ajthefourth: Towards the end of Revolutionary Girl Utena, director Kunihiko Ikuhara and his writer Yoji Enokido decide to re-introduce the audience to its Greek chorus element, The Shadow Girls, by showing them briefly out from behind their customary screens and shadow puppetry, talking to the main character, Utena Tenjou, in class. The Shadow Girls then proceed to put on a play for Utena and the two other main characters. In doing so, they present what has come before and recontextualize it a bit; setting the stage for the series’ final arc, The End of the World.
Enokido is seen doing this once more with Takuya Igarashi (another former co-worker of Ikuhara’s) in the recent series Star Driver, using drama club president Sarina Endou as the all-knowing entity of the series. She, along with the main characters themselves, put on a play at their school festival that, much like the play in Utena, reviews key story elements while also giving them a slightly different meaning by providing new information to the audience. Double H seemingly isn’t going to play as large of a part as their predecessors in recontextualizing the story for their audience (barring any new information forthcoming in these last two episodes); however, their appearance signifies a key shift in the story. We are now in Penguindrum‘s final story arc.
Having paid close attention to Double H’s slogans in the past, I loved the message that frames this episode: Coming to see you…right now! (It’s apparently a relevant movie reference as well.) Not only does it cheekily point to Double H’s figurative stepping out from behind the curtain to reveal their true selves to the audience, but it also references a few of the meetings that we see in this episode; in particular, the reuniting of Masako and Kanba as a younger sister and an older brother.
We’ve seen these siblings meet each other purposefully once before, in Episode 11 when Kanba visited Masako at her home. During their meeting, Masako alludes to hunting and the image of a parent elephant being shot in place of a child appears repeatedly. It is also in this episode where Masako tells Kanba that he is on the edge of a precipice. With our new knowledge of Kanba’s role throughout the series, it’s not so hard to believe that the elephant being shot is actually representative of Kanba, sacrificing himself in order for his younger sister and brother to lead normal, healthy lives away from the cult of Penguinforce and their father.
In addition to this, it’s interesting to recall Penguin No. 1’s reaction to Esmerelda as Masako and Kanba’s weighty banter occurred in the background. Esmerelda was in complete control, divesting Penguin No. 1 of his pieces of armor that he had worn to the mansion, presumably a reflection of Kanba’s preparation to call on Masako for the first time in what could have possibly been years. In the end, although neither party is declared the victor, Penguin No. 1 leaves naked, on a stretcher, a further allusion to the fact that Masako had the upper hand. Knowing what we know now, it’s interesting that Kanba is presumably shown to be as scared as he was during this entire exchange. My thoughts are that it is due to the fact that he, now remembering the truth of his and Masako’s connection, was terrified to let her see just how close to the edge of that precipice he already was. After having stepped in magnificently to save his younger sister and brother, what a waste it would be for him to befall the same fate of the father he had attempted to save them from. Worse still, is the fact that he became deeper entrenched in the group in order to save another “family member” not related by blood.
vucubcaquix: Much has been made (and a lot of it by us) about the thematic connections between Penguindrum and the works of Haruki Murakami. My partner knows his works well where I comparably do not. However, I do know a bit about the genre that’s been associated with him, Magical Realism.
Basically, without getting too far into the nitty-gritty, magical realism is all about setting up detailed accounts or portrayals of the real world (as in the one we live in) and introducing magical elements that are either commonplace, accepted, or even mundane to the characters in some way. A recent mainstream example is Stephen King’s The Green Mile. (It’s a great movie too by the way with Tom Hanks, in case you don’t have the patience or time to read the novel).
Now I want to say a little something about Urban exploration. I promise I’m going somewhere with this! Urban exploration is all about accessing parts of the urban landscape that are off-limits to the public or are just normally unseen. Paris has a thriving urbex culture since they’re situated on top of centuries-old catacombs and mines, and Chicago’s infiltrators are busy trying to access defunct CTA tunnels and abandoned theaters and hospitals.
Kanba is confronted by Masako in Ikebukuro, and they enter the statue located in front of the department store there, they find themselves entering Tokyo’s abandoned tunnel system. I brought up Magical Realism earlier before, because this scene, while established to be occurring in the real life neighborhood of Ikebukuro replete with recognizable landmarks, also has in it the improbable penguinbombs and the sudden inclusion of that vast network of tunnels that is architecturally improbable. Former reporter Shun Akiba has written a book about his finds and claims that there is nearly 2,000 km of secret tunnels underneath Tokyo. That’s all very well and good, but it starts to merge with the fantastical when Mr. Akiba talks about secret codes hidden in decades old maps and government conspiracies to ridicule him and debunk his claims. He still has a cadre of believers, but the the Tokyo Tunnels nowadays have become something more like an urban legend.
The Magical Realism motif has been fairly consistent in Penguindrum, but with this episode it’s made clear that while the majority of the characters have come to grips with their situations in life, condescending ever closer to reality and setting aside many of their inherent delusions, where Kanba has not. When Ringo has been on screen lately, her world is populated with flesh & blood representations of people. Living, breathing, commuting. She is in and of the world once again after having dabbled in love potions made from frogs and trying to bend fate to fit her interpretations like a misguided religious zealot. The scenes with Kanba in this episode however, show him in a world still populated with the two-dimensional matchstick avatars. This serves a two-fold purpose: 1. it’s a clever budget saving technique; 2. it shows Kanba is still fundamentally removed from the world around him.
There is a grandiosity to his station that is in truth completely unrealistic. How many high school boys do you know are the head of a dangerous national cult operating out of a vast network of underground tunnels? Who do you know can control the movement and detonation of bombs through their smartphone? Who do you know who would figure out and so willingly believe that a magical penguin hat was controlling their little sister in some bizarre alternate universe?
Kanba has been through the looking glass and down the rabbit hole, and of all the characters, has done the most to uphold the fragile illusion of it all by diving in wholeheartedly.
ajthefourth: In last week’s episode, “The Door of Fate we Chose,” I listed various references that the series has alluded to (overtly or no) throughout it’s run thus far and ran them through the filter of the ideas of fate and destiny. This week, I’m going to take a bit of a different approach while keeping the references in mind.
