Monthly Archives: October 2011

Mirai Nikki Episode 4

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Horrified by what he has just seen at Yuno’s, Yuki holes up in the sanctuary of his room, debating whether to inform the police. He starts dialing Inspector Kurusu but is interrupted by an incoming text from Yuno, who anticipates the move. Yuki grimly realizes he has no way of escaping her. Kurusu arrives the following morning, awakening Yuki from a failed all-night vigil. He tries to tell the inspector what he saw the night before but Yuno’s unexpected presence forces him to abandon the idea.

In the car, Kurusu informs him Ninth Future Journal owner Uryuu Minene has been apprehended and is being held at the shrine of the Sacred Eye, a religious cult. As Kurusu negotiates permission to enter the grounds, Yuki tries to mask his nervousness in front of Yuno. Knowing he cannot act without her knowledge, he tries to determine whether she would resort to killing him to conceal her dark secret. The outsiders, Yuki in particular, attract the interest of a cloaked, shadowy figure watching them via unknown means from within the compound. They are soon escorted to meet the Sacred Eye and shrine oracle in person. As they enter, the figure recognizes Yuki as the First Future Journal owner and reacts to Yuno with supreme disgust.

Inside, they meet the cloaked figure who had been observing the group in secret since their arrival: Kasugano Tsubaki (Sendai Eri) introduces herself as the leader of the Sacred Eye cult and Sixth Future Journal owner. With the Clairvoyance Journal, she is able to foresee distant events, making use of her followers’ eyes as her own.

Tsubaki tries to reassure Kurusu’s misgivings by renouncing any desire to become a god herself. She alerts them to Minene’s presence downstairs and reveals her journal has reached a Dead End. She offers Minene to Kurusu to do with as he sees fit but only in exchange for Yuki, because he has managed to survive two Dead End flags. Yuno immediately rejects the offer and Kurusu carefully weighs the options; in the end, it is decided Yuki will remain at the compound overnight. Tsubaki warns Yuki against Yuno, whom she prophesies will bring about Yuki’s doom should he not heed her warning. A jealous Yuno watches from afar. Between her journal and reading Yuki’s troubled glances, she learns his conversation with Tsubaki is causing him to lose trust in her. She quickly decides she has no choice but to kill Tsubaki.

 

 

 

 

 

 

An unseen saboteur sparks a sudden fire in Tsubaki’s chambers, changing the entries for all the Future Journal holders present. Though cult members rush to put out the blaze, the flames only grow stronger. Strangely, as though possessed, the cult followers begin killing each other off as the fire steadily continues to spread.

When Yuki tries to save Tsubaki from the fire, Yuno pleads with him not to go. Fearing Yuno may very well turn on him should he listen to her, Yuki denounces her as crazy and hurries to do what he can to save Tsubaki. Though he forces his way inside with an axe, the fire is quenched when the sprinkler system is activated. Tsubaki, drenched but otherwise unharmed, shouts at the addled cult members who then begin coming back to their senses.

Unable to accept what Yuki has just said, Yuno concludes he is being brainwashed and concludes she must dispose of Tsubaki her herself. Yuki questions Tsubaki, who voices her suspicions the cult members were being controlled by means of hypnosis and realizes her Clairvoyance Journal’s weakness has been discovered. Twelfth Future Journal holder Hirasaka Yomotsu turns out to be the one who brought Minene to Sacred Eye, holding her in ward underground. In a bid to gain an advantage in the Survival Game, he has been manipulating the actions of cult members, as Tsubaki suspects, by means of hypnosis.

Yuki tries calling Kurusu, who was strangely absent during the fire and carnage, to no avail. As Tsubaki believes the one responsible is still on the property, she puts her Clairvoyance Journal to use. They quickly find evidence of enemies on the premises in one entry, but soon the journal is overrun with reports of intruders within the compound. Below, Yomotsu prepares to renew his attack, donning his full costume as, above, Yuno demands Tsubaki let Yuki go.

Yomotsu declares himself a force of righteousness, whose “righteous” extermination plan cannot be foiled by “evil.” Minene scoffs, remarking Yuno’s abnormality will help her foil it. In what appears to clearly be a fit of insanity, Yuno begins hacking the scores of cult members’ corpses littering the room: the “corpses” are not actually dead. As the bodies of the cultists “come back to life,” Yuno urges Yuki to choose: to join her and live or choose to stay with Tsubaki and die with her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

—-

What happened to Inspector Kurusu? Midway through the episode, he just seemed to disappear in all the commotion.

