This next series of episodes, specifically Episode Nine, mark a tonal shift in Mawaru Penguindrum‘s presentation. Much of this is owed to the closing of Ringo’s story arc. As we discover just exactly what Ringo’s been up to, it leads us into a whole other universe of speculation and conflict involving the Takakura and Oginome family pasts, and a certain horrific event in Japanese history.
Episode Seven: “Know when to give up.”– This episode gives us a Ringo who is growing more desperate and delusional by the day. She is able to cling to the diary as proof that she will take her sister’s place and make Tabuki “her fated one” as well as delude herself into writing Yuri off as a harmless entity. That is, until Tabuki and Yuri announce their engagement. Knowing when to give up would mean that Ringo would be abandoning Project M, and the idea that she can become her sister in order to save her family, which is something that her character will be willing to do in the not-so-distant future, but not quite yet; instead, we see her descent into near-madness. Not-so-coincidentally, this is where we really start to see Shouma and Ringo’s relationship develop, with Shouma tailing Ringo to obtain the diary turning into genuine concern for her (or her mental state at the very least). It’s in this episode where we see him going to such lengths like creeping underneath Tabuki’s house with her, and allowing an enchanted frog to lay eggs on his body. Knowing when to give up also involves Ringo realizing that she’s in love with Shouma, after all.
Episode Eight: “Noise makers not allowed.”– Upon further inspection this could (like “Stop ‘physicurry’ odor” in Episode Three) be another allusion to the subway attacks, which were initially misreported as an explosion at Tsukiji Station on the Naka-meguro bound Hibiya Line train (which was also the train with the largest amount of fatalities out of all four sarin drops). It also references Shouma’s fear that Ringo has completely gone off the deep end and is carrying a bomb on the train in order to kill herself and Tabuki as part of Project M. In a more irreverent manner, it could be referencing the idea of Project M as Project Maternity with Ringo’s attempt to drug and have sex with Tabuki (as sexual intercourse is often noisy).
Episode Nine: “Out of the park home run! Don’t give up on your dreams! Dream hit!”– This slogan openly mocks not only Himari, but the entire cast of Penguindrum up until this point. Out of our lead cast, knowing what we know about them now, how many people have been able to follow their dreams? Himari was unable to fulfill her dream of being an idol, seemingly because the punishment enacted on the Takakura family due to their involvement in the terrorist attacks meant Himari falling ill and eventually dying. The Takakura brothers themselves rail against fate and both seem to be spinning their wheels (Kanba has already started his descent into the remnants of the terrorist organization and Shouma is still wallowing in self pity). Ringo’s dreams are misguided and delusional, never mind the fact that she’s not advancing very far on the seducing Tabuki front. When we inspect our periphery characters Yuri, Tabuki, and even Masako, knowing what we know about them now, none of them are fulfilling their dreams wholeheartedly either. Every cast member who was directly affected by the subway attacks is still reeling from the subsequent aftermath and the effect that it had on them, their family, or both. No one who was touched by the attacks is “okay.”
Episode 10: “Cherish your memories.”– Masako’s machinations come into a clearer focus in this episode as she toys with Kanba in the hospital. On the surface, Masako is goading Kanba, throwing previous relationships and romantic experiences back into his face, with the implication that he should have at least respected a girl’s feelings. This slogan takes on a darker meaning upon the examination of how the main cast treats their memories. For the majority of our players, they don’t cherish their memories as much as they cling to them out of desperation. They live in the past and are unable to move forward with their lives because of it. This episode also marks the first step in Ringo’s paradigm shift, where she truly will begin to cherish her memories as her own instead of being chained to her sister’s past.
