Penguin Drum was pure win until it decided to head for supernatural territories without really trying too hard to explain what the devil is going on. I was really enjoying it while it was comedy or human drama but when that magic fate reset stuff started to happen, it just made a big mess of the wonderful premise.
My initial impression about it while reading the story and looking at the entry picture made me think it would be some ridiculous fan catering show. And to be honest it is but in a stylish and artistic way that makes it far more enjoyable than a run-of-the-mill ecchi. The director of the show is the same guy who directed Revolutionary Girl Utena, one of my favorites from the 90’s. After some idiots tried to imitate its glory and made that piece of poop called Star Driver, I thought I would never again in my life be able to enjoy an anime full of repeated clips and erotic innuendos. And to my amazement the same guy managed to win my impressions with Penguin Drum. It really is all about the execution after all; this guy has a talent, the others just suck on it hard.
The story is as insane as the one in Utena and one should not try to take it seriously if he is to emerge himself in it. The presentation though is amazing to the most part and shows how with proper handling you can make something great even out of the most stupid premise. In this case we have the tale of three siblings, invisible alien penguins (KYU KYU), and a possessing tsundere hat. It makes little sense really but the core story is the two brothers having to find a penguin drum in order to save the life of their sister, who was about to die and was saved by a penguin hat. As a reward, it demands from them to do its biding (in an extremely snobby way) and sends them to look for it by stalking a stalker schoolgirl. Too bad there are many others looking for it as well, and we get a weird blend of amnesia guns, pop idols, metro flash video advertisements, black rabbits, hidden libraries with a billion copies of the same book, evil sects, ghosts, and a lot other weird stuff no one will be able to keep track of if he doesn’t pay attention to.
Anyways, as I said all the fun is at how it all plays out and not if it makes sense (although in a purely allegorical way it does). It is a struggle of how they try to save a life while living with invisible to everybody else penguins, chasing after a stalker girl with a crush on her teacher, fending of the amnesia balls of romantic rivals, making deals with the devil of sorts, whatever the cost, whatever the situation. It is all done with extreme style and liveliness, good humor, and above all, without becoming too repetitive and getting you bored. I was literally unable to tell what will happen in the next 5 minutes, much less the next 5 episodes, as the story keeps introducing new elements and revealing more sides to the earlier ones. Nothing feels useless and thus in the longrun no episode is without its meaning.
Unfortunately, the story becomes far more chaotic and far less interesting as it goes on, with the finale being quite stupid in overall. They tried too much to make it symbolical and metaphysical and crammed so much magic panacea and coming back and forth to time and space that ruined the beauty of the earlier episodes. It’s not like I didn’t understand what the heck happened but it surely felt far less interesting than when it was about slapstick humor or human drama.
The production values are exceptional and quite eye catchy (studio Brains Base is very good at this stuff), despite the setting being contemporary Japan. The visual effects and the lively motions, as well as the simplistic representation of crowds and the use of technology, it all makes you think it is some sort of videogame. Even the soundtrack won me fast, as the female singer is the same as the one in Tatami Galaxy’s ending, another favorite of mine and an equally trippy show that is mostly art than crap. Furthermore, there are hints of art all over the series, such as tributes to Klimt paintings (which I hadn’t seen in anime since the opening of Elfen Lied ), as well as subway flash animation advertisement that tell us a lot of what is going on in that crazy country called Japan. Even further than that, the repeated clips are not the same every time. There are episodes where the SURVIVAL STRATEGY thing is not even used or ones where the same things happen in different ways, so you are again never bored with them like in Sailor Moon. And yes, voice acting if very fitting and lively for everybody.
Again, just like Utena there is a lot of weird sexuality amongst the characters, from allusions to incest amongst the siblings, to stalking and peeping with hidden cameras at very private areas. It is not done in a ridiculous way like in Star Driver, thus even such quirky elements end up working for the best. It flavors them as personalities instead of leaving them as boring archetypes. They are all somehow connected to one another and try to affect the story without being passive stunts. The invisible penguins are not just there as mascots but as active players, supernatural avatars and extensions of the siblings that use stealth to get results. They are also quite sloppy and goofy and they do many mistakes or do things they shouldn’t, thus they are not exactly uber magic panacea. They also have quirks and their lack of knowledge around morality makes their actions pure enjoyment.
