Colloquium: Mawaru Penguindrum Episode 21

The "Takakura Family" admires the new paint job on their house.

ajthefourth: This episode was a visual feast, especially for anyone who pays any sort of attention to color, color saturation, and basic blocking and storyboarding. As a general rule, we tend to adjust the light/darkness levels on images before putting them into blog posts to make more striking or well-lit images; however, for this part of the post, I feel it necessary to note that I have changed nothing (light/darkness, or color saturation levels) in these images and they prove my point magnificently. This episode was beautiful.

As early as the first episode, it was apparent that this series was using color as another way to show the siblings’ affinity and close relationships with each other. In that episode I had called the visuals, “almost vulgar in their overtness,” an excellent example of which is shown in the first image above, with the abandoned siblings admiring their new house. The colors are more vibrant here than ever, and this is the start of the new Takakura family. We’re even treated to Himari’s face literally lighting up as she beholds the dream house that her brothers have presented her with.

Himari Takakura waits alone for her brothers to come home.

However, this episode marks the end of this family. After the visual reminder of how close they once were when they were younger (or at the very least, the illusion of closeness that the three shared) follows an episode showing how the family is coming apart, piece by piece. In the second image, Himari waits for her brothers to share dinner with. At this point, she already has the knowledge of what Kanba has been up to, and although she couldn’t have predicted that Kanba would never return home, she can feel the weight of the world that has suddenly doubled its pressure upon her family. A sepia tone creeps into her colorful world and dark shadows appear in every corner.

"It's all my fault. Our family shouldn't exist in the first place."

Shouma is someone who certainly feels the weight of the world on his shoulders, now having been confirmed to be the boy whose birth heralded the Takakuras’ survival strategy. In addition to being that boy, he also is the one who chose Himari to be in his family. More color is bleeding out of the Takakura house, with everything taking a grayer, duller tone as Shouma tells Himari to leave.

Shouma pours over family photographs after the departure of his sister.

The colors are even dimmer above, after Himari has left the house while Shouma pours over smiling faces in family photo albums. This scene is also darker, with more shadows creeping in to frame Shouma in his sister’s room. Now he is completely alone.

The brothers fighting.

When the family finally reaches a breaking point, all color leaves the scene while the brothers violently attack one another. This fight is interspersed with more scenes of Himari waiting for the brothers to come home, much like in the sepia-toned shot at the beginning of this post. As the fight progresses, we see pans of Takakura family photographs. The color gradually becomes less and less saturated, while these shots are broken up by nearly black and white scenes of violence.

Kanba with "his parents" in an Ogikubo ramen shop.

This applies in other areas as well, see above where Kanba spends an evening with his deceased parents. The ramen shop is brightly-lit. We see shots of colorful beer posters and steam rising from freshly dirtied dishes. Kanba confides in his parents, and while it’s not as colorful as when the three siblings are together, there’s a sense of warmth and comfort. That is, until we see what Himari sees below.

To everyone but Kanba, this is what that same ramen shop looks like.

Taking this playing with color a bit further still, the Kiga Group is shown almost completely in black and white as well, perhaps a reflection of their unwavering ideology. Again, shadows are creeping in and framing the scene, except they are exclusively in solid black, almost like someone has spilled India ink on the edges of the scene. The moving boxes with the Kiga logo add to this effect.

The black and white of the Kiga Group.

I’m going to take a break from color now and talk about the blocking of characters in various settings which, in this episode, were mainly used to create distance or closeness between two characters. Moving away from the Takakura family, there are some great examples involving Himari’s trip to Masako’s mansion. It’s no secret that Himari is terrified of Masako, and this is again represented both in their relationship to each other while taking tea (see the image below) and their penguins actions towards each other.

"I hope you've finally realized just how impudent you have been."

Note how the two of them, although in close proximity, appear to be very distant from each other. The tea, the window, and the table act as physical barriers between the two, while their positioning and facial expressions show their exact relationship: Masako is in complete control of this situation, while Himari is subservient to her.

"We must stop Kanba together. Otherwise, they will kill Kanba."

Now in this image, with the house taking priority over everything, we only see the grandeur of the house, nicely framed by trees, with the two women conversing on the porch. Suddenly, the house is so dominating in scale that the two seem a lot closer as they presumably form a plan to save their beloved brother from certain death.

There are many examples of blocking to create an illusion of distance involving the Takakura siblings themselves, especially the brothers, as shown below.

"Why did you lie to us?" "What are you talking about?"

The brothers already have so much between them.

Kanba appears to be the victor but...

The above shot combines both visual cues of color and space to convey the brothers’ parting emotions. Notice that it’s actually Shouma, the “loser” of this particular fight who is portrayed in the light, in spite of being bested by his brother physically and sitting submissively on the ground. For all that he has been through, including this most recent loss to his brother, Shouma is still coming out of these situations with his morals intact.

