Colloquium: Mawaru Penguindrum Episode 17

"The sins of the parent aren't shared by the children."

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.

"How could either of us forget?"

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?”

"In the human world, truth and reality aren't always one and the same. Humans just call their desires and ambitions as 'truth.' Humans will even kill other humans if they have 'truth' as an excuse. War, it's war. The war is about to break out."

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.).

"Please stop. I know already. So stop suffering because of me."

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.

13 Comments

Filed under Colloquia, Episodics, Mawaru Penguindrum, Mawaru Penguindrum

13 responses to “Colloquium: Mawaru Penguindrum Episode 17

  1. I swear when this episode ended, all I could think of as I starred at the title screen was like ‘OMFG I have to wait a week to see what happens next?!’ *pulls at hair*

    The compositions in this episode were pretty darn outstanding IMO, particularly the scene with Yuri and Tabuki’s conversation. The way they used the Tokyo Tower to frame and bring more depth to their conversation was plain astounding. That framing with the wine bottle too. It really made me feel the isolation each of them felt in that room though they viewed the same scenery, they viewed it with different eyes though they’re technically allies.

    Notice how when Yuri and Tabuki both drink from the same type of wine glass, next to Tabuki there is the silver based one which is full and he places his own glass next to it during their interlude. When Yuri denies Momoka’s death, he fingers it and agrees albeit despondently while he takes a drink from the silver glass instead. It seems to me as if Yuri is trying to keep Momoka alive through her words (thus her outright denial) whereas Tabuki is trying to keep her alive through his actions though his words say otherwise. Perhaps this is a reflection of his conflict and an allusion to what may happen in the next episode as to his motivations?

    I find Kanba’s role in the story very interesting, especially the part where he tells Shouma that its ok if he stays the way he is. Its been brought up many times how Shouma is the useless brother always following the lead but I’m wondering if Kanba is keeping him as a backup. If Kanba now feels like he is unworthy of obtaining the penguindrum due to being too deep into the mess and going against the Princess of the Crystal’s wants, their conversation hints at a level of innocence required in obtaining the penguindrum. That brought me to the thought that perhaps to USE the penguindrum, one requires the innocence one has as a child and Shouma would obviously have that in truckloads more than Kanba at this point. That or in some ways Kanba is trying to hint to Shouma to ‘do as I say not as I do’. Kanba and the Princess however, changed my perception on his character. I was always under the impression that he was the more forward one when it came to how his incestuous relationship with his sister came about. It feels to me that the Princess seems to be testing him on many levels since it rather more feels and looks like she had been egging him regarding the whole relationship in the first place. Perhaps to get him to realize what it is he has (at this point we’re all assuming its the Scorpion Soul) to what end, I can’t entirely fathom.

    Yuri and Masako both pose a really interesting contrast too. One being so modern and the other being so much more old school in so many ways. The mahou shoujo manner of their confrontation sort of further emphasized the very stage-like manner they both have in their speech and conduct. I can’t wait to see the results of that.

    Another thing I noticed is that, I wonder if Tabuki actually could be doing this because he feels that the way Yuri wants to ‘punish’ the Takakura family by point blank shooting Himari (as is implied) is far too simple/quick? We’re not actually entirely sure if he and Yuri are on the same page of the dinnner plans, or whether he had been notified of it at all despite his attire. Perhaps his actions is a way for him to underline to Yuri how differently he views the situation and how differently he would have handled it. That or they’re truly partners in crime and Yuri’s battle with Masako is merely a diversion tactic.

    That being said, I can’t wait for the next episode TAT I’m practically at the edge of my seat with anticipation TAT I hope I didn’t ramble too much. Late night comments always tend to make me ramble.

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: I am of the opinion that Tabuki and Yuri are not on the same page at all, and are simply using each other in order to reach their own separate goals. Yuri wants to bring Momoka back at any cost, while I don’t think that Tabuki does, since he appears to be far more caught up by the idea of punishment. He may not harbor any anger towards the Takakura family; however, he’s definitely not above punishing them regardless. Although it may not bring Momoka back, Tabuki doesn’t care as much about bringing her back (which he may view as fruitless or not, the only indicator is his slight affirmative response to Yuri’s saying that Momoka is not dead) as he does about delivering justice.

      Thanks for the comment!

      vucubcaquix: The idea of one person relying more on words and the other relying on actions is also a parallel to the relationship between Kanba and Shouma. As to who specifically is the one relying on words and who is the one relying on actions, that is up to debate and interpretation I feel, since if you remember, Yuri was the one to steal the back half of the diary in episode 8 which is a very proactive action on her part. There does indeed seem to be the fuzzy outline of a parallel between the relationships between Yuri, Tabuki, and Momoka with that Kanba, Shouma, and Himari, but it’s in the realm of advanced character speculation at this point as to how hard those comparisons are meant to be taken (though there’s compelling circumstantial evidence to support it).