Episode 11: “Those words changed everything.”– Ah, Episode 11. This was the episode that sent everyone into a frenzy because of its deliberate and direct reference to the 1995 Tokyo Subway Attacks in the closing moments of the episode. “Those words changed everything,” in that we, as an audience, now knew exactly what we had only been able to glean and speculate from episodes prior. Mawaru Penguindrum‘s version of this event also casts its long shadow between Ringo and Shouma, hampering their budding friendship and potential romantic relationship. There are actually many other instances that also could have been “the words that changed everything” including Shouma telling Ringo that she is herself and no one else when she is still insisting that she is to become her sister Momoka. Ringo then makes her last misguided attempt at seducing Tabuki, only to realize moments before “the deed” would have been done that she can’t do it. Yuri then brings everything into perspective with a few words of her own; to paraphrase, that Ringo is in love with Shouma, not Tabuki. Ringo counters with a few words that change everything herself, by admitting that she was born on the same day that her sister died, a victim of the terrorist attacks.
As an aside, I’d like to direct everyone over to the translator 8thsin’s blog, since he added an interesting aside that the translation also could have also been “were fatal” in place of “changed everything” giving the entire scene an even darker twist. If the saying is meant to be taken as “Those words were fatal” then what is this placard implying about how the event will affect our characters’ lives? Or how Shouma’s words will affect Ringo’s life and vice versa?
Episode 12: “That happened before I was born.”– This is a common excuse for not knowing something in the past, be it a historical event or a popular Saturday morning cartoon. With the two Double H girls eying the 95, they are again, directly referencing the terrorist attacks, playing innocent since the attacks happened before they were born. It’s a bit of a dig at Himari, since this entire episode involves Shouma telling an allegory of how Himari’s life was taken as a punishment for a taboo that their father had broken. The attacks were orchestrated by Himari’s parents, so even though they happened before she was born, she’ll seemingly never escape her punishment. This slogan mocks Shouma and Kanba as well since, presumably, one of them was the baby boy whose arrival into the world was the catalyst for initiating the attacks. It also mocks Ringo, whose entire life has been dedicated to living the life of her sister who died before, or just as, Ringo was born.
Lastly, it seems to be a bit of a warning to the viewer not to ignore things that have happened in the past, but instead, to investigate them and learn from them. Up until this point, the series has only shown characters unable to move out from underneath the shadow that their (or their respective families’) pasts have cast over their lives. The opposite, saying that something happened before you were born and therefore doesn’t apply to you or doesn’t deserve to be looked at with a keener eye is an equally disastrous worldview; this idea is obliquely given a nod through the various Murakami works that the series appears to be referencing.
It’s easy to see how Ikuhara’s choice to focus on characters who have, in their world, been affected by the equivalent of the 1995 Tokyo Subway Attacks affects the overall messages of Double H as well as the audience’s perspective on the series as a whole. At first, it builds from the introductory six episodes, and continues to obliquely reference the event until the end of Episode 11 makes no mistake about what Ikuhara is choosing to reference. The specter of the attacks overshadows every event, every character machination, and every character relationship in the series.
In case you missed it, here’s Part One, which covers episodes 1-6!
11 responses to “Today’s Slogan: The Role of Double H in Mawaru Penguindrum, Episodes Seven through 12”
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Loving the Double H girls and the artwork! They do have amazing colors and designs maybe ill do some future drawings of them.
Favorites from these Episode Eight: “Noise makers not allowed.” It was one of the darker episodes just to see how extreme Ringo could get! But it does make Ringo slowly realize what she is doing is crazy after her diary gets torn.
And last Episode Nine: “Out of the park home run! Don’t give up on your dreams! Dream hit!”- I was always curious about Himari’s past and what happened to her friends and it was more of a damn…that sucks….for Himari kind of episode T___T
You should! I’d love to see those drawings. Actually all of this fanart has made me want to draw them myself. ^ ^
Yeah, that’s the episode where we find out more about Himari; however, it hasn’t been fully established as to just what her parents had done, and just why she was so sick. Looking back on it…poor Himari…
Something especially interesting to me: all of these are either advice or regulations for the subway, which all seem par for the course. But then there’s the slogans for episodes 11 and 12, which seem very different and out-of-the-blue. I might have more to say on this when you get to the rest of the episodes, since the newer slogans are slipping my mind, but I think they’re ones we should pay attention to along with episode 1’s.