Kanba, on the other hand, portrayed in the darkness and wearing less clothing by the end of the fight, has now been shown to the audience as a character in grave moral and physical danger. He’ll do anything for Himari, but appears to regard his other “sibling” as dirt. He presumably joined the Kiga Group in order to pay for Himari’s medicine; however, there is concrete evidence of his involvement with the group as early as Episode Five (which is not-so-coincidentally the episode where the brothers’ really begin to establish themselves as separate people) when he relies on their money in order for the Takakura siblings to remain in their house. He also speaks (seemingly regularly) with his dead parents in order to ask them for advice. At this point, Kanba is hardly on the edge of the precipice that Masako warned him about. Instead, he has already fallen into the water, and only time will tell whether he will be devoured by seals.

vucubcaquix: To begin with, I have to say that moevertures and AoiHime called it, that Kanba’s interactions with his parents were indeed a figment of his imagination. I didn’t outright dismiss the idea out of hand but I wasn’t too keen on it either since I didn’t glean any visual cues on it besides Kanba’s uncharacteristic cheerfulness that bordered on something smug. However, this wouldn’t be the first time where I was deceived by Ikuhara’s storytelling sleight-of-hand.

This does however confirm what I thought in my conversations with the commenters, that this makes Kanba a dangerously zealous proponent of his adoptive parents’ cause, with the added spice of being somewhat delusional over the whole thing. In aligning himself with the remnants of Penguinforce, the Kiga Group, Kanba heads down a path towards self-destruction. This is presumably a part of his will to sacrifice himself and bear the Goddess’s punishment in lieu of Himari, which is another way of saying that he’s willing to take on the social stigma of performing the acts he does to extend Himari’s life by an artificial means. And if the authorities were to ever really catch on to what Kanba’s activities were (terrorism plots, conspiracy, murder), then he’d be in for a hefty punishment indeed.

But while the extent of Kanba’s involvement is not in question (we can safely presume that he’s in some sort of leadership capacity), I’m rather curious as to how much influence Sanetoshi had on him. As my partner has stated, we knew as early as Episode Five that Kanba received money from the Kiga Group in order to make payments on their house, but we didn’t know in what capacity he interacted with them. Did he perform services? Provide information? Was he a low-level foot-soldier? Or was he already rising in the ranks?

I feel that while Kanba was always on this self-destructive path, Sanetoshi came along and exploited Kanba’s weaknesses and served as the catalyst that further enabled Kanba’s delusions and ascent through Kiga and descent towards darkness. Offering Kanba an opportunity to somehow save Himari’s life, Sanetoshi proffers him a contract for a medicine that was never meant to be a permanent fix, while securing a Takakura child to pass down his will to set the world back on the “right” track.

"With this as collateral"

ajthefourth: Most interesting is the fact that this episode is titled, The Door of Fate We Chose. This implies that there was a choice to be made; however, this is in direct conflict with the definition of fate unless we stretch the meaning of “fate” out a bit. Let’s take the definition from one of our earliest comments thanks to Ryan A, and say that “fate” is the route which one takes to arrive at their “destiny.” This makes destiny the absolute ending (the destination) with fate as the route. If this is a train, destiny is the end of the line while fate is the journey.

As the series begins its final turn into the homestretch, it’s becoming apparent that it doesn’t plan to abandon its focus on fate or destiny anytime soon. If anything the varying references that Penguindrum has thrown in along with its narrative, including: various Haruki Murakami works (mainly Super Frog Saves Tokyo from After the Quake, and Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche), Kenji Miyazawa’s Night on the Galactic Railroad, many fairytales, a number of biblical references including the fall of man, all have ideas of fate, destiny, and being “chosen” in common. The door of fate we or someone else chose in order to reach our destiny.

“I still don’t get it. Why did you choose me to be with you?” -Katagiri, Super Frog Saves Tokyo

The above quote from Murakami’s Super Frog Saves Tokyo expresses the incredulous reaction that protagonist Katagiri has at being chosen to save Tokyo from imminent destruction, and in a way, his reaction is spot-on. Choosing Katagiri, a no-name but competent salaryman with no family and no wife, out of all available Tokyo citizens is the equivalent of an action movie suddenly deciding immediately before the climax that the protagonist is now Random Background Character C. In another way, Katagiri is perfect because he is Random Background Character C. He was ordinary but now he is chosen. Similarly, there is the illusion of choice that Frog puts before Katagiri. Technically, Katagiri could have said “No” but he chooses not to. Saving Tokyo now becomes his destiny.

“Because, Mr. Katagiri, Tokyo can only be saved by a person like you. And it’s for people like you that I am trying to save Tokyo.” -Frog, Super Frog Saves Tokyo

Similarly, the Fall of Man also gives us a situation involving both choice and fate. Adam and Eve make the choice to eat the apple, in spite of God telling them that they must not. I mentioned this in a comment response following last week’s post, and now seems like the perfect time to bring it up again. The Fall of Man can be seen in one of two ways: either God is punishing Adam and Eve for their actions (by giving Adam and his male offspring exhausting toil in the fields until the day they die while giving Eve and her female offspring painful childbirth), or he is laying out a plan for them to survive (by working and bearing children) now that they no longer have eternal life. The latter implies that God knew all along that humanity would “choose” to eat the apple, and planned accordingly, describing what appears to be a punishment to them as a guide, their fate, that enables the survival of the human race.

These are only two of the examples among many that Penguindrum gives us of people choosing or struggling with what they perceive to be their fate. At the end of this episode, Kanba has chosen the Kiga Group, Shouma has chosen solitude, and Himari has chosen to save Kanba (in a way, she has chosen “love” above all else, to revisit a quote from the first episode). You could say that Double H’s slogan in this episode is descriptive of the siblings’ fate rather than a warning of a curse or punishment.

