Kamba and Shouma Takakura have taken care of their sickly younger sister Himari since their parents disappeared years ago - that is, until the day she died. But as the boys grieve by her hospital bed, Himari sits up, adorned with a strange penguin hat. Suddenly, the three of them are transported to a vibrant world where the hat, using Himari's body as a puppet, charges these brothers with a task: find the Penguin Drum and their sister's life will be saved! Now aided by some odd penguins they received in the mail, the duo must find this mysterious item or risk losing the sister they care for so much. However, they aren't the only ones with their sights on the Penguin Drum, for new enemies await them around every turn, all connected in ways they would have never imagined...
When I initially read the premise for this show, I couldn't imagine how a sentient, lifesaving penguin hat could possibly work as a coherent plot point so I watched it out of sheer curiosity. I have seen Revolutionary Girl Utena (same director) and I remebered it being pretty inexplicable and bizarre so I figured this would be along those lines. I don't know how I can adequately explain this, but by the end of this show an initially ridiculous premise had become one of the most thought-provoking and emotionally complex anime I have seen. I watch a lot of anime and a lot of shows are entertaining but don't leave a lasting impression. This one definitely sticks with you, in the way that say, Stein's Gate or Death Note did for me also. While the show was indeed inexplicable, bizarre, and silly, over the course of watching it, these bizarre things begin to become more and more relevant. Characters' odd or idiosyncratic behaviors which you initially write off as annoying become important in earth shattering ways. The connections between characters, and their motivations for their actions are revealed to sometimes devastating effect. Ultimately we are left to question what is the meaning of personal relationships, what are we willing to sacrifice for people we love, and can our love for another person actually hurt them or the world? There are also many references to specific events or societal issues affecting Japan, so knowledge of those (or just looking it up after the show) will really help certain things be more impactful. This is DEFINITELY not a starter anime, and if you don't make it to the end you also won't really get the full effect and reasoning for all the bizzare stuff going on throughout. (And honestly, some of it STILL isn't explained at the end so you have to be willing to accept that.) If, like me, you are just SUPER curious to see a lifesaving sentient penguin hat in action, and also are up for some 1Q84-like surrealism and philosophical questioning, FULL SPEED AHEAD!
Mawaru Penguindrum is one of my favourite anime :-) One of the other reviewers mentioned that you should watch it after you've already seen a considerable number of anime, and I agree. The first time I watched it, I have to admit that I thought it was confusing and silly in some points; and above all I found the "seizon senryaku" (the survival strategy) as well as the penguins extremely annoying and childish. Nonetheless, even the first time I thought it was a good anime. The second time round I was instead singing along with the survival strategy thing and observing the penguins' antics with an amused smile. The animation is great. I love the colours and the drawings, it's stylish and just great. And Himari is gorgeous. The music also is great, the OP and ED songs are all very good and catchy, they stay in your head and refuse to go; and the background music fits the story perfectly well. I also think the voice acting is good, especially Himari. Ok, I guess I'm probably a Himari fan... The story is...difficult to describe without giving away major plot points. There is maybe an excessive effort on part of the authors to constantly surprise the viewers with countless plot twists, always going against the mainstream. It also switches really fast from one mood and genre to another, from serious to slapstick comedy, to philosophical and political at times; from profound and thought-provoking to just nonsensical and crazy and plain weird. But rather than detracting from the continuity of the plot, that was one of the things I most appreciated. Never take anything for granted because the unexpected is always around the corner waiting to bounce on you and bewilder you: nothing and nobody are exactly what they seem. The first episode is really masterful in this, it just seamlessly goes from sheer tear-jerking tragedy to completely outlandish and eccentric in a matter of minutes. Anyway, just to give a brief summary of the story: Himari dies and is then resuscitated by a mysterious and exceedingly snobbish maybe alien entity which possesses her via a tacky hat and orders her brothers to fetch the penguin drum if they want to save Himari's life. And so it all begins. The two brothers, Kanba and Shoma, don't even know what the penguin drum is but they set out to find it and thus the story unfolds, with all the characters running around, sometimes in circles, trying to obtain the penguin drum while fate awaits as the final destination: but can fate be transferred from the track it seems to be on? can it be changed? The plot has some inconsistencies, and as I already mentioned maybe there are just too many plot turns and twists. But I still think it's pretty good. The central theme is fate. Is it something loathsome, expression