ajthefourth: In all honesty, in spite of the fact that I mulled over the idea last week, I did not expect for this series to make the Takakura parents higher-ups responsible for the subway attacks in the Mawaru Penguindrum universe. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I convinced myself that it had to be something else a bit more minor, that would make us sympathize even more with the protagonists. I was wrong, and after having watched the series directly confront and portray the execution of the attacks through Kenzan Takakura, it’s becoming apparent (if it wasn’t already) that this series is afraid of nothing.
So let’s talk a bit more about Kenzan, this story’s “Mary.” In a bit of an info-dump crossing no fewer than five different myths and fairytales Shouma, as he watches Himari die, seemingly tells the story of his father, Kenzan, to Ringo. It begins with Kenzan having three little lambs, three children, Shouma, Kanba, and Himari, who bring joy to him and everyone around him. Unfortunately, Kenzan’s other treasure, which is said by Shouma to be the first tree in the world that bore golden fruit every year, one day withered and died. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Kenzan’s other treasure in this story was his wife, Chiemi. Perhaps she fell ill with a condition similar to Himari or, in an even darker circumstance, perhaps she somehow never recovered from shoving Himari aside to protect her from the falling mirror, but at some point, Chiemi fell ill or was on the brink of death. Kenzan was no longer concerned with his children, who had once represented a brighter future (as Shouma says, “The lambs’ consolation fell on deaf ears.”). He was consumed by the presumably unavoidable death of his wife, and now saw a world “shrouded in darkness.”
Here’s where things get a bit hairier. In the story that Shouma tells, “Mary” is tempted by two black bunnies, which we see in the beginning of this episode with Sanetoshi, both represented as bunnies and as two children who act as his stewards. The bunnies tell him to take ashes from the Goddess’s torch in order to revive his wife. At first, Kenzan refuses, since touching the Goddess’s torch is taboo. He is further tempted and eventually steals the “ashes” in order to revive his wife. The attempt is successful. This obviously wouldn’t stand without eventually paying a price, and the price that Kenzan, and his family, pays is Himari’s life.
It’s very important to note that this punishment takes place well after the 1995 attacks, since all three of the Takakura children have been born at the point where Shouma’s story begins. It’s also worth noting that Kenzan actively chooses the life of the tree, presumably his wife, over all else in his life, including the lives of his own children. We once again see the symbol of the apple repeated over and over, both in Shouma’s story and in Sanetoshi’s hand (with an odd little vial symbol on it. In kooky theory of the week territory, we could say that Sanetoshi represents someone even higher up on in chain in the group that perpetrated the attacks, a direct reference to this cult). The apple remains a reward for those who have chosen love over all else; however, it’s never specified as to what kind of love the person being rewarded is choosing. Kenzan chose the love of the tree over the love of his children, which could simply mean the love of his wife, or a deeper more metaphysical love that comes from universal knowledge.
As an aside, it’s interesting to note that in these shots, it’s Shouma who comes first before Kanba. I had always assumed that, since Kanba’s personality was more akin to an elder child, and Shouma called him “aniki” or “older brother” that it was Kanba who was the older one, if only by a few seconds. The screenshot above would suggest otherwise. In addition to this, on the phone, Kenzan only hears of one birth, the birth of a baby boy; however, if the boys are twins, they would have been born on the same day. It’s at the announcement of this birth that Kenzan initiates the survival strategy, the terrorist attacks. This could tie in to Shouma’s deep seated guilt if he is the firstborn son that Kenzan initiated these horrible actions for, supposedly in order for him to have a brighter future. If this is the case, where does this leave Kanba? I doubt that they miscounted, or were unaware of Chiemi giving birth to twins, so perhaps Kanba is from another family related to Kenzan and has been brought up as Shouma’s twin? (This would bring up that seemingly unavoidable, “It’s okay because we’re not actually related,” excuse for Kanba and Himari, I suppose).
vucubcaquix: The relation between between Shouma and Kanba is definitely called into question, since official promotional materials have all pointed to them being twins, but with the revelation that there was only one male child born to Kenzan, I’m of the opinion that it was Kanba who was born to him rather than Shouma because of the similarity in their eyes. So I don’t believe that this show is going to be half-baked in its allusions to incest, since as Emily says, this show is afraid of nothing. The show may have stopped short of depicting actual copulation, but there was no doubt in my mind that what transpired was a metaphor for incestuous intercourse.
