Tag Archives: Mawaru Penguin Drum

Mawaru Penguin Drum Episode 18

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Prelude: Art Imitates Art Imitating Life

The opening frames of this week’s episode, from a flashback of Tabuki’s childhood as narrated from his perspective:

What do you mean they aren’t the right screencaps? That’s exactly what they look like, you know.

If you haven’t guessed by now, this week’s episode of Mawaru Penguin Drum is endorsed by Monsieur Claude Monet. As a man who in life held some measure of appreciation for Japanese art, I’m sure Monsieur Monet would be delighted to see his exquisite masterpieces featured in such a fine medium as anime, especially since this particular homage is a perfect marriage of art and music. And penguins. Nothing like flightless water fowl to liven up those frightfully dull music composition pages, yes?

Movement i – Brillante


In flashback, we are given a glimpse into young Tabuki’s past.

His story is something of a parallel to Yuri’s childhood in that her father sought perfection in physical beauty, breathtaking forms like the ones he sculpts from marble; Tabuki Keiju’s mother has such a passion for the piano and its lustrous music she marries a pianist, only to discover to her chagrin the man is not the gifted genius she wants.

 

They divorce soon after Keiju is born and before long she has remarried, making sure this time to choose a true virtuoso, and borne another child, whom young Keiju recognizes instantly as a prodigy. His fear his mother will abandon him over his mediocrity once she discovers his brother’s talent is, unfortunately, well-founded and he soon ends up in the Child Broiler facility, a bleak place where other “unneeded” and “unwanted” children are gathered to be disintegrated and eventually fade from existence.

Filled with abject despair, Keiju has given up all hope in life and his concept of self-worth. He is resigned to his fate when Momoka crashes the Child Broiler and finds Keiju, who persists in his wretchedness until she tells him she loves him and adjures him to live. For her sake. Momoka, having paid the price for saving Keiju and effectively altered his fate, now bears the physical proof of his redemption on her hand. The bird imprisoned for so long had been set free.

Movement ii – Presto (Storm)

In the present, Kanba clambers up through the treacherous darkness of the building’s interior to reach Tabuki, who has hoisted Himari into position precariously above an open shaft.

Tabuki, disappointed Kanba has not brought his father to be punished for his crimes, instead begins pressuring Kanba, blowing the few cables holding Himari from falling to certain death one-by-one.


Although Kanba swears to have no knowledge of his father’s whereabouts, Tabuki then proposes Kanba take responsibility instead. At length the final cable goes, forcing Kanba to scramble in a last-ditch effort to grab it, supporting both his and Himari’s weight on his own and putting enormous strain on his body. At first Tabuki mocks Kanba but his determination not to let go reminds him of how hard Momoka worked to save his life so many years ago.

 
At his limit, Himari tells Kanba he has endured enough for her sake and that he should let her go and live for himself. Such a statement is not something he is willing to accept, as everything he and Shouma have strove and risked has been for her sake. The cable snaps just as Tabuki saves Himari.

Movement iii – Decrescendo

Tabuki leaves Ringo behind with the Takakura siblings, imploring her not to become like him. On the ground, Tabuki meets Yuri, where he breaks it off with her, remarking how they are in actuality only a fake family, using each other and being used. Shouma arrives just in time for Kanba to collapse in his arms with the now silent Himari; and Ringo again tries to reconcile herself with Shouma, offering her friendship and love.

Coda

From her closing lines, Masako is far from giving up on Kanba and will approach him again in the near future. I guess we can look forward to more ambushes and guerrilla raids. Remember when all she did was make gaudy bento and knit awful sweaters?

Team Yuri’s dreaded Duo of Doom has officially called it quits. As a duo, at any rate. Now what? Obviously, Yuri’s animosity has been smoldering beneath her porcelain-perfect facade since childhood and she is not nearly as willing to pardon the Takakuras. As for Tabuki, whatever vengeful notions he had seem to have run their course as he made his peace with his unresolved Momoka complex. As such he is no longer an active contender for the Penguin Drum, although I don’t think it’s safe to count him out of the drama aspect by any means.