Considering what type of series this is, I shouldn’t be surprised to find Mirai Nikki is filled with a mob of truly, truly, messed-up characters. While doing routine research on the anime when it first started airing, I unintentionally spoiled myself regarding some plot elements and certain character background details – Tsubaki, Sixth Future Journal holder, included. As one might suspect, she is not exactly what she seems. While not every character suffers from some kind of severe antisocial personality disorder, this is not a happy world and these are definitely not the kind of people one hopes to find oneself at the mercy of.

I’m not ruined for the series by any means but I can’t help but anticipate certain developments on Yuki’s end and how the anime will bear out the consequences of certain revelations between Yuki and Yuno when the time comes. In the meantime, There Will Be Blood. Lots of blood.

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Persona 4 The Animation Episode 4

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Returning to the world of Shadows, Chie leads the way with Yu and Yosuke providing support as they continue their search for Yukiko.

Reaching a grand staircase, they catch up to Yukiko’s doppelganger in the same princess costume seen in the earlier Midnight Channel broadcast. Chie demands to see the real Yukiko. The double retreats deeper into the inner corridors, but they must dispose of a group of Shadows before they can continue their pursuit.

Elsewhere, Yukiko recalls an incident when two guys starting hitting on her at school, pressuring her to go out with them just as Chie arrives to drive them off. Relieved, Yukiko thanks her for always being there for her. Awakening, Yukiko looks up to hear the voice of her doppelganger recounting how much Yukiko values Chie as a friend.

A birdcage rolls down the nearby steps towards her, reminding her of the orphan chick she found one day by the side of the road and raised to adulthood. Day by day, the bird quickly became a source of some measure of comfort for her in a busy life occupied by long hours helping support her family’s ryokan and her school-life, when at times she didn’t have time even for Chie.

One day, Yukiko returns to her room to find the cage empty and the bird nowhere to be found. Her sympathetic companion in a life of stifling confinement and unchanging routine had vanished.

One day after having to turn Chie down yet again, the latter encourages Yukiko not to be discouraged in her position as heir of her family’s business and offers to help her any way she can; although Yukiko is glad to have Chie’s constant support, she is inwardly disappointed at the remark. Yukiko’s Shadow taunts her, indicating that moment as the time she realized Chie would not help free her from her plight.

Yukiko’s Shadow then reveals herself to her face-to-face as Chie and company arrive. Voicing her disappointment in Chie as her prince, the Shadow attacks Chie. Yu covers for her with a new Persona Margaret alerts him he now has access to before the Shadow incapacitates the group and their Personae. Yukiko denies her Shadow, allowing it to increase in power and transform into its true form, an immense harpy-like entity raining fire and bedlam until Yu summons Pyro Jack to absorb the brunt of the attack and contain as much of the fire as possible.

Yu initiates contact with the Shadow, galvanizing Chie as she makes her way through the inferno to reach Yukiko, confessing her jealousies and shortcomings as a friend while encouraging her to find the courage to trust herself and live the way she wants. Encouraged, Yukiko breaks free of the cage and embraces Chie. Yu, Yosuke, and Chie work together to bring down the Shadow, allowing Yukiko to make peace with her inner Shadow and gain her own Persona.

—–

And with this, Yukiko has officially joined the cool kids club, allowing the foursome to forge yet stronger bonds and upgrade their strengths and abilities even further. As I mentioned previously in my review of the first episode, I don’t know anything about the game so the lack of a clear-and-present antagonist seems somewhat strange to me.

The caged bird leitmotif prevalent throughout the episode and the color red (as referenced in the previous episode) gives us fairly good insight into Yukiko’s personality and her overall disposition. What comes off as passivity and shyness may in fact merely be part of her way of coping with her less-than-ideal life bound by tradition and filial duty for taking responsibility for the family business; the frustrations which may have developed in response to the menial daily routine ultimately gave rise to her Shadow self.

Yearning, boundless desire and a restless spirit bound up in a world dictated by the cold confines of a steel-wrought cage: Amagi Yukiko, break free and live.