      The idea of innocence is interesting, and it’s not something I thought of during my watch of the episode. I was more concerned with the idea of sincerity in one’s actions, but when we step back to see Momoka’s actions as a child, you can’t deny that she was both sincere and innocent in her actions. Almost to the point of naivete. Innocence and sincerity as concepts seem to have interesting correlation to each other, though I don’t think they’re necessarily wedded to each other either. At least, I don’t think innocence is a necessary prerequisite for sincerity, but innocence itself does indeed seem to be permeated with sincerity.

      I hope that made sense. Thanks for the comment.

  2. fufufufu the Tokyo tower in the glass! I totally did not pick up on that very cool! And ya finally we get to see another side of Tabuki! I have to hand it to penguin drum for hiding that so well, other shows that “evil” teachers never hide it…*cough* Yumekui Merry *cough* Anyway I sort of think Tabuki might be doing this stuff with Himari to prove to Yuri he misses Momoka? Or doing her a favor? haha either way great stuff! Maybe Tabuki is secretly a yandere? Fall is full of them maybe it’s related to Halloween.

    And for the comical side that octopus! Damn thing was hilarious but distracting well the penguins are usually up to something random and funny, not to mention Himari+Penguin hat+Food = awesome

    Now to sit back and see if Ringo stops Tabuki to save Himari or Kanba and Shouma come to her aid! We shall see ;D

    NO WATCH OUT MR PRESIDENT!! Still the best line ever from 16 xDD

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: I really liked the octopus parts. They made me laugh, and were a good reminder of how Kanba is in ridiculously over his head with whatever he’s doing for Sanetoshi. Fortunately, it looks like the Princess/Himari has confidence in him, so we shall see. Also, Penguin No. 1 and the octopus looking up girls’ skirts with magnifying glasses…hilarious.

      As for Tabuki, I think he’s just emotionally dead inside, and although enacting punishment, he doesn’t feel any sort of emotion one way or another. Fortunately, Yuri more than makes up for it with her FABULOUS verbal and physical sparring with Masako. ^ ^

      Now, off to buy some FABULOUS curtains.

      vucubcaquix: I remember getting into a mini debate with Mystlord over that teacher from Yumekui Merry when he first showed up because I said he gave me the creeps since he had some personal space issues. Myst didn’t see it, but I kept saying that he was bad news by the way he stood really closely to the girls and acted too friendly.

      But for Tabuki, I don’t know. I still get the impression that he’s more sad than anything else, despite saying that he’s over it and there’s nothing that needs to be done. Or at least, that it’s nothing to get worked up over emotionally.

      But we’ll see!

  3. Neriya

    Hmm, I can’t help but wonder about an element of the penguindrum being “sincere intention to sacrifice something of the self”. Back in episode 2 Princess says Ringo “probably” has it, but there was nothing to suggest she had such intent. Kanba has sacrificed a lot over the course of the show – yet despite what Princess said to him at the end of the survival strategy sequence she still tells both brothers they still need to obtain it.

    I wonder if the abstract element could be willpower – an iron will to go against fate and make the future become one more favourable to your ideals. This is what Ringo has attempted throughout the show, and a quality that Momoka also possessed. Kanba has willpower, but he just seeks to hold onto the present state of affairs regardless of cost or consequence. If he can achieve that, he’s content to follow the fate handed to him by Princess or Sanetoshi.

    Conversely, Shouma, Tabuki and Yuri all dwell on the past, rather than focus on the present or future. By doing so they bind themselves to their perceived fates to some degree.

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: You bring up a really interesting point! Another thing to consider is that, although Kanba has seemingly made a large amount of sacrifices, we don’t know specifically what his intentions were. In episode 13, Kanba banters back and forth with Sanetoshi over Himari’s lifeless body. Sanetoshi asks him if he will use “this” as collateral and points to Kanba’s heart, calling it the hideous charred heart of a Scorpion. Kanba then argues that he wouldn’t dream of doing anything for himself, but then uses the words, “As long as Himari is with me…” an indication that his intentions are a bit more selfish than he himself probably realizes. This is where the sincerity comes into play. In Night on the Galactic Railroad, Scorpio’s Fire represents both an incredibly selfless and selfish act. It’s selfless because the scorpion is giving his life for something wholeheartedly, it’s selfish because it fulfills the scorpion’s desire to be useful to others. I think that this back and forth between what is selfless and selfish (as well as whether one can truly perform a “selfless” act) may come into play later on. I like your idea of willpower, and like that you brought up Ringo, since she, although hardly being selfless, has willpower, confidence, and a better sense of who she is as a person. Perhaps this is what Kanba needs as well.

