Colloquium: Mawaru Penguindrum Episode 9

"Survival strategy!"

“Like I said, the apple is the universe itself.  A universe in the palm of your hand.  It’s what connects this world and the other world.”

“The other world?”

“The world Campanella and the other passengers are heading to!”

“What does that have anything to do with an apple?”

“The apple is a reward for those who have chosen love over everything else!”

“But everything’s over when you’re dead.”

“It’s not over!  What I’m trying to say is that’s actually where everything begins!”

-Mawaru Penguindrum, Episode 1

ajthefourth: We’ve been calling for an episode focusing on Himari, and this episode delivered that fantastically.  If you remember, in our first post in this series, Night on the Galactic Railroad was discussed.  I’d like to retouch upon a few of those themes now, specifically in regards to Himari and her present state.

In Night on the Galactic Railroad, the train is carrying all of its passengers to their deaths, with the exception of Giovanni, and seemingly his only friend Campanella.  When they first board the train, Giovanni notices that Campanella is all wet, a hint that points to the fact that Campanella is in fact dead, and had drowned right around the time that the mysterious train had appeared.  Throughout the entire train ride, Giovanni is blissfully unaware, until Campanella disappears near the end of the journey, and Campanella, for his part, finds it too hard to admit to Giovanni that he had died.  The train becomes his way of spending time with Giovanni, coming to terms with his own death, and allowing Giovanni to come to terms with Campanella’s death, as well as his own issues.

I had previously thought that it was Kanba who was playing the role of the Touga Kiryuu, having his hand in many more pies than the audience is lead to believe and, although perhaps not being the “final boss” of sorts, having some hand in what was happening through much of this first part of the series while Ringo was distracting the audience’s attention.  He still may; however, what episode nine of Mawaru Penguindrum brings into focus is that Himari, who I had previously thought of as more of a lifeless vessel for something else, knows far more than she lets on.  She is also dead, with her entire dream sequence hinting to what actually happened in the aquarium when she passed out on the ground.  Seemingly, like Campanella, Himari is having a hard time telling the people that she cares about that she’s dead.  This includes Shouma and Kanba, but also the mysterious boy who shares an apple with her in one of the flashbacks, who could be Shouma, Kanba or, more likely, someone else.

"Right, I had someone very precious to me. He is my soulmate."

The apple is a reward for those who have chosen love over everything else.  As Himari leaves the Hole in the Sky library, Sanetoshi bestows upon her an apple, telling her not to forget it.  This is immediately following his telling her to go to the destination of her fate, which he claims that she already knows.  Is it a literal place, for example the location where she presumably shared the apple with her soulmate?

How much does Himari really know?  When she returns to the supposed “real world” she initiates the survival strategy, which we had previously thought had been initiated by the Princess of the Crystal.  A few episodes later she makes it a point to drink milk, and shut down Himari’s body to prove that the “real” Himari Takakura had already died.  I can’t help but think that, in spite of this, there’s more Himari in the persona of The Princess of the Crystal than we had previously thought.

vucub caquix: What my partner intuited last night about Himari being more in tune with her faculties than she lets on, is supported by the fact that once she donned on the veil of the Bride of Fate, there were visual markers showing that she was indeed the Princess of the Crystal at that time. Note the color of her eyes… However! What leads us to believe that Himari retains a measure of control is that in the scene before she’s sent back to the real world, as Sanetoshi is leaning in to kiss her, gone is all of the sexual bravado and self-assuredness of the Princess, and instead we see the more demure and submissive physical body language of Himari, the sickly younger sister.

Sanetoshi attempting to kiss Himari before she is returned to the world is a bit strange to me. The reason I feel so is that the first person I thought of as Sanetoshi spoke to Himari when she first arrived in the Hole in the Sky library was St. Peter. St. Peter is known as the keeper of the keys to the kingdom of heaven in Christian tradition, and is also regarded as the first Pope of the Catholic Church.

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Matthew 16:19

The semantics in the differing opinions of Peter’s exact role according to Catholics and Protestants are a bit beyond me, but I’m a little more concerned with the modern popular cultural interpretation of Peter as the man who stands before the gates of heaven, taking stock of a person’s life. This is what Sanetoshi was doing to Himari by flipping through the various books of her life.

I think I should take a step back and explain myself a bit.

We know that Himari is dead. There’s a moment in this episode where Himari is at the counter with Shouma about to purchase a somewhat garish rockhopper penguin hat, where she’s called away by a small penguin with a bow on her head. If you rewatch the same scene in the very first episode, this is the exact moment that Kanba returns from his phone call only to see that Shouma has somehow misplaced Himari. A moment later, someone outside pleads for an ambulance for a pallid girl lying on the ground struggling to breathe. These stolen moments are what are recounted in this episode as Himari straddled the boundary between life and death.

As Himari was led away by a figurative white rabbit, everything becomes more surreal. This is when her body gives out. The red elevator she enters descends into an underworld setting that she is familiar with, a library that she has frequented. There is no one else around, only the cutout avatars of people, because as far as she’s concerned this is no longer about anyone else, this is about her. She doesn’t seem to balk at the idea of a familiar library beneath the aquarium, but seems rather resigned to the fact. She even seems to want to check out a specific book with a single-minded determination, almost as if she’ll derive some sort of otherworldly satisfaction from being able to acquire it. The lack of its record doesn’t deter Himari in the slightest, and gives the audience an opportunity to see how determined she can be. What she’s looking for, is a specific memory to relive.

The books in the Hole in the Sky library from what I can gather, are the records of the experiences and memories of the special guests who are allowed access. In a setting that’s reminiscent of an afterlife of sorts, the steward of the sum of our life’s experiences and the one who determines our readiness to pass on, is St. Peter. That is what Sanetoshi is doing here. Himari is looking for a specific book, a specific memory to relive that I suspect may help her in passing on. Sanetoshi however, finds every book except for the one she wants, making her relive specific moments in her life.

This is key. This is the gatekeeper’s role he is playing. By showcasing these moments, these memories, he is causing her to remember that she is still burdened with regret. Regret over what happened to her mother, with what happened to her friends. A regret that is eating away at the bottom of her heart, threatening to fester if she does not acknowledge it. When she begins to realize this herself, this is where Sanetoshi steps away from his role as gatekeeper, and assumes a more active one in giving Himari something that enables her return. The veil that she had purchased at the gift shop.