Next week, Kujikawa Rise (Kugimiya Rie) makes her debut.

Guilty Crown Episode 3

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Presenting the Usual Suspects

In the wake of the incident at Roppongi, Gai and the Undertakers formally declare their existence to the world and their open challenge to GHQ’s authority over Japan, prompting GHQ to issue a public call for anyone with information related to the Undertakers to report it immediately. At Shu’s school, Inori makes a big splash in her first day on the scene as the instantly-popular bishoujo tenkousei. After all, she is the frontwoman of (apparently universally) popular band Egoist. Puzzled, Shu wonders to himself why Inori has transferred to his school after he turned down Gai’s invitation to join Undertaker, but stops short of asking her directly.

After school, Shu arrives home resolved to refrain from any further involvement with Inori, only to find she has personal access to his apartment and has already deposited her belongings there. She has taken up residence at his place for his own protection. Shu’s mother Ouma Haruka turns out to be a senior Sephirah Genomics researcher working closely with Keido Shuichiro (Inoue Kazuhiko), most likely Director or Lead Researcher of Genomics research, in the GHQ investigation to find the lost Void Genome and deal with the aftermath of the skirmish with Undertaker in Roppongi. Keido informs his superiors he has tasked Undertaker-related affairs to Major Makoto Waltz Segai (Canna Nobutoshi), a resourceful, intelligent officer specializing in hunting targets and was able to successfully figure out the Norma Gene genetic drug distribution network.

Yahiro, worried about Shu’s strange behavior at school earlier, shows up on Shu’s doorstep and asks him whether anything happened the day before. Soon, Inori steps out and at her request has Shu come along with her downtown. Eventually, they meet Gai, who recruits Shu to help find the identity of “Sugar,” A Norma Gene dealer who had witnessed the Undertaker operation and who has been determined to be a student at Shu’s school. His single clue is the knowledge of what Sugar’s Void is, which he has already divulged to Inori, leading Shu to conclude Gai has the ability to discern a person’s Void on sight. Gai warns Shu that Sugar is a threat not only to Undertaker but to his peaceful life as a student as well. Shu reluctantly agrees.

With Inori’s help, he embarks on a school-wide search, with no other feasible method available to him than to physically draw each student’s Void one-by-one. In a botched first attempt, Shu unintentionally gropes class representative Kusama Kanon (Kotobuki Minako), an incident which seals his reputation as a pervert school-wide, much to his chagrin. Fleeing to safety, Inori explains why he failed and helps him overcome his fear of eye-contact.

After spending all day trying to find the correct Void, Shu finally learns the Void they are looking for take the form of shears. Just as Kusama catches up with them, Yahiro helps Shu avoid her wrath by taking cover in the gym. Yahiro gives himself away and Shu calls him out, revealing his identity as Sugar. With no more reason to hide his true personality, Yahiro attacks Shu who draws Yahiro’s Void in desperation. With Yahiro effectively subdued, Inori prepares to eliminate the threat but Shu will not allow it. Trusting Shu’s judgment, Inori relents. When he awakens, Yahiro makes a truce with Shu, with both promising not to reveal the secrets of the other.

On the railway, Inori asks Shu whether she can stay with him forever. The line comes to a screeching halt. The doors open and Shu is shoved through onto the platform, which is crowded with waiting GHQ troopers. Shu turns just in time to see Yahiro apologize before the doors close; he watches as the train pulls away and shouts after Yahiro, not yet comprehending his predicament. Just then, Major Segai walks up and places Shu under arrest.

—-

They only mention Inori is a member of Egoist every five minutes, so in case you’ve forgotten in between the time you first started reading this post and now, I’ll tell you again. Inori. Is THE Inori. From Egoist.

We all knew Yahiro was going to betray him in the end but then Shu’s logic for sparing him was just horribly, woefully-wrong to begin with. Even if Shu had been feeling lazy enough to not want to think for himself, Gai had already given him plenty of reasons but Shu decided he didn’t want Yahiro’s efforts of constructing a completely false but painstakingly crafted and carefully maintained facade to go to waste? Not trying to nitpick here but that kinda seems like a non sequitur to me. Despite the plot holes, Guilty Crown still has so much else going for it. Like the villains. Segai looks like a real bastard. I wonder what sort of havoc he’ll wreak on Undertaker in the weeks to come.