Again, just like Utena its core themes are about breaking the taboos for the sake of love. Pretty much everyone is deviant and he or she excuses it as the limitless willpower of love. And since love is in fiction the most powerful power of them all, it makes it very enjoyable to see how low or bold or weird people can become because of it. Many will probably find all that to be pretentious gibberish without much purpose in the story but they do manage to make you think about stuff and that is what matters in the end of the day.
Although someone can find similarities in story elements and artistic overtones in other shows of 2011, such as Madoka Magica and Steins;Gate, I personally enjoyed Penguin Drum a lot more than any other of that year. The characters were easily likable, funny and memorable, without being overblown with otaku humor or without riding too much on SHOCK EFFECT and having very little time to expose the story. Although it is true that Ringo’s stalking arc was stretched too much and the final episodes are way too chaotic, messy, and turning to magic time resets WHICH I HATE, the directing was in overall far more exceptional, mature, and smart. Unfortunately the ending is far more exciting and memorable than in those other two shows which will leave most with bad final impressions and a big drop in the scores.
Despite the messy last quarter of the series, it is still an amazing piece of work, worthy to be viewed by anyone who wants something out of the ordinary and it definitely belongs in the top titles of the year.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 9/10
General Artwork 2/2 (artsy)
Character Figures 2/2 (somewhat generic but easily memorable)
Backgrounds 2/2 (artsy)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 2/2 (artsy)
SOUND SECTION: 9/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (silly but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 4/4 (great)
Sound Effects 3/3 (artsy)
STORY SECTION: 6/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 1/2 (erratic)
Complexity 2/2 (rich context)
Plausibility 0/2 (none)
Conclusion 1/2 (cheesy)
CHARACTER SECTION: 8/10
Presence 2/2 (funny/sexy)
Personality 2/2 (eccentric)
Backdrop 2/2 (everybody has some)
Development 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
Catharsis 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
VALUE SECTION: 7/10
Historical Value 1/3 (will be somewhat remembered for its crazy presentation)
Rewatchability 2/3 (high if you like its style but many scenes will be skipped)
Memorability 4/4 (the penguins alone are enough to forever remember it)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 8/10
Art 1/1 (looks artsy)
Sound 2/2 (sounds great)
Story 2/3 (great themes and funny to the most part but messes up in the end)
Characters 3/4 (they are great but the ending doesn’t do them justice)
It's been a while ! But here is the final review of Mawaru Penguin Drum.
I'll start by saying that the point of this review is to inform people of the series in question and I will not debate with people who thinks without valable arguments that Mawaru is crap. Mawaru Penguin Drum is one series that can ignite so many fires in arguments ; some like it some don't. I will try to be as objective as possible, but seriously I doubt that I will be able to do so. I just have to pour my unrequited love into this.
The story is something so imaginative it is really difficult to even try to explain Ikuhara mad geniosity here. The story starts by an rather cheesy premise. Shoma, Kanba and Himari are siblings living without their parents in an small house. But reality strucks: Himari is affected by an grave illness that will eventually take her life. And so begin the quest for the Takakura brothers to find the Penguindrum to save their beloved sister from her sad demise. is sound pretty simple isn't it? But believe me Mawaru is one heck of a story that will leave you shocked, sad, hilared and ......confused. Because Mawaru means running around in circles and that's exactly what the show will do its viewers....letting them run in circles before bashing them in the face. It's also one of the rare series that makes you think because almost everything is so far-fetched that you can't even imagine how far it goes.
The animation is done by none other than the rather unique Brain's-Base that really deliver something ....mind blowing. Something that makes Mawaru an unique series is the outstanding numer of details in almost every frame that you see. Mawaru is litterally bursting with color, style and substance. There is always something to see somewhere apart from the characters themselves. The animation is beautiful and fluid. But the reason why I give so much credit to Mawaru's animation is because it makes the most use of the anime style and twists it completely up side down. In short, Mawaru animation is nothing short than masterful. It is far from the perfect animation but it uses that so well; the characters and the setting couldn't have become more bursting with life than this. My hat for Brain's-Base seriously.