"Money and parents: don't think they'll last forever."

vucubcaquix: I noticed something about the female characters in Penguindrum after seeing Yuri’s scene with Tabuki in the ramen shop here. Every main female character that was introduced in this series had a bevy of problems associated with them whom we’d later learn the origins for. Ringo had delusions regarding the meaning and enacting of fate and its conflations in her mind with what it means to love; Yuri sought to soothe the ache of her life’s missing purpose with the accoutrements of the superficial, convinced that it was the means to a lasting love; Masako was a violent character who was motivated by a selfish view and interpretation of love; Himari was relegated to a passive role that we were convinced was a problem in overall characterization, but that I’m now convinced was the result of her brothers’ over-protection and coddling, acts that were borne out of their love.

Penguindrum introduced a tabloid reporter who served to highlight the status of several of the characters in the episode. We first see him interviewing Ringo on the Tokyo Sky Metro, asking her to comment on the idea of the Takakuras living as make-believe siblings. How does Ringo respond? By defending the Takakuras against the reporter’s accusations, exhorting him to not publish some “made-up story”. Whether or not the reporter had his facts straight was not the issue, Shouma had already explained his family’s origins to Ringo in last week’s episode, but Ringo instead defends their efforts at building a family around a name that has been tarnished by its actions in the past. This is a testament to Ringo’s character that she is able to see past the name of the family that was responsible for her sister’s death, and embrace them for who they are. The experiences that they’ve accrued together informing the love that she feels for that family.

We then learn that the reporter had contacted Himari as well. He tells her of her brother’s misdeeds in her name, and how the remnants of the group responsible for the attacks 16 years ago are financing her recovery. How does she respond? Well, I don’t know her exact reaction to the reporter, but along with Tabuki’s accusations against Kanba several episodes ago it gave her enough disquiet and concern to stay awake that night and hear Kanba’s excursion into the night. We’ve seen Himari sans penguinhat play a very passive role in the series so far, to the point that we began to feel that it was being detrimental to her characterization. However, her concern for her older brother overrode her fear of learning the truth about Kanba and she stepped out into the night, stepping into the role of protagonist for the first time in the story without the aid of any supernatural hats. Her love for Kanba, made her step out to see Masako.

Masako has been established as a character in opposition to Sanetoshi and his designs since Episode 16, but still remained antagonistic to the idea of the Takakura’s as a family. She was consumed by a possessive love for Kanba that set her at odds with Himari as recently as just two episodes ago. However, here we see her swallow an ounce of her pride and admit to Himari that she needs her help if they are to save Kanba from the Kiga Group. It’s a mutual love for their “brother” that allows Masako and Himari to set aside their differences and work together on a plan to save and redeem Kanba.

Kanba himself has regressed the most as a character. His misguided notions of love have him here directing the murder of this snooping investigative reporter, laying out the groundwork for a future attack in order to secure money for Himari’s treatments, and being bolstered by the memories of his long deceased adoptive parents. Parents, who while being portrayed as loving and doting on their makeshift family, are still the proponents of a so far still twisted view of how the world should be. They enact “survival strategies” for the sake of the love that they feel for their children.

Yuri had subtle developments here, but no less important. Where Tabuki felt he tracked down the Takakura parents at last and was going to enact his revenge, he and Yuri come into the abandoned ramen shop only to see that the revenge they sought borne from their mutual love for Momoka had been taken from them years ago. Tabuki momentarily seemed more lost than ever, but Yuri’s entrance and acceptance of the situation spoke to a very quiet strength that she had which I admired greatly. She was willing to forgive Tabuki’s transgressions against her in Episode 18, and willing to start anew with him through the fondness she began to harbor for him through the time they’ve spent together. She aches for family and for love, and wishes to cultivate it with Tabuki, free of the weight of the past.

Of course, whether or not Tabuki and Yuri can build that future depends on whether he is alive or dead… Poor guy can never be rid of Schrodinger’s famous thought experiment.

Suggested Reading


Filed under Colloquia, Episodics, Mawaru Penguindrum, Mawaru Penguindrum

20 responses to “Colloquium: Mawaru Penguindrum Episode 21

  1. Neriya

    I have to admit, I’m getting rather disillusioned with the storytelling in penguindrum. It starts with Tabuki’s seemingly impossible rescue of HImari , which is easy enough to discard as a one-off, but some of the revelations over the past few episodes seems to me less like the clever sleight-of-hand from earlier episodes and more like lying to the viewer. Directly in the case of Kanba’s delusions of meeting with his parents being presented as reality; but also more subtly in that the majority of the cast knew about this game of patchwork families which has suddenly become essential to the plot, yet for the majority of the show acted as if they didn’t for the camera. This is most relevant in Kanba and Natsume’s case, particularly in their behaviour towards each other in episodes 10 and 11. Though I guess for Kanba at least, this could stem from him utterly rejecting his former family as a child father the death of his biological father. Hopefully this at least will be addressed next episode.

    The newly introduced journalist following up on a story from years ago was a clumsy mechanic to get the leading cast suddenly informed of Kanba’s activities, and why has Kenzan’s skeleton just been left around in a run-down bistro for others to conveniently find (both by PingGroup who conduct their activities there and the local authorities)?

    On a different note, Kanba joining the family seems to have severely limited Shoma’s growth. He seems to have adapted to happily lurking in his brother’s shadow, while as a child he was proactive and took action as we saw in the flashbacks with Himari. This was briefly rekindled throughout the RIngo arc when he was forced to take action and make decisions on his own, though after that he again became subservient and ineffective. While his morals may be left intact after his fight with Kanba, the beliefs that caused him to speak out seem damaged. After Kanba effectively severs their ties, Shoma goes home and immediately does the same thing to Himari before falling into depression (again). When he does rise again it seems likely it will be to try and recreate Momoka’s sacrifice – though if he does, RIngo is likely to try to make it instead, neither of which are good scenarios for the one left over.