In this moment, Tabuki highlights a theme of isolation and abandonment by society. Running the risk of repeating myself, everyone should take a look at the quote by sarin gas attack survivor H.S. in this previous post from Murakami’s Underground: the Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche. His call is for one of introspection, reflected by Double H’s slogan and a faceless female voice heralding the 10th anniversary of the fictional Tokyo Sky Metro.
It was mentioned in a comment in a previous post that the timing of Penguindrum was interesting, since it allowed the series to usher in the last of the Aum Shinrikyo trials, and it becomes even more interesting when considering this recent string of articles regarding cult awareness.
Let’s consider Tabuki himself for a moment. He became an unwanted child due to his demanding mother and his younger brother’s assumed prodigious talent (a reflection of how very “unfair” the world is). This is what made him an invisible child or entity, sending him to be ground into shards by the Child Broiler. In a stunning turn of events, Momoka rescues him with the message that she loves him. Momoka then ends up dying, presumably in order to stop Sanetoshi from having complete success in his attacks. Tabuki, as he later says to Ringo, goes into stasis due to the fact that Momoka, who changed his world, was no longer around. Instead of moving on with his life, a piece of him remained frozen in time, seeking revenge or some sort of exchange for Momoka’s life.
Tabuki’s words to Yuri above are something that she seemingly figured out (perhaps in that very moment in Episode 15 when we as an audience were left scratching our heads as to why she suddenly decided not to rape Ringo, or perhaps in the moment where she slapped Tabuki for saying that they were a fake family) prior to their separation and subsequent reunion. It’s something that is reiterated in Night on the Galactic Railroad through the character of Giovanni. If Tabuki had only continued to reach out, to get to know other people instead of dwelling on Momoka as his only friend, then he would have continued Momoka’s legacy far better than seeking revenge for her death ever would have. It’s well beyond me to presume what the overarching message of Penguindrum is. Perhaps, like many things, it’s all up to interpretation and how much we ourselves are able to glean from it, in addition to the themes that we connect it to. If so, then this theme of relationships, friendships, and love of a supposedly unwanted society member is one that continuously crops up for me personally. It’s what I see woven in the fabric of the storytelling more than anything else; the idea that taking the risk and befriending someone may save their life. It’s inherently unsubtle or “cheesy” but the way it’s presented within this series, and against the backdrop of such a significant event, is impressively artful.
vucubcaquix: Remember when I said that in this episode whenever Kanba was on screen he wasn’t surrounded by people but rather the avatars of people? That’s almost true. The few scenes that have him featured on the same screen with non-avatar versions of people go out of their way to highlight something important about Kanba’s character.
It seems as though he’s crossed the Moral Event Horizon.
If not, he’s at least dangerously close to doing so. Minutes before, the bombs that he detonated dispatched unmarked squad cars that had officers tailing him. The violence of what happened to those men occurred just off screen, but there’s no mistaking or rationalizing away what happened to the S.W.A.T. officers who attempted to arrest him. Kanba murdered them, perhaps dozens of them. Men in the line of duty, who may have even had families of their own. He altered the fates of every single person associated with those who’ve lost their lives, continuing a reoccurring cycle of tragedy that began with an attack on a subway line sixteen years ago.
Kanba feels that he is doing all of this for the sake of his adopted sister, that he is going to reverse the fate that was cruelly bestowed on her that she rails against, and that he is doing all this of his own power. It’s becoming more apparent however, that none of that is true. Kanba borrows Sanetoshi’s power and it’s through Sanetoshi’s influence presumably that he rises in the ranks of the Kiga Group. Himari has long accepted her status (as early as Episode Nine perhaps), which may in fact make Kanba’s efforts vainglorious in nature. If it’s the case that Himari has accepted her fate long ago, than it’s looking less and less likely that Kanba will be effectual in changing anything.
Kanba does not know that. Of course he wouldn’t, or he wouldn’t be the tragic character we see now heading on towards his tragic end. He is instead consumed with a self-defeating kind of pride which blinds him to everything outside of his expressed purpose and goal. Himari’s physical advances won’t distract him, neither will Masako’s desperate pleas. He is a man being consumed by his burning desire to be of use to the ones he loves, so much so that he has become blinded to them.
What will be left after it burns away for Himari? The hideous, charred heart of a scorpion? Or stark, white ash?
Only two more episodes until we find out…
28 responses to “Colloquium: Mawaru Penguindrum Episode 22”
I like this a lot. I myself thought of a similar idea. If most children in the world are in desperate need of love, like Tabuki said, then, rather than chasing after love, the most important thing is to give love. That was why Tabuki and Yuri were left “behind”, so that they could provide love to others, like Momoka did for them.
Also, I don’t think It’s coincidence the “camera” focused on Ringo during Tabuki’s monologue. Right now Ringo’s role is not to chase after love anymore IMO. Now I think she’ll follow on her sister’s footsteps and provide love. The diary in her hands and the green scarf (frog imagery, alluding to “super frog”) seem to point that way as well. Too bad it probably means she will sacrifices herself. She’s definitely my favorite character.
I personally believe that the camera focused on Ringo because she exemplifies what it means to be loved, and to have loved in return. I think I made an earlier comment on how Ringo in a way, represents the trash bin that is actually the recycle bin. While she starts out as someone who wants to materialize her self-loathing and worthlessness and inability to accept her family’s strife in the form of a mission to “become Momoka”, she ends up understanding and ‘accepting fate’ that Momoka is indeed dead, and that her parents have moved on from it, and that she should too. She is the Ugly Duckling, graced to become a swan, or the Pheonix rising from the ashes. While she finally realizes the way her family loved her, she doesn’t keep it to herself, holding herself in contempt like Tabuki or Yuri, but instead, opens her heart to the people around her- Shouma, and Himari, and tries to connect with them. I think in that aspect, Ringo definitely was ‘recycled’ but became a better person who left behind her hate and cursed bonds to create new ones.
ajthefourth: Thank you!
You know, we wanted to put that image in somewhere, simply because it was so beautiful in that moment, but we couldn’t find an appropriate place. Ringo is just fantastic, staying by Shouma’s side regardless (who, from the looks of things, will seemingly need someone to tell him that he is loved very soon).
Also, regarding Tabuki and Yuri, am I the only one who thinks they’re a bit adorable together? Perhaps not in a romantic relationship, but certainly a strong friendship between two broken people. Now that they have put thoughts of revenge and resurrection behind them, they can focus properly on finding love from other sources than Momoka (possibly with each other).