Mawaru Penguin Drum Episode 16

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The tone is definitely much lighter with this week’s installment, although with a few more serious developments towards the end. Episode 16 focuses primarily on Masako and the origins of her struggle to save her younger brother Mario.

Young Masako reads a letter from her father, who under trying circumstances was compelled to leave the Natsume estate but awaits the day when he can come back so they can be a whole family again. In closing, he entrusts her with Mario’s care until his return. In the present, Masako triumphantly pieces together the halves of the diary, until Yuri’s gloating message alerts her to the fact her prize is not the genuine article. As she formulates a new strategy, she employs her faithful maidservant Renjaku (Nakahara Mai) with the task of monitoring Kanba and Himari’s activities. Heir to a wealthy zaibatsu, Masako, upon the passing of her grandfather Natsume Sahei, has succeeded him as head of the Natsume financial conglomerate and directs daily operations with an iron fist.

At the hospital, Kanba arrives to deliver Shouma’s homemade bento but finds Himari is not in her room. He finds her on a courtyard bench outside with Sanetoshi, whose opinion she is soliciting in regards to a scarf she is knitting for her brother. He leaves as Kanba approaches and after he is out of earshot, Kanba warns Himari against casual conversation with the doctor, whom Kanba regards as shady and untrustworthy. Himari, indignant at Kanba’s low opinion of someone who took pains to deliver her scarves to Double-H, storms off.

Renjaku, already on the scene, reports her findings to Masako before focusing her reconnaissance efforts on Himari. As she peers at her through the window, Himari, as the Penguqueen, mouths “Seizon Senyryaku” to the unsuspecting Renjaku. Thus Pengudrum’s now-iconic Seizon Senryaku sequence makes a welcome comeback! After a brief exchange (in haiku) the Penguqueen produces a camera of her own and subjects the maidservant (who actually turns out to be a complete bijin) to humiliating, exploitative gravure shots in retribution for her voyeurism.

Impromptu gravure shoot courtesy of the Penguqueen (Takakura Himari); Location: ???

You get the idea.

In a series of repeated flashbacks, Masako plots killing her grandfather and succeeds, only to awaken to the reality that it was merely a dream. Most of these sequences are accompanied by comically-overdone English dubs, courtesy of her grandfather’s obnoxious American (in anime, any overly-obnoxious male foreigner, especially if they’re blond, has to be American¹ – see footnote) business associate. In the present, Ringo tells Shouma she will not give up on trying to reach him because she is his stalker… (wait a minute, since when is Ringo Shouma’s stalker…?)

Masako reflects back to a time when her grandfather burned the stuffed animals and other reminders of the young Natsume siblings’ father, tossing the gifts away like so much rubbish into the fireplace. Masako confides in Kanba she must get rid of her grandfather at all costs, even if it means she will be forever cursed. Ironically, her grandfather dies by his own hand, eating mishandled blowfish he prepared himself. Strangely, or perhaps appropriately enough, the same American business flunkie in Masako’s dreams is present when the Natsume patriarch collapses.

Although Masako finally gets her wish, her father does not return, prompting her to believe her grandfather has cursed them from being a happy family even from beyond the grave. Renjaku enters the study to inform Masako her brother Mario is not in his room. She spots him below, curiously, practicing with a shinai, as was their grandfather’s custom. It turns out her grandfather Sahei has somehow taken possession of Mario’s body and challenges Masako to a deadly duel for the headship of the Natsume clan: she must choose between two identical plates of blowfish sashimi (fugu – 河豚), with one containing the deadly poison. Seeing Masako’s hesitation, her grandfather forces Mario to make the first move. With Mario’s life at stake, Masako shoves him out of the way and downs both plates. Sanetoshi calls her just as she succumbs.

Losing consciousness, Masako enters a dream-like state where she witnesses first her father and then Kanba taken in by the mysterious men in black. Though she warns Kanba they will only use and dispose of him as they did her father, he does not heed her warning. Sanetoshi cryptically tells her they have been chosen to “put the world back on track” and that in order for Mario to be saved, she too must participate.

Masako awakens to find Mario and Renjaku keeping watch over her, and Sanetoshi standing outside below her window. Masako swears she will not be Sanetoshi’s pawn.