    • kimalysong

      I agree with you that the way Masako acted around Kanba in earlier episodes was purposely misleading. Although I think there were hints that they were siblings before the reveal (at least by episode 16).

      As for Kanba’s parents being illusion I think I should have seen it before. It was just too ideal a situation that Kanba was getting the money so easily and the fact his mother didn’t have a scar (even though in episode 9 we learned she had one after saving Himari).

      As for reporter I feel he is more symbolic than anything telling the characters things they already knew deep down inside but were afraid to admit to themselves. This might be more clear with Himari after the visit with Natsume & the flashback to Tabuki; but in Shouma’s case the novels made it clear that he was also worried that Kanba was getting the money from someplace dangerous and he was afraid to confront him.

      • hikoboshiandorihime

        to kimalysong
        ajthefourth: Yeah, AoiHime called it in our Episode 19 comments section, and I especially took note of the fact that they brought up Chiemi’s scar (which we have yet to see, post-bandage).

        I’m wondering exactly what Himari realized while Masako was speaking in that scene you mention. I can’t quite bring myself to think that it was just “how impudent she has been” as Masako would say. We clearly see her penguin choke on tea while Esmerelda sips casually, and Himari gasp at what Masako says.

        vucubcaquix: Yeah, Chiemi’s scar really is a TOTAL gimme, and I’m kind of kicking myself for not noticing it. I’m going to use this word, hindsight, and forgive me if you see it several times in the comment section when you come back, but hindsight really is being a total jerk to me right now. They made a big deal about how Chiemi was permanently scarred as a result of Himari’s petulance, and then went out of their to NOT show the result of her scarring. After discussing it with Emily, I’ve come to the conclusion that Chiemi’s damaged face is something that hasn’t been revealed to us yet but will perhaps be made known to us toward the finale.

        The reporter, I like your stance on it. If you’re familiar with the concept of the Greek Chorus, it’s a body of performers that comment on the action and proceedings of the play and relay information to the audience. I was asking around to see if anyone knew of an equivalent mechanic that can be used in story without breaking the fourth wall, but the closest I could up with was an Oracle of sorts. Basically, the reporter was a kind of Oracle who was in a way divinely inspired. I don’t mean that there was an actual god or goddess that told him what was up, but his knowledge of the characters and the events of the show are informed probably by the writer above all else as consequence of the lack of storytelling time left. (Ironically, the object that the camera focuses on is a watch of all things…)

        As for whether one approves or disapproves of that method of storytelling? Well, that’s just a matter of taste I think.

      • Personally, Kanba being the dominant and Shoma the passive is quite okay, as it slowly but surely builds Shoma up as a character. whether Shoma will fail or succeed in his struggles will be a wild guess. I really love how the anime has been slowly building Shoma’ character.

        Secondly, I am loving how in a single episode Himari became an actual character rather than a tool. Personally, I am happy that the hat isn’t active as of late.

        On an additional note, this episode has done a great job of building the characters up. Note that the next episode title is Beautiful Coffin. Noting that, I cannot help but feel that someone will bite the dust. Looking at the characters thus far, It is Kanba that is looking like to bite the dust, but knowing Ikuhara I will not be too sure. Even Shoma or Ringo may bite the dust.

        • hikoboshiandorihime

          ajthefourth: “Beautiful Coffin” just reminds me of Utena…

          You bring up a good point about Himari. In spite of the fact that the majority of her personality has still been presented to us by others, I’ve also been happy to see Himari finally fleshed out a bit more and presenting her own backstory to us through flashbacks instead of others’ memories/flashbacks. In spite of the fact that she remains a plot device, she’s certainly a sympathetic one, and one that I can finally back as a character.

          The reason why the hat hasn’t been as active as of late ties in to something I say to Curuniel above: The Princess of the Crystal is seemingly another iteration of Himari. Since Himari herself has been less passive and more active in these past few episodes, the hat hasn’t needed to appear. ^ ^

          That being said, Shouma is absolutely one of my favorite characters in the series and I am fervently wishing for him to stand up and take action for what he believes in. There are three episodes left…

          vucubcaquix: Beautiful Coffin… that sounds pretty ominous, doesn’t it?

          What does the word coffin mean to us anyway? There are the overt connotations to death, but in addition to that there’s also confinement. A person doesn’t necessarily have to find themselves dead to be inside one of those, and there’s a whole horror subtrope devoted to being buried alive. Eugh, the of it alone is enough to make me uneasy.

          I think it might be because I just finished watching Utena, but without spoiling too much, I’m thinking that (outside of Tabuki who might have been stabbed) the title of the next episode may not refer to someone’s death specifically, but the fact that they’re trapped in some way. It doesn’t have to be a physical confinement, but a person can be trapped by their emotions, by their circumstances, by their ideologies. Indeed, a huge part of the show thus far has been about how the characters feel trapped by fate.

          It’d be interesting to see if that’s what is being referred to by Beautiful Coffin… I can’t wait!