As for Ringo sacrificing herself, it certainly seems that way, right? She is surrounded by that fire imagery in the OP and she now has half of the diary back (interestingly enough, it’s the latter half). All she presumably needs is Masako’s half in order to “complete the spell.”
vucubcaquix: I really enjoyed that shot of Ringo walking off with Tabuki’s voiceover:
I swear, Ringo gets the most poignant moments in this series. Like Emily said, we were scrambling to find a place to put it, but then if we wrote out our thoughts on the scene the post would’ve pushed over 3000 words and who wants that, really?
But the idea that you bring up about giving love seems really important. Remember two weeks ago when Sanetoshi had that tense and sexually suggestive conversation with Himari? He asked her whether or not she wanted to chase after love or have it chase after her. Nowhere did he suggest anything about giving love to anyone, and that seems to be an important key in all this. Seems like something he wouldn’t consider when tempting our poor protagonists…
ajthefourth: And giving love is what Night on the Galactic Railroad is all about.
I really do love reading your thoughts, guys; keep up the great work. That said, here comes my rant, I apologize in advance.
FIRST: DOUBLE H TWINS. That was a great add to the show because the last time we really got any idea of them was back in episode 9, and it really warmed my heart to know that despite everything (? I’m still not sure what exactly happened) they consider Himari to be a very good friend and they even wore the scarves and loved her and just I have a lot of feelings about friendships. Also even more ironic was Ringo apprehending them for stalking when, er, she’s had quite the history herself. I’m still irritated by how little Ringo is appearing in the episodes as of late, but I guess this makes up for the fact that for the first half of this show, it was all about her and her…..delusions. I was glad to see that she was working with Shouma (who is still whining and it really is starting to get on my nerves- I love this dude but seriously, Ringo needs to whack some sense into him) to find out where Himari was though.
We then proceed to the very bittersweet Himari/Kanba scenes, where Himari literally begs Kanba to stop working with the terrorist PinGroup to the point where she hugs him and runs after him desperately. An interesting pattern I’m seeing is how Himari transforms from someone who waited- sitting in the Child Broiler, waiting for her cure, waiting for her brothers to come back- to someone who is taking up the stand herself, and is now running to get her brother back despite her death coming up soon. I’m really starting to dislike Kanba’s actions (I love him but boy he needs to stop) because all of a sudden, he has become Tabuki in a way that his entire life is validated by Himari’s existence just because of some bandage transfer and he quite lierally, denies her of her feelings. I’m not sure if Himari’s emotions at this point are stemming from deep hearted concern for her brother, or actual love. Kanba has truly become the Knight who has fallen from his pedestal, only to rise in the darkness, and now Himari, who represents all that is pure and kind, is trying to wheedle him out of that track before it’s too late. While this most certainly feels like the typical fairy tale story, it is completely swapped- instead of the Knight trying to save the Princess, it is the other way around. That said, Ikuhara has shown us throughout this show that nothing is really quite what it seems, as demonstrated with Himari entering some kind of state of mind/metaphysical area where she enters the past. She prays to God- the most interesting aspect of this entire episode- and exchanges her life on that fateful day back in Episode 1 so that Kanba can live a normal life. Which is funny, because if anything, Kanba has no life without Himari, as he’s been saying over and over for the entire show.
However, it does interest me that Ikuhara is finally toying with the idea of a “divine” figure of sorts; we’ve always had the theory that both Sanetoshi and Momoka are on a level that could be paralleled with God, as they both have the ability to visualize fate and transfer it (at a price, with Momoka). The image of Himari witnessing some sort of nirvana or enlightenment is curious because for the entire show, Himari has always placed her faith in her brothers. Once both of them cannot be reached however, she places her fate, literally, in the hands of an unknown being- we could compare this to the story of the Three Lambs back in episode 12 and 13, where the Goddess finally executes divine punishment onto Himari the lamb; and thus, Himari has finally either accepted that she was never meant to exist in the first place (she was always an Unchosen) or that she has finally accepted her punishment and/or role as the Sacrificial Lamb. Now, if this is true, we have come to the point of introducing an alternate timeline where Himari never existed, and while that would be an amazing concept to play around with, we have two more episodes and I don’t think that would fit at all. However, I’ve proposed the idea that rather, Himari had entered a ‘state of mind’; much like the metaphysical place of the Child Broiler which I also feel is a state of mind, and thus is in this area where she wants to desperately give up her life in exchange for Kanba’s. Ikuhara is known for his very twisted endings though- especially the idea of “oh I woke up and it was all a dream~” so I’m not sure here. Either way, I personally believe Himari is very much alive.
The closure that was brought between Yuri and Tabuki was heart aching because finally, Tabuki realizes that revenge will bring nothing; he and Yuri were blessed to be chosen, in a world where children are unwanted, unneeded, unclaimed- they were the Unchosen, and became the Chosen. As said in 20, to live is in itself, a punishment. But through Momoka’s love and spirit, they were given life, only to realize that life itself is sometimes, as worse as being invisible and never having a destiny in the first place. Does this mean they’ve accepted their fate? It’s interesting how Mawaru Penguindrum really toys with the idea of fate and what it means to fight against it or to accept it. Just because we accept fate does not mean that we are weak, as seen with Ringo as she finally detaches from the idea of reclaiming her family. And just because we fight against fate, denying the impossible, does not mean that we are strong, as shown with Kanba, who futilely fights to save Himari’s life. Yuri and Tabuki have come at their ends, finally accepting what they were given, and moving on; though the price that came with this understanding is extremely steep, as it’s implied that Tabuki is either on the verge of death, or is already dead. (He could be healing though.)