—-

Masako seems unnervingly calm for someone dying of severe neurological shock and major organ failure arising from the deadly toxins for which blowfish is notorious. I guess in the end panicking avails nothing when you’re about to cash in for good so it’s best to go out with some composure.

Sanetoshi has managed to manipulate both Kanba and Masako into a position of furthering his ends by way of the same weakness: their desire to save their younger siblings. Both of them are willing to enter the grey zone of morality to achieve that end. What can we deduce about what he is trying to achieve (perhaps with reference to Episodes 9 and 13)? He is probably still setting up the board and maneuvering all his pieces into place so there is still some time before the climax. Of course, that’s about when Ikuhara likes to come out of left field with a curveball (or four) that shakes up everything.

The ED for Episode 16 is “Ikarechimattaze!!” (イカレちまったぜ!!) by Triple-H. Need complete Pengudrum OST. NOW.

¹ – This is consistent with the still dominant portrayal of Americans in anime as dumb, ignorant, incompetent or just plain annoying if not meddlesome or altogether villainous. There has been much theory and debate over the years related to this phenomenon. You can see one example here, although the content is rather dated (circa 1999(!), it will not be hard to find further, more current discussion numerous places.

Persona 4 The Animation Episode 3

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We begin in flashback with elementary-school age Chie and Yukiko, who have apparently been close since childhood. Chie consoles Yukiko on a rainy day during their first encounter, quickly becoming friends.

Chie barges into the classroom one morning, hysterical at not being able to contact Yukiko. Grimly, Chie cannot rule out the possibilty that Yukiko may have been the one who appeared on the Midnight Channel the previous evening. Worse, Yukiko hasn’t been responding to her calls or texts. Yu suggests she may have been busy helping out at her family’s inn, which Chie takes as some measure of consolation until Yukiko calls Chie herself, finally allowing her to calm down completely. Yu and Yosuke are left to wonder who it was that actually appeared on the Midnight Channel.

Yu, Yosuke and Chie head back to Junes so that they can consult with Kuma, who tells them he hasn’t seen any new people come over from the other side since their last visit. Yu suggests they all watch the Midnight Channel again to confirm. After dark, Yu waits and when the screen crackles to life, Yukiko appears onscreen in a princess costume, declaring her hunt for a prince on a white horse to be on. She races through the castle gates into the background, heading deeper in the Shadow world. Afterwards, Chie races to Yukiko’s house, only to find Yukiko missing.

The next morning, Yu meets Yosuke at Junes. Yosuke is excited to show Yu the katana he found in his backyard and begins openly flaunting the fake but realistic blades, alerting a nearby cop who mistakes Yu and Yosuke for thugs and subsequently arrests both of them for brandishing swords in violation of Japan’s strict anti-weapons laws. Chie catches up with them just in time to see them being deposited in the back of a police cruiser for transport to the station. After the misunderstanding is resolved, Yu and Yosuke are released and find Chie waiting for them in the lobby, finally able to tell them about Yukiko’s disappearance. The news prompts the junior detective to begin questioning Chie, as Yukiko’s family had already asked the police to search for her; but when he mentions Yukiko in connection with the case of the deceased Yamano, Chie is infuriated and Yu and Yosuke both rush to restrain her before Yu’s uncle arrives to break up the ruckus. As they leave the station, Chie resolves to re-enter the Shadow world to save Yukiko.

With the guidance of Kuma, they arrive at the same castle “gates” Yukiko had passed through on the Midnight Channel broadcast. He confirms Yukiko is inside, and Chie races ahead, passing through a cavernous, palatial hall -oblivious to the presence of the Shadows, as she lacks special glasses to equip. Yu, Yosuke and Kumakichi follow her, summoning their respective Personae to clear a path through the treacherous Shadows.

Chie arrives at a room at the end of the hall resembling Yukiko’s room as she knows it in the outside world, and begins to hear the Shadows give voice to Yukiko’s doubts and inferiority complex towards Chie. In response, Chie’s doppelganger appears, revealing all the hidden jealousies and resentment towards Yukiko Chie had bottled up inside. Yu and Yosuke arrive, to Chie’s embarrassment as she denies her inner Shadow. Transforming, Chie’s doppelganger holds off Yu and Yosuke’s Personae as Chie wrestles with her inner jealousies until Yu and Yosuke remind her that she is indeed Yukiko’s true friend, and that what’s important is that she genuinely loves and cares for her.