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      to neriya
      ajthefourth: Firstly, I too, was a bit angry at what I also perceived as lazy storytelling with Masako and Kanba’s interactions with each other. Upon rewatching episodes 10 and 11, I still don’t think we’ve received the extent of their story yet, so it will be up to these last three episodes to adequately tie everything together.

      Secondly, there have been a few times where I’ve become a bit disillusioned by Penguindrum myself; however, one thing that kept bringing me back was the visual storytelling. Especially having gone back and watching a few of these earlier episodes, there are so many hints and visual cues that are telling the story just as well if not better than the dialogue or action. This may not be a “good” thing, but it speaks to a confidence in direction that makes me believe that everything will come together fabulously in the end. Confidence breeds confidence, after all. ^ ^ As for the journalist, I take no issue with the convenience of his appearance, if only because I’m wondering exactly what Pingroup is. Seemingly, it’s tied to Sanetoshi; however, it also appears to be a more separate entity and not part of his survival strategy (unless it is yet another arm of Penguinforce and Sanetoshi’s motive was to split the family apart in this way).

      Where you see it as lurking in Kanba’s shadow, I see it as Shouma’s character developing differently. While I agree that he’s less active than Kanba, it’s interesting to note their reactions in the flashbacks when the two find out just what their parents had been up to. Kanba’s is one of disbelief while Shouma’s is one of shock and horror. This is the beginning of the “brothers” splitting apart.

      It’s interesting to note that Masako claims that Kanba followed their father into Penguinforce (the old Sanetoshi group) out of concern for herself and Mario. He then is adopted by the Takakuras upon his father’s death. One has to wonder, since Kanba was exposed to all of this from a very young age, if part of him doesn’t honestly believe in his father and Kenzan Takakura’s survival strategy. After all, he was receiving money from the Kiga Group (Penguinforce’s remnants) before he was called upon by Sanetoshi to save Himari. All Sanetoshi’s meddling did was further entrench Kanba in the Kiga Group. I believe that this is the reason why Kanba continues to side with Kenzan and denies any ties with the Natsume Group; because, to some extent, he believes in Penguinforce/Kiga’s cause.

      In comparison, Shouma’s character may seem passive, but he still has his morals intact and he still vehemently disagrees with his parents actions; he the blood related one, interestingly enough. Part of Shouma’s characterization is that he carries with him a great deal of guilt: over his parents’ actions, over inviting Himari into their family, and probably over his very existence. I don’t agree with his decision to drive Himari out, however I don’t take issue with it being believable. In a way, had Shouma decided to form a family between him and Himari pretending that everything was okay, that would have been a bit unbelievable and against his character. One can only hope that Ringo will knock some sense into him.

      Lastly, the dead parents in the ramen shop. Having been thoroughly fooled that Kanba was actually meeting with his dead parents, I wonder if the actual bodies are not there as well, but instead, something else that signifies that the parents are dead.

      vucubcaquix: Your complaints aren’t without merit, but outside of the nuttiness with Kanba and Tabuki and Himari’s rescue in episode 18, there isn’t really a specific time where I was disappointed in or my suspension of disbelief strained by the mechanics of the storytelling, but I will say that there were certain themes and issues that weren’t handled very gracefully that irked me.

      Namely, rape. The use of that as a story element is something I tend to forgive in a melodrama where I’m invested in the characters, especially one like Penguindrum, but the latest instance of it with Yuri towards Ringo was especially egregious. The imminent danger towards Ringo was played up for a cliffhanger’s appeal, while kind of side-stepping the consequences of it in the next episode. I think I remember saying as much in the comments section for that episode. It was a rather cheap ploy to heighten the tension and there wasn’t as much of a payoff in characterization or plot momentum as there was for Ringo’s attempt on Tabuki prior. That was a low point in the series for me.

      But I’m not all that bothered with how the show has been handling Kanba’s situation, really. I want to say that it’s because the clues to his current situation were there for us in previous episodes, but I can’t rely on that tack too hard because hindsight really is 20/20 in most cases. I can’t really call the presentation of Kanba’s parents being alive a lie in good conscience if more than one person outside of me were able to deduce it clearly, it’s more an oversight on my part since I’ve made it my prerogative to be as tuned-in to the show as possible.

      As for Kanba’s and Masako’s behavior towards each other? I’ll be honest in saying that I haven’t revisited that to think on it all that much. We know that there is passion directed at Kanba from Masako’s direction, but the nature of it seems to be as confused as her stance and understanding of the ideologies of love. She claims to love Kanba, but she’s also under the impression that love is primarily a possessive and jealous force, one that is not as intrinsically related to self-sacrifice as it is to many of the other characters in the show. I think the root of the discord (and the possible dissonance for the audience) lies in this conflict of the understanding and the ideologies of love. She believes she’s right in how she feels about Kanba, regardless of their status as siblings which seems almost like an afterthought to her. Whereas our notions of love for family are in direct opposition to her ideas.

      Hmm, I hope that made sense.

  2. I agree to vucubcaquix’s point about the characters, and I’d like to add a few observations to it. Kanba, apart from taking the door of fate to involve with the Penguinforce, is also being blinded by his self-imposed mission to save Himari. He seems to pay no attention to Himari’s somehow odd response to his ‘loving’ declaration at the end of the episode, that is, ‘I’ll follow you no matter what’. This is probably yet another indication that he’s actually lived in a world of imagination, contrary to the pragmatic mindset he seemed to show in the earlier episodes. Ringo, on the other hand, is showing great progress in characterization as we see her surroundings lightened up (real human beings instead of the usual matchstick people), as a possible hint to her true awakening to her purpose in life. I’m interested in what role she’ll be taking as the homestretch approaches.

