As for filler, I don’t feel it personally. Then again, when I watch something that heavily emphasizes characterizations and developing character dynamics, I don’t feel that what people call filler is really filler at all. Each moment informs what the audience knows about the character and learns about the character. For instance, that frog laying scene only further cements the fact that Ringo’s grasp on reality is slipping. But more importantly, through Penguin 2’s devouring of the eggs it has a direct effect on it’s surroundings which foreshadows an upcoming proactive action on the plot. Similar to how Penguin 1 helped Kanba chase down the hat, that was the moment that Penguin 2 became more than a reflection of his personality, and also became an extension of his will.
As for what it all really means? Well, all this is speculation on our parts, but the pieces have been given to us in a pretty logical way, and we’ve had hella fun piecing it together so far. It’s been a ride and it hasn’t let up for me yet.
vucubcaquix–whoops! By Yui I think I actually meant Yuri, Tabuki’s girlfriend. The fact that a)her acting troupe has a direct link to Pingroup and b)the peach symbol that represents Momoka is in her apartment renders her pretty suspicious to me. It is far more likely that Masako was the girl on the motorcycle, but maybe Ikuhara is messing with us?
On that note, the aquarium at the end of the train line is apparently owned by Pingroup as well. Since Pingroup not only owns seemingly everything in the city but also appears to be involved in everything from WH to Yuri’s drama troupe to the penguins sent to the Takakura brothers, they’re probably a force to watch out for.
I don’t like this show the way I want to like it: i.e. enjoy it.
I like it because it does things I like, even if in annoying ways.
It’s a big disappointment for me, but yes I still like it.
It was delicious, I’m still enjoying the leftovers. I’m going handle this one, since David still hasn’t finished Utena yet.
I completely understand, especially when comparing it to Utena. It’s hard to say how Penguindrum will stack up, since we haven’t seen the rest of the series yet; however, watching it is still enjoyable for me, although perhaps not as enjoyable as watching Utena was. It seems as if Ikuhara has taken certain elements from Utena and expanded on them in Penguindrum, while lessening others. Only time will tell, I suppose, but I do feel that you and I may be in the same viewing boat (with me giving it more of a pass, I think ^ ^). Anyway, thanks for commenting!
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I’m a bit confused by your description of the conflict between determinism and existentialism: these ideas seem more like they’re complementary than that they’re in conflict to me.
Isn’t existentialism about making choices and finding meaning and joy even in the face of an absurd fate (determinism)? From the Myth of Sisyphus, If there is a personal fate, there is no higher destiny, or at least there is but one which [one] concludes is inevitable and despicable.
And I’m confused by the notion of an existential action as well. Aren’t all actions existential if existence (actions) precede essence? Do you mean this in the sense that they take responsibility for their actions? Thanks in advance for clarifying!
I suppose I should’ve taken a clue from my own portion on our first penguindrum post and included the pre in predeterminism. I explained a bit there that predeterminism talks about how the universe is basically nothing but a series of specific causes and events, in that everything that has ever occurred has a specific cause to it, and that every action that will occur will have a specific reaction and effect. This clashes with the idea of free will since this philosophy states that there’s nothing that can occur that doesn’t have a concrete cause and meaning to it. Kind of an extreme form of Causality. Eventually, if examined closely enough, the predeterminists believe that the Universe is headed to one specific state or destination. A destiny of sorts, which imbues all events with a specific purpose towards enacting that.
The Existentialists, however fractured they are in there individual ideas of what existentialism means, all believe that there is no inherent meaning or purpose to this world which would be in direct conflict with one or the core conceits of predetermination. The Myth of Sisyphus (which I haven’t read in a while) I believe is a reaction towards the inherent Absurdism in the world.
Absurdism is defined as the inability for humans to find any meaning in the world whatsoever, whereas Camus thought that was bull and published this essay illuminating that humans can find their own personal meaning, fate, destiny. The emphasis is on personal, since the Existentialists don’t believe that anything like that exists on a universal scale. We have to make it for ourselves, it isn’t there already like the predeterminists are wont to believe.