This is where that kiss does not settle with me. I can’t parse it properly. But what I did gather, was that Himari while wearing the veil, refuses Sanetoshi’s advances and instead chooses love. Why I believe she chooses love above all else, is that she’s given an apple as a reward. The universe in the palm of her hand.

The weight of this episode has not been lost on the audience. It’s through that very brief scene that we subconsciously realize that even though she’s dead, this is where everything truly begins.

"Can you help me find 'Super Frog Saves Tokyo?'"

ajthefourth:  Continuing our focus on the library, we see a number of books as Himari makes her way down the staircase, all variations on the one book that she is looking for: Murakami’s Super Frog Saves TokyoSuper Frog Saves Tokyo deals with a few of the same themes that we see in Night on the Galactic Railroad.  The story involves a solitary bank worker, Katagiri, who has been chosen by a giant frog to save Tokyo from destruction by an earthquake-causing worm.  Throughout their stories, the main characters Giovanni (Night on the Galactic Railroad) and Katagiri (Super Frog Saves Tokyo) perform thankless and tedious tasks that garner little to no recognition (in fact, Giovanni is ridiculed constantly by his classmates).  They also are plunged into situations where they are unable to tell what is “real” and what is not.  At the end of each of their stories, they come to similar conclusions that it’s possible to take pride in what you do and the relationships you have had even without anyone else recognizing you, or in spite of the fact that they may not have been “real.”  Entire pieces of the two stories mentioned, as well as Penguindrum itself, are constantly being woven in and out of reality, painting a picture of uncertainty and uneasiness.

The 1990’s in Japan brought a large amount of uncertainty; economic collapse, a large earthquake in Kobe, and the 1995 attacks on the Tokyo subway, which we’ve already addressed a bit in previous entries.  Following last week’s episode, I had mentioned that this series could possibly be a character study into the after-effects of the Sarin Gas Attacks on its victims.  There are a few additional small references in this episode to support that theory, including one of the variants on Murakami’s story: Super Frog Saves Doctor Yanagibara, which appears to be a nod to Doctor Yanagisawa, a professor at Shinshu University who sent his findings on how to treat sarin poisoning to hospitals in Tokyo, allowing them to provide more efficient treatment.  In addition to this, Murakami is also a critic of the way that he felt the Japanese media handled the attacks; minimizing the victims’ pain and maximizing the sensationalist aspects of the attackers.  There’s an interesting quote by him here, that describes his motivations for another book he wrote on the attacks themselves, Underground.  At this point, I’m unsure as to whether the series will reference the attacks directly; however, even if it does not, these small nods to it support Murakami’s thoughts of painting a larger picture of the after-effects through those affected.

As a last point, I wonder why Himari was searching for this book over all others.  What is it in Super Frog Saves Tokyo that ties in with the one memory or thought that Himari feels as if she needs to finally pass on?  We still don’t know what happened between her and the two members of the idol group Double H to break apart their friendship; however it had to have been something big.  Could it have involved the boy with whom she shared the apple?  The uncertainty of her life specifically is worth paying attention to.

vucub caquix: Okay, Emily, we obviously had WAY too much to say about this episode. There were a bunch of funny little things I noticed, but I wasn’t sure how to address it. The scene where she met the boy where she shared the Fruit of Fate took place in something called the “Child Broiler”. Now, this could be nothing at all, but remember that shichirin that was featured in the allusion to Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss? It was situated right in front of Ringo’s womb. A pretty macabre pun, blink and you’ll miss it.

ajthefourth: We really have, and I could have written an entire post regarding the artwork and art direction of this episode, specifically the scene transitions, lighting, etc, which all reflect a style typically employed by the studio SHAFT.  The overt references to Revolutionary Girl Utena and could easily fill up another post.  Alas, I’ll have to save it for another time, or the finale review. ^ ^  Until next week, then?

vucub caquix: It’s going to be fabulous max.

Recommended Reading:


Filed under Colloquia, Episodics, Mawaru Penguindrum, Mawaru Penguindrum

44 responses to “Colloquium: Mawaru Penguindrum Episode 9

  1. mahousenshi

    I aks myself about the color of the books, maybe a conection with the color of roses on Utena??

  2. I think you’re on to something with your comparison to Peter at the gates of heaven. I’ll point out (as I’m sure you’re aware) that this portrayal of Peter is more a phenomenon of popular culture than of any religious interpretation of that verse. (As an aside, the main difference between Catholics and Protestants on this issue is who they interpret as the successor to Peter’s authroity- the Pope and the Catcholic church or the church at large.)

    The idea of books at the gates of heaven makes sense, as Peter reads from the Book of Life and allow those whose names are written into heaven. For the rest, it’s the fiery pit, or purgatory if you’re Catholic. Himari’s fate seems bear a resemblance to purgatory.

    There are a few parts where the analogy appears to break down. First, the librarian doesn’t seem to be playing a judgmental role, which is one of the main traits of Peter at the gates. The search through the stacks appears at first glance to be of Himari’s instigation. Second, as you mentioned, the kiss and the gift of the bridal veil doesn’t seem to fit in with the idea of an impartial judge. Third, I can’t shake the feeling that there’s something downright villainous about that librarian. He reminds me a bit of Akio from Utena. This isn’t to say that he doesn’t correspond to the popular version of Peter, of course, just that there’s room for more theorizing. :) There’s always more room for theorizing.

    One more thing you made me realize: why is the Hole in the Sky underground?

    For Super Frog Saves Tokyo, I wonder if Kanba (the salaryman) is aiding penguin hat Himari (the Frog) right now in her battle against the worm, unbeknownst to anyone.

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: In addition to his demeanor, confidence, and similarities to Akio, the villainous aspects of Sanetoshi are supported by his appearance in the opening of this series. He’s featured last in a line of side characters, which usually denotes a greater importance than the characters that proceeded him (much like listing a famous actor’s name, “featuring…[name]” last in the credits instead of first). He’s also accompanied by falling pink vials of what appear to be drugs. Rather ominous, no?

      Why is the Hole in the Sky underground? Why is a castle in the sky upside down?