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: You’re right that Kanba’s unquestioning and unconcerned response to Himari is one of devotion only. These thoughts bring up an interesting contrast between the brothers that I hadn’t thought of until now. Multiple things that Kanba has done, or has been shown to perceive, especially in this latter half of the series have been in the realm of the imaginary; whereas Shouma, in spite of his guilt and self-doubt, lives concretely in the real world. He is the most shocked by the Penguin’s appearance from the very first episode. I wonder if this speaks to both his character’s integrity and his potential effectiveness in these waning episodes.

      vucubcaquix: Man, that is a fantastic point about Ringo and her surroundings. I almost completely forgot that the trains have been spookily empty whenever one of the Takakura siblings were riding on it, and for Ringo as well. But the idea of her world being populated once again as she’s descending towards reality and perhaps a true purpose is a really wonderful visual touch that I didn’t consider. Thanks for that!

      Also, the idea that Kanba has been the character that has the most tenuous grasp on reality is starting to really sink in. As I said to Neriya above, hindsight is a bit tricky to navigate, but the signs regarding Kanba’s delusions to appear to have been in place for quite a while now.

  3. Whooaaaa this episode was amazing lots of huge reveals, I was starting to think Kanba’s “parents” were not really real but that was a few episodes back. And like most shows with two brothers as main characters they tend to fight! Just like the Ao no Exorcist siblings.

    Now to sit back and watch Himari next! It seems like they might use those toys as part of the next attack? I saw the boxes all over when Himari walked into that “base”

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      foshizzel: I too am very curious as to what the Himari/Masako action plan is. The most important, and sad, part is that Himari is well aware that she is going to die regardless. In a way, this is her version of the “Scorpion’s Soul;” she wants to be useful in any way possible, especially towards one she loves, until her impeding death.

      Wow…that’s actually really sad…sorry to be so depressing.

      vucubcaquix: Aw man, you should have said something if you had doubts about Kanba and his parents. I would have plugged you too.

      You know, I have no clue what the toys are all about outside of the Survival Strategy sessions. I know they’re called Teddydrums, but as to what they’re all about, who knows? Also, the boxes and the whole look of the base felt kinda symbolic to me but I couldn’t really say why other than the color theory that Emily mentions. Everything is all black and white, kind of like how someone with extreme and inflexible morals will see the world.

  4. Will of the Wisps

    I love the way you said that Kanba is bearing the sin of his family — it draws direct allusion to the scene where Kanba was trying to save Himari from Tabuki. Himari’s life is the one in danger in both cases, either from disease or from a fall. Kanba stepped up to take the punishment, either by joining the Penguin Group or grabbing onto the chains. In the end, though, Himari took on the punishment by either joining Kanba or jumping out of the basket. We shall see if Tabuki will be the one to finally save the day this time, though.

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: You know, while it’s seemingly admirable that Kanba takes action, I’m wondering if it’s really the “right” thing to do. Or, to put it another way, the emotionally healthy thing to do.

      Shouma, by sending Himari away, whether you agree with it or not, in a way is acknowledging her death at the very least. This ties into what was said in a comment, and our subsequent response above (to himitsuhanazono) about Shouma being far more rooted in reality than Kanba. Himari’s life has always been in danger, and she herself has accepted the fact that she is going to die (seemingly, she accepted it back in Episode Nine).

      I can’t help but think of one of the major themes in Night on the Galactic Railroad; that it’s better to know and love someone and, upon their death, move on instead of dwelling on it or wallowing in sorrow. Shouma is wallowing in guilt, but at least he’s accepted Himari’s death, where Kanba is continuing to live in denial.

      vucubcaquix: I really like the way you put it here. Actually, the way you elegantly collated your points here reminded me of the fact that we were once under the impression that Himari channels Momoka’s spirit when she invokes the Survival Strategy sessions. There hasn’t been a lot of attention paid to this aspect lately, but neither has there been a lot of information to contradict those assertions. But what I really mean is, Penguindrum has gone out of its way to portray Momoka as a Christ-like figure that loved everyone (especially several characters) in a self-sacrificial agape-like way. She was the Savior of the World after all. But you catching these aspects of Himari and her nature and tendency towards sacrificing herself in the name of love for the sake of those she loves, bearing the sins of those around her, also strikes me as a very Christ-like attitude.

      We may have been closer than we originally thought in our theories about the connections between Himari and Momoka after all…

  5. I’m going to be happy to see exactly what those Teddydrums are for. Since the first episode, that cool, weird, “Rock Over Japan” sequence has been echoing in all our minds. I see it as a psycho-pompic/sexual metaphor. The stages of take off, the Screwing, the swelling of the Teddy’s bellies’, the emergence of the Princess. Gods and Goddesses are born of the macabre, and this one takes the cake.

    Over the course of the series I have grown to truly love These Three, so easy to do so. Kanba had earnest feelngs on his side. Shouma was honest to a fault, and Himari just had to be herself. Loving them comes with a price, as we see so readily in Kanba, we grow to hate him (yet Himari chooses love). But that price is evident in Shouma as well, as we come to glare at him for being so inactive, so indecisive. And Himari. She will leave us, and a cruel person could hate something for that.