in its inevitability of a cruel and unfair god: "If everything is already set in stone by fate, then why are we even born?". Or does instead the mere existence of fate, as something pre-established, give meaning to everything that happens and is: "Sad and painful things happen for a reason. Nothing in this world is pointless". And of course it's about love. All the characters are moved by love. Can love change fate? What are you willing to do to save the ones you love? How far are you willing to go? What are you willing to sacrifice? Does love justify any kind of action, even the most heinous? The characters are also described very well. Maybe not all of them. But the major ones are all well portrayed. They have depth and a background story that is eventually revealed and helps you understand what initially seems puzzling. I just love Himari - but I already said that. And I also find that the relationship between the three siblings is sweet and touching. Ringo starts out as a creepy stalker character, but then she develops nicely. I don't really feel that the Masako-Mario duo was necessary or particularly endearing. And maybe the anime starts better than it ends. The initial part was maybe more inspired and well-executed than the end. But I do feel that these are minor quibbles. The good stuff outweighs the bad by a long shot. It's a great anime and I really do recommend it.
Mawaru Penguindrum Review The following is a review for the 2011 series, Mawaru Penguindrum, directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara. Ikuhara is a name you should probably know, even if you don’t currently, because of his work in the 1990s on Revolutionary Girl Utena and Sailor Moon. Despite this, he went completely inactive all throughout the 2000s, (nearly 15 years!) so for him to come back with the likes of Mawaru Penguindrum is a truly grand return to the medium. Kunihiko Ikuhara also co-wrote the script for this series with someone named Shinichi Ikeda, who has done almost nothing notable before or since Penguindrum, which just signals to me that this show is primarily Kunihiko’s brainchild. The series also features the involvement of Shiro Sagisu for the musical composition, whom I only mention because he did the soundtrack for Neon Genesis Evangelion and, more importantly, he kills it with the soundtrack for Mawaru Penguindrum. Honestly it is one of the best highlights that you can take away from the show, and it's one that you don't need to see the show to enjoy. Though the music does take on a new emotional meaning upon watching and completing Mawaru Penguindrum. In terms of technical acknowledgements, the greatest compliments of all go to Studio Brains Base, which handled the overall production. They are perhaps best known for making the second season of Spice & Wolf and the hit action series Durarara!! and Baccano!, respectively. I’ll really try to emphasize this again later in my review, but Studio Brains Base deserves full kudos for the quality work that they did in Penguindrum. Everything from its impeccably smooth animation, to the colorful eye-popping settings, to the impactful character designs, and every striking aesthetic and detail that lies in between. They provide director Kunihiko Ikuhara’s vision and style true justice. Seeing these visuals in as best a presentation as possible is why I recommend watching this show on Blu-Ray, as I did, if available for a first viewing. I was able to obtain mine on Amazon courtesy of Sentai Filmworks. Finally, having just finished watching the show for a second time, I can convincingly say that the English dub is of serviceable quality as to be interchangeable with the Japanese. It really is surprisingly good, and I recommend checking it out. In addition, the English subtitles themselves seem to be better translated on the Blu-Rays. Now, with those technical details out of the way, I’m going to jump to the bottom line recommendation for those who are merely interested in Mawaru Penguindrum, but haven’t already seen it yet. The short answer is yes, go see it without further reservation. But if you are reading this and genuinely are just trying to figure out if it’s worth your time investment and committment...The actual answer is still yes, but with a couple of qualifications. First, you should know that this show is not a one-size-fits-all type of anime recommendation. Instead, it fits in with an extremely small niche of modern (post 2011) shows that are considered extraordinarily good on an almost universal basis, but generally underrated compared to its peers. In Penguindrum’s case, its obvious contemporary would probably be Madoka Magica. It is a situation that’s un-ironically reminiscent in many ways to Yuki Yuna is a Hero and a lot of the principles pertaining to that common association do apply. Generally speaking, if you are a fan of Madoka, or just really well-made supernatural thrillers; you’d probably be ecstatic to find a hidden gem like Penguindrum. But its very hard to qualify a viewing experience via a simple statement of comparison to another hit show, or by merely listing its superficial similarities. Furthermore, while I think it highly unlikely, it’s still very possible that a theoretical Madoka fan wouldn’t even like Penguindrum, and the vice-versa that a theoretical Penguindrum fan wouldn’t care for Madoka. The tonal direction and the persisting themes of both series are diametrically opposite to each other, even despite both shows following very similar principles in production. In