Speaking of Tabuki, now that he’s broken it off with Yuri he’s single again. With the whole caged-bird motif he may have something in common with Persona 4‘s Amagi Yukiko, although she does have this thing against psychopaths, so maybe that wouldn’t work out after all.

While I’m mentioning other ongoing series I guess I’ll go ahead and name Momoka as my first choice to win the Survival Game. Because, you know, with her diary she has the ability to change fate at will. She could probably eliminate all the other players in one fell swoop (although since it’s Momoka and she only uses her powers for good, if she were to do such a thing it would probably be by way of a Disney-esque ending).

By the way, what is the Penguin Drum? Judging by what the Penguqueen said to Kanba in the previous episode, it’s likely not even a physical object.

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Mawaru Penguin Drum Episode 17

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En route to the hospital to cook for Himari, Kanba and Shouma compare notes and conclude Tokikago Yuri and Natsume Masako each hold one half of the diary. When Shouma suggests using the complete diary to change Himari’s fate, as Yuri wishes to do to resurrect Momoka, Kanba refuses, declaring they will rely on Sanetoshi’s medicine instead.

At the hospital, the brothers treat Himari to takoyaki they deep-fry in her hospital room. She remarks she has been feeling better lately and her recovery is going so well Sanetoshi may soon release her to go home. She shows them a hand-made sweater she is in the middle of making, her latest knitting project. Assuming she has knitted it for Sanetoshi, Kanba’s expression sours but Himari keeps the intended recipient a secret.

Just as Shouma remarks he is glad they no longer have to worry about trying to find the Penguin Drum, Himari slips into her Penguqueen persona, initiating another Survival Strategy. The Penguqueen warns them of dire punishment that will befall their family should they not heed her warning: it is still vital to retrieve the Penguin Drum for if they fail to acquire it, they will lose the thing most precious to them.

Over champagne, Yuri tells Tabuki about Shouma’s earlier request for her half of the diary, musing no one but the two of them know the true value of Momoka’s diary. Debating the Takakura siblings, Yuri remains adamant the three are just as responsible as their parents for Momoka’s death. However, Tabuki clears the children themselves of any wrongdoing, claiming they should not have to pay for the “sins of the father” and that such an attitude will not change the past. The one thing they agree on is that Momoka was the bright light of their childhood.

Sanetoshi observes that for people, truth and reality aren’t always the same thing and are even willing to kill for the sake of “truth.” He cryptically murmurs that the war will soon begin.

Later, Kanba and Shouma return to visit the hospital to find Himari has left to go shopping. Sanetoshi’s assistants tell the brothers Himari’s condition is still delicate. Her medicine must be taken on a strictly regulated schedule and she must return to the hospital to take her next dose by evening or else she places her life in jeopardy.

Along with Ringo, Himari has stopped in to a yarn supply store to pick out more knitting material. Soon, Yuri calls Ringo, inviting her on another outing and insists on meeting her for dinner. Ringo tells Yuri she is with Shouma’s sister, prompting Yuri to invite her to come to dinner as well. Meanwhile, the brothers have split up, systematically searching all the clothing fabric stores in each shopping district, barely missing Himari at Yozawaya and Penguin’s Coffee.

Masako encounters Yuri in the Yozawaya parking garage where they face off again, dueling with crossbows and gatling guns. GATLING GUNS. Technically, it’s loaded with Masako’s trademark mind-erasing ammo but still -it’s a freaking gatling gun. Meanwhile, Tabuki finds Ringo and Himari and leads them to a remote location, promising they will meet Yuri there. As they ride the freight elevator to the top, Tabuki asks Ringo if he remembers what he said about nothing being meaningless and even bad experiences having their place. He then announces he has decided today he will render punishment on the Takakuras.

