vucubcaquix: I was honestly a bit at a loss for words for last week’s post. I didn’t dislike it and found it quite funny, but the animation was a bit weak in places and there wasn’t much to visually parse amidst the gags and slapstick. That’s not so for this week. In fact, halfway through I had to remark to my partner how absolutely beautiful some of the compositions for the scenes were. It’s not just the beauty that struck me, but also what’s being communicated through the imagery.
Take for instance the screencap I posted above. The scene from which it was taken has Tabuki and Yuri discussing the Takakura siblings and how it relates to their shared longing for Momoka. They both miss her and she is the light of both of their worlds. The Tokyo Tower that they both gaze at is a symbol of the lengths which Momoka went through to affect their lives. But Momoka is also a source for contention for the both of them, as you see by how the scene is bifurcated by the same Tower that they both venerate. Yuri cannot bring herself to forgive the Takakura children for what their parents did sixteen years ago, and her emotions about the situation are worn quite plainly for us to see. Tabuki on the other hand, deadens himself inside, convincing himself (if he doesn’t already believe it) that he holds no grudge against the children for what their parents executed. It is no small irony that the actress is the half of the pair who has difficulty concealing her emotions and opinions.
Their contrasting attitudes on how to feel about Momoka’s death is represented by the Tower dividing their positions in the room, but I also felt that there was a commonality that the two characters shared that was represented by the bottle itself. They both hurt, they both suffer for being without their friend, but both have kind of supplanted this feeling with the pursuit of the material comforts of wealth, extravagance, hobbies, distractions. They are meant as a sort of self-medication to soothe the ache of their missing purpose, a mindset that is very self-destructive indeed.
ajthefourth: Now that we have a bit more insight into Tabuki’s character, it’s interesting to see how he and Yuri represent two prevailing societal attitudes expressed by the majority of affected interviewees in Haruki Murakami’s Underground: the Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche. As mentioned above, in their conversation, Tabuki is the calm, cool, and collected party, while Yuri smoulders with rage, saying that she cannot forgive what the Takakura Family has done. Tabuki expressly reiterates that the sins of the parents are not passed down to the children, which Yuri obviously has a hard time believing. We see Ringo accept a “harmless” invitation to dine with Yuri with emphasis that Ringo should bring Himari in tow. The two are intercepted by Tabuki just as Yuri is intercepted by Masako. On the elevator, Tabuki seemingly eschews his previously-voiced opinion that the sins of the parents are not passed down to the children by saying that he will now enact the punishment that is owed to the Takakura Family. However, I’d disagree that he goes against what he said to Yuri in their apartment. He simply has a different approach to why punishment should be enacted.
Following any sort of catastrophic event such as the 1995 Tokyo Sarin Gas Attacks, the overwhelming and immediate response is to always blame something and subsequently retaliate as quickly as possible (this attitude is what Yuri represents). In a way, Tabuki represents the attitude (which I touched upon in a comment response here) that justice must be served, regardless of any initial emotional response or quick judgment. Seemingly, he seeks punishment for the Takakuras because it is naturally owed to them, not out of any rash, emotional reaction. He tells Yuri that he too has not forgotten Momoka, but that retaliation will hardly bring her back. Interestingly enough, he adds that her life was, “unfairly stolen away” which echoes the sentiments of the Takakura siblings in regards to Himari. The question remains, what is “fair” or “unfair?”
Sanetoshi echoes these statements in the quote above, and the skewing of “truth” to fit one’s own paradigm of thought is especially interesting when applied to Shouma’s allegory in Episode 12. In a previous comment response, I had expressed my theory that society in general is represented by the Goddess in Mawaru Penguindrum. The episodes following Episode 11 (when it is revealed that the series is directly referencing the Tokyo Sarin Gas Attacks) have only provided fuel for this theory. After all, what is fair and unfair completely relies on the recipient of the gift or punishment, and their hopes and desires. As Sanetoshi would say, we call our desires “truths.” Shouma points out that the Goddess says that punishment must be, “The most unjust.” In addition to this, when Himari is brought back to life, the Goddess is paraphrased as saying that it would be no fun if the punishment ended there. To one listening to Shouma’s point of view, the Goddess is unbearably cruel and toying with their desires and ambitions in a way that seems incredibly unjust. The important thing to remember is that these things are unjust to Shouma, the narrator. Within the realm of one’s own thoughts, it’s near impossible to step outside one’s own skewed point of view made up of multitudes of experiences. This is where one has the tendency to place blame on fate or a whimsical Goddess, instead of becoming more introspective and critical of one’s self (and the people that one chooses to associate with, or society as a whole). Murakami cites a debt to the Japanese people as one of his primary reasons for wanting to write about the attacks. He states that most people, instead of examining the social climate and what could have caused people to turn to such drastic measures, tend to approach Aum with an “us” and “them” mentality. “They” are somehow different than “us” who are not crazy and have right on our side.