essence, they are independently made (and also keep in mind that these shows weren’t made from any kind of source material!) from each other and, as such, have organic divergence in philosophies driving them. All of their on-paper similarities are complete happenstance. And honestly? That’s a very rare thing to be able to say about two such esteemed anime of the same genre which share the same original purpose: deconstructing Magical Girl tropes, and constructing a story with magical girl elements that can appeal to a male demographic. With Madoka, the aesthetic is almost nightmarish. The aesthetic brings the viewer in to its psychological brutality. Contrast this to Penguindrum, which has an aesthetic that works strictly to frame the narrative, allegorically, and keep its tone light—so it can continue to focus on its core message despite its on-paper dark plot twists and revelations: which is a theme of perseverance in the wake of ill-fated catastrophy. The end result is a show that’s as much a drama as it is a supernatural suspense. The same cannot be said for Madoka Magica. Spoilers Ahead As a fellow fan and proponent of Penguindrum, I can really understand the sentiment and need to focus on its amazing qualities and just gush about them- but I want to really hammer home (because I can’t really find anyone else doing so) and make clear that this show isn’t perfect. Far from it. No show is perfect in its own right—and Penguindrum is a fantastic show in its own right, certainly—but perhaps Penguindrun’s issues are more egregious than many of my fellow fans and critics would have you initially believe. For example, without delving into spoilers just yet, I’d freely state that the ending could be seen as controversial at best, and a frustrating and confusing dud at worst. Even on my second watch and knowing all the major plot points, I still found myself scratching my head at the provided logic at times, particularly in the latter half of the series where I struggled to simply accept what was being provided to me in terms of exposition. The whole time while binging this series, I had to have my trusty wiki page open and I read every plot summary after every episode. Following the finale, I also felt compelled to look up multiple lengthy analysis/explanations online to understand what I just saw. It’s a similar exercise to Madoka in that regard, sure, but for the sake of accuracy I'd say Penguindrum is much more in line with Lupin the Third: A Woman Named Fujiko Mine or Gankutsuou. A large part of the magic of Penguindrum is how everything “clicks” into place as the series goes on, and the more effort you put into understanding the narrative, the more value you get out of it. Admittedly, I know what I just said is something of a general and "common sense" compliment that is applicible to just about any series ranging from Madoka and Penguindrum to Serial Experiments Lain and Neon Genesis Evangelion. So I get the skepticism. But really, Penguindrum is fantastic. A prime example of its unique excellence can be seen in how the series handles flashbacks as a plot device. Rather than as a narrative crutch that more-often-than-not becomes a test of endurance for viewers, the flashbacks often contain the best scenes of the entire show. That's not to say that Penguindrum is perfect with its flashbacks (With secondary characters like Ringo in the earlier half the series, especially, and her nonstop flashbacks with Tabuki and her family) but the suspense level remains very high as the series moves towards its conclusion, with intuitive and enthralling plot twists all along the way. I loved seeing Kanba go full Anakin Skywalker in his attempt to save Himari. Likewise, I loved seeing Shoma duke it out with Kanba just like I loved seeing their mutual need to save Himari and come to terms with their pasts as children of terrorists and the fact that they are a non-biological "pretend" family. Oftentimes the revelations are subtle, too, like how the series reveals the foreshadowed meaning of “Initiate the Survival Strategy!” or “You will amount to nothing” to nonchalant fanfare or thematics. Engaged viewers are rewarded, while lackadaisical viewers aren’t punished. That’s a very difficult accomplishment to pull off, narratively. Though I do admit that the first ten episodes or so can be a very slow burn for some viewers that takes some commitment and adjustment. And while this should be a given, there are no guaruntees that there will be a payoff for every viewer that buys into the praise and sticks with Penguindrum all the way through. Like I said, the series does have its fair share of admittedly weird characteristics and objective faults. Let's explore them. The terms that come to mind as I recollect my experience with Mawaru Penguindrum are a sense of sadness, a lingering feeling of loneliness, and a deeply profound feeling of loss. Yet this is contrasted, somewhat conflictingly, with distinct admiration and appreciation for the personal struggle and sacrifices that the three protagonists make as they fight against fate. These three principle protagonists are Shoma, Kanba, and Himari of the Takakura family, with a strong secondary role given Ringo Oginome, a high school girl whom is the fixation and epicenter of a number of revolving subplots and conflicts; the primary focus of which composes the early and middle parts of the series. In no small way, the absolute best aspects to Mawaru Penguindrum are its least advertised. Its characters’ deep intrinsic bond and