Believing in her bond with Yukiko and accepting the less noble parts of herself, Chie challenges her Shadow. Margaret informs Yu that his bonds have granted him access to another Persona. With his new Persona (Jack-O-Lantern + Tonberry?), Yu is able to free Yosuke to team up with against the Shadow, successfully coordinating their attacks to bring it down. Chie finlly accepts it as a part of her, earning Chie her Persona.

Chie may have some repressed dominatrix tendencies, frustrated by Yukiko getting all the attention from the guys: her inner Shadow is decked out in leather, armed with numerous, animate whip-like appendages, after all. I wonder what the physical characteristics of Yukiko’s Persona will reveal about her personality.

Mirai Nikki Episode 3

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Plea of temporary insanity: Yuno is almost desirable in the first half of this episode. And I forgot to mention how scary she is in the OP in last week’s entry.

Kyun--!

Minene narrates a short prologue at the beginning of the episode, recalling how she believed in the existence of God as a child -until war robbed her of her parents. The vividness of the memory jolts Minene awake as she lies in hiding in a remote, derelict building somewhere in the city. Meanwhile, Inspector Kurusu, Fourth Future Journal holder, appeals to Yuki and Yuno for their cooperation in initiating the plan to put an end to the Survival Game. Together, they review the known identities of those in possession of Future Journals collectively encountered thus far; subsequently, Kurusu insists discovering the identities of the other Future Journal holders is of crucial importance to success. Moreover, Kurusu places the capture of Ninth Future Journal holder Minene as a mission priority.

Kurusu informs the pair that school will have to be put on hold for a time and requests they act as bait to draw Minene into the open while under surveillance of his own unit within the department. Thus Yuki and Yuno spend a day in leisurely recreation at a local amusement park. For her part, Yuno is intent on enjoying herself and the time she gets to spend together with Yuki; Yuki, however, is vaguely unsettled by Yuno, as he still doesn’t know the reason why she follows him and can’t shake the feeling that she is hiding still something more from him. As the day wears on he grows more determined to get answers for his questions.

With nightfall, Minene decides to make her move. On the street, she uses her Escape Journal to map an escape route but her entries change due to the influence of another Future Journal user nearby. Attracting the attention of two cops who otherwise would not have noticed her, Minene is forced to flee.

At the amusement park, Yuno continues to drag Yuki around, this time to the haunted house. Seeing her genuinely scared, Yuki wonders if Yuno is a regular girl underneath it all. After some obligatory fanservice in the pool, Yuno suggests visiting the planetarium next, but Yuki immediately rejects the idea an they opt for the Ferris Wheel instead. High above the ground, Yuki decides he must put the nagging misgivings that have been troubling him to rest. When he asks Yuno why she insists on hanging around him, she in turn asks Yuki why he avoided the planetarium earlier, revealing he had told her about his dream to see the stars with his family and that she had promised to become his bride. Though he questions her directly whether she is keeping anything from him, she only gently replies that that is her “secret.”

They are caught in a sudden downpour as they walk home and at Yuno’s invitation, Yuki agrees to stop in for a bit. On the run, Minene is approached by the mysterious Future Diary user who is careful to keep himself in the shadows. He volunteers to help her though Minene remains wary of his motives. Inside Yuno’s house, the rooms are dark and strangely quiet. Yuno explains the lights are out due to power failure, an explanation Yuki accepts without a second thought. While waiting for her to return from peeling an apple in the kitchen, Yuki decides to find the bathroom.

The unknown Future Journal user, now equipped with a bag over his head to hide his identity, brings Minene to a secluded cabin in a wooded area outside the police search radius. When questioned by Minene, he refers to himself as an agent of his own brand of justice. He is soon revealed to be a strange, hooded figure in black, the Twelfth Future Journal owner Hirasaka Yomotsu, who proceeds to torture Minene for information on the First Journal user’s identity.

Yuki makes his way down the corridor using his cellphone for flashlight, pausing outside a suspicious room. His curiosity gets the better of him as he slides back the door, causing the causality continuum within the boundaries set by Deus to break down and dramatically altering the futures of all Future Journal owners. Terrified at the grim sight, Yuki runs home in a mad panic, locking the door behind him. To his horror, Yuno has followed him to his house and bids him good night through the mailslot.