I am confused about the status of the Penguindrum, however. Through Shouma’s fairy tale, we learn that Mary (who may be a stand-in for Kenzan) stole the ashes from the torch of the Goddess in order to revive the First Tree which brought her happiness. The ashes worked, since the revival of the Tree is tantamount to breaking away from the fate that binds all living things in this world, which is death. The ashes in this fairy tale, are a metaphor for the Penguindrum itself, since it’s been outright stated by the Princess of the Crystal that it has the ability to derail fate.
Shouma assumes that Momoka’s diary is the Penguindrum, but that is the source of my confusion as it throws a lot of people’s actions into strange context. If Kenzan used an item that is tantamount to the Penguindrum to save what was most precious to him other than his children, then if Shouma’s (and the audience’s) assumptions are correct, Kenzan should have had the diary in his possession at some point after the 1995 incident when what was most precious to him withered away. I can’t quite make (or can no longer make) the connection between the diary and the Penguindrum for this reason, because it was shown to be in Ringo’s possession since she was a newborn and the show has given no hint to Ringo having lost possession of it prior to the motorcycle incident of episode eight. Either Kenzan didn’t acquire the Penguindrum as we know it, or Shouma is wrong in assuming the diary is the Penguindrum. Either instance makes Shouma out to be a bit unreliable a narrator for me all of a sudden. What adds to my confusion however, is that if we take Shouma’s allegory to be more or less true, then the ashes which are the Penguindrum come from the Goddess’s torch. Every single image in the OP has now been accounted for, but not the fire. There is only one character I know of that is associated with fire, and if the metaphor holds up that means that character will be the means through which the Penguindrum is revealed/acquired/manifest.
So is the diary indeed the Penguindrum? Is this what has the ability to derail fate? If so, did Kenzan use the diary to heal that which was most precious to him? Has it not been revealed to us that Kenzan possessed the diary for a time? Or is Shouma becoming an unreliable narrator? The coveted diary itself was found on the Marunouchi line, but not a trace of Momoka was to be found. The diary is now an object of contention amongst several factions, including Momoka herself.
ajthefourth: I touched upon this earlier, however, after this week, it’s clear that the series is directly implying that Momoka is representing the one death on the Marunouchi Line; her and Tabuki get on at the Higashi-Koenji station (near the Oginome house) to go to school. This, above all else, is what puts Momoka’s death under suspicion for me. Piggybacking on what my partner covered, it’s extremely interesting that the series would choose to focus on this one death, when other lines had more casualties. Singling Momoka out in this way, and the fact that there were no traces of her left, only the diary, calls her death into question more so than her obstructed face in her funeral picture.
Other real life tie-ins include Kenzan’s actions, and the environmental group, Penguinforce, which matches the stickers on the boxes in Kenzan’s factory, representing the cult Aum Shinrikyo, the group behind the real-life 1995 Sarin Gas Attacks. Later on in episode five, he is seen wearing a Kiga logo on his jacket, which is also on the apple in the OP. This could be assumed that Kiga represents a watered-down version of Penguinforce (it’s real-life equivalent could be Aleph, the current form of Aum). Aum Shinrikyo was a cult so devoted to their actions to “revolutionize the world” that they seemingly initiated the gas attacks with the express purpose of bringing down the Japanese government, and installing their own leader in the Emperor’s place. This gives us context for Kenzan’s actions in initiating his own survival strategy at the announcement of his son’s birth. Going by the screenshot from the Mary allegory, it would seemingly be Shouma who is the elder, not Kanba (which places me in direct disagreement with David). This means that Shouma would be the one that Kenzan’s actions were for. In order to establish a better life for Shouma, Kenzan initiated his misguided survival strategy, wounding hundreds, possibly thousands if the series is mimicking the actual numbers. No wonder Shouma believes he’s worthless, and consistently believes that things are his fault. Quite literally, the misguided sins of the father have been passed on to his children, albeit not in the bright future that Kenzan had hoped for.