love for each other in the face of nonsensical trauma and past revelations that come to light. Just as many times as not, even taken in context of hindsight, these events are still borderline nonsensical. Of course, that statement would make a lot more sense if you understood the visual aesthetic by which the show operates, which I’ve tried to detail above. But basically, it’s one of those shows where you have to see it for yourself to know what I'm talking about. Not everything is going to make sense, even with the later revelations of the series or, beyond that, the elaborate explanations out there online for when you finish watching. The show does a really wonderful job of working hard to keep the “nonsense” strictly in the aesthetics. For example, the stick figures in place of animated or drawn-in extras. The “floating” cages of Shoma and Kanba’s past, or the “Child Broiler” Himari escapes from with the help of Shoma. Or maybe even the cartoon-like Penguins that follow the principle characters around and embody their respective personalities. These things are obviously not to be taken as literally there in the context of the story. But given the fantastical and allegorical nature of the show; it’s a very hard thin line to determine what is “real” as it relates to the story, what’s just the character interpretation, and what’s just stylistic or an aesthetic to the animation as its delivering to viewers the plot. Because Penguindrum is one of the only anime I know that seems to engage in all three, it is very hard to "guess" which criticisms against Penguindrum may have intentionally been left that way by the storywriters for viewer interpretation. Again, props to Brains Base for executing the “nonsense” aesthetic just as good, if not better, than any of its contemporaries that I have or will mention in this review...It just makes my job putting my thoughts and experiences on paper in a sensical way all the more of a challenge. And as a side note: Just to clarify before I get questioning glares here, when I say “nonsense”, I’m not merely trying to be derogatory of abstract storytelling. “Nonsense” is a genuine literary term for a subgenre of children’s fiction in the style of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. The stylistic choice that anime like Penguindrum, Madoka Magica, Yuki Yuna is a Hero, and to a lesser extent, Bakemonogatari and Lupin the Third engage in with their imagery is to have something that looks innocuous on appearance, but in the context of the plot, themes, and overarching story is actually a lot darker and more adult than it would originally seem. This is a trend that really blends the line between imagination driven by literary devices and storytelling driven by visual devices, and isn’t something that’s inherently unique to anime. (Sucker Punch and Samurai Jack both come to mind as this concept implemented in other mediums. And obviously Alice in Wonderland is very much still a readable and accessible book to this day.) Back on topic, the actual premise of the story is remarkably simple. What would you do to change fate to save the people you love? Terrorism, Cults, Abusive Parents, Deviant stalkers and sexual fixation, and an eternal conflict between two fate-controlling eternal deities aside—that’s basically the gist of what we’re talking about with Mawaru Penguindrum. The three main characters weather through all of these issues and subplots, but the main premise is never abandoned: saving and protecting their family and way of life. The name of the series itself is a perfect encapsulation of this premise, and the “nonsensical” element I keep going on about. The term “Mawaru” is Japanese for spinning, and Penguindrum is an idealized physical manifestation of fate as it relates to having a hopeful future. There’s a fantastic image online that is an essential flow chart to understanding how the Penguindrum itself works. But basically, it’s this sort of life force that is provided by fate [God?] to people who should otherwise die or amount to nothing. Of course, the two deities in the show—the “good” deity Mamoka and “bad” deity Sanetoshi—can manipulate how this life force works to further their own ends, but the province of life and death is fundamentally established to be outside of the principle human character’s control, in any case, and in the realm of God. It’s an intrinsic force of nature that every single named character in the show struggles with, including those after-mentioned deities. Which is (partially) why this show is so damned confusing. Right up and through the end, there’s this combined thematic message of hope, optimism, and opportunity and that we can for ourselves control the destination and course of our own future. In a way, though, this is something of a self-contradiction. And the fundamental issue is more obvious than you may think. If fate exists- just who, exactly, is controlling and laying down our fates? The obvious answer the series provides is the deities Mamoka and, especially, series villain and antagonist Sanetoshi. Sanetoshi, with his long pink hair and cool demeanor, is revealed to be a string puller and corruptor and is heavily implied to be modeled after real-life cult leader Shoko Asahara. You'd be forgiven for failing to guess that until the very end of the series though, where this motivation is dumped on viewers only in the closing episodes of the series. Sanetoshi “preordains” bad events like the death of innocent people in a major terrorist attack with the end goal