      That’s certainly an interesting take on it. If that is the case, then who is the worm, which represents feelings of uncertainty and a possibly treacherous future? ^ ^ Thanks as always for the comment!

      vucubcaquix: Yeah, I mentioned that it was the popular cultural interpretation that I was referencing. I mostly agree that the analogy isn’t meant to be stretched any further it is, since it’s only one aspect to Sanetoshi’s character that I found interesting. But, after reading something in wabisabi’s Penguindrum sideblog, I think my comparison may have a little more merit than I initially thought:

      Sanetoshi’s full name is also indicative of his role as a psychopomp. If you look at the meaning of his family name Watase [渡瀬] –

      渡:to cross, to pass
      瀬:1) the shallow part of a river; 2) a place where the river current is fast; 3) the current of sea water; 5) chance, opportunity

      His first name Sanetoshi [眞悧] can also be read as shinri, which is the same sound as the word for “truth” [真理] and “psychology” [心理] as well as “inquisition/trial/deliberation” [審理]. The last word can also be used in verb form to mean “to sit in judgment/sit on cases/preside on cases”.

      Kinda awesome, eh?

  3. E Minor

    What she’s looking for, is a specific memory to relive.

    That’s an interesting thought. I hadn’t considered that Himari might have been looking for a reason to live. This reminds me of something Ringo said in the previous episode:

    “…can you honestly say you care about your sister? … I can just tell by just looking at Himari. Aren’t you just trying to maintain the facade of a happy family to make yourself feel better?”

    How well do we know Himari? Is she happy — I mean, is she happy with how her life is? She seems like a prisoner trapped in her own home. Is it possible that she had already accepted her own fatality when she collapsed at the aquarium only to be pulled back from the brink of death by memories of regret?

    How much does Himari really know? When she returns to the supposed “real world” she initiates the survival strategy, which we had previously thought had been initiated by the Princess of the Crystal.

    Remember how in the fifth episode, Shouma was confronting Ringo about the diary with Himari in the background. All she did was sit there and chew her food without a care in the world… or so it seemed. But if she’s more aware than we had previously thought, this may explain her rather blase attitude during this dinner scene.

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: This certainly ties in to what you had to say about the family representing order (I still love that observation, by the way). It was also you who mentioned that Himari was, and I’m paraphrasing, “chewing at her beef stew like a cow chewing her cud.” You mention in your latest post that when Himari died, it’s as if their family, and reality, is no longer able to sustain itself. This causes the brothers to resort to drastic and mystical measures in order to keep their sister alive. If Himari ends up being the one behind all of these measures, what does that say about her own desire to also keep the illusion of their family alive, even if it is just that, an illusion? This probably also has something to do with why/how their parents disappeared. After all, it certainly doesn’t seem as if the siblings hate their parents, based on multiple pictures in Himari’s room and Kanba’s seeming insistence that they’re holding on until their parents return, maintaining some semblance of order.

      I do believe that in some way Himari had accepted her death when she arrived at the libarary; however, with a condition. The condition being that she wanted to relive, or remember, a certain part of her life (represented by Super Frog Saves Tokyo).

      I had wondered previously if Himari would have been happy with her brothers’ efforts to keep her alive, especially with their seemingly patronizing attitude towards her. Now I wonder if she isn’t somehow behind these same efforts. It’s a bit damning really, since we haven’t seen much of an actual relationship between any of the siblings (barring the infamous kiss in the first episode). It’s as if they’re all valiantly trying to hold on to a facade that has long since crumbled away. Until Himari finds what she is looking for, Super Frog Saves Tokyo, a memory, her soulmate, the penguindrum, we’ll hardly know.

      vucubcaquix: Emily puts it more eloquently than I could ever hope to, and I agree for the most part. What gets me thinking, however, is that if Himari is more conscious of her actions than we initially suspect, then all of the drastic and mystical actions that the brothers have been taking, are they really their actions to begin with? Each and every thing they’ve done thus far has been in service to the Princess of the Crystal in order to find the penguindrum she seeks.

      But if Himari is conscious to a degree during the survival strategies, then she is searching for this penguindrum. And based on what she had learned about herself from Sanetoshi in the Hole in the Sky library, this penguindrum is the key to finding whatever it is she longs for. A memory? Her soulmate? Resolution for the regrets in her life? Himari has been the catalyst for all of the events in the series, because through her death, she herself claims to have visited the Destination of their Fate, which might a library underneath the aquarium in Ikebukuro. A repository for all of the memories and experiences of the special guests who enter, stewarded by a pink-haired librarian psychopomp.

  4. EL

    …well, if she is conscious of what happens when she is the Princess of the Crystal, then what she’s doing to her brothers is pretty insidious. Especially since the penguindrum quest has now led indirectly to a serious accident for Shouma.

    I’m surprised everyone thinks Himari and her friends parted on bad terms. I had interpreted the look on Hibari and Hikari’s faces as one of dismay at the thought of being parted from their friend rather than dislike. I had thought it indicative that they were aware they would probably not see Himari at school again due to her illness, not that there was some big feud between the three. Am I the only one?

    • I agree EL, I assumed that this parting was the start of Himari’s illness. Now I’m wondering if her becoming ill is somehow connected the the gas attacks (which I would never have known about if not for this blog, thanks!) – Himari seemed to express some resentment for what happened to her, cutting her off from the world and her life.

      Accepting a veil to become the bride of fate? That sounds to me like an internal acceptance of the Princess (who I’ve been calling the Penguin Queen), leading up to her awakening once Himari gives her control. This also lends credence to my thoughts about Himari being the one who’s supposed to end up pregnant in Project M.

      Oooh, must blog ^_^

      • hikoboshiandorihime

        to Curuniel
        ajthefourth: Due to research, I now know more about those gas attacks than one should, really (It’s how I recognized the Yanagi- in Yanagibara as the doctor immediately). I’m not sure if this is something I should brag about necessarily, but there you have it. You’re welcome? ^ ^

        Accepting the veil is accompanied by Himari vaguely remembering that she had a soulmate. I’m inclined to think, because of this memory, that the Princess is rather a part of Himari, or Himari’s desires.

        vucubcaquix: Himari being the one to get pregnant? Interesting, I didn’t see that but I’d be really interested in reading a post about your theory should you decide to write one.