If Kenzan did this for Shouma, then who did it for Masako? If we’re assuming that Mario is indeed her brother, then is he being kept alive in the same incestous way that Himari was? If Shouma’s tale holds water, then the actual act for which Himari’s death is a punishment occurred after the horrors of Kenzan’s attacks. This would also point to Mario’s family having done something, seemingly in order for his death to also be a punishment, giving a bit more weight to Mario being Himari’s soul mate, and the person she shared an apple with. After all, these two were taken away from the people that they loved only because the people that they loved did something so taboo that they had to be severely punished for it. They both would be truly innocent victims, their deaths being punishment for others’ actions. Sanetoshi hints at this in his conversation with Himari, asking her why something like “that” happened to such a sweet girl. Running parallel to the brothers’ act of trying to preserve their sister in spite of the fact that she is dying/dead is the undercurrent of the fact that she perhaps was not “supposed” to die, had her family members not performed such terrible acts. The wheel that spins us ’round; are the brothers by attempting to preserve their sister committing as grave of a taboo as their father supposedly did? Who decides who lives and who dies?
vucubcaquix: Their father committed a taboo. Kanba is committing a taboo. Mary is forever being punished for committing a taboo. Other than the similar physical characteristics to his father, what leads me believe that Kanba is the son mentioned is precisely the incestuous potential of it. It lends itself to the idea of “taboo” that the show has taken up with in these episodes. The act of incest is seen as a negative marker in societal consequences as well as biological ones, and seems to be the act which perfectly exemplifies the defiance of one’s fate to be apart. It is a love that has some of the most institutionalized resistance to it, thus it is a love that has the most inherent momentum and energy behind it since it needs to surmount so much for it to become possible to begin with.
The show has concerned itself with love as of late and has showcased various types of it, and seems to use the concept as a force or energy that is the primary means through which death is staved off. It’s metaphorical, but heavily implied that Kanba and Himari did indeed have sex during the initial Survival Strategy in order to transfer a portion of Kanba’s life to Himari. In effect, giving her some of the “seed” of his life force. But it isn’t necessarily the act of copulation that is what sustains her life, as her death here was not prevented by his initiating another Survival Strategy as she laid down.
“It’s no use. It’s akin to love. Akin to the first kiss. It only works once.”
-the Princess of the Crystal
The parallels to virginity are obvious, but I was struck by another concept that I learned about a few months ago. The idea of limerence. What is love in its most energetic form? It’s the type of intrusive love that invades your thoughts as you go about your day. The kind of love that intrudes upon your thoughts as you work on a project, sit in a lecture, or lie awake at night. The heart beats at the thought of the feel of her body, the scent of her perfume, the weight of her life on you. Your mind races as it imagines the possibilities of your fates becoming intertwined with each other in such a fashion that they can no longer be untangled. You and her. She and you. Hearts beating faster. Breath drawing quicker. Eyes seeing each other. Thoughts seeking each other.
Limerence is a powerful, yet temporary, love that is a driving force in this world. Art has been commissioned in its name. Wars have been fought in its name. Taboos have been committed in its name.
ajthefourth: As we end this post, I can’t help but think that the feeling that Tabuki holds for Momoka seems equally obsessive, if not all-consuming, addictive, and powerful beyond words. Tabuki describes Momoka as someone who he couldn’t imagine a world without. When he speaks of her in episode six to Ringo, his words are not only wistful but borderline reverent. In this episode, we see him completely unable to accept her death as he looks down on his scarred right hand. What exactly happened between Tabuki and Momoka? Why does he continue to worship her so, even to the present day events of the series, seemingly stuck in his emotional development. And if Yuri is Momoka, I’d like to throw out another crazy, off-the-wall theory: Yuri also represents the Goddess. It was her diary that Ringo was left with upon her “death.” Whether the diary is the Penguindrum or not, it is seemingly a powerful, near-mystical object. David, you mentioned the ashes coming from the Goddess’s torch, and how Ringo bursts into flames in the OP, right?
vucubcaquix: The Goddess’s torch, Momoka’s Ringo, bursts into flames to signify something. It’s the last piece of vital imagery that has yet to be either explained, or even referenced as even Sanetoshi’s ampoules have made their appearance on his apple and the form of the cases of his child assistants. If the ashes are what Mary committed the taboo for, Ringo is the torch that burns forth the Penguindrum that can alter the fates of those who possess it.