Mawaru's soundtrack is extremely subtle and every piece fits perfectly with the story and animation. I have nothing more to say except that for me it's a perfect match.
The voice actors now. What an incredible choice they did. Instead than choosing some popular well-known voice actors the creator gave the chance to some new comers to shine. The three main siblings ( Shoma, Kanba and Himari) are respectively voiced by Ryohei Kimura, Subaru Kimura ( are they related I wonder) and Miho Arakawa. Apart from Ryohei Kimura that already have some names in his career like Akira Takizawa in Eden of the East, the two other along with Marie Miwake that voices Ringo Oginome are relatively new to the business. I never heard of them before watching this show. And I truly wish to hear them more often in the future. They did an excellent job in general in the exception of few scenes that were poorly voiced. You can't go wrong when you add some famous voice actors in your cast and they are also present here in Mawaru. You'll find Akira Ishida, Mamiko Noto and Yui Horie along the way with some others. But the star is given here, for me, for Subaru Kimura and Mamiko Noto. They just amazed me to no extent.
Opening section: 1) Nornir by Etsuko Yakushimaru. The visuals are sooooo impressive and the song fits extremely well.
2) Boys come back to me by Etsuko Yakushimaru. As incredible that the first one.
Ending section: 1) First part of the show always end with Dear Future with Coaltars of the deepers. Good song and visuals.
2)Second part features always a different song on the same slightly altered excellent visuals that matches perfectly.
None is to say that Mawaru's cast of characters is divine. Every one of them is developped with care and love. None of them is left out. The characters themselves are fascinating to see and you can never see what thoughts are guiding them. I also loved the facts that none of them are clichés. They are totally lovables and absolutely ....crazy is the word that describes them the best. You'll either love them or hate them but for me I adored the time I spent watching them moving on the screen.
Overall, Mawaru Penguin Drum is for me the best anime series I have ever seen in my entire anime life. It provided me with absolutely everything I ever wanted to see in an anime or even in a TV series : style, care, love, story and WTF-ness with subtle symbolism along with totally loveably crazy characters. It even offered much more than I anticipated when I started it few months ago. It kept me glued to the screen every damn week and I just had one thought the entire week: the next episode of Mawaru Penguin Drum. But I have to warn you: this series is definetely NOT for everyone. Some content may shock some and the story can also lose some others. If you think you are brave enough to get trolled every single episode well I think you may taste it for yourself. I also recommend beeing an anime veteran( 100 series seen and more to fully appreciate it) or have a totally crazied mind would be good too. Ikuhara provided us after ten years in the dark an ultimate jewel. For my part I will never forget the experience that was Mawaru . You may call me overpositivist if you wish but those are my arguments. Mawaru is incredibly UNIQUE for everything it presents and does.
Note: No editors are planning Mawaru license and that is really sad when you see that almost every crap series gets licensed and a jewel like Mawaru does not. But if it gets one day on DVD I wll buy it FOR SURE and review it here.
Score: 9.9/10 Because 10/10 doesn't exist. For me, Mawaru is extremely close to perfection. And that is really something coming from me.And now I am antipating A LOT from my next purchase: Revolutionnary Girl Utena from the same creator, the marvelous Kunihiko Ikuhara.
Just be amazed by the number of details O_______O A feast for the eyes.
Or this.... Simply crafty and arty to no extent.
Next! Maybe Un-Go in a few weeks.
Mawaru Penguin Drum
Where to start…
Every once in a while, some kind of media will come along and change something in you. Whether it’s just a view on something small or large, or something that makes you completely rethink your life, It’s bound to happen at least once, if not multiple times. The first time this happened to me was when I first played Final Fantasy VII at the age of 12, it completely challenged my childish view of story telling, and I arguably never fully understood it until I replayed it in my later years. The second time this happened was reading His Dark Materials, which helped me finally shuck my lingering religious beliefs and reaffirm what I believed was true and good in life. The third and final time was with Neon Genesis Evangelion, because it made me think deeper about the human psyche, but more than that, actually made me go out of my way to learn things I would otherwise not have naturally come across.