If the egg's shell does not break, the chick will die without being born...

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Yuri’s and Masako’s confrontations are becoming more and more elaborately ludicrous by the episode, but it makes it that much more fun to watch. I love how they ante up the diary halves in a scene dripping with Utena and Yuri taunting Juri Masako about revolution. Cheers to the most Revolutionary Girl ever: Kawakami Tomoko, you are missed.

Every new episode hints at something deeper Sanetoshi has in store beneath the surface, but finally leaves us unsatisfied for clues. He’s been ready for a long-awaited conflict to begin. It’s clear he is manipulating all the players and stands to benefit in the end but what exactly his objective is remains elusive.

Personally, I’m getting tired of his pink hair and incessant smirking. Out with it already.

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.

Sore wa Tabemono Desu Ka? The Uncanny, Amazing, Astonishing Evolution of Anime Food – Intro

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Welcome back.

Aside from our normal coverage of ongoing and, yes, previously-aired anime, from time-to-time we the authors shall explore topics anime-related and indulge in musings of a rather more whimsical, frivolous nature. Thus I would like to introduce a new Omoshirosou(!) Exclusive miniseries, found only here at Omoshirosou(!), coming soon. To elaborate on the nature of this topic and avoid any confusion, this miniseries will cover the evolution of the way food appears on-screen in the course of an anime episode. Specifically, I’m referring to finished meals and prepared foodstuffs. Thus raw, unprocessed food such as actual animals and livestock raised for the purpose of human consumption are excluded by default.

Also I must emphasize that bastard kitchen projects will not be covered in this miniseries. (By “bastard” I mean failed cooking attempts so vile their mere existence heralds certain death/disaster and thus must of necessity be banished to the outer reaches of the universe. If the resulting product happens to be sentient immediate disposal is all the more imperative.) This is an overview of the advancement of animation quality through the years as gauged by the appeal of what a given character happens to be eating rather than an examination of the “Can’t Cook to Save Their Life” trope that has become an all but hackneyed staple of mainstream high-school life/harem anime. One may indeed derive a certain perverse amusement mocking the sad efforts of otherwise harmless characters oblivious to the pain they visit upon others through their cooking. However that is not the objective here.

Himari-chan's homemade-cooking

The way food is presented in anime has come a long way, and while today most likely even the humble bento will more than satisfactorily dazzle the eye such was not always the case. Even in modern anime, the range of overall appeal and presentation quality varies considerably. Taking artistic style into account, for practical purposes of this discussion a “transparent” nonfactor, they generally fall into three categories or levels of appeal: nondescript objects that cannot be positively identified without further extensive empirical analysis; objects that bear a passable resemblance to their real-life counterparts; and gastronomical wonders of creation that surpass even the real thing -food so perfect, so beautiful, the mere thought of committing an act as vulgar as destroying it to satiate one’s filthy, undeserving palate is all but sacrilege.

I shall examine numerous examples of different food types, from simple snacks/appetizers to full meals and desserts. Western and Japanese-style cooking will have primary consideration with other types of Asian and other cuisine featuring occasionally. Examples from earlier anime titles will begin my discussion and from there I shall progress through the decades to anime of the present. The first installment is forthcoming, with subsequent chapters available as they are released. Stay tuned.

*Disclaimer: This miniseries may stimulate your desire for bodily nourishment, so please take care to prepare something to have at your convenience before reading.

Mawaru Penguin Drum Episode 12

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Ikuhara Kunihiko‘s newest project is already shaping up to be great in its own right. I’d been wanting to write on this series since its premiere but hesitated because I didn’t feel ready to “get it right.” I apologize for the late start. I wish to review Mawaru Penguin Drum, hereafter referred to as simply Pengudrum, with the justice it deserves, so if I go a little overboard please excuse me. And so, I will proceed:

Everything Until Now Has Been For You (今まで 全部… あなた の ために)
To the casual viewer, Mawaru Penguin Drum is inscrutable. In fact, even as it nears the half-way mark of its two-cour run, many fans and converts to the series STILL don’t know what exactly Pengudrum is about but for the sake of exposition and getting to the review proper let us outline in rough the route our heroes have trod thus far. For those who are not current with the series, this is your first and only spoiler warning.