Ringo is a predeterminist in her mindset, believing that everyone has a destiny already mapped out for them such as with her diary. But we’ve seen that the diary doesn’t really speak to anything in her life, thus she’s made it her destiny. A very Existential action.
I think our primary point of contention is what we mean by “meaning”. (how is that for pretentiousness?) Predeterminism claims that everything has a cause and is set for some fixed destiny, but does this mean that everything has a meaning? No, unless the destiny of the universe itself has a meaning. Existentialists would claim that it doesn’t. The destiny of the universe, if such a thing exists, is both “inevitable and despicable”.
Look at Sisyphus and his rock. It is predetermined that he’ll push his rock up the hill, as he has no choice in the matter. It’s also inherently meaningless: it will soon fall back down of its own weight and he’ll do the whole thing over again. This fits right in with the idea of the absurd: pushing the rock up the hill, and fate itself, are absurd and utterly meaningless. Even if there is a cause for the rock moving to the top of the hill (Sisyphus pushing it) this doesn’t mean that there is any *meaning* in the rock’s motion. But, as you say, Sisyphus takes hold of this absurd fate, claims it for himself, and joyfully walks down the mountain to reclaim his burden.
I see what you’re saying by an existential action now. On the other hand, though, Ringo believes in fate, but does she actually believe in predeterminism? For Ringo, fate is something she has to earn: if she doesn’t fulfill the conditions written in the book, her fate won’t happen. So she doesn’t see her fate as predetermined (if that makes any sense at all).
Also, I think you mixed the terms up- Camus is the one who founded Absurdism. Did you mean nihilism?
I think this episode really shows the better traits of Shouma, unlike his brother he sticks to what is “right”. He’s being misunderstood as weak/he doesn’t care as much as Kanba does, but after this episode how I view him changed. For instance, Kanba already saw that somebody’s trying to shoot target his ex-girlfriends, instead of saving them he just stood frozen on two occasions. Whereas Shouma, by instinct he saved Ringo.
Nice theory about Masako being the reincarnation of Momoka, never really thought of that. If indeed she is Momoka’s reincarnation and assuming that Masako is really the person who took the other half of diary, then why would she liked to get the diary so badly. I mean, if she’s Momoka, it means she’s the author of the diary, then for sure she can write her new fate or has the ability to change her destiny. Another thing is, from my understanding, Masako is receiving orders or reporting events to somebody regarding about the Project M. So perhaps, somebody is just behind her actions. My guess is whenever she’s on the phone, she talking to the long-haired guy showed in the OP.
ajthefourth: He does stick with what’s “right” in his mind, which in a way, makes him a stronger character than Kanba has been presented as. Shouma is still searching for the penguindrum in order to save Himari; however, he’s also seemingly going to do it on his terms, without compromising his own set of ethics. Contrasting this with Kanba’s apparent disregard for all others except Himari, it’s certainly Shouma who comes out on top in my mind, especially following this episode. I love how the brothers’ different characters, especially Shouma’s, have really begun to shine in these past few episodes, although I think that this, combined with the singular goal of keeping Himari alive, will lead to inevitable conflict between the brothers, instead of causing them to grow closer to each other. Thanks for the comment!
vucubcaquix: Snippett, I really liked what you said about Shoma. Makes him seem pretty badass from that perspective. I haven’t examined him as much Emily has, but I like the idea of him acting out and being a protagonist in this episode instead of just letting things occur.
As for Masako, I read a couple of thoughts about her on forums and after putting it together, it started to make more and more sense. Emily especially was wondering who she talks to on the phone and she agrees that it’s Pink-haired guy. If it is… then I have a lot of ideas that may reinforce the fact that Masako is the reincarnation of Momoka, but I’ll save it for a post.
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