Lots of arm-glomping and cleavage on Yuno’s part in the earlier part of this episode, with the girl coming off as almost normal. For a couple seconds I thought I was watching the wrong show, but if there’s one thing Mirai Nikki is NOT, it’s a light-hearted, rose-colored VN turned anime.

I was wondering: even if Yuki hadn’t looked inside the taped-over room, wouldn’t he have detected the sarcophagal smell, as the two bodies in the bedroom were in fairly advanced stages of necrosis? or perhaps Yuno used something to forensically conceal the odor of decayed flesh, even though she didn’t bother with disposing of the corpses in any meaningful way. Something tells me I may be better off not knowing…

Mawaru Penguin Drum Episode 15

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The new OP – Shounen yo Ware ni Kaere (少年よ我に帰れ) by Yakushimaru Etsuko is Fabulous Max!

This week’s installment of Pengudrum features references to both Shoujo Kakumei Utena and Silence of the Lambs! I don’t mean to Buffalo Bill any Buffalo Bill, but there’s alot of Buffalo Bill going on towards the end of the episode.

Brief disclaimer: the interpretations of symbols, imagery and themes as laid out in this post are part of the unproven (unprovable?) hypothesis of the author, much of which comes from inference based on context within the series with reference to others. There is no basis for or claim to these interpretations as absolute or correct to the exclusion of other views. The fun of pseudo-literary analysis (even on a casual level) is that it is all subjective. If you cannot abide an opinion which differs from your own, you may wish to stop reading this.

The majority of this episode is spent in flashback, narrated from the perspective of a young Tokikago Yuri, revealing the fundamental root of her motivations and her obsession with Momoka and the all-important Penguin Drum. We open in YURI’S ROOM. INT. NIGHT. HIGH ANGLE, CLOSE UP on YURI, who lies awake on her back, gazing up at the ceiling. She comes to the realization that as long as “the tower stands,” she will never be free. CUT TO OP SEQUENCE

Dispirited, Shouma reflects he may have been too harsh on Ringo in their last encounter as he relaxes at a hot springs resort. He decides to playback her message on his cellphone. A slurred, incoherent Ringo answers, cryptically informing him he is “too late.” Thanks to the perverted curiosity of his fellow lodger, with whom he came along on a whim, Shouma discovers he is coincidentally staying at the same ryokan Yuri and Ringo have settled into and what’s more, they are right next door to his suite. He rushes over but is inadvertently knocked unconscious, thwarted by his own penguin familiar. Yuri regards his efforts somewhat mockingly as youthful idealism – “the knight in shining armor saving the princess” while somewhat envying the youthful passion to be wanted and the naivete to desire others to see her as she is.

In flashback, Yuri is an innocent, bright-eyed young girl who yearns for love and validation from her father. Her father, however, is an exacting man of the strictest standards who judges the intrinsic worth of the world based on his aesthetic philosophy. For him, only beautiful things can, and should, be loved but in his eyes Yuri is unworthy and thus ugly.

(CUE – “UTENA BELLS” IN THE DISTANCE)

The statement shocks Yuri to the verge of tears. Her father continues his shocking lecture, revealing his disdain for her mother; his belief in beauty as the only thing of value in the world; and his desire to remodel her into a true thing of beauty, as he can only love beautiful things.

At school, Yuri is isolated at art class, causing her to give credence to her father’s words. Momoka, however, takes an immediate liking to Yuri, who cannot comprehend her fascination with someone as obviously “ugly” as herself. By this point, she has already been poisoned by her father’s philosophy, which is evident as she talks at length with Momoka pondside after school. Despite this, Momoka’s gentleness and innocence plant seeds of something hopeful and pure in Yuri’s heart. At home, her father all but reverses whatever good Momoka was able to sow during their conversation, as he warns that nice girls are nice to everyone and thus cannot be trusted.

This causes much strain between the two girls as Momoka still seeks to gain Yuri’s friendship while Yuri rejects any further contact. Momoka continues to reach out to her, even telling her her “secret” of being able to transfer to another fate, something that requires the use of using a special spell from her diary (which we know as the Penguin Drum) and praying to God. In addition, the world’s very scenery changes whenever a fate is changed, and she herself receives physical damage as the price for changing fate. Momoka warns Yuri to let her change her fate to grant her freedom and avoid death, but Yuri cannot accept Momoka’s words as truth. Later, her father prepares to complete Yuri’s transformation and “end” everything that night.