Very true. In addition to this, Wabisabi (who, in addition to being astute and intelligent is also fluent in Japanese) over at her blog, pointed out that the slogan in Episode 12 specifically is phrased differently than the previous slogans. The prior ones all used “Thou shall, or Thou shall not” whereas Episode 12’s did not.
Something else to consider. Thanks for the comment! ^ ^
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Ajthefourth, you mention “the various Murakami works that the series appears to be referencing”. Obviously Super Frog Saves Tokyo and Underground come to mind. I’m wondering if you see references to other works of Murakami-sensei’s, as well.
I’ve enjoyed reading some his works (Wild Sheep Chase; Hard-Boiled Wonderland; Dance Dance Dance; Wind-up Bird Chronicle; Kafka on the Shore) but can’t quite make a connection to them from Penguindrum. As you can infer from the list I’m more into his magical realism works. My enjoyment (in particular of the books since Dance Dance Dance) stems partly from the fact that they a written in a sober, detailed and at times almost anti-climactic style. E.g., much effort is put on the description of the interiours, clothes and cars of the mystery guys all of which are very clean and carefully chosen. (The mysterious and attractive young girls don’t hurt ofc). Dark historic events are referenced regularly but do not seem to have much effect on the plot and – call me naive – I can’t really see much social commentary either. Is it just the 1995 attacks which link Murakami’s works with Penguindrum?
Ah…you know what’s interesting is that the two other Murakami works that I am familiar with (Norwegian Wood and Sputnik Sweetheart) are nowhere on your list, which means that we have probably read completely different Murakami works. While they may not have direct ties with Penguindrum, they do address some similar themes (Sputnik Sweetheart, which was briefly referenced in Episode Nine, especially ties into the struggles of being raised in such a rigid society, and the inability to fulfill one’s dreams because they’ve been assimilated into such a constricting social structure. In my mind, this ties into the Child Broiler and it’s ideas of assimilating children into “invisible identities;” which in turn is a direct reference to this serial killer).
Although, you’re right, it doesn’t reference the majority of Murakami’s body of work, and only dabbles in some similar themes here and there. I’ve been mentioning the most direct ones in the posts, but there are other more indirect tie-ins, like the one mentioned above, that deal in commentary on Japanese society. Most of them are usually used to reinforce an emotional or character development point, not to say that “so-in-so is exactly like Character A,” etc.
In short, yes there are other tie-ins. Phew! Thank you for bringing this up! Also, nice to see another Murakami fan. Perhaps you can recommend some books to me, since I’ve only read the aforementioned two along with After the Quake (where Super Frog Saves Tokyo is housed) and Underground.
Thanks for the comment! ^ ^
Recommending you one of the books I’ve read is not easy – I have the feeling that our preferences may be quite different!
The works you mention seem to be quite close to actual events which they document/ comment on. My favourites from what I’ve read are “Dance, Dance, Dance” and the two later ones. What I like in them is the absence of a focussed plot combined with some slight supernatural/ shinto-inspired elements and a careful and detailed description of objects and surroundings.
Plase note, however, that this is my very personal reading experience – of course these books do have a plot, there is just quite some meandering around it! Besides, today I studied some reviews on these works and now I feel that I might have missed most of their deeper points and references…
“Wild Sheep Chase”, in any case, is a safe recommendation. It is quite hilarious and a suspenseful read at the same time. I was so captivated that I finished it in one go.
Both of us haven’t read “Norwegian Wood” which seems to be the most famous of Murakami’s books. I recently watched the movie. The character played by Rinko Kikuchi didn’t interest me at all and it also involved – heaven forbid! – actual sex. The two other female characters, however, did interest me and now I might give the book a try to find out more about them. “Underground” and “1Q84” are still resting unread on my bookshelf.
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