      Thanks for commenting!

      vucubcaquix: Hmm, the idea of willpower is an interesting one. The sincerity I spoke of is closely tied to the idea of integrity, in that there’s a certain dishonesty in Kanba’s motivations and actions. He constantly claims that he will do anything and everything for Himari’s sake implying no thought on his part, when in reality there’s the very selfish component of his wanting Himari to exist in some form that’s also being affected by his physical lust for her. If willpower and the demonstration of it is indeed a factor in the manifestation of the penguindrum, then Kanba indeed has much to despair over since he hasn’t shown any indication that he has the ability to let go of the physical and temporary. It’s beginning to remind me of certain Buddhist tenets regarding the idea of suffering being related to desire, specifically that of the physical and temporary realm. One doesn’t reach Nirvana until they can break free of the karma they’ve accrued as a direct result of actions they take as unenlightened beings.

      If the penguindrum is Nirvana so to speak, it can also be the end result of an individual whose come to terms with the sincerity and integrity necessary to sacrifice of the self, including attachments to the physical and temporary state of living beings. Being in a state that is unenlightened, before Nirvana, people’s actions build up karma which is a descriptor for the idea of cause and effect. That ties into a lot of the themes I saw into the show from the first episode, like Determinism and Existentialism, and the Clockwork Universe Theory. To use the penguindrum to break the cycle of cause and effect, to break a Deterministic fate, one has to be in a near enlightened state or at least willing to approach that state. I think Kanba is having a crisis because he doesn’t believe he can.

      Phew, I don’t know where all that came from all of a sudden.

  4. wendeego

    This episode might have had one of the worst cliffhangers in Penguindrum so far. Part of me knew that the episode would end just before the game-changing stuff, but part of me hoped, and hoped…and then the episode title card came up and I legitimately yelled at the screen. IKUHARAAAAAAAAAA

    Otherwise, don’t have much to say about it, although as others have pointed out the composition of visuals here were pretty neat, even though the actual budget itself feels somewhat uneven. Then again next episode has been said to be “action-packed” so maybe all the money’s being poured into next episode? That would be something!

    What really did stick out to me were the octopi in the early scenes. I’ve come to take the actions of the penguins in Penguindrum as revealing facets of the characters’s inner workings that they’re trying to ignore/too nervous to express; maybe the octopi laying siege to the penguins is a hint that the Takakura family dynamic is a lot more fractured than they’re willing to admit? Sure, the penguins are chopping the octopi up and turning them into food, but they seem to be having some trouble doing so. Sometimes I wish that Penguindrum was a little more vocal about what the characters were feeling–apparently things are much clearer in the novels, and while you can glean a lot from the background imagery I still wish we got more of a sense of Shouma’s deep-seated inferiority complex or Himari’s loneliness.

    Finally, what did Himari mean when she said that the Penguindrum was something that Kanba had yet to give? What are we not privy too?!? ARRRGGHHHHH

    “War is about to break out,” says Sanetoshi. SO looking forwards to this.

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: Wow, you were posting this comment as we were responding to comments here and I was posting this comment over at Draggle’s Blog, which has a lot to do with what you bring up regarding the octopi and the penguins.

      In short: Himari’s is the only penguin effective against the octopi because she has more mental fortitude than her two brothers. If you think about it, it makes sense considering that Himari has seemingly had to deal with adversity (both her sickness and her shameful exit from school) her entire life thanks to her parents. She has also seemingly never complained, choosing instead to cherish the time that she has had with her brothers.

      Next episode, it seems like Himari is fully prepared to die, in order to serve the punishment that must be doled out to her family. Perhaps she sees this as setting her brothers free from their guilt/obligation. It will certainly be interesting to find out! Thanks for the comment!

      vucubcaquix: I’m with you in saying that the budget is uneven, but I felt like this episode was one of the better looking ones in my opinion. Episode 10 had a lot of issues with characters being off model, and episode 16 also had some issues with characters being off model. It gave us some difficulty in choosing a good screenshot for Himari to open up the post actually, since her eyes were off and it was exacerbated when she opened her mouth.

      As for the penguindrum being something that Kanba has yet to give, I’m actually of the opinion that it has more to do with being in the right state of mind for it to be effective or for it to manifest itself to him. I wrote about it at length in my response to Neriya right above here. He needs to be somewhat detached from the idea of holding onto Himari in the physical and temporary sense, in order for him to even have a chance at changing the fates that everyone around him are bound to. Whether or not the show will see fit to “reward” him with more time with Himari, I’m not sure.

      This gets into heavy philosophical speculation and the ramifications of it one way or the other will be a river I’ll cross when I get there.

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