    I have a confession to make. I didn’t really want to watch this series. In reading the Summer Preview description, it didn’t seem to be up my alley. It was a chance viewing of the ROJ sequence that got me here. “Something that absurd has to be worth taking a chance on”, I said.

    I’m glad I did. I had stopped watching anime about six years ago, with some chance viewings here and there. It was reading about Madoka that got me back in. Never before had I seen the form of anime rise to such a high level of storytelling. I have to admit my viewing has been, perhaps, more limited than most; as I’m sure many here could direct me to other shows of equal merit. Over the past several months I’ve immersed myself in anime again. I admire all the works of Studio Shaft (Denpa Onna being my fav), and came to laugh and cry along with everyone that watched Ikkoku Meiro, Usagi Drop, Ano Hana, and so many others.

    But that isn’t my confession. This is. I want to stop watching this one. I want it to end with Shouma choosing Himari at the end of My Soulmate. I want that to be the happy ending.

    I want to forget The Door of Fate We Choose. Seeing poor broken Himari on the conveyor belt in the Child Broiler did something fundamental to my heart. I broke it. I’m used to seeing heartbreaking things in entertainment, I’m a sucker for it. But I cannot recall a single image that went so deep inside me as that. If I say “It hurt” it doesn’t even come close, does it? Having Episode 21 in mind kills that happy ending. Cause all the stories end so sadly, don’t they.

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: While I can’t tell whether the ending will be “happy” or not, I do have enough faith in Ikuhara to believe that it will be cathartic. In all honesty, if we received a traditional “happy ending” it would seem wrong.

      That moment in the Child Broiler is what allowed Himari to develop the feelings for her “brothers” that she has to this day, even as she leaves Shouma behind. It’s what allowed her to become close to Hibari and Hikari, it’s what allowed her to have a life, have aspirations of becoming an idol, and then sadly, she fell ill (whether it be divine intervention as Shouma believes or not). The thing is, the fact that Himari is still alive is what seems wrong to me. I saw Episode Nine as a very informative one on her state of mind. To me, it appears that Himari is prepared for death. I can’t say whether she’s lived a full rich life or not, but she herself is not depressed about her own death. She’s been brought back so many times in the series that it almost seems crass at this point and, if I may go out on a presumptuous limb here, this has been done purposefully.

      One of the things I absolutely love about the story of Night on the Galactic Railroad is that it carries a bittersweet message: someone you love is going to die someday and it’s going to be very painful. Perhaps, like protagonist Giovanni, this person was your only friend. However, instead of dwelling on their death, while grieving, you should continue to reach out to other people. These people, in time, could potentially be your friends. Heck, anyone can be your friend provided that you’re willing to try, and that hardly seems depressing to me at all.

      That broken Himari on the conveyer belt was created because she was neglected and thought that she had no one who cared for her. This was changed by Shouma, her so-called “soulmate.” However, I think the important thing in all of this (and it could be completely off the deep end) is that someone caring for Himari was what turned her from an invisible child to a functioning one. I don’t think that her leaving Shouma behind in that moment, meant that she didn’t care for him anymore; more that their time together had come to an end, and now it was her turn to save someone that she cared about.

      Of course, this is all up for interpretation, isn’t it? ^ ^

      vucubcaquix: There was something about Penguindrum’s tone from the very first episode that drew me toward it. I think that it’s because I recognized the underlying melancholy in the whole thing. The language used by the brothers to describe their frustrations with fate and the themes the show broaches closely mirror the language and themes of some the most depressing philosophers I’ve ever read.

      The thing is, I like that.

      I’m not against the idea of happy endings, but when I feel that it’s given to the characters too easily, there isn’t as much weight to the meaning of the struggle that they’ve endured. It feels a bit like escapism at that point, which in itself isn’t a bad thing either. Anime can, and should be fun. We can peer into the lives of characters that we’ll never meet in person, view sights and visit locations that we’ll never see, and be witness to journeys we can enjoy vicariously. But for me, it’s the struggles that characters endure that imbue everything with meaning, and allow me to glean messages from the work. Neither do I enjoy seeing characters suffer without purpose or cause (which is a primary deterrent for me and “torture-porn” horror), as some works and authors feel that piling on the misery is a shortcut to meaning in many cases.

      It’s the bittersweet ones that stay with me the longest. Those are the ones that I think about, that I mull over, that make me wonder and question several things about the world I may take for granted. I, like anyone else, enjoy unwinding with a multitude of genres. But sometimes when I really find myself invested in a show, the bittersweet melancholy of an ending can be the perfect companion coda for the feelings I’d have when leaving the self-enclosed universe that had been set up expressly for me for one or more cours.

      So no, I don’t think I want a straight happy ending. I want the characters to earn that happy ending through struggle, action, introspection. And if a few feelings are left loosely tied, perhaps I’ll be lucky enough to know that same sweet melancholy that stays with me when I’m finished with my very favorite shows.

  6. “Himari was relegated to a passive role that we were convinced was a problem in overall characterization, but that I’m now convinced was the result of her brothers’ over-protection and coddling, acts that were borne out of their love.”

    I would also say that Himari has seemed to see herself as hopelessly passive – her illness leaves her weak and useless in her own eyes, and even as a child we now know she had accepted that she was unwanted and pointless, unable to do anything about it. Now, in order to save the family that gave her life meaning – not for her sake, but almost to pay them back for their care – she’s finally getting up and taking action, deciding to save someone rather than let herself be saved.