All these things happened from the age of 12 in the first instance, and 16 in the last 2. I guess I had lost some hope that it would happen again, as 10 years on, nothing other than a couple of albums has had any great influence on me (but I don’t find music life changing, all the changes it seems make are changes to taste).
Then Came Mawaru Penguin Drum.
Animation: I didn’t realise that this was made by Brains Base at first, and my original thought was that it was Shaft. If you’ve read any of my other reviews, you may already know then that I loved it. The character designs are great (especially with the Princess of the Crystal), managing to tread a fine line between simple and distinctive, without ever appearing either boring or ostentatious. The backdrops are good, and the settings, especially the Takakura house, are well drawn and eye catching. It really shows us what it can do when it takes a slightly more… avant garde (for lack of a better word) approach, like with the train and how is occasionally looks in the middle and latter parts of the series, the animation as Himari’s ‘transformation’ happens. It’s just great. If I had to level one criticism, it’s that sometimes the backdrops or settings aren’t used to good effect, if I was to compare it to Bake/Nisemonogatari, I’d say that Shaft make a better use of plain surroundings than what Brains Base manages in this series. But it’s a small criticism, for an otherwise gorgeous show.
Sound: The soundtrack is good enough to warrant it’s own review, really, it’s amazing. The openings are great, the endings are sublime and the background music manages to perfectly suit each mood it tries to convey. I recommend everyone go and search Etsuko Yakushimaru Metro Orchestra - Noruniru (Ametsub Remix) on youtube, and while you’re there, search for Dear Future, the 1st ED too, both songs are good enough in their own right that had they not been anything to do with the anime, I’d still probably have loved them.
The voice acting is great, each character comes alive through their VA’s the standouts are Princess of the Crystal and Sanetoshi, although Masako and Ringo are also right up there too. Once again though, they are complimented by a great script. Anyone who doesn’t want to hear the Princess scream ‘SEIZON SENRYAKU’ is not worth knowing.
Characters: Oh god, where to begin? The characters are by far and away the greatest thing about the show, the story can become confusing (as I will discuss later) but the characters pull the show through your confusion. Each one has an amazing back story, loads of development and personality by the bucket full. It’s also fresh to see no character really personify a specific trope (not that that is always a bad thing, for instance, it makes Bake/Nisemonogatari what it is!) and instead focus on true development and realism. The character I most looked forward to seeing was Princess of the Crystal, although in reality I guess Ringo Oginome actually had more development, and a closer look into her psyche than any other character, and she always comes up good for whatever it is she’s there for. Himari is possibly the most interesting character, as the story really centers around her and her illness, but there are no weak characters in the series at all. My one and only criticism is of Shouma’s best friend, he appears only in the early episodes, and he’s so forgettable that he’s not even in the character database on Anime Planet, and I don’t remember his name, granted he wasn’t there to progress the plot in anyway, but as the rest of the show actually does away with extraneous characters I found it strange that he was even there in the first place, he doesn’t even serve to extract any information for us about Shouma or the rest of the Takakura family. Apart from him though, the rest of the cast is great.
Plot: The plot centers around the Takakura family, Himari, Shouma and Kanba. Himari has an illness (which is never specified) which is basically a ticking time bomb until she dies. She dies in the first episode, and is brought back to life by a strange entity inside a penguin hat that she bought in the aquarium where she collapsed. The entity inside is the Princess of the Crystal who says she can save Himari if the two brothers obtain the penguindrum, and thus begins the story. We are introduced to Ringo who has a diary that seems to predict the future, which the boys then try to obtain as the penguindrum. It twists and turns so much from this opening premise and then in the last episode we finally find out exactly what everything is. The plot can be quite hard to follow as Ikuhara (the writer) likes to change tack quite often, jumping from one part of the storyline to another, in my opinion this is done so well that it actually makes the show better rather than just being a straight line progression from beginning to end. In fact, the jumping from one point to another can be a literal representation of the jumping of the lines idea that he shows with the constant imagery of the train lines. But maybe thats a bit of a leap to make…
Summary: In my New World Order, this will be required watching for anyone who chooses to have an interest in anime. I finished it nearly a month ago now, and I still miss it. I miss rushing home from work so I could watch an episode before going back out again, or waking up earlier to watch an episode before work. It’s headed straight to the top of my top 5 anime, and is in my top 5 TV shows too. I urge all of you to watch it, and challenge anyone to find a stronger set of characters, a more interesting plot and a better premise than saving your sister from certain death. Yes, other shows are better animated, but it’s such a small criticism in the grand scale of the awesomeness this show exudes that if you were to write it off because of that, I’d seriously recommend having your brain scanned for tumours. Like all the greatest form of media, this show needs to be experienced to be appreciated, my gushing will never amount to anything like the greatness of this show. Just watch it. The most deserving 10 out of 10 I will ever give.