I feel that everyone in a way, is trying to fight fate but in doing it, are only working with fate. Even more surprising was how Kanba tried to strangle Sanetoshi (this dude is really becoming desperate) when Sanetoshi clearly shows that either he exists on a plane that cannot be physically tangible by any means, or shows powers of divinity, or is really, simply, a ghost. The fact that the Takakura parents appear behind him as they enter the Train makes me feel that Kanba has been hallucinating Sanetoshi, or rather the fact that he is either a concept brought into a somewhat tangible form, or lastly, he, like the penguins, is only visible to the Takakuras and Masako and certain others (Oh Ikuhara, you and your love for surrealism). I’m still hanging onto that idea of him being a “ghost”. In episode 20, when Himari called Shouma her “soulmate” only for that definition to be twisted; could this also apply, then, to the idea of a ghost? What do we percieve as a ghost? Someone who haunts us; who represents someone or an ideal that we cherished and loved and could not leave behind. While ideally we would think that Kanba’s “ghost” would be Himari, dead and forlorn, instead, it is the aching call of redemption, to set himself right in his parents- both biological and not- eyes and to make a mark on the world. This is in complete contrast with his very specific and naive goal of saving Himari, which I’m still confused about- how is any of this helping Himari? Is there an unstruck bargain here somewhere under the table, where if, Kanba does truly board the train with his ghosts, that he will be able to save Himari?
Masako’s death was the biggest shock though, because honestly, the way she died was extremely similar to how Himari died for Kanba earlier this episode. Both women care deeply for him; Masako is Kanba’s biological sister, who was saved from being brought into the terrorist organization at a young age, while Himari was saved by Kanba through the treatments and such. While both have extremely different personalities, at heart, they are very much alike, and it’s almost haunting to see that Himari, through the idea of fate and destiny, is brought to her death, while Masako, through real cruelty and real guns, is brought to her death. Her speech was quite fitting and brought me to tears; as children, do we really bring our own fate? Both girls made a choice in this episode, but Masako is the one who ties it back to the “curse” of her clan. Can we really escape the bonds of family in the end? Even if those bonds are cursed themselves? (Also, nice parallel to the first OP with her stance.)
It’s for sure, however, that Kanba is not dead- his penguin wasn’t turning invisible. I can’t say the same for Tabuki, who seemed like he was dying in his sleep (though I hope not).
With only one episode to go for me (Alas, I will not be able to watch the finale because of vacation), I don’t know how things will be wrapped up, but all I can say is that it looks like a serious showdown is about to begin between Kanba and Shouma. I was a little disappointed with this episode revolving around Kanba and little focus on the plot heading toward an actual climax, but I’m grateful at the same time, for fleshing out Masako just at the proper time and giving her a great conclusion that was well deserved.
ajthefourth: I love the Double H girls, not only for their cuteness, but their seemingly honest friendly feelings towards Himari. It backs up what we saw in Episode Nine where, even when Himari was forced out of school, Double H didn’t look angry, they looked sad. In this scene, Hibari and Hikari looked equally sad when Ringo told them that Himari wasn’t home. The idea of Himari, especially being as broken as she once was, finding true friends, is fantastic; another example of how people reaching out and connecting with each other can counteract the isolation and “invisible” feelings that one can struggle with from time to time.
It does make me wonder though. Why would Sanetoshi bother to convey Himari’s feelings to her two former friends? Was it an act of kindness since he knew that she was nearing the end of her life, or was it out of some ulterior motive?
As for Himari herself, her scenes with Kanba were certainly interesting, as Kanba who is doing all of this “for her sake” was predictably ignoring her true feelings. Most telling in the art direction is, while Himari and Kanba’s embraces never actually showed the two of them together on screen (they chose to show either Kanba’s body and Himari’s arms around him, or Himari’s body and Kanba’s back) Kanba and Masako’s embraces showed the two fully in the same shots. Perhaps this is a sign that now, only through Masako’s actions, will Kanba be “saved.” Himari wanting to give her life up for Kanba specifically is interesting; however, I see it as a broader acceptance of her own death, which she has been ready for since Episode Nine (which could also explain all of the references to Episode Nine and the aquarium in this episode).
In my mind, Himari is too far gone (she is going to die) and Kanba is in denial. He has been pushed by Sanetoshi into believing that by enacting Sanetoshi’s survival strategy, Himari will be saved somehow by his otherworldly powers. Of course, none of this is going to actually help Himari; however, Kanba is so far gone at this point that I don’t trust anything that he thinks or shows us. For example, the scene before the one I describe with Himari above: Kanba is leading the Kiga Group and barking out orders. It seems surreal and out of place. Why on earth would they put Kanba in charge, why would the teddies suddenly appear elsewhere from outside of the realm of the Princess, and why does everything look suspiciously exactly like Kenzan’s factory? My thoughts are that Kanba only has a tenuous grasp on reality, and we can no longer trust his point of view.
vucubcaquix: Funny you should mention Nirvana, because I had similar thoughts to this about what the meaning of the penguindrum was as well. I proposed to Neriya that the penguindrum itself can be akin to
the idea of the “sincere intention to sacrifice something of the self” and I went on at length about some of my ideas in comparing it to Buddhism.
And for the record, while there was great pomp and circumstance regarding Masako’s presentation of her sacrifice for Kanba, I don’t believe she’s dead, at least not yet. The gunfire we heard occurred off screen, and she still has a function to serve in the plot with regards to returning her half of the diary to Ringo. If anything, should Masako bite the metaphorical (or perhaps even literal) bullet, it’s going to be in someone’s arms, and she’s going to have some amazing final lines. All while on camera, or I’ll be very sad. Also I don’t get the sense that Tabuki is dead either. He’s very at peace, it’s true, but more I just think he’s down for the count and his purpose in the story has been satisfied.
Kanba though, that’s a man who is mired in tragedy if ever I’ve seen one. The man wants for nothing but to be useful to the ones he loves, aping the man he came to see as father when he was young. But then as now, it seems his actions cause more harm than good despite all of his best intentions. There’s a brashness, a bullheadedness, that’s been a core feature of his character since he was a child and it has served to harm the ones he’s loved to varying degrees.
Remember how he ran out in the rain to help Kenzan bring Himari to the hospital? It was a sincere intention, but the outcome was a broken arm for Kenzan. He was too eager to prove that he was a man of import and consequence and that he can contribute, that he didn’t stop to consider his limitations and the result was pain for someone he loved.
Now we see here that he’s going to enact terrorism on a grand scale in order to procure money for treatment of Himari’s illness. He’s so hellbent on being useful to the girl he loves, that his single-mindedness blinds him to the fact that he is hurting so many around him. Innocents, and in turn Himari herself. The tragedy, is that this is a fundamental aspect of Kanba’s character. He wants to help those he loves, but the danger of his scorpion’s sting makes him an unintentionally dangerous entity.