        As for her sickness being a result of the gas attacks, I think Himari is a bit too young to have been directly affected by the attacks, since according to the current date in the Hole in the Sky library this takes place theoretically in the mid-2000s and she is the younger sister of two high-schoolers. But, her parents on the other hand…

    • If she left only because of her illness why didn’t they keep in touch? If my friend became ill I would not stop talking to them. I would try to keep in touch, through phone calls or even letters if I couldn’t physically see them.

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      to EL
      ajthefourth: It is fairly insidious; however, as I mentioned in my comment above, the relationships between the siblings are slowly appearing to be tenuous at best. Each of the siblings seems to be after their own agenda: Kanba is off searching for Masako and earning money from the Kiga Group somehow, Shouma is attempting to attend to Ringo’s damaged psyche, and Himari is seemingly searching for the missing puzzle piece (a soulmate) in order to apparently pass on. Each of the siblings, under the guise of keeping their family together, is actually reaching for a seemingly separate goal of their own.

      I do think Himari and her friends most definitely parted on bad terms. There is the reason that adamantineheart mentions in response (you would visit your friends if they were sick, after all, look at what the two were willing to do for her injured mother). However, there are also visual and auditory cues that hint at an ominous split. When Sanetoshi is questioning Himari, he asks her if she resents the two, she responds that she doesn’t, because they were her best friends at that time. All the while we see Himari in her living room, hugging a pillow with three “H’s” on it, watching Double H perform on television. Sanetoshi then tells Himari that she is a good girl, but asks why that happened to such a good girl. She replies that she doesn’t know repeatedly and the screen dips down to show the middle, white “H,” indicative of Himari herself (with the blue and pink sections representing the other two) as Himari is holding a Double H statue. Throughout the conversation, the idea that Himari wants to ensure that it’s all in the past is emphasized. Sanetoshi hints at the fact that if that hadn’t happened, Himari would be part of Triple H, the trio that made each other shine like stars. That had to have been a significant event that tore Himari from her friends. That also may be the memory that Himari is searching for.

      vucubcaquix: There’s not much I can add, since Emily pretty much nailed everything there is about this point. I read some thoughts from around various forums that the eraser that was thrown at Himari when she left school was symbolic of bullying, or a bullying incident. And while the looks on Hibari and Hikari’s faces don’t betray any sort of malice on their part, the fact of the matter is, is that from Himari’s point of view they are now a part of the anonymous crowd of onlookers within the classroom and no longer with her.

      There may not have been bad terms per se, but a misunderstanding that was born out of an event that caused their rift may not be out of the question. Himari may be searching for the memory of that event, to ensure that what happened in the past indeed stayed in the past. Knowledge of this may help her pass on, but Sanetoshi implies that she may just want to wallow in self-pity.

      Who knows… This memory she searches for, and the boy she looks for, these are forces that pull at Himari and prevent her from fully accepting the fact that she died and needs to pass on. But why are they such a draw on her? Are they related in any way?

      We shall see…

      • Molly K.

        Also, it might be prudent to point out that (out of all the things that could have been thrown at Himari when she left) it was an eraser. An eraser denotes, to me, at least, that her friends are sending her a message: from that moment on, her presence from their lives has been erased. Which, if you think about it, is pretty damn harsh. There’s nothing worse than telling someone they don’t exist for you anymore, which shows a type of disdain/bitterness that’s so deep, the only solution to move on from it is to delete the event/person completely from one’s memory bank. I don’t think it was bullying that was being shown here with that particular scene at all; in all probability, something really bad happened that Himari was directly or indirectly responsible for that nobody at school could forgive her for.
        Though, I also can’t help but think of another aspect of Japanese society that many overlook: In Japan, if one is orphaned, they usually tend to become the ‘Untouchables’ of society. Maybe it had to do with what happened to her parents? Most forget that in Japan having no parents is almost as bad as being a prostitute, socially. At least, that’s what my Japanese friends tell me, regardless of anime using missing/dead parents as a common theme.

        Those are just my two cents, though…

        • hikoboshiandorihime

          ajthefourth: Oooh…I really like your thoughts of what that event could possibly be. You’ve described the perfect setup for Himari’s feelings and Double H’s feelings without making it necessarily about those two parties specifically. I love this interpretation.

          As for the parents, I’m resisting the urge to indulge in wild speculation and say, “What if the Takakura parents had something to do with the sarin attacks?” This would also explain the slight pause by Ringo’s mother when she recognized Shouma’s last name. However, this would explain why Himari had to leave school, but not why Shouma and Kanba wouldn’t have also had to do so; I’ll put my wild speculation hat away for the time being. ^ ^
          Thanks for the comment!


          in all probability, something really bad happened that Himari was directly or indirectly responsible for that nobody at school could forgive her for.

          daaaaaang… viewing the events from this particular perspective would make a whole host of things make way more sense.

          I’m really interested in what you have to say about orphans in Japan. As I read your comment I was thinking to myself that I should ask you to cite something but you mention that it’s something that a friend mentioned.

          But it’s still interesting, because you’re right in that orphans as a topic don’t really come up in anime all too often, despite it being used as an unspoken premise in a lot of shows. The only examples I can think of where it’s directly addressed (and somewhat in the negative context you mention) is in Grave of the Fireflies where the protagonist and his sister are mistreated as being a burden on their foster family, and in Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society where orphans are actually a major hot button political issue and a driving plot point.

          • Molly K.

            As for the way Japanese orphans are treated: You’re right, it’s a friend’s perspective on what he remembers when he was growing up that I cite. There are tons of anime that I’ve seen the whole ‘orphan’ angle expounded on, but I can only remember a select few of them:

            1) Naruto — Naruto Uzumaki was reviled and hated by the villagers and he was always treated as an outsider. Likewise, Sasuke Uchiha was an orphan and was treated better, but still wasn’t ‘included’ in the village. During flashbacks, you can see the students whispering and giggling over Sasuke’s family being wiped out, almost like he’s now not ‘like them’. Some might argue Naruto was treated horribly to Sasuke b/c of his having the Kyuubi inside of him but it still shows how people hate/fear someone because of something that’s not a child’s fault. I also remember a scene where Sakura tells Sasuke that Naruto’s a ‘loser’ because he has no parents and thus is not as ‘important/human’ as they are, to which Sasuke tells her he hates her, mostly because he has no parents, too, and doesn’t view others without parents that way. I can’t remember all the flashbacks with Naruto but I think (from memory) that the other kids mercilessly teased Naruto about having no parents. Could be wrong on that, though.

