Colloquium: Mawaru Penguindrum Episode 16


ajthefourth: Listen up you lowlifes who will never amount to anything, let’s initiate the survival strategy.

The glorious “Rock Over Japan” transformation sequence is back, and with it a reminder of the idea of the “survival strategy.”  If one recalls, in episode 12, Shouma tells us the story of his father, Kenzan Takakura, and how he initiated the survival strategy for, in Kenzan’s words, world peace, at the first announcement of his son’s birth.  Every time Himari transforms, she tells whoever she’s with to initiate the survival strategy.    When Sanetoshi asks Kanba if he wants to initiate the survival strategy in order to save Himari, he is alluding to far larger things than Himari Takakura’s life.

"We're taking back the world."

As Sanetoshi says, they are “taking back the world.”  In other words, Sanetoshi has become a bit of a Shoko Asahara figure, and is leading a new group of people to initiate another survival strategy that will change the world.  Kanba is in far deeper than we had initially perceived, and is now part of a new survival strategy.  Initially, in episode 11, the recycling symbols on the train had a 95 in them, for March 20th, 1995, the same date as the real-life Tokyo Sarin Gas Attacks.  These red symbols, and the majority of the red recycling symbols that have followed Sanetoshi throughout the series, are devoid of a date, indicating that a new attack may be yet to come.  Not only is Kanba involved (seemingly this would be his contract with Sanetoshi to save Himari’s life) but Masako’s father as well.  During the middle of this episode we see a short scene that alludes to Kanba and Masako’s parents already being linked to each other from the previous attacks, when young Kanba tells Masako that if she’s cursed, he’ll keep her company because he can’t escape his own similar curse.

The wild card in all of this is Momoka’s diary, which the previous two episodes did great lengths to explain how it worked and what Momoka could have possibly used it for.  If she used it to stop Sanetoshi’s plan, or simply change the events on that day for one specific person (Tabuki), then her actions didn’t change the fact that seemingly, a great number of people were injured or possibly died on that day.  This poses the question, “What exactly did Momoka change on that day?”  Perhaps this is why Sanetoshi has said all along that he and Momoka could never be together, or never agree on the direction of where the world should go.  Instead, he has been biding his time, and somehow gathering new followers based on their past transgressions.  It was fantastic to see Masako throw this back in Sanetoshi’s face.  Instead of being weak-willed like Kanba, she has this to say to Sanetoshi:

"I am not taking that train."

As an aside in a comment for episode 12, it is also touched upon that the Natsume name could possibly be on the Takakura family sign at a point in time past when the names were ripped off…just a kooky theory, but it’s there.

vucubcaquix: Originally, I felt that I didn’t have much to say about this episode. Taken at face value we have what appears to be an episode that concerns itself mostly with Masako’s daily life as a child presented in an over-the-top melodramatic fashion. There were some issues with certain characters being off-model in mid-range shots but a lot of it was masked by caricature and exaggerated facial expressions by many of the characters.

Though what struck me again is the series’ absolute mastery over the manipulation of mood and tone. One moment, we have Masako downing two whole plates of fugu in order to save her younger brother’s life, and the next moment she’s lying on the ground suffering from hypoxia.

Part of it stems from the tight framing, the mood of the music playing at the moment, and the creepily matter-of-fact way Sanetoshi describes the effects of neurotoxin as Masako suffers the effects. But what popped out firstly and immediately, was the color. Both shots I’ve linked to above ostensibly show the scene occurring at night with a cool blue hue permeating her skin to simulate starlight and moonlight, but the second shot also increases the amount of gray on her skin to simulate her hypoxic skin. Oxygen is not reaching her skin, and it shows in her newly pallid state. The entire scene was effective in making me feel uncomfortable, as it made me recall training I had received as a basic EMT. The twitching, the loss of color, the shivering as a result of fallen body temperature and blood pressure, all of it added up to a pretty masterfully executed sequence of septic shock.