Kanba is a man who rages against fate and is consumed with the existential desire to imbue his life with a purpose, to be of use. But he’s a character that I fear for the most, since in Night on the Galactic Railroad, it was only through Scorpio’s death that he was granted his wish of being useful to someone. He becomes the fire that serves as an illumination in the night sky.
With Kanba, I’m reminded of The Operative from the film Serenity. He declares himself a monster, a man that kills children to achieve his goals. Yet he harbours no illusions that he will inherit the better world that his goals will bring about. It’s not for him. Monsters don’t belong in better worlds.
I wonder if I am supposed to have any sympathy for Kanba? If not for the love his sisters share for him, I wouldn’t give a second thought to hating the character; in the proper story aspect, hating, not in disliking the character for other reasons.
That cage in the final flashback has oubliette aspects to it….
ajthefourth: Hnnn…The Operative, eh? I suppose I can see that, although I do feel that Kanba has more inherently selfish motivations than The Operative. The Operative wants to see a world without sin, and ruthlessly hunts down River Tam for the sake of that cause (until he is broken). I see Kanba’s love of Himari as a far more selfish reason to enact the survival strategy that Sanetoshi has given him in exchange for her promised survival. In light of the scenes that we see between Kanba and Sanetoshi in the doctor’s office, and Kanba and Masako at the end of this episode, it seems like Kanba has sacrificed himself, not for the sake of a better world (an ideal or concept) but for the sake of his personal family members or loved ones (Masako, Mario, and now Himari). The Operative himself recognizes the so-called power of love as something incredibly dangerous (following that lovely art direction with the frozen image of Simon and River’s escape) that could potentially get in the way of his ideal world that he presumed The Alliance would provide for him. Although I had thought that Kanba was like this once, following this week’s episode, I doubt my previous assumptions (much like I do after every Penguindrum episode ^ ^).
I don’t particularly have any sympathy for Kanba, but this is due, in large part, to the fact that I never resonated with him as a character like I did with Shouma or Ringo.
vucubcaquix: Hmm, the thing is, I don’t know if Kanba sees himself as evil. I think he recognizes his ruthless tendencies, but the ends justify the means in every aspect, and part of that justification will be the absolution of any sins he commits in Himari’s name. The Operative is working ruthlessly toward creating the new world for others to enjoy, but I think Kanba still thinks he can be a part of whatever he is working toward for Himari.
I didn’t think I was all that interested in Kanba, but his character has begun to fascinate me more and more with each episode, as I begin to recognize the tragedy behind his actions. He wants to help, to be of use, but as he is, it’s impossible for him without someone getting hurt.
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Wooooo what an amazing episode this week! Even thou it was mostly about Kanba and how things have changed with him. Like blowing up those cars and walking away from those epic explosions like a total bad ass! But ya killing cops…not a good thing there Kanba. He seemed to be taking after his real sister using the same penguin style weapons, and now Himari? What will you do now….T___T Guess you should save Kanba before he gets killed.
Masako’s speech near the end was great! I just love that shot of her standing there getting ready to take on those swat guys. I don’t think she survived that attack unless she has magical powers…
@AJ- Sure was great to see and hear the Double H girls again, and suddenly magical floating stars appearing! Which I love and their fantastic hair makes me want to draw them again…maybe ahaha
@Vuc- Wow that urban stuff is really interesting, when Kanba entered that statue the first thought I had was Ika Musume when they entered that buddha statue. But finding those hidden stairs was nice, guess Kanba knows lots of secret tunnels or plays hours of minecraft…ya…
ajthefourth: It’s fairly telling that, even with Himari and No. Three fading away, no one is really focusing on Himari’s death; not many people in the fandom anyway, and seemingly not many people in the series itself. Of course, this accusation is directed mainly at Kanba, since he’s the one ignoring Himari’s true feelings, and taking up a cause that she disagrees with.
Masako was amazing in this episode. I loved how that shot mirrored her stance in the first OP, and how, unlike other characters in this series, if she sees a chance to get what she wants, she takes it.
vucubcaquix: Total badass, but at what cost?
I don’t know if Masako died. Like I said to someone else, if she does die, I think it’s gonna be more intimate like in someone’s arms. She still has to give back the diary to Ringo after all, right?
Yeah all that hidden stuff is pretty wicked right? Click on that link for the abandoned hospital to see something that’s only a few miles away from my house (it’d make a wicked test of courage that’s for sure). But all these giant super tunnels under Tokyo are more like an urban legend, so it makes me feel like Kanba is playing at something that isn’t in the real world anymore. He’s more in the fantasy than anyone else.
That, or minecraft.
Great article that fully expounds the possible current psyche of Kanba Takakura, though, there is another thing that this episode highlights in my opinion.
Episode 22 is titled “Beautiful Coffin”. I think this episode highlights “Death through sacrifice” mainly through the two sisters of Kanba, Himari and Masako. Death isn’t too much if it is for someone.
First off, Himari – After her final last ditch advance to stop Kanba, she chases him and ends up in ironically, the penguin zoo which is very familiar since it was in the first episode. Note that there are now people in the background, as this signifies that Himari has finally accepted her true situation and now a part of “reality”. Realizing the fact that She may have a hand in Kanba’s crossing of Moral Event Horizon, she prays and ask that her life may be ended once and for all and falls down, and penguin 3 becomes transparent, signifying that Himari is dying. Himari asked to finally die because she wishes Kanba to be free of his perceived responsibility (although we know that Kanba won’t be because he’s the tragic guy). Himari sacrificed herself to hpefully free Kanba (to no avail).
Now Masako – The final scene of Masako with Kanba is the ultimate epitome through death through sacrifice. Seeing that Kanba will not be swayed by her pleas, and they are finally together once again as siblings, as a good little sister, she helps her brother escape by buying him sometime. It was epic and I think the final part where she says her catchphrase against the white light was hinted back in OP1 (The visuals in OP1 and OP2 are so full of visual spoilers, I think). This could also be an allusion to “Super Frog Saves Tokyo” part. They’re going underground in Tokyo and KIGA is probably the worm, though I could be wrong.
To finally cement my point, take a look back at episode 1 when this certain conversation with two kids happen (the translation isn’t perfect, mai bad). I think this pertains to this episode.
Kid A: The apple is the universe itself. A universe that fits in palm of your hand. It’s what connects this world and the other world.