            2) Karekano — Asama is another orphan that’s reviled by his own family. Only his real father’s brother took him in and the rest of his relatives hate/fear him and worry he’ll turn into his real parents. Goes to show that even among family, if a child is born from ‘bad apples’ the family will usually treat a child of that union like said ‘bad apple’.

            3) Clannad After Story — Okazaki’s father gets arrested and he doesn’t get the promotion because of the news in town. Thus another example of how society views how the parents reflect upon the children and punish them thusly.

            4) Usagi Drop — Rin was an orphan of both her mother (who abandoned her) and her father (who was an old man). The scandal in the family was great and nobody wanted to take her in. Only Daikichi wanted to and did, but the family still scorned him for it.

            In Japan, family is held in high regard: If you don’t have one or you have one that is ‘bad’ or ‘taboo’ then you’re relegated to the ‘untouchables’ category and become an outsider. Likewise, adoption in Japan is rare for this reason because bloodlines are held in such high regards. Why would a family want to adopt a child not of their own blood? That’s how most Japanese see it at any rate. Here’s an article that briefly mentions this, though sorry for using Fox News ^^;;


            But, yes, if Himari’s parents are responsible for the Sarin attacks or something of that nature, then, yes, Himari and her brothers would def. be seen as people to be hated by everyone… classmates included. Definitely something to ponder seriously over, I should think…

            Hope that helped, and I’ll try to think more on other animes where orphans are treated badly through no fault of their own…

  5. The rocket of The Princess of the Crystal is Dix-Neuf. I have little to offer in terms of interpretation and speculation. The show has worn out its welcome with my on that end with all the crap involving Ringo.

    I did enjoy this episode though, with all its visual and thematic nods to Utena. I anticipate that there are others who will take it against the show or its creator to reference so heavily as if he’s capable of doing something else. To that I simply think it’s analogous to certain musicians and/or composers how they use the same themes, the same scales, the same tricks. It’s the style they helped build after all, how say, parts of the 9th Symphony evoke the earlier Emperor’s Concerto… or how so much of Steely Dan songs depict fraying, declining hipsters.

    Mawaru Penguindrum is like Steely Dan’s Two Against Nature (2000), while it is nowhere as good as Aja (1977), it’s the only other album that won a Grammy (along with Gaucho 1981).

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: You know, I haven’t heard any backlash against Ikuhara or the production team for directly referencing Utena, but perhaps it’s because most of the people that I’m discussing this series with are also fairly large Utena fans. ^ ^

      I really enjoy that the rocket seems to be an allusion to Dix-Neuf (having just recently finished Diebuster and loved it). Honestly, in that entire scene, I’ve been more captivated by the overt sexual imagery than anything else; with speculation about how the child broiler may be a nod to conception, or even prior to that, I now wonder if that entire rocket transformation sequence isn’t supposed to be an allusion to birth (the part where the characters emerge from the two robots’ swollen bellies is seems especially overt in this case).

      Thanks for commenting! I like the music album comparison, and think that it suits this series very well. The reason why I’m so taken with this series; however, is that perhaps it may not be as good as Utena, but it’s certainly the best that’s come around in a while (for me anyway).

      vucubcaquix: I’m pretty partial to stories about fate and destiny, and I still suspect that not having the filter of Utena in front of me has made me more easily accept this work, and thus enjoy it, on it’s own merit. Ringo scares the crap out of me, and I also can’t help but want to know what is going through her head and what she’ll do next.

      I wish I could remember where I read this, but someone theorized that one of the common threads in a lot of Asian philosophies and religions is the prominence of Fatalism. That everything happens for a reason. The Red String of Fate. And that that’s why anime in turn seems to be particularly focused on ideas of fate and destiny. And I, being the heathen that I am, have a rather romantic yet estranged fascination with fate and destiny. So this show is pushing every single one of my buttons in exactly the right way.

  6. Was kind of shocked this episode to realize that the aquarium at the end of the train line is owned by Pingroup. How many pies do they have their fingers in anyway???

    Regarding that, actually, I’m starting to think that all the penguin symbols–Pingroup, KIBA, Penguin Force–all actually represent the same organization, with Pingroup being the public front, KIBA being the secret technology/information front and Penguin Force being the “revolutionizing fate” front. Could be wrong, though!

    Thought that the way that this particular episode of Penguindrum dealt with children was really well done–willing to sacrifice themselves to each other, but also prone to whining, making stupid mistakes, taking baseball bats to koi fish…very reminiscent of Nanami throwing the kitten into the river, I suppose. Closest thing I can think of that really captured childhood from a kid’s point of view was probably Denno Coil, but this was a lot less rose-tinted and maybe even a little cynical.

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: This doesn’t offer much speculation, but our friend Amelia has put together a great little post that organizing the penguin logos a bit here.

      The answer is many. Pingroup has their fingers in many pies, as does Kiga. Kiga is especially interesting to me since their symbol appears on Mr. Takakura’s jacket, Natsume’s expended ammunition, the envelopes of money from the mysterious stranger that Kanba is speaking with (there’s speculation that it could be his missing father), and most importantly: the apple. The apple which could represent anything from the universe, to a reward, to the fall of man, so many things.

      I agree that this series is a little, no, make that a lot cynical. It seems to remember both the selflessness and the selfishness of children and applies both of those concepts to Himari and her friends here beautifully, and quite darkly as well. This series is a lot darker than Dennou Coil (which is a series that I love, by the way) and points out the encompassing self-centeredness that children possess in a sharper, more focused way. That the girls didn’t think twice about killing the koi was especially harsh, in spite of the fact that it was for Himari’s mother. In the same light, they didn’t think twice about lying for Himari’s sake when all three of them were brought in to be disciplined.