Septic shock can occur when an untreated or inadequately treated infection (usually bacterial) is allowed to progress. Bacteria often produce poisonous chemicals (toxins) which can cause injury throughout the body. When large quantities of these bacteria, and their toxins, begin circulating in the bloodstream, every organ and tissue in the body is at risk of their damaging effects. The most damaging consequences of these bacteria and toxins include poor functioning of the heart muscle; widening of the diameter of the blood vessels; a drop in blood pressure; activation of the blood clotting system, causing blood clots, followed by a risk of uncontrollable bleeding; damage to the lungs, causing acute respiratory distress syndrome; liver failure; kidney failure; and coma.
Initial symptoms of shock include cold, clammy hands and feet; pale or blue-tinged skin tone; weak, fast pulse rate; fast rate of breathing; low blood pressure.
What supports the idea that something serious was happening to Masako as she suffered on the ground was the status of her penguin, Esmerelda, as she lay dying. We’ve discussed how the penguins serve multiple roles, being reflections of the personalities of their owners, being extensions of their wills, and the last two episodes confirm that they also serve as metaphorical canaries to the coal mines that are their masters’ well being. Last week, #2 accidentally left out an obstacle in Shouma’s path which led to his tripping, blacking out, and generally being ineffectual. What looked to be on it’s surface a fairly violent scene, was played for laughs and was juxtaposed with #2 continuing to drink and eat without a care in the world. Whereas poor Esmeralda seemed to suffer every bit as much as her owner did despite the levity leading up to that scene.
Masako laid on the ground, her body convulsing violently in order to artificially raise her falling body temperature resultant from the lack of oxygenated blood reaching vital organs. As she began to succumb to delirium and coma, we saw her drift off to a realm where Sanetoshi waited for her and she came to a realization about Kanba and her father.


ajthefourth: Through all of these machinations and survival strategies taking place, it’s interesting to note that nearly all of the characters have some sort of specific issue relating to their fathers.  Yuri’s father abused her emotionally (and potentially physically or sexually as well); Ringo feels distant from her father and becomes insanely jealous of his new family (later learning to accept them, along with herself); Shouma tells us the story of his father specifically (with his mother conspicuously absent from being directly referenced); Kanba is well on his way to becoming his father (and this is foreshadowed through his likeness to Kenzan as well as his closeness with him as a child); and now Masako, who loves her absent father and despises her grandfather for labeling her father as a “loser.”

I don’t think that the series is trying to portray fathers in any specific light as a major plot point; however, it’s curious how so many of our characters’ relationship quirks revolve around their fathers.  In Japan, a traditional father used to be seen as the sole financial provider for a family.  In a way, the more the father was away from the home and off at work, the more successful they were in the eyes of their family.  Much attention is given to Kenzan’s back when he interacts with Kanba in the Takakura family flashbacks, and this is another way of denoting that Kenzan was, above all, a provider (his words to Kanba echo this as well).  Children would only see the back of their father when they saw him, because he would always be headed off to work.  Later this evolved so that the back also became a symbol of strength or dependability.

Not-so-coincidentally, the majority of Penguindrum‘s fathers are absent fathers.  Kenzan (from the flashbacks) was seemingly absent at work before the Takakura couple went missing, especially when one considers that he wasn’t with his wife at the birth of their child, but at work; Natsume’s father disappeared from the Natsume conglomerate, and Ringo’s father split up with her mother and has a new family completely apart from Ringo.  (Curiously enough, Yuri’s situation is one with an absent mother and an abusive father.)  However, the idea of an absent father in Penguindrum hardly speaks to one’s success or well-being.  This applies doubly for the emotional state of their offspring.  In addition to social commentary on the gas attacks, I’m still holding onto the idea that there is a larger commentary on Japanese society as a whole.  To steer this train of thought (pun intended) back to what I spoke to in my first piece, with Sanetoshi (and possibly Momoka) playing the roles of aggressors in manipulating society or events in time to their vision, I’m thinking that society as a whole is the Goddess in Shouma’s allegory; unforgiving, seemingly cruel, and with a multitude of taboos in place that must never be broken.

vucubcaquix: Masako has an idealized vision of what her father represents, and her grandfather is a direct affront to her perception. Sanetoshi is being set up without any shadow of a doubt at this point to be the main antagonist for the series. After each of little Masako’s delusions/dreams of her crushing her grandfather, we’re treated to a repeating frame of her looking out her window to see her grandfather proclaiming that he will not be crushed. After Masako comes to the realization of what Kanba and her father may be up to at Sanetoshi’s behest, she’s propositioned by Sanetoshi as well with the possibility of her younger brother Mario’s ensured safety.