of perpetrating human suffering to sort of punish them for their own despicable intrinsic nature; just to prove a point to his rival deity Mamoka (who takes on something of a Prometheus role) and the principle characters that he can. With his godlike powers, he has grown to loathe the mortal world in its ignorance, and goes to great lengths in his monologues to attenuate the notions of what is and isn’t physically possible to convince mortal humans to act on his behalf and in line with the principles he stands for. (Which is somewhat confusing, admittedly, why are said deities limited at all? More on this in a minute.) That’s all well and fine until the show contrasts this notion with the physical/spiritual manifestation of the Penguindrum, which is a sort of “get out of jail” transferrable fate that, to me, seemed to exist completely outside the control of Mamoka or Sanetoshi. As the concept of the Penguindrum relates to the story itself, it’s hard not to see it as a literal deus ex machina. At least, a deus ex machina by my understanding of it as articulated in the many elaborate explanation posts online. Over and over again, conflicts are resolved by transferring this penguindrum like a football. And while the plot twists surrounding side characters like Tabuki or Masako Natsume are very intriguing, they don’t really make a whole lot of sense if you stop to think about it, and they certainly don’t lend credence to the logical principles the show itself puts forward with the Penguindrum being the primary focus of power over fate. Are these deities the ultimate beings with the final say in all matters of fate, or not? Certainly, Mamoka seems to be an interesting case. To this day, I’m not sure if she was an eternal being or magically gifted (and mortal) human who happened across a magical journal. Given later elaboration, I'm inclined to believe she's always been a magical deity. But, to be fair, she was born and she does die and Sanetoshi himself had gone on to explain that she did appear seemingly out of nowhere in Episode 13. Which begs the greater question of what Mamoka and Sanetoshi are, per se. To me Mamoka and Sanetoshi seemed more like beings existing “between the cracks” of reality than anything else. It’s very hard to ascertain whether they are deities in the "Godoka" sense, where they are omnipotent and omnipresent to every single thread of fate but simply manifest in this story’s case because it’s a pinnacle point of confrontation between them…or simply two magical creatures that happen to have spillover that tragically entangles them with the Takakhura family. It's hard to say. The story never really makes this clear, and there are subtle hints of both. (Himari “falls through the cracks” into Sanetoshi’s lair in Episode 9.) Whatever is the truth according to the writing, to viewers it makes little difference as we’re whiplashed across space, time, and one surreal plot twist after another. By the story’s end I found that I was just exhausted physically and emotionally, and not entirely in a cathartic way. I was frustrated, confused, and somewhat unsatisfied with the closing scenes. The conflict just didn’t seem definitively resolved to me. Which, by the way, was probably my main beef with Madoka Magica’s original ending—which resolved itself almost identically to Penguindrum in the main series and second compilation film Eternal. The storywriters/directors seemed to realize this problem too and went on two years later to release the sequel Rebellion, which addresses this very same issue. In any case- my main issue with both shows is that the ending isn’t definitive, nor is it particularly satisfying given the tremendous hurdles and hardship the main characters have to overcome to achieve their happy ending. There was yet so much more to try and decipher and figure out and otherwise come to terms with. Especially while my thoughts were fresh off a repeat viewing, I immediately rejected sleep and hit the keyboard. Despite my reservations with the ambiguous and somewhat stereotypical nature of Sanetoshi and Mamoka; I thought the extraterrestrial conflicts were played well. Just not optimally. What I’m really making a big beef over is how the execution was realized in the show’s final moments which, again, I didn’t feel gave viewers or its characters justice. Furthermore, I didn’t like how the characters ultimately "bested" Sanetoshi because the show itself seems to hint [In Episodes 9, 16, and 19, and 24] that Sanetoshi operates with one hand behind his back, so to speak, and almost strikes me as benevolent until the final concluding episodes. For almost the entire series, his modus operandi is trying to win the hearts and minds of those around him, and influence them to take actions on his behalf rather than simply dominate their wills. This has mixed results. I didn’t like that the terrorists subplot was made subservient to Sanetoshi’s will and, later, conveniently forgotten with his imminent “defeat” and rewrite of reality, even if I did really like the supernatural and allegorical component to it while it was happening. (In the same vein of how I loved the supernatural component to Death Note.) Even so, the implication of the whole Sarin Gas incident—both in the show and in real life—was more or less blameless to the whimsical and deviant nature of a god string-puller is a weird sort of implication to go along with the core message to struggle against fate. I’m not saying definitive psychological mind games on par with, say, Death Note were