We have in the outset the three Takakura siblings, brothers Kanba and Shouma, who dote on their beloved younger sister, the gentle, terminally-ill Himari. One day during an outing to the aquarium Himari collapses, ostensibly succumbing to her illness after a prolonged battle. Although the brothers rush her to the hospital, they cannot save her and she dies shortly thereafter. However, the penguin-shaped hat bought for Himari as a souvenir holds strange properties: when placed on her head, she is miraculously revived, though only by the grace of an mysterious, authorative entity (the Penguqueen, shall we say) that possesses the hat (and speaks through Himari’s body) who in return demands an object she cryptically refers to as the “Penguin Drum.”

At this point what the Penguin Drum is, what it does and its location is anyone’s guess but the brothers know that without it the deal to extend Himari’s life is void, creating a literal matter of life and death. Thus the great quest for the most MacGuffin-est MacGuffin ever begins. How do you start looking for something when you don’t have the first clue about what it is? Aided sometimes? by penguin counterparts the siblings alone can see, the brothers are swept up in a series of bizarre events precipitated by equally bizarre persons -the most crucial being Oginome Ringo, the girl in possession of their precious quarry: the Penguin Drum, which turns out to be her diary.

Ringo has her own plans for the Penguin Drum, namely taking up the persona of her deceased older sister Momoka to fulfill her “destiny” in her place and carry out “Project M,” which involves getting pregnant by her teacher and Momoka’s childhood-friend Tabuki Keiju-sensei. As Kanba and Shouma both vie in their own ways to claim the one thing that can save Himari’s life, a new challenger emerges to throw the brothers’ plan into doubt: Natsume Masako, a woman with a score to settle with Kanba, heavily implied to be an old flame, sports a penguin accomplice of her own and erases the memories of her victims with a powerful scope-sight slingshot. Through dubious means she ends up with half of the diary, which she needs to save her brother who appears to suffer the same life-on-loan situation as Himari.

Through it all, Himari remains blissfully unaware of the ordeals Kanba and Shouma are undertaking but remains alive and well, pending acquisition of the Penguin Drum… until now.

Seizon Senryaku, Once More (もう一度! 生存戦略)
Kanba returns home to find the house empty. On the low table in the dining room is a heaping bowl of rolled cabbage, his favorite. Suddenly, an anonymous call from a man claiming to be from the “Destination of Fate” warns Kanba that Himari will die again. Meanwhile, Shouma explains to the puzzled Ringo why his family is responsible for her sister Momoka’s death.

Sheep May Safely Graze?

Sixteen years ago, Shouma’s father Takakura Kenzan (Koyasu Takehito!) is a mild-mannered factory worker, overjoyed at the news of his wife’s delivery of a healthy baby boy. Immediately afterwards, Takakura seems to organize a rendezvous amongst fellow conspirators to initiate their “Survival strategy” plan (セイゾンセンリャクシマショウカ) to bring peace to the world. Incidentally, this is the same morning that a young Tabuki Keiju was supposed to have met up with Oginome Momoka, the yet-unborn Ringo’s sister, to catch the subway to school together. Having overslept, Tabuki, rushes to catch up with her only to discover that the subway lines have been shut down due to a series of terrorist incidents resulting in the deaths of countless victims, among them Momoka. As Shouma concludes  his confession, the Penguqueen urges him and Ringo to accept the wheel of fate that binds them, and warns that because they have lost the Penguin Drum the fateful time is at hand.

