ajthefourth: In what appears to be a pivotal episode in the series, I’m going to start us off with something simple, but nuanced: characterization. Once again, we’re presented with Shouma’s inability to do anything, even when he tries to act. In a way, he’s reverted back to his self from the beginning of the series: an inept and fairly useless person. We see his penguin spraying for bugs, this time around being beaten to the punch by a nearby frog.
In the scene above, as he bursts forward eager to save Ringo, he slips and falls on a bottle that his penguin has carelessly left on the floor. The series is again implying that Shouma will never be able to move on, will never be able to truly act until he comes to terms with his “fate” and pushes past the guilt that has been passed down onto him from his parents. This is why, unlike Masako, he cannot act in tandem with his penguin.
In the end, Masako disrupts the scene, along with Esmerelda, but is still unable to be effective because she doesn’t actually gain the true diary. This continues the series’s trend of leaving Masako’s character up in the air for the audience to interpret one way or another. She has “paid her price” according to Sanetoshi and is one with her penguin, but on the other hand, she fails to obtain the object that she desires, rendering her actions useless.
Lastly, I’d like to have a word about Momoka. Previously, we had speculated and drawn the conclusion that it was Momoka herself who was special, which remains true in this episode, in spite of the fact that Momoka uses a mystical object, the diary, in order to accomplish miracles. It’s the intention and thoughts behind Momoka’s actions that make her special, and the fact that she gives of herself so easily even with a price to be paid for each and every change that she makes to fate.
Lest we forget what the entire first arc of this series portrayed, others have been striving, accompanied by the very same diary, to change or act out fate as it was written. However, Ringo, and now presumably Yuri, have hardly had the same drastic and immediate results that Momoka was able to accomplish. Is it because they are not paying the price, or because their intentions behind their actions are not weighted with the same convictions as hers? To begin the conversation that David is about to continue, how does one go about translating and interpreting the words of someone who was so very important or above them, in terms that they themselves can understand?
vucubcaquix: This show is nothing if not bold. In our previous post, the title card hinted at the Luciferian nature of Yuri being the “Princess of Lies” and the underlying tragedy of her character. We also made a subtle statement about what the show was implying about Momoka, but the title card of this episode once again laid it plain for us.
“The Savior of the World.”
Momoka is an allusion to Jesus Christ.
Before you think I’ve gone off the deep end, let me explain why I believe this. Momoka believes that there is nothing ugly in this world because God himself made it. There is beauty in everything because it was designed and created, and thus everything is something to be loved and cherished. She loved Yuri with no reservations, despite Yuri’s insistence that she was without beauty, thus outside of Creation and unable to be loved. Momoka refutes this, and explains that she is able to change fates with her diary and a small bodily sacrifice. She senses Yuri’s impending death at the hands of her father (a “Father of Lies” if ever I saw one) and takes it upon herself to alter Yuri’s fate. The cost is great, but Momoka doesn’t mind since she does it out of love.
This is a parallel to the Christ story. The son of God was sent to Earth to alter the fate of humanity, which was originally condemned to death as the price of its ugliness and sin. The price? His death by crucifixion. The only means to alter the fate of humanity which he loved, was through a bodily sacrifice that ended in his ultimate demise. That is the story that has been passed down, and that is the story that is celebrated across all of the denominations and sects. There may or may not have been a fetish present per se in the original narrative, but the record of this story is presented as gospel to those who suffer and wish to escape from their fates. Yuri herself claims in her final flashback in this episode that she was “forgiven for her sins” as we see Momoka sacrificing herself through self-immolation without hesitation.
That language is not accidental.
So what does this mean for the series as a whole? Momoka uses her diary as a means to alter or defy fate. I think our interpretation of Shouma’s allegory wasn’t completely off. We wrote about how it was the ashes of the torch that is the equivalent of the Penguindrum, which is what is used to alter fate. From what we’ve learned in this episode, the diary alone can do nothing, but a bodily offering in tandem with the desire of the reader is everything. The reader literally has to become ash for their wish to come true.
We don’t know if the power of the diary is tied to Momoka directly, though the OP alludes to something sinister. And we do know that Momoka was on the train that was attacked on March 20th, 1995. We speculated before that Momoka may have lived since no body was found on the train, but we can gather now that her price for altering fate on that day was so great that her body could not sustain it. What did she prevent? What did she alter? How is the world different through Momoka’s actions? And what is it that the characters who seek the diary wish to accomplish?
ajthefourth: Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t address the numerous representations of both modern and Renaissance art. The most prominent piece to be featured is a replica of Michelangelo’s David, which is taking the place of Tokyo Tower, looming over the city ominously. The interesting thing of note here is the background of Michelangelo himself who probably, as one of my art teachers so succinctly put it, “Would have loved to do nothing all day but carve sculptures of beautiful men.” I cannot help but think that it is no coincidence that Michelangelo’s David, one of his most renowned masterpieces, not-so-coincidentally of a beautiful, idealized man, was used as Yuri’s father’s masterpiece which loomed over the city. As Yuri says herself, she will never be free as long as her father’s tower stands. Her father’s tower, the David, a beautiful man.
For Michelangelo, David possibly represented an idealized beauty. Seemingly, for Yuri’s father as well, this could be his ideal. This would go a long way towards explaining why her father claimed that her mother could never understand his artistic vision, her mother was ugly, and Yuri was ugly. This could also point to a reason for his probable sexual abuse and any implied physical alterations to her body. He tells her that she will be, “His greatest masterpiece.”
It’s also worth mentioning that Penguindrum‘s version of the statue is apparently without genitalia, in spite of the original’s being fairly pronounced; the implication being that Yuri’s father, although he may be sexually abusing her, is possibly afraid of sex himself, or sees it as something dirty and ugly.