necessary (nor would it would work for Penguindrum, probably) but I will say that I think the show was on to something when it started tying everything together around the terrorism and cult aspect. It was actually an interesting premise, it was very intelligently foreshadowed throughout the series. In a number of scenes throughout series it played itself out in a very exhilarating and suspenseful way. Three of the best standout scenes that come to mind as I write this review were “Initiate the Survival Strategy!” scene of Episode 12, the Shoma memory scene of saving Himari of Episode 20, and the Kanba rampage scene of Episode 22. It’s a unique formula that fundamentally works for Penguindrum in a very superficial sense because of how it intelligently juxtaposes these seriously dark events with its nonsense, oftentimes fantastical aesthetic and plot. Terror in Resonance would try its own hand in terrorism as a premise a few years later and, in my opinion, it fails. Penguindrum in some regards was the ultimate “bait-and-switch” that really hooked me in how it played (and played off) that revelation. Almost, I’m inclined to say, as good as the now-infamous Madoka plot twist. Just almost. But the show itself doesn’t seem to keep up with it as more than a secondary plot thread. And as I already mentioned the resolution to this plot thread is directly tied to the “Defeat” of Sanetoshi. As for everything else… Looking back over this review, I do realize I focused very haphazardly on elements as they sprung to mind, and more or less focused the bulk of my review on characteristics as they relate to the latter half of the series. But a tremendous point that has to be made: while Penguindrum is always articulate and does have good payoffs, the show’s earlier episodes do feel almost redundant, in retrospect. There are a literal ton of elements and plot threads introduced and promptly glossed over or even forgotten or, as mentioned, conveniently resolved by tying everything to Sanetoshi by the closing episodes. I’ve already mentioned the terrorist plot thread in depth, but that was probably one of the better handled threads compared to others. Ringo, for example, pretty much stops being relevant after Episode 12 where two juxtapositions happen. First, she definitively loses her diary and summarily gives up on her quest to fulfill her “destiny”, which is a plot thread that dominated the earlier half of the series. To be fair- it’s actually vindicating to see Shoma “win” Ringo over to normalcy. And the events of Episode 8 and 10 were certainly a wonderful plot twist and cat-and-mouse series of events to behold. It’s at this point in the series, though, that she pretty much just becomes a supporting character. She witnesses key story events as we the viewers do and acts as a relay for Shoma to dumb dialogue on the viewer. She is otherwise completely powerless to affect events one way or another. This leads to juxtaposition #2, where Shoma essentially friendzones her. Shoma pretty much ends their romantic connection out of guilt for his family's responsibility in Mamoka's death. The diary itself, which was lost in Episode 8, ends up becoming the main basis of external conflict for the middle section of the series. (Episodes 10 through 18) as Mamoka’s childhood friends Yuri/Tabuki, Kanba’s sister Masako Natsume, and the Takakura brothers all try to secure the diary to accomplish their own goals. However, seeing as each party simply gives up on their quest for the diary and, later, it is burned in episode 23 to little fanfare; it’s hard not to feel that it was just a huge misdirectional plot thread in retrospect. Ditto for the focus on Ringo in Episodes 1-8. After Episode 18, the conflict juxtaposes once again to being an overarching external conflict between deities Sanetoshi and Mamoka. The love triangle between Shoma and Ringo is juxtaposed to being a love triangle between Shoma, Kanba, and Himari that isn’t really ever expounded upon, despite it being something of a critical revelation that completely takes the dramatic focus away from Ringo/Shoma. Not that I’m promoting more pseudo-borderline incest fetishes in anime, but I did come to believe that the inner conflicts between Himari, Shoma, and Kanba were genuine and believable, and handled well all things considered. The revelation that the family was a part of a terrorist cult made the numerous adoptions believable, and the flashback with Shoma and Himari felt endearing. It's yet another conveniently resolved plot point by the final episode. One of the bigger question marks that comes to mind is the (admittedly very psychological) revelation that Mr. and Mrs. Takakura were long dead [Revealed in Episode 21] and had their bodies stuffed in a dilapidated ramen shop. I'd think this begs a few questions, to say the least, but my primary criticism is that a further elaboration as to their demise is never provided. What happened? Were they betrayed, as the series seems to indicate and foreshadow through Masako Natsume’s pleading to her brother Kinba to stop his involvement in Episodes 16, 19, and 22? Were they murdered by their comrades (was Sanetoshi involved?) to cover up the crime by the cult? Did they commit suicide to avoid capture by the authorities? What’s the deal here? The fact Kanba visualized them as alive for the bar scenes where he got his cash also begs further inquiry as to Kanba’s mental health and status as a reliable narrator. Parallel to this: why again, beyond the provided Allegory in Episode 13, was