At this, the Penguqueen falls to her knees. Even as her life ebbs away and she slips into unconsciousness, she warns the pair to secure the Penguin Drum in order to escape the cruel fate in store and to stop “them.” With that, the hat falls to the ground and Himari’s eyes close.

As Kanba desperately races towards the hospital, he recalls sweet memories shared with Himari. On a particular day also Himari was making rolled cabbage, which she explained wasn’t just Kanba’s favorite food but also a symbol of reconciliation and the bond between them as siblings. At the emergency room, Shouma begins to recount a nursery tale involving Mary and the Three Lambs. Shouma continues to narrate the tale of Mary and her lambs in voiceover throughout the subsequent scenes, which are intercut with scenes illustrating his dialogue.

This is where we progress into the realm that Ikuhara crafts so well. His presentation of theater and narrative, and his layering and juxtaposition of visuals and dialogue is, well, brilliant. To digress somewhat but to the point, I greatly admire Ikuhara’s work, going back to 1999 when I was first introduced to his seminal piece Shoujo Kakumei Utena (少女革命ウテナ) aka Revolutionary Girl Utena or, if you prefer, La Fillette Revolutionnaire. I was very impressed with the series. So much so that in all the intervening years since that first viewing I have yet to see Utena again in its entirety; and yet the impact of its art style; its stark surrealism; and its multi-layered and often loaded symbolism has persisted so strongly within the murky recesses of my memory it has influenced my reception and appreciation of all shoujo/fantasy-themed anime and manga to this day. Such are the similar masterful techniques Ikuhara employs in the following sequence:

Ikuhara gives us the symbolism of Mary’s apple tree, with its too-good-for-this-earth fruit, and its pure wholesomeness. A source of light, suddenly and tragically extinguished. Kanba finally arrives on the scene to find Ringo despondent and Shouma emotionally defeated. Seizing the penguin hat, Kanba storms the ER, frantically trying to coax some sign of life from the silent Himari. As Kanba grieves, Shouma continues his narration and introduces the taboo method for reviving the tree. It is then that Kanba attempts to use the hat to awaken Himari.

The penguin hat, however, for once fails to fully initiate Seizon Senryaku timespace, leaving Kanba and the Penguqueen in a neitherworld limbo. The Penguqueen, weak and fading, tells Kanba that time has run out and thus she must return to the “Destination of Fate.” As such, Himari cannot survive. However, Kanba will not give up.

Again. (もう一度.)
Can’t it be done one more time? (もう一度やってくれないか?)

With that phrase, in a noble, selfless gesture of fraternal love, Kanba offers his own life force to the Penguqueen, begging her to prolong Himari’s life once more in what is perhaps the most poignantly beautiful scene in the entire series thus far. Regretfully, the Penguqueen explains to Kanba that such a thing is all but impossible, as it is akin to finding love or one’s first kiss, unique one-time-only experiences that cannot be duplicated (note the ruins of the Penguqueen’s staircase: looks alot like vertebrae and ribs to me). Yet Kanba remains firm. Seeing his resolve, the Penguqueen declares that she will accept his offer, although she hesitates to completely extract the Scorpion Soul from Kanba. But as Shouma’s narration of Mary and Her Three Lambs begins to synch up with what unfolds onscreen, we hear Himari’s heartbeat clearly but tentatively register over the EKG monitor only to flatline once more.

But just when all hope seems lost, Watase Sanetoshi appears.

In a series that continues to amaze, Pengudrum keeps getting better and better. I was a bit apprehensive during the course of some of the previous, more light-hearted episodes involving Ringo’s pursuit of Tabuki, but this most recent episode rates as the best yet. I enjoyed it as much as the Himari-focused Episode 9, which was also very satisfying. Sanetoshi’s direct involvement with the cast is sure to bring about some interesting developments. I’m not sure where Pengudrum is heading, indeed it’s too soon to say, but chances are it’ll be good. Real good. If not better than that.
Seizon Senryaku: Don’t give up (生存戦略: 諦めないで)