Kid B: The other wold?
Kid A: The world Campanella and other passengers are heading to…
Kid B: What does it have to do with an apple?
Kid A: The apple is also a reward for those who has chosen death(sacrifice themselves) for love.
Kid B: But everything is over when you’re dead.
Kid A: It’s not over! What Kenji(Miyazawa, the author of Night on the Galactic Railroad) is trying to say is that that’s where actually everything begins!
Kid B: I’m not following you, at all.
Kid A: I’m talking about love! Don’t you get that?
A bit off topic, what is the apple? the apple is given to Tabuki by Momoka, it was given to Himari by Shoma…
A coffin which is an allusion to death is beautiful if it was done for someone else. I think that was episode 22 is all about.
Ooh, I really like this; I too was thinking about the meaning of the episode’s title- ggsubs referred to it as the “beautiful casket” though to me, coffin is more appropriate because when we think of coffin, it is much more bare, and less decorative than a casket.
Does this mean then, however, that with (presumably) four characters killed off this episode (though I don’t think Himari, Tabuki or Kanba are dead) that everyone else will soon proceed to the point where “everything truly begins”- aka, pressing the red button and resetting the story? Himari enters the place where we were first introduced to the trio 21 episodes ago, and apparently dies there. If so, wouldn’t that reset the story itself? Is Ikuhara telling us that through sacrifice, we can board the last train- the train of fate, all the way back to the beginning? But if so- what hope is there in changing the never-ending wheel of destiny? Is death- the exchange of apples, the penguindrum, whatever- the only way out of this cruel game?
I’ve seen Utena, so I do have some knowledge of what Ikuhara can do with an ending, but with only two episode left, I’m at a loss to know what he’s up to in that head of his. I guess time can only tell.
ajthefourth: I like a lot of what you have to say here, especially in regards to the idea of death through sacrifice. Although, as an aside, I doubt that Himari, and Tabuki for that matter, are dead (at least not yet).
In my mind, the “Beautiful Coffin” is a place where you trap yourself in life, or through living. Masako alludes to this when speaking of her father, saying that she once had thought him beautiful for his ideals; breaking away from the family to pursue his own path without his father’s hard line on winning and losing. Unfortunately, as she grew up away from her father, she came to realize that his methods were too drastic for her to bring herself to agree with. Perhaps, like many real-life Aum members, his methods were too drastic even for him to bring himself to support following the attacks (we’ll never know, this is just pure speculation on my part based on some Aum testimony following the sarin gas attacks). Regardless, the message that Masako has for Kanba, herself, and by default us as an audience, is that anyone who is a slave to their ideals can be beautiful; however, it will eventually consume them and affect the rest of their life. They will become trapped, unable to separate themselves from the coffin of their ideals.
I can’t help but think that there is a warning here, or at the very least, a commentary on how one chooses to deal with what they disagree with or what they believe in.
vucubcaquix: You are on to something with pointing out that the people surrounding Himari are “real” people instead of those avatars that we see populate the screen in most instances… Remember the last time Kanba was surrounded by actual people instead of the avatars of people? It’s been a several episodes at least, if not longer. It further highlights just how gone Kanba is mentally from the real world.
The idea of Kiga being the worm is also really interesting too, since if I’m not mistaken, in the story Katagiri defeats the worm with Super Frog’s help, but it’s open to interpretation as to whether or not something actually happened.
Haha, I just remembered when Emily & I saw the new OP for the first time. I can’t remember how long we took just analyzing the visuals and trying to understand what it was trying to say. The OP sequences have been very dense!
Ever since I’ve found this blog I really enjoyed reading it! I never thought that there were hidden meanings/surprising interpretations behind the seemingly random or insignificant occurrences in the anime, at least, not until I found this.
I’m sorry I am not profound enough to contribute much, but if it’s of any help [and i think people have already speculated about this], This might have already been discussed, with me missing it [gomen ^_^;], but I’ve noticed that in the second opening theme where the three ‘siblings’ were running [which, in my opinion, symbolized either their feelings of actually wanting to do something instead of letting fate run its course, or the fact that they were separated], Kanba was running in a different direction from the other two siblings. I found he situation to be quite similar to what’s currently happening [with Kanba going off into the darkness on his own, leaving the two siblings]. Then, when the characters were replaced with their penguin counterparts Masako’s penguin seemed to have dropped from the sky, pushing no. 1 a bit to the side- this kinda reminded me of the epic Masako-Kanba scene that we’ve just witnessed on this episode.
The last scene on the OP, which was similar to the last scene of the first OP, worries me a bit. Himari’s figure was replaced with her stuffed toy having an apple by its side. I found it quite ominous the first time I saw it, and now I find it a bit eerie, knowing about the toy’s history [Kanba and Shouma destroyed it while they were working on decorating Himari’s room, then promptly sewed it back together]. It might just symbolize Himari’s death and apparent resurrection, but I can’t shake off the bad feeling i’m getting. :<
ajthefourth: Thank you!
It’s interesting how more and more things are coming to light from the OPs. Like Kuro states above, there is a wealth of visual information in the OPs, much like there is a wealth of visual information everywhere. I had taken Esmerelda dropping in beside No. 1 as a sign that the two were the only who were blood-related; however, I like your expansion on this by saying it’s reminiscent of the way Masako rushes in to her older brother’s rescue. Good observation.
I’m wondering about the toy as well, and in addition to this, the meaning of the large bears (dubbed “Teddydrums” by the Penguindrum fandom). We hear Kanba mention “Teddies” in his conversation although I don’t trust anything that Kanba says or does right now since he has seemingly lost his grip on reality.
Thanks for the comment! Please don’t ever hesitate to offer an opinion or comment on something. We want the feedback and discussion! ^ ^
vucubcaquix: The comments here are meant to be an extension of the discussion for whatever is brought up in the post, or what isn’t brought up. Never hesitate to bring something up if you found it interesting, because you never know if someone else reading the comments will learn something from what you post. We don’t touch on everything in a given episode, only what stood out to each of us the most, or else our posts would easily be twice the length that they are currently. And they’re already pretty unwieldy to begin with.
Your ideas on what the meaning of the stuffed teddy bear is, is pretty unsettling. I’m fascinated with Kanba moreso than my partner precisely because there’s this element of destructiveness in his personality even when he is trying to be constructive. The poor guy just can’t seem to catch a break despite all of his best efforts and intentions, and I seem to be attracted to that tragedy about him.