With fiery determination in her eyes, we see her refuse him as he takes up the same position of the man who had antagonized her all of her life.

One last thing: I thought it was pretty funny hearing the voice actor for young Kanba being the exact same pitch as older Kanba. Emily and I wondered if it was a consequence of the voice actor being unable to properly act out a child’s tone of voice, or perhaps keeping with the comedic tone of the episode it could’ve been Masako’s idealization of Kanba in her memories. If she’s head over heels for him, maybe she remembers him as always having such a deep and masculine voice, heh heh.


Filed under Colloquia, Episodics, Mawaru Penguindrum, Mawaru Penguindrum

8 responses to “Colloquium: Mawaru Penguindrum Episode 16

  1. Wow this was easily one of the best “comedy” themed episodes for the first half, I haven’t laughed as hard with Penguin drum in forever! Mostly during those dream scenes with Masako failing at every attempt to kill her grandfather they it left me laughing and that fantastic dub line No Mr president! the crazy comedy really reminded me of a random Nichijou skit or Gintama episode.

    @ AJ Now the serious stuff! You are so right most of the fathers in this series are either abusive or just not around at all…Well I am interested in seeing more of Kanba! And his new men in black job. I wonder if he is planning another attack on the city or something else?

    @Vuc Yeah that scene with Masako laying there in shock as she slowly “died” was nicely animated I was sort of expecting her to be fine afterwards, it would be a bit random to kill her off right now. And yeah I noticed the penguins are tied to their “partners” because when Himari almost died her penguin was slowly fading away.

    Best survival strategy ever! I laughed watching Himari snap those pictures of that random chick and THAT GRIN! Ahahaha definitely awesome :P

  2. wendeego

    Kanba’s voice as a child was so deep that I almost wish that he wasn’t actually Kanba, but an illusory Sanetoshi–a la Anthy from RGU taking on the forms of other people in order to coerce the duelists to fight Utena. Then again, it would be pretty lame of Ikuhara to replicate the same twist here, so hopefully either his voice indicates something else or it’s just a matter of Kanba having a real deep voice, even when he was a kid. I dunno.

    I’ve heard a lot of people in certain quarters saying that this episode was boring. I’m not sure why, because I found it one of the most hilariously absurd episodes of anime that I’ve seen in ages. Ikuhara had a lot of guts to basically make Natsume’s backstory into what was essentially a series of comedy skits, but not only did it work almost flawlessly but it worked in some pretty disturbing stuff with the poison and accompanying hallucinations. I thought that the serious scenes at the end of the episode were a little disjointed, but they worked in terms of establishing the stakes and finally confirming that Sanetoshi is the show’s big bad (although it was honestly pretty evident before, considering his badass Akio longcoat!)

    Also: once more, as with after every episode of Mawaru Penguindrum, I have absolutely no idea where the show is going to go next. With Mario apparently out of the way as an incarnation of Sanetoshi, and Natsume as a possible sibling of Kanba (which makes their relationship potentially pretty squicky, unless they turn out to just be childhood friends or something) everything is totally up in the air regarding what happens next. I do think that Sanetoshi is trying to reverse Momoka’s switching of fate lines by returning things to their proper course, and that the Princess of Crystal (Momoka?) is trying to oppose him. But if that’s so, and Himari is being kept alive by drugs coming from Sanetoshi, than how much power does she really have?

    (Finally: funniest moment of the episode is probably somewhere between the Survival Strategy sequence and Natsume’s repeated attempts to kill her grandfather, scored with “Mr. President! OH NOOOOOO!” Serious Nanami-level silly repetition right there, possibly one of the best uses of repetition in Penguindrum to date actually!)

  3. I’ve actually loved reading all your analysis per episode of this series and I usually wait till your post is up before watching the latest episode and coming to see if I caught similar notions and to compare notes. Suffice to say I’ve never interacted with the conversation till now!

    While the melodrama at first seemed a little out of place to me when I watched the episode, in retrospect I realize this feeling has resurfaced a few times during this series, and they all share a similarity. They’re all the episodes specifically focusing on one major character. What I’ve come to notice is that the presentation/tone/mood of the show generally changes drastically or not so drastically when it becomes a particular character revelation episode.

    Most of these involve a lot of flashbacks on the character’s part so I wonder is it that this melodramatic over the top humor and seriousness in Masako’s is a point of view of hers. As opposed to it being a serious recounting from another person’s perspective, who are we not to say that a lot of these are not the memories from the eyes of a child and the world that shapes them. Things like the rings of fire her Grandfather was going to make Mario jump through seems more like a child’s idea of a ‘circus’ act and the random foreigner spouting praise to her ‘great grandfather’ seems very much like a child’s reasoning for things.

    I feel that this shares very specific characteristics with the other characters as well. Like how when Yuri recounts her experience with father, she makes many allusions to great pieces of art. Like the statue of David. Now with this latest episode I sort of wonder, in the last episode we were under the impression that Momoka changed the world for her, but what if what was changed was the change in her eyes and her world specifically?

    Its been mentioned before that the show focuses on the many sorts of love and love is an individual feeling. I wonder if this presentation style is an attempt at isolating each character’s view of the world or how they view ‘fate’ and presenting it to the audiences as such.

    As to how all this involves Sanetoshi’s plans of ‘retaking’ the world and their indirect meanings I’m not entirely sure yet. I’m kind of typing all this down as it comes out so I don’t lose my train of thought while I think this episode through again.

    On the matter of recurring parent/father themes. Please do correct me if I’m wrong, but do I recall that only Ringo and the Takakura parents ever had a visible ‘face’? I wonder is it to highlight their importance because with Masako’s father’s face at least, twas rather an obvious way to hide his face considering the many other artistic ways they’ve done it before. Perhaps its to keep consistent with the theme of the episode but its something perhaps worth noting.

    I also find it interesting how both the brothers are mirroring each other in their relationships as well. Where Shouma shrinks away from Ringo’s attention and love, Kanba yearns so much for Himari’s attention in away he possibly does not have and seems to be chasing so hard for both her life/love at the cost of losing her to his benefactor. Granted it is hinted that he is not aware of Sanetoshi’s role in his MIB role (or if he is then the plot thickens). In some ways both their loves are like a ‘curse’ of sorts, very much like how Masako refers to the curse on the Natsume family. A curse that Shouma and Ringo should fall in love considering their family’s link. Kanba’s curse to have so many pickings of women but to only want the love of his sister thus falling into incest.

    Can’t think of anything else at the moment my brain is overloading. And gosh this post is so long X_X;

  4. Neriya

    In the second half of the show it seems they’re pulling back the curtain on a lot of the mysterious characters from the first. Of course the show never parts with its secrets easily, and we’re still none the wiser about how supernatural elements entered her life (or Mario’s).

    It seems given any pair of characters the same age that there’s a high probability that they’re childhood friends. In other shows I’d call it over-reliance on tropes, but here should it be called…fate?

    Kid Kanba’s deep voice made me think of it as Masako’s imagination – especially given the blurring of dreams, memories, illusions and reality this episode. Earlier episodes (i.e. 5) have used a slightly different voice for him as a child.

    I love how Ringo never gives up. But her “I’ll change the fate” line fills me with apprehension, her burning up imagery in the OP seems a lot more sinister after last week’s episode!

  5. ayame

    “all the main characters so far seem to have their past trauma attributed to father issues.”

    I’d say parents’ issues, since Ringo’s trauma comes mainly from her mother’s denial of Momoka’s death.

  6. saltyavocado

    During the half way marker in ep 16 I noticed that there was a curve in the path of the subway line — looking forward to what “big twist” is in store. But seriously, the last few episodes have really blown me away — I can’t think of how Ikuhara and co could make anything any crazier.
    Also, I’ve noticed that its always the girls that are the sexual aggressors/rapist figures in this series. Well, Sanetoshi came pretty close to kissing Himari once, if I remember correctly, and Kanba is a notorious playboy, but they’re nothing compared to Ringo’s attempts on Tabuki, which I thought were freaking creepy at the time, and then Yuri’s stripping of Ringo, which just took my former standards for creepy and threw them out the window. Well, now that I think of it, Yuri’s father might have sexually abused her, but we really don’t know what he did for sure at this point — which somehow makes it all the more disturbing.
    Golly, and I remember a point in time when I thought this show was kind of kooky because of Ringo’s stalking habits. Waaay past that point now, I am.

  7. Pingback: Notes of Mawaru Penguindrum Episode 16 « Organization Anti-Social Geniuses

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

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