      Thanks for the comment!

      vucubcaquix: The simplicity through which children view the world is rather stark in comparison to what is supposed to be the more nuanced view of an adult’s. To them, unless they’ve been habituated into knowing so, they probably wouldn’t have any qualms about killing a fish if it means helping their mother, nor wouldn’t they fully understand the consequences of claiming to act alone in order to cover for their friend. The world is a little simpler, and isn’t as gray through the eyes of a child. A lot of times it’s romanticized in media as being a simpler and more carefree time, but the flipside is that bullying and ostracizing comes more naturally as a result of not being able to fully comprehend consequences behind actions.

      Children can be sweet, but can also be terrible little shits.

      As for the penguin groups? Man, I can’t even hazard a guess because that’s the one element of the series that seems the most random to me at the moment. Over at wabisabi’s latest penguindrum post she has an interesting posit of her own:

      This is just a wild guess – Penguin Force probably represents spiritual force of some kind, whereas Pingroup Inc. represents secular power which carries out the will of Penguin Force.

      I literally have no idea.

  7. Wow! Amazing episode this week love, I think this has been the most visual episode. And some much needed background information on Himari’s past not to mention those two friends! Finally we know who those two are on the train and ending video.

    I liked that library damn that place was huge! And Sanetoshi with his amazing hair…so nice…Now to sit back and see what happens to Shouma hopefully Ringo sticks to him since her diary got ripped in half, unless she has plans to continue going for the teacher.

    I cracked up watching the penguins reading those books! So fun watching those little things acting crazy :)

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: Yeah, it was the most visual episode by far. I could write an entire post on the visuals and how they tie in with thematic elements of the series; however, no one wants to read that and this post was certainly long enough. ^ ^

      I’m not sure if the series will put Shouma and Ringo together as a couple, my thoughts are more that they’ll form a strange sort of friendship as a result of Shouma’s stopping her from raping Tabuki and saving her from being hit by a car. Thus far, even if he isn’t “in on everything” like Kanba is, Shouma is by far my favorite character and I’m curious to see what’s happened to him. Thanks for the comment!

      vucubcaquix: It’s funny that you mention the visuals of this episode, because I was rewatching the 1st episode for a little comparison, and one can forget how violently colorful it is. It’s almost like the audience gets used to it. But then this episode happens and it does some interesting visual stuff with camera angles and quick cuts and colors again and it just reminds you that this show is super awesome in the way it looks.

      And yeah, that library is nuts isn’t it? Apparently, the inside design is based off of a real place somewhere in Sweden. It’d be cool to visit, eh?

  8. Mad Chemist

    I’m also starting to wonder how related Himari and the Princess are. The framing before Himari comes back to life makes it seem like Himari was thinking about her life and regrets before coming back into her body as the Princess, and Himari’s Princess dress looks like a frillier version of the Double H girls’ outfits. Come to think of it, regret has driven much of the story up to this point; all four of the show’s mains have some pretty hefty ones, along with a good deal of the supporting cast. If the Princess is trying to fulfill Himari’s regrets to some degree, it could shed a bit of light on what the Penguin Drum is supposed to do and why she wants it so much.

    Interesting comparison between Sanetoshi and St. Peter. I’m a bit shaky on the theology, but it seemed like he was trying to convince Himari to leave the library rather than to stay and find her way into the afterlife.Plus if that boy with the penguin hat is any indication he’s brought people back to life before, which is odd behavior for a gatekeeper. I want to know why Sanetoshi needled Himari into returning from the brink and what was with that kiss at the end, but even though we’re probably not going to get answers about him for a while I feel like we’ve gotten a lot of important clues this episode.

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: The fact that Himari’s outfit looks like the Double H members’ outfits is no coincidence. Following this episode, I re-watched the ending theme a few times, as well as the scene where Himari is watching Double H on television. If I may be so bold as to speculate:

      This series seems to love playing with ideas of fate and destiny. We have mostly seen it from Ringo; however, in this episode, we see it a bit from Himari, who may also consciously be the Princess hailing from “the destination of their fate.” Sanetoshi is very keen to ask Himari specific questions involving her feelings towards Double H. All of Himari’s memories that Sanetoshi shows her (and us, the audience) involve Hibari and Hikari, Triple H: the trio that made each other shine like stars bound by gravity. Sanetoshi repeatedly alludes to the fact that if the unmentionable event of that hadn’t happened Himari would be part of Triple H at that moment. You could say that Himari was “destined” to become a part of Triple H until that happened. After whatever event that was, Himari presumably became ill, and it eventually led to her death, which could also hint at a strange sort of universal discontent with how Himari’s life actually progressed. Seemingly, Himari now has been given a chance, if not a second one then a chance to at least address what that was. I’d be shocked if, when when find out what the event was, the idea of Triple H isn’t somehow mentioned.

      Lots to think about. Thanks for commenting!

      vucubcaquix: The idea of regret as being a primary motivator for the characters in this show is a fantastic idea, and one that I’m a little jealous that I didn’t have. If the show’s universe indeed has a somewhat predeterministic bent as I theorize, in that the events are all predetermined toward a specific purpose and outcome, then the characters’ regrets can be seen as a reaction to events that they may not have had any control over from their perspectives. Hating fate, hating the idea of inherent purpose and meaning in the universe, and having existential thoughts bubbling up as a response and a rationalization for their perceived helplessness would fit right in line for what I thought is the major conflict laid out in this series from the very first episode.

      ajthefourth Ahem. I’d like to interject at this point because what David and you have both said is really interesting, and add that this idea of perceived helplessness and the foiling of destiny would also reflect the uncertainty in everyday life that would follow a tragic event like the sarin attacks. Imagine: one day, you wake up, it’s like any other. You do everything exactly the same as you do any other day, you board the train to work fairly confident in your future, and then…bam. Everything changes. Suddenly, your plans for the future, your “destiny” seem so very far away in the wake of your new life, which is now a struggle for survival. Or at the very least, a struggle to make things go back to the way that they were, all the while knowing that it’s impossible.

      vucubcaquix: As for Sanetoshi, his role as a St. Peter character seems to be written into his name, so I don’t think I’m too far off in my initial analysis of him. But yeah, the comparison only goes so far since there’s been only so much of him revealed to us. But I, too, would like to know what the hell that kiss was all about…

      • Molly K.