In the present, Himari notices her childhood friends, now Double-H, wearing the scarves she knitted on a television broadcast. She barges in to thank Sanetoshi, who suggests to Kanba the nature of family as being a fantasy and a curse, an inescapable part of one’s life and something that can bring pain and misfortune.

At the ryokan, Yuri has abandoned her plan of seducing Ringo, confirming to herself that only the real Momoka can give her peace. Masako has infiltrated Yuri’s suite in disguise as a maid, clearing away the uneaten meal. She subtly references her public identity as a famous actress before revealing her intent to retrieve the other half of the diary from her by force. Despite Masako’s attacks at point blank range, Yuri is able to skillfully deflect her shots with ease. In an attempt to gain the advantage, she kills the lights and attacks Yuri in the dark armed with night-vision goggles. Distracting her with the spotlight, Masako seizes the other half of the diary hidden under Yuri’s towel and dives into the sea, beating a hasty retreat. Afterwards, Shouma awakens to find Ringo sleeping peacefully, undisturbed. Yuri reveals to Shouma the actual other half of the diary was securely stored in the safe the whole time.

Back in flashback, Yuri is shocked to find her father gone and the Tower (and fate) from which she had no hope of escaping has changed. She rushes to find Momoka just as she is being taken to hospital by ambulance. Momoka explains she really loves Yuri and sacrificed her well-being to save her. In the present, the adult Yuri vows to use the diary’s spells to bring Momoka back.

——

This episode is truly one of the most metaphor-rich and symbolism-laden episodes of Pengudrum yet. The entire focus of this week’s installment is the formative experience of Yuri’s childhood, from the trauma of her father’s twisted philosophy on the true nature of beauty to her defining meetings with Momoka. In a mere 24-odd minutes of screentime, [Director] Ikuhara presents a beautifully-rendered portrait of an irrevocably fractured girl – as mentioned previously, one of Ikuhara’s pet themes is the loss of innocence through life-altering incidents beyond the relevant character’s control (and more often than not, against their wishes).

Yuri’s father plays a major role; as does the ominous, looming Tower, a crucial symbol of the utmost significance. Manifested as Michelangelo’s David, the Tower represents an impossibly-, utterly-perfect ideal of physical beauty of the human form. It is a striking image so closely-linked with Yuri’s (unnamed) father it may even be taken to symbolize the man himself and his cruel influence over Yuri. It may be somewhat vulgar to explicitly observe, but the Tower is also a rather large…. phallic symbol, a thing of male dominance and supremacy, but more accurately in this case, oppression.

Her father is, ironically, an artist, more precisely a sculptor – one who strips away inessentials to liberate glorious forms buried under cold, hard marble. His hand is guided by the insatiable thirst for exquisite wonder that can only be seen with the inner eye and then roughly conveyed to the world via his chosen medium.

Yet Yuri’s father is actually a grotesque parody of the sculptor as he is known to the outside world. His prized chisel, the instrument of transformation, is intended to help the artist reveal truth; create beauty and give life to inspiring things. In short, it is a means, an agent, of transformation; but instead he takes up his instrument to use on his daughter as a thing of pain and torment, hiding base, contemptible lies; destroying her innocence and her heretofore unspoiled world outlook and fragile self-worth, giving rise to shame and self-loathing. No doubt he has left his mark on her physical form (to say nothing of her scarred psychological state, as demonstrated last episode); one can only speculate as to what he has been doing to her with a very different chisel, trying to “make” Yuri into something he considers beautiful. Perhaps this is her “body’s secret” and the thing of which she is most ashamed. All this is bad enough, but worse than his perversion of his role as an artist is his betrayal of the little girl who so desperately needed her father’s paternal care and love. The betrayal of her trust is another major theme and driving factor defining Yuri’s past.

Considering her painful childhood, it’s much easier now to view Yuri in a much more sympathetic light. How she will change her future remains to be seen, but of course it will involve some kind of sacrifice. Can Momoka really be revived? How would that affect Ringo and Tabuki? The implications of such a thing are mind-boggling to contemplate, but I think I’ll refrain from speculation on that matter and just wait for the next episode.