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: Hnnn…it’s interesting to think about just exactly how much Himari knows, and at what point she knows it. Following the information in Episode Nine, suddenly her actions became far more pointed and weighty. Her penguin’s actions were suddenly more forceful with sexual innuendo and physical violence. Did Himari remember things from when she became the Princess? Why did she become the Princess?

      It’s also not unreasonable to say that the hat, The Princess of the Crystal (the crystal could be referring to shards from the Child Broiler) is another side of Himari. The passive Himari is the one we see in day to day life, doting on her brothers, being nice and genial with everyone, but when she puts on the penguin hat and enacts the “survival strategy” she is acting on her own desires to reach out somehow. She becomes The Princess of the Crystal, strong-willed, demanding, one who wields her sexual prowess with purpose, enabling desires that Himari has probably never felt as if she could act on in real life.

      I’m still of the opinion that the hat is also an embodiment of Momoka as well, but quite possibly, the reason why the hat or The Princess of the Crystal, is such a force is due to the fact that Himari is subconsciously bought in to her personality and desires. It’s not a complete possession, but more of a meeting of like minds. Now that she feels as if her time truly cannot be extended any longer, she has begun to act out in “real life” as well.

      Phew! Sorry, your comment gave me a lot to think about and I couldn’t help but dump it all on here. Thanks! ^ ^

      vucubcaquix: That’s an excellent way of viewing it, and one that escaped me honestly. The idea that she was naturally a passive and reactive girl due to the circumstances surrounding her abandonment is a plausible one, though it makes me wonder if her brothers’ dismissiveness of her is a reaction to it, or a cause. Either way, the brothers’ actions seem to be intrinsically tied to Himari’s state, and it’s perhaps not the healthiest of interactions and relationships. I think it’s understandable in a way given her fragile state and proximity to death, but the more negative aspects of their attitudes continued to linger on even after Himari was showing glimmers of assertiveness and independence.

      But now we have her acting out in the most proactive fashion we’ve seen thus far, so it’s going to be interesting to see the role reversal for the siblings as we head into the finale.

  7. Perfect analysis on the colours in this week’s episode! I noticed the change in colours by the end, but I couldn’t even begin to explain as well as its done here.

    This episode definitely confirms that the characters have come to a point of no return. Although I can agree that “destiny” can be the final destination on the route of fate, when you take a look at the train stops that move one step closer with every episode during the half-way mark of the show, something is now gone. Along with the main route (the red line, and red seems to symbolize fate in this series, which further proves your point), there used transfer lines as well. Basically different paths you could take in life, but now there is only one path route left. So whatever is going to happen now is out of everyone’s control. I do believe they will reach the final stop on the train, but whether everyone will be able to get there too is questionable. I might be making something out of nothing, but who knows when it comes to Penguindrum after all!

    Also, let’s just say this series does end with a happy ending, which I do believe is going to happen since this anime is similar to a fairy tale, but what would even be the “best case scenario”? Masako wants to be with Kanba, Kanba with Himari, and Ringo with Shouma. Shouma doesn’t have parents and the only way they got the money was because of what Kanba was doing. Not to mention, Himari still has an incurable disease. I can think of a few ways it could work, but it my mind it seems cheezy (everyone one big happy family!). Knowing how this series has managed to trick and surprise us with almost every episode to date, I’m hoping they’ll pull through at the end too and give us an ending we’d never expect, in a good way of course.

    • hikoboshiandorihime

      ajthefourth: The scary thing is that, while the colors run the full gambit in this episode, and it’s therefore the easiest to interpret other than the first episode, the series has been doing this all along. There’s been an entire story behind a story in the visuals that has been so well-thought out that it’s almost unbelievable.

      It’s funny that you mention the train line. I spent a few episodes trying to draw comparisons between the episodes linked by the lines that are extraneously connected in that map, but that was too much, even for me ^ ^. However, I too, think that not everyone is going to make it to “the end of the line” but as I said in a few of the comments above, I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing.

      As for the ending, there is rarely a best-case scenario for everyone involved. Revolutionary Girl Utena’s ending is one of the best endings I can think of to any series, but it’s hardly a traditional fairy tale ending (in fact, quite the opposite). People’s feelings are still hurt, certain things are left unresolved for the viewer, but these are the types of endings that I love the best, perhaps because they imitate life. I hope for this type of ending to Penguindrum.

      vucubcaquix: Oh man, fairy tales. Having finished Utena with Emily just the other day, I’ve had fairy tales on the mind. Utena does a really good job of examining what fairy tales are about and the purpose they serve in given cultures, and one thing that’s forgotten in our modern discourse is that fairy tales aren’t exclusively happy.

      We’ve become rather acquainted with modern retellings of fairy tales, but the original authors (Charles Perrault, the Grimm brothers, Hans Christian Andersen) weren’t wedded to the idea of what we now regard as “traditional” happy endings. No, there was quite a bit of peril in a lot of the stories they wrote and collected, as I suspect that different cultures used these tales to inculcate different values into their respective children.

      So if Penguindrum opts for a fairy tale ending, I’m not convinced that it means that they’re aiming for a “happy” ending. Emily uses the word cathartic for what she thinks may happen, and I agree with that, but I also think that it may be opting to deliver a message that’s meant to stay with a person.

      It’s going to linger, in the way that only the best bittersweet endings can.

  8. Pingback: Duel of the Fates (and Penguins), Jesus Anime = Bad, and Anime and Religion for Buckeyes «

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