        I thought I’d chime in with another possibility about if Himari/Princess Crystal is the same entity or if its another ‘spirit’ that possesses Himari. What if it’s Himari’s potential that is the Princess of Crystal? Since this episode focuses mostly on regret and Himari’s life ambition to become a pop idol being dashed, could it be possible that Himari’s persona of Princess Crystal is her ‘potential’?

        It could very well be the representation of what she would have become had she become a pop idol with Triple H. When you get into showbiz, you very quickly mature and learn the harsh realities of life. It’s necessary to have a thick skin to survive in the industry and it would certainly also tie in with the ‘survival strategy’ — it’s kill or be killed in the pop world, and Himari would have to change/adapt in spades to be able to become successful. So, perhaps, The Princess of Crystal is what Himari would have become had ‘that’ not have happened to her. It seems to me that Himari is cognizant of what’s going on when she’s the Princess of Crystal and the Princesses’ mannerisms are those you’d expect a Pop Princess to have. She’s dressed to impress, she struts down a staircase like most pop idols do on a stage, she poses, she changes costumes, she is assertive, brazen and thick-skinned and she thinks the world owes her/revolves around her.
        I could be wrong, but doesn’t that seem like it fits in perfectly with the constant references/symbolism? It would make more sense if the Princess is the potential personality she would have become had ‘that’ not occurred…

        • hikoboshiandorihime

          to Molly K.
          ajthefourth: One of our friends, Yi, pointed this out while watching the very first Penguindrum episode. She writes a fantastic post on Himari, her fashion, and the use of fairy tale imagery, all the while comparing Himari to a model on a runway, or an idol, changing costumes to fit the scene. Very insightful, no? Thanks for continuing the discussion! ^ ^

          vucubcaquix: The Princess as a member makes an amount of sense, seeing as how the third stage of her outfit as she walks down the steps is remarkably similar (read: identical) to Double H’s stage costumes, so if Himari uses the Princess as an alter-ego of hers, why not fashion herself after the idols she was supposed to be a part of?

          As for potential, personally I see it more as an exaggeration of what she wants or wanted to be. She definitely vogues and poses and grandstands just like a diva would. Potential? I don’t know, since that introduces several elements that I’d have to spend a lot of effort on to kind of parse and make sense of. But as an exaggeration? I could see that as Ikuhara having a heck of a lot of fun.

  9. tsurugiarashix

    Hmm…looks like my idea on the apple was sort of in agreement of what I pointed out in a previous comment

    “I am still firmly sticking to my idea that the Apple is symbolic of the world – since it was mentioned a couple of times within the story – taking epsiode 1 for example with the children. It has a spherical shape, which is a symbol of circular time rather than linear time and dictates that the world has a continuous cycle of beginnings and endings. This was also something that was expressed in the Illiad when Achilles had his shield made by the Blacksmith; for the reason it had a round shape and the images engraved.

    Also to point out, when Sanetoshi sent her back to her world he the apple was more of a key and symbolic representation of her world and her own detestation in the story itself. (Also epsiode title “Frozen World”)

    Might be slightly off and this all speculation as director like to impose on his viewers, but that is what I gleaned from it. Guess I should get to work on my analysis later on with regards with another presentation.

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: The apple, as I’ve mentioned before, is extremely interesting to me. It’s obviously a very important object: featured prominently in both the opening and the ending, as well as within this episode, the first episode, Ringo’s name, all of them are screaming for us to pay attention to the apple and what it could possibly represent. Thanks for the comment!

      vucubcaquix: The show has a lot to say about fate and destiny, but I didn’t see much with regards to commentary about time. When I hear the word “destiny”, the connotations that arise around that word usually involve endings or destinations. Though I’d be interested in reading about your interpretations and how it compares to what you bring up in the Iliad should you decide to write an editorial on it.

  10. marco

    I just found this blog through the Penguindrum lj, and I’m so happy I saw it. ;u;

    You guys are fantastic~. Rewatching the ep (for the sake of screencapping) helped me think things through more, but reading the commentary here really put a lot of things in perspective. I really don’t even have anything to say because my mind is such a mess. However, I am now kind of stuck on Himari and her friends.

    I don’t remember what episode the post was made that pointed it out (for the ep 1 or 8, maybe?), but one of you mentioned that Himari said she liked the idea of fate. I completely forgot that before now, and maybe that didn’t put a general time to that, but I wonder if it is something that she believed before or only has come to believe after the incident? When you think about it, it sounds kind of frightening and cruel for someone with a ‘fate’ like her’s to enjoy the concept (considering the end of her dreams, her precious friendship, the loss of her parents and the loss of a ‘normal life’). But it also leads me back to something mentioned above about the terms she parted on with her friends and her feelings towards them.

    When I first watched nine, I immediately thought there was something almost sinister to Hikari and Hibari’s faces, but I also thought that maybe there was something a little tragic to it. But I also genuinely believed that himari held no genuine ill will toward them, but maybe she still can’t escape a certain longing, loss and envy that’s burdening her. Another thought that just hit me; before, we saw them willingly take the fall for Himari. It was mentioned above that himari could be involved in/directly with something that no one could forgive, but what if this time, Himari was the one to take the fall? Whether or not it involved just the two or all three girls, I think it’d be interesting if that’s a palce where their relationship seemingly ended. Then again, that’s the least likely scenario to me (but one of the most interesting).

    Bullying is a scary problem in Japan though. And I don’t know if it’s still as bad, but just a few years ago when some Japanese students came over (high school range, of course), one of them mentioned how big of a problem it still is. And with children and middle schoolers, it sounds especially bad. I can’t help but wonder if it came down to something as simple as bullying gone wrong over a sick (and maybe at that time already orphaned?) girl, or something that was indeed quite big.

    I really enjoyed that this episode helped flesh out Himari more. And since we’ve seen such depth to her now (and will hopefully have tons more to follow later), I’m starting to feel like it’s not all that implausible that her conscious is very tied to that of the Princess of the Crystal. I think Himari is a generally good-natured person, but is she as simply sweet and good-natured as we know her to be? She clearly has some pretty interesting emotions and thoughts looming around and through her, so what do we really know about the inner workings of her mind, her potential and everything she’s willing to do? In regards to her enjoyment of fate (the concept or what have you), I find it interesting that she’s technically railing against fate is she’s supposedly (should be) dead. But then again, is it just another piece of fate to her that she’s brought back?