;_; Oh god I don’t want the series to end, nope nopenpoenkfe
Sigh, we know. We’re going to miss this show SO MUCH (especially vucub, he just won’t shut up about it sometimes!).
But it’s also been a lot of effort to blog and keep up with, so I think we’ll also appreciate the break once the dust has settled.
nice episodic commentaries, when Tatami Galaxy was airing the blogger called Mike was doing in-depth analysis episode by episode, I find them very useful in catching stuffs that I might have missed.
Like the shadow girls, there’s something so theatrical about Ikuhara, especially how this episode’s plot played out. It’s so absurd, some might criticise it as forced/contrived (maybe valid), but it almost feels like an overblown play that is animated on screen.
I wonder what some of the additional imagery could signify in this episode. We have the underground tunnel as ‘forest’, probably different from the underground forest of Red Riding Hood in Jin-Roh.
People may say the beauty of Penguindrum is that it’s so abstract there can be many different interpretations. I think titles like Angel’s Egg is certainly open to multitudes of interpretation, but shows like Penguindrum/Bakemonogatari/Tatami Galaxy all have very strong, specific messages. At the moment, I prefer Bakemonogatari more than Penguindrum as a well-crafted commercial product, but we still have two more episodes so we’ll see…
ajthefourth: Ooh, I loved Tatami Galaxy and it would have been really interesting to read those posts side by side with watching it. Do you by any chance have a link?
I love that theatrical feeling, and I also love how Ikuhara manages to expand his in-world scenery (as compared to the more restrictive nature of Utena’s world) while still making it almost seem like a stage (with the trains, the main characters’ respective houses, Sanetoshi’s hospital, and downtown Ikebukuro being the main sets used). As for forced and contrived, absolutely; however, I don’t see that as a negative considering how well the series has been executed up until this point. ^ ^
You know, I’m inclined to think that Penguindrum has far more in its imagery than both Bakemonogatari and Tatami Galaxy (both series are near and dear to my heart); however, as for enjoyment or preference, I’ll definitely have to wait until Penguindrum concludes to decide. Bakemonogatari especially is a favorite of mine, being one of the first series I watched weekly with fansubs, but I don’t remember there being as much symbolism or storytelling in the backgrounds, color choices, etc. Bakemonogatari was beautiful and told its story wonderfully through characterization and storytelling. The art was gorgeous, but not telling the story. In contrast, I feel that Penguindrum’s characterization/dialogue may not be as strong but its art is much stronger, especially from a storytelling aspect.
Thanks for the comment!
vucubcaquix: Thanks for commenting! Means a lot to me as your blog was one of the first that I followed when I first got heavily into fansubbed anime several years ago.
I feel that theatricality and the idea of “contrived” storytelling go hand in hand. By it’s very definition, all storytelling is contrived since:
…an author is deliberately creating situations and scenarios for the characters that populate the world they fashioned. I think the criticism that people mean when they call something contrived is the fact that their suspension of disbelief is being challenged.
Theater, by it’s very nature, has a higher suspension of disbelief necessary than other modern forms of storytelling I feel. It’s not as easily immersive as the electronic forms of storytelling (movies, tv, videogames), nor does it have the luxury of the freedom that novels and literature do in constructing a world and scenario with having a much larger wordcount. The situations and scenarios in theater have certain constraints on them that don’t need to be considered in the other media: the acting has to be of a certain style since it has to be projected in a way that the entire audience can hear and parse what happens; the sets are much less dynamic than in cinema or some television since changing locations requires stagehands and utilization of a curtain; and we have the issue of runtime that isn’t a factor when we consider literature. All of this combines to create a unique situation in storytelling that has led to the advent of a specific style and language and culture of tropes that is recognizable when ported over to other media, such as with anime. It’s a style that I’ve grown to respect and admire the more I acquaint myself with it.
I feel that you’re right about about Penguindrum having strong, specific messages. Truth told, I was wondering if my initial impressions and interpretations were a little out there when I wrote out my section in our first post oh so long ago, but when I began to see a few others gleaning the same themes and messages that I did (for instance catchercatch, moesucks, and more recently kylaran), then I knew that what we had in this show was something special, and that we were lucky that something like this was airing.
Bakemonogatari is another favorite of mine. The name of our blog? Kimi no shiranai monogatari…
To be honest I was a bit disappointed with how this episode turns out. Given how Himari’s determination was given immense emphasis at the end of the last episode, the role she takes in ep. 22 appears all the more sloppy. It is true she’s tried to stop Kanba, but just hugs him, follows him and then drops dead (+humming a little prayer)? The storyline seems to be a bit out of control, with the survival strategy in vain and characters like Momoka popping out and then disappearing without letting us know what exactly is that destiny-changing stuff. Well I’m still hoping that the ‘heart’ Himari borrows from Kanba will come under the spotlight soon, or else the characterization of Himari might simply collapse.
ajthefourth: I am inclined to agree with your “sloppy” accusation, if only because it ties in to what I said to Gaguri above. Penguindrum’s actual unfolding of the plot is a bit clunky at times, and sometimes, as with this episode, it seems a bit rushed or too condensed. Fortunately, there’s still a feast of visual storytelling happening, especially in that scene between Masako and Kanba. The lighting and the addition of Masako’s first OP pose were both fantastic, and I’m sure that there was much more going on there that I can’t remember off the top of my head. Does this make up for the lack of coherence in the plot itself? Perhaps. I’m going to reserve judgment until the final episode.
I’m hoping we see the Princess at least once more. I have a feeling that she holds the link that will connect everything.
vucubcaquix: I’m trying to wrap my head around what’s been presented to us in the series in its entirety with regards to what was important and what were red herrings. The diary as an object, for instance, I’m pretty sure still has a lot of weight and import to the narrative left even with only two episodes left for exposition. However, other things that seemed pretty important to me have all but disappeared and seemed to be only tangentially important to the plot and characterizations, like Mario. His presence serves to illuminate Masako’s character a bit, but what relation did he have to Sanetoshi? Wasn’t Mario’s hat one of the two sent out by Sanetoshi to find the penguindrum? I wonder if we’ll learn more about that at this rate.