Remember, SEIZON SENRYAKU!!!
Man, when I dropped this anime and read several reviews in different sites, I felt like someone who could not comprehend why an Oscar-winning movie was worth the unanimous praise. Everybody was throwing around the "visionary" and "nothing like it" and "an excellent example of what anime can be" comments.
I just thought it was random, weird and silly. The story was compelling for a bit, until after 5 episodes or so, when it started getting really weird. At that point, I stopped to think if I cared enough to continue it. Then I said, no.
The animation is good. The characters are okay.
The story seems refreshingly good at first. It's about two brothers trying to save their terminally-ill sister from dying by any means necessary. That's interesting. That's emotional.
The only thing that resuscitates her and prevents her from dying is a penguin-shaped sentient hat. Okay, that's weird, but I'll allow it. This is anime after all.
The hat also comes with three invisible penguin minions that are often doing mischievous, funny things. Okay, that's weird too but most anime have cute, weird critters. I'll allow it.
The hat's sentience takes over the girl's personality in every single episode, showing a typical magical-girl transformation involving a rocket that converts into two giant mecha pandas, and the hat's entity berating the brothers for not recovering the "penguindrum" as dictated. This happens every episode. Every...episode. Okay, that's slightly annoying but somewhat funny and quirky and yes, weird. I'll...allow it.
But that's not all...
Then a new villainous character comes in, that has her own invisible penguin and shoots penguin bullets with a slingshot that have the property of erasing people's memories if they get hit on their foreheads. What?!
There's a surrealistic trip to a library that's sort of purgatory or heaven and it's completely confusing because it shows a new character and a new background story for the sick girl that really does not have much to do with the rest of the story. What?!
There's an aggressive, stalking girl that is willing to even rape the object of her affection because she is trying to fulfill her late sister's fate, which means she's not really stalking for her own misguided love but for a philosophical, identity-thieving reason. She's doing it 'cause her journal says so. What?!
Okay, so I was down with watching another anime that mixed serious stuff such as death, fate, sacrifice and obsession with inane moments of humor showcasing cute penguins often doing perverted or mischievous acts. But there's just too much weird stuff going on, and too many plot twists happening on every episode that instead of feeding my interest, it just annoyed me.
There's no firm ground to settle your feet in and say, bring on the weird parts. It's weird all the time. Maybe if it was more of a comedy, it would have fared better. In this case, I liked "Abenobashi Shopping District" a lot more, because it was first and foremost a very random comedy, with sprinkles of seriousness and musings about fate and the ability to change it.
This anime starts with the serious, pervades it with silly stuff, and tells you to focus on the ever-changing serious stuff. How? It's confusing! It's unfocused! It's just weird!
Maybe if you liked stuff like "FLCL" this would be for you. Maybe you can bypass all the strange aspects of the story and be able to follow the twists-and-turns provided in every episode. But I couldn't. I couldn't take it seriously when it tried so hard to not be serious then immediately go to dark-story-mode. It's just amorphous in its story structure.
You may very well have a different opinion. Most reviewers seem to think the opposite of me, but this "vision" wasn't for me.
When it stated, there were a lot of mixed feelings going on. As it progressed, I was more curious as to where it was going. But then came the climactic ending! This truley was an anime that kept you coming back for more. You laughed, you cried, and you found a strange love for the penguins throughout (which ended up being partially why I came back for more).
This is definitley a good watch and anyone interested should jump on this as I did.