    I think fate is a straight-forward concept in general, but the meaning and purpose it can take on can still vary quite a bit. Is fate linear? Or is a change in fate still something fated? Or you just always falling a path that was pre-destined, but you just hopped on a different train and took a longer or shorter route? If your destination or even the time you shift gets there changes because of outside circumstances, is either of those a cause of fate, or a force fighting against it?

    Supposedly, there could always be alternate realities where your smallest decision changes a lot, but are those ‘altering’ things or simply just an alternate version of an alternate fate (in an alternate world)? (I’m probably just rambling nonsensically though. It’s late, so pardon me.)

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: Firstly, I would like to say that we were completely wrong about Himari being the one to say that. It was in the preview for episode two. We had wrongly assumed that the one who was saying that was Himari, in actuality it was Ringo.

      That being said, I can’t help but think that, at the very least, Himari isn’t discouraged by the idea of fate as her brothers are. In a way, as you alluded to, I think that she feels as if her fate was to be with Triple H and that has somehow fallen by the wayside or has been thwarted. In her childlike mind, her future was her fate, and now it has been somehow derailed. This “penguin space” is her survival strategy, not only for life in the literal sense, but life in the figurative sense: her hopes, dreams, and desires.

      I really like your idea of Himari being the one to take the fall instead of her friends (along with the idea that another commenter brought up, that Himari’s parents were the ones involved in something and it has reflected badly on Himari) as the reason why Himari was made to leave school.

      Thanks for the comment!

      vucubcaquix: That’s an interesting thought. We know that the brothers rail against fate which sets up the themes and conflict for this show, but Himari keeps to herself regarding how she feels. But with the revelation that she may be more conscious of the proceedings than we initially assumed, that perhaps betrays a little bit of how she feels regarding that whole thing. The Princess of the Crystal claims to have come from the Destination of their Fate, but what does she say of the concept of fate itself? She only reveals that she’s looking for the penguin drum, and that she’s temporarily extending this girl’s life. If she has the power to resurrect, why not just extend the girl’s life indefinitely to search for the penguin drum or as a reward for finding it? And… is it really she who has this power? After all, it was Sanetoshi who handed Himari this veil…

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  12. A Day Without Me

    It may be worth noting that one of the books returned by Himari to the library, Sputnik Weirdo, may be a reference to Murakami’s Sputnik Sweetheart (Suputoniku no koibito, which would certainly rhyme).

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      It’s funny that they rhyme as well. The other books present appear to be references to Stephen King’s Christine, and a do-it-yourself book about earning money. As an aside, the Murakami book, Underground, that we mention in this post, makes an appearance here.

  13. Jenni

    I don’t know why but for some reason I’m thinking it’s YURI who’s the reincarnation. She seems to be moving fast with Tabuki and is actually smarter than she seems. In one of the episodes Tabuki wasn’t around to be raped by Ringo and a stuffed animal was even placed under the covers to make it look like he was there. Maybe Yuri knew what was going to happen and stopped it. She even came just in time to stop another Project M attempt. She seems to have uncanny timing and I feel like she knows more than she lets on with her “unintentional” foiling of Ringo’s plans. Like she knows what they are before she does them. Maybe she’s even the higher-up Masako is always talking to since I doubt she’s talking to Sanetoshi. He doesn’t seem the type to get involved too much, I feel like he’s just waiting to see how things pan out and once in a long while dipping his hand into events.

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      vucubcaquix: I’m quite taken with the idea of Yuri as the reincarnation, since the motivations for both characters (Yuri & Momoka) would line up PERFECTLY. As for whether or not she’s the higher up that Masako reports to, I take a bit of issue with that since it seems to me more like they wouldn’t cross each other’s paths at all since they’re focused on different men.

      However, now that I think about it, that could explain how Masako would come to know about the diary if indeed she is speaking to Yuri, and Yuri is the reincarnation of Momoka. I guess I just can’t get over a few middling details, like Yuri’s lack of a penguin to signify any sort of association with the more mystical elements of the show. But I do agree that she definitely knows more than she lets on…

      ajthefourth: I recently rewatched episode four (as background information for episode ten, actually) and, from the get-go, Yuri’s intentions towards Ringo do seem a bit strange. Were I in Yuri’s shoes, about to become engaged to someone I had been dating for a bit, I doubt that my reaction to someone like Ringo would be anything at all. I wouldn’t give her crush on Tabuki as much weight as Yuri seems to give Ringo’s intentions. A schoolgirl like Ringo should hardly be a considerable threat for Yuri and yet we see a few situations (beginning in episode four but continuing on) where Yuri could be seen as purposefully goading Ringo or mocking her (the engagement party, the dinner, the all-too-perfect timing of some of her appearances). Bringing up the bed is an excellent point; why would one bother to stuff their bed and make it seem like there was someone in it unless they expected someone else to check on them? Odd. Excellent point. This is definitely something I’ll be paying attention to.

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  15. Hello, I was wondering if someone could tell me what the name is of the song towards episode of 9 when the (around 20 min in on gg’s version) the artist or name of the song would be great. I can’t find it at all.

    • It’s a song by a band call ARB. The song is called Gray Wednesday:

      The version in Penguindrum was recorded specifically for the show by the the seiyuu that comprise Triple H. As far as we know, that hasn’t been released yet. This is the second song by ARB that was covered in this show. The other song is Rock Over Japan, which you hear during the survival strategies:

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  17. Okay, I hate to comment on an old post, but I have one bit of knowledge to add to your very insightful analysis of the shichirin and the Klimt reference in the show:

    The white thing being grilled on the shichirin in the picture in the anime is actually that of mochi grilling. The reference here is to the Japanese word “yakimochi” which means “jealousy.” Ringo wants to take down Yuri and make her jealous (which can be seen at the very top of Penguindrum’s The Kiss. However, the irony here is that Ringo is actually the one that’s jealous.

    I think this makes perfect sense as well in light of the references to children, love, and sex.

  18. Pingback: Colloquium: Mawaru Penguindrum Episode 17 | The Untold Story of Altair & Vega

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  22. Pingback: The door to Himari's psyche | ganbatte.

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