Other issues like that concern me about the show, since there are a lot of little loose plot threads that were never successfully woven into the overarching story I feel, but what happened with Himari in this episode doesn’t concern me all that much. There was much emphasis on the fact that the two girls weren’t very successful in turning Kanba, but that’s necessary in order for the audience to fully see the depths to which Kanba has fallen. There was emphasis on Himari’s fading from this reality, but it doesn’t indicate to me in any way that her role in this story is over in any sense.
She is the focal point, the fixation, that is enabling Kanba’s current fall, so we’ll see a proper resolution to their relationship before the story is over.
Someone mentions not trusting Kanba’s point of view. This is something I have been feeling since Tabuki’s main Flashback. And it dovetails into Yuri’s Flashback. They don’t have the feel of being entirely honest with themselves, so they aren’t going to be honest with us, the viewer.
ajthefourth: The idea of not trusting Kanba’s point of view began in a lovely comment from himitsuhanazono (who we also responded to above) from last week’s episode. Following the revelation that Kanba has been imagining the Takakura parents, they pointed out that it could be that Kanba has been living in a world of imagination for quite some time now.
I think there’s an important difference actually. Yuri’s flashback and Tabuki’s flashback, as well as Himari’s and Shouma’s are all decidedly in the past. They are tinted with emotions, regret, guilt, etc. and all meant (in my mind) to be more metaphorical and/or allegorical than anything else (i.e. the Child Broiler). The main difference with Kanba is that his fits of imagination or fancy are in the present. He is imagining his parents in the present, he is leading the Kiga Group in the present. I don’t trust that Yuri and Tabuki’s flashbacks “actually happened” but isn’t as significant to me because the important things are the emotions conveyed. This is opposed to Kanba’s delusions because they are of current events relevant to the story’s plot.
I’m sorry if this is a bit all over the place, and bear in mind that I could be completely off-base here, but I think that there’s a difference between the two, and that difference could potentially be important to the story.
vucubcaquix: I agree with you about Kanba. The visual cues that have been relayed to us indicate that he’s someone whose viewpoint isn’t to be trusted. He’s so far gone in the delusion that it’s hard to differentiate between what is occurring and what may be a product of his imagination. At least, that would explain some of the actions he’s been taking on behalf of Himari.
As for Yuri, I’m with Emily on this in that I don’t distrust her. At least not like I do with Kanba. She feels like she’s experienced real growth as a person for having witnessed the lengths that the Takakuras would go to for each other, and seeing Tabuki’s actions reflected in her own and seeing them for the pettiness that they are. The realization that the revenge that they sought for years would be an empty kind of comfort, the retribution for love that was taken from them, would pale in comparison to the comfort the could feel by learning to give love instead.
I trust Yuri, because the realizations that she and Tabuki come to in this episode seem to fall in line with the general direction of the morality that Penguindrum seems to be espousing.
@ vucubcaquix: In your last comments you correctly point out that Kanba continues a reoccurring cycle of tragedy that began with the subway system attacks. I’ve been thinking abouth this for some time.
What Kanba does reminds me of Freud’s theory of Thanatos, the death drive ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_drive although I have to admit that I’m a complete layperson in this area).
(1) I find it hard to believe that Kanba turns to Kiga Group out of necessity. Kanba is clever and could (just watch ep. 2) and could easily make money in more lucrative illegal ways. It seems that he chooses the most destructive way.
(2) It is also completely unclear to me what purpose Kiga Group might serve. They do not seems to have a guru like Aum had. Neither do they we know of any political or religious objectives, right? Since Kanba now seems to be their leader and allegedly is only in for the money, it has become an end in itself.
(3) Finally, what sane person would believe that a shady creep like Sanetoshi is a doctor whose medicine will save Himari?
Kanba is driven by whatever inner force to choose a self-destructive way that does no good at all and only harms himself and other people.
Coming back to your comments: In your post on ep. 21 you presume that Kanba might want to sacrifice himself and to bear the Goddess’ punishment. I understood that the Goddess punished the Takakura’s for the subway system bombings. Kanba’s senseless actions just perpetuate that punishment in the cycle of tragedy you point out in this post instead of absolving from it. One might think of intergenerational trauma. I also feel that an interpretation of Penguindrum on the basis of Buddhism might be rewarding (like Yi’s most insightful analysis of Madoka at Listless Ink – http://bit.ly/igE0dv ), but I do not know enough about that myself.
On a completely different note, if you are interested in the unexplored parts of the Tokyo Underground I can recomment the great Japanese horror movie “Marebito” ( see e.g. http://bit.ly/v9Nbj9 ) which had quite a long-lasting unsettling effect on me.
Haha don’t worry, I’m as big a layperson as you are with all this stuff. I just read a few wiki articles and try to translate what I find into a post just like you’re doing too!
And speaking of, that sounds like a really plausible theory to me. Especially since you bring up that Kanba is a pretty crafty dude. It’d be hard, but he could possibly find a job and earn the money the old fashioned way. The thing is, we don’t know how long he’s been with the Kiga Group. for all we know, he could’ve learned a lot of those skills while he was a lower ranked member for them.
As for the purpose of the group? I wonder about that. I’d want to say that it’s just an extension of Sanetoshi’s will and desires, but I don’t really know how corporeal he actually is. Is he a person? An idea? Or is he actually a ghost? How is someone like him even defeated? The man is implacable. I got nervous when I saw Kanba trying to choke him, and all Sanetoshi did was just smile…
Also, it’s crazy that you mention Buddhism, since in my reply to -redux above, I said that I mentioned to Neriya about how the idea of the penguindrum as something akin to sacrifice reminded me a lot about some Buddhist tenets. And thanks for linking Yi’s post! I read that article she wrote and commented on how it was the best Madoka post I had read by far. Yi is such a doll and we are big fans of hers around these parts.
And boy, that’s a freaky looking movie…
You see, this what I meant in my recent comment at your Usagi Drop colloquium ( http://bit.ly/t9ZRTT ):
When commenting on a post re a show like Penguindrum which generate lots of discussion I tend to either overlook that my idea has already been discussed or I miss to give proper credit to bloggers who inspired me for my post. In this respect I’d like to point out that the death drive topic has been extensively discussed in an inspiring post by SnippetTee with respect to Madoka: http://bit.ly/jbeWfm !
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