“Just where has this ramshackle bandwagon of mass consensus delivered us Japanese with ‘right on our side?’ What have we learned from this shocking incident? One thing is for sure. Some strange malaise, some bitter aftertaste lingers on. We crane our necks and look around us as if to ask: where did all that come from? If only to be rid of this malaise, to cleanse our palettes of the aftertaste, most Japanese seem ready to pack up the whole incident in a trunk labeled THINGS OVER AND DONE WITH.
-Haruki Murakami, Underground: the Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche
The sins of the parents may or may not be passed down to the next generation; however, the cyclical nature of our main trio’s personalities and outlooks on the world should hardly be ignored. Yuri, Tabuki, and Momoka is who Kanba, Shouma, and Himari will end up becoming if they each continue down their various paths. It’s a “fate” of a different kind that will be pushed on them if they do not take care to look inwardly at their own actions, and the actions of their predecessors (much like Episode 13 alludes to with its somewhat ominous celebration of the anniversary of the Tokyo Sky Metro). Himari’s preview for the next episode would suggest that she is willing to accept her fate (one could argue that she’s been ready since Episode Nine) as a sacrifice, so it will be very interesting to see where our two trios choose to go. The wild-cards in this have now become Masako and Ringo. Interestingly enough, these are the two characters who have seemingly accepted themselves, good and bad, and are more self-aware and self-assured. Ringo no longer follows in the shadow of her sister, and Masako is bold enough to reject Sanetoshi outright when he suggests that she join his group. Both are now forging their paths on their own terms, an interesting comparison to Tabuki, Yuri, Shouma, and Kanba, who are all still bound by something else (guilt, regret, anger, etc.).
vucubcaquix: The wheel of fate that binds the characters rears itself again in the narrative of the story. Despite the best efforts of a certain character to alter the fates of those who suffer under the yoke of what is “unfair”, the clockwork like nature of the world ultimately manages to manifest itself in a different way. What can the Takakura siblings do to prevent their eventual hardening into the bitter adults we see? The Princess of the Crystal claims that finding the penguindrum is what is necessary to prevent this, but her caginess in divulging the nature of the object they seek speaks volumes as to its nature. I’ve written about it before, but it seems as though the Princess herself is also aware of what the nature of the penguindrum is. In that, it’s not a physical object alone, per se, but also the sincere intention to sacrifice something of the self. To state what it is outright, I feel that the Princess may think it will tarnish the sincerity. Kanba also seems to be vaguely aware of it himself, which is partly why he thinks he can no longer be the one to save Himari since he has partaken in a Faustian bargain with Sanetoshi to artificially and unnaturally lengthen Himari’s life. Kanba is so invested in this that he has been wrapt up in Sanetoshi’s design to “take back the world” in order to pay off this debt that he has accrued with him. If we are to continue on the tack that Himari is channeling Momoka’s spirit during the survival strategies, then Kanba may recognize that what he is doing is in fact in direct opposition to Himari’s/Momoka’s ultimate desire. Similar to how Yuri’s actions right now would contrast and contradict violently with Momoka’s intentions and desires as a child.
Kanba feels that he is no longer able to save Himari for that reason. He’s in too deep. He’s too indebted. He’s too attached to the idea of being with Himari in the temporary physical sense, despite her apparent readiness to pass on. Kanba feels that he is fated to relive and reenact his father Kenzan’s actions, which will in turn create so many more characters who suffer from the uncaring nature of fate. He has become self loathing to a dangerous degree. If the penguindrum isn’t just an object, but also an expression of self-sacrificial love akin to agape that we’ve discussed, then he feels that he may no longer be capable of feeling or executing such things with the sincerity and integrity that is necessary. Hence, his despair during this week’s survival strategy.
But! All is not lost! This is where the convenience of storytelling comes in, in that we know that there is something special about Kanba. Something that both Sanetoshi and the Princess have alluded to as the Scorpion’s Soul. The Scorpion’s Soul in Kenji Miyazawa’s Night on the Galactic Railroad is a fire that the passengers on the railroad see in the night sky. It is representative of a penitent organism whose essence becomes the idea of self-sacrifice. Whether Penguindrum will treat Kanba’s soul as something of a more concrete plot matter or treat it with the same sense of allegory and metaphor that Railroad does remains to be seen, but both of the denizens from the Destination of Fate regard it as something incredibly important and worth scheming and sniping at each other for. Almost as if… it’s a vital component of the idea of the nigh mythical penguindrum itself.