There are other idealized representations of beauty present in his studio, and interestingly enough, most of them are female; the Venus de Milo and the Winged Victory of Samothrace (Nike, the goddess of victory), along with the male Borghese Gladiator. However, they are not treated with the same reverence and weight as the statue of David.
Lastly, let’s return to Yuri’s father. Our first representation of him is an upside-down chisel framed by a window, which calls to mind some of the surrealist works of Belgian painter, René Magritte, referencing works like The Human Condition or The Empty Picture Frame. Both are notable paintings in and of themselves; however, this opening shot only serves to get us in the mindset for the screenshot shown above: a pipe in Yuri’s father’s hand, which calls to mind Magritte’s arguably most famous painting: The Treachery of Images, a painting of a pipe with the statement below, “This is not a pipe.”
Much has been said about Magritte and his pipe, or “not-pipe” as it were, so I’ll try to sum it up as best as I can. The painting itself is fairly ordinary, mimicking a trompe l’oeil style, but not with the mastery that Magritte sometimes showed in his other works, since the pipe itself doesn’t jump off of the canvas at you, but remains a bit flat. It’s the quote below that causes introspection and controversy: “This is not a pipe.” It is both true and untrue. The painting is of a pipe; however, the painting is also an image of a pipe, and not a pipe itself that one could smoke following their dinner while waiting for dessert. Magritte is challenging us to reassess what we immediately perceive and have a tendency to instantly categorize. It would be easy to walk up to the painting, see the pipe, say, “Okay, that’s a pipe.” and walk away. However, what Magritte may want is for us to analyze not the painting itself, but the way that we see the painting. To use a worn-out cliché, he wants us to “go deeper.”
Oddly enough, it also calls to mind an interesting scene from Murakami’s Super Frog Saves Tokyo:
“I am indeed pure Frog, but at the same time I am a thing that stands for a world of un-Frog.”
“Hmmm…I don’t get it at all.”
“Neither do I,” Frog said, his eyes still closed. “It’s just a feeling I have. What you see with your eyes is not necessarily real. My enemy is, among other things, the me inside me.”
-an exchange between Katagiri and Frog from Super Frog Saves Tokyo.
Murakami, Magritte, and Ikuhara are all asking us to stretch beyond what we see and can immediately process. Either that or they’re mocking us. Regardless, I’m going to stick around to see what unfolds.
vucubcaquix: Our friend Shane, also known as @blackholeheart on Twitter, commented on the duality inherent in the series. I finally began to pay attention using that filter and I saw it played out in the narrative of this episode as well.
There are competing ideas regarding the relationship between love and beauty that the audience takes away from this episode. In a very tense and unsettling scene, we see Yuri’s father tell her that she is an ugly child, similar to her mother. He says that ugly things are unworthy of being loved, that ugly children don’t have the right to be loved. This establishes his arrogance as an artist, a creator, and a preference for things that he himself had created. It carries an interesting implication in that there’s an off-chance that the reason why Yuri was considered so ugly by her father was that he did not feel as though he created her, which may further strengthen the allusions and comparisons between her father and Michelangelo and his implied homosexuality. I don’t think that the status of Yuri’s father’s paternity will have any real bearing on the plot, since whatever psychological damage to wreak has already been wrought as he was her guardian during these formative times.
This is contrasted by Momoka’s assertion that everything is beautiful, because everything was created by God. That allows her to love everything, since everything has beauty inherent. It’s an interesting clash that seems like a microcosm of the conflict between theism and atheism and is also reminiscent of existentialism versus determinism & teleology.
I bring up atheism because I thought that Yuri’s father, as a representation of humanity as creator, views beauty in that which is created but does not see or does not believe that the world was created because he perceives no beauty inherent in it. It parallels an existentialist worldview in that there’s no meaning inherent to the world except that which we assign ourselves. Contrast this with Momoka the theist. She once again ascribes a Teleological Argument to prove the existence of God, since she sees beauty inherent in everything around since it was all expressly designed and created.
It was the duality of the contrast of the nature of the relationship between love and beauty in this episode that allowed me to see once again the underlying theme of the series as a whole. That is, this show at it’s heart, is a still a story about the conflict between existentialism and determinism, fate and free will.
ajthefourth: In addition to these potential themes, the series has also been a character study among “those who are left” as survivors or those who have been touched by a significant and tragic event. A tragic event that was possibly affected by Momoka Oginome and her miraculous power to transfer between the trains of fate. Momoka disappeared during that incident, and in light of this episode, it would seemingly be because she once again “transferred trains” readily willing to sacrifice her own life for someone elses. I can’t help but think, when piecing together Momoka’s insistence that people don’t notice that the world changes, and the fact that Tabuki chose the day of the attacks to be late to the train station, that Momoka’s life was taken as a price for saving Tabuki’s life.
Interestingly enough, Tabuki still has those scars on his hand that the series has yet to address. He also mentions to Ringo that Momoka changed his world in an instant. This could support the idea that Tabuki is aware of the power of Momoka and her diary, and taking it one step further, is aware of what the diary can do and has paid a price himself (judging by the scars).
vucubcaquix: I found something kind of interesting in my readings for this post today. Turns out that certain sects of Orthodox Hinduism practice a kind of fire sacrifice known as Agnihotra for the purpose of cleansing and healing or as a form of protest and defiance. I had wondered if there was any connection to the show and then I remembered Wabisabi’s breakdown of Gandhi’s seven social sins. Gandhi was an avid reader and researcher of Hindu scripts and teachings since he was a teen. It’s a tenuous connection really, but I thought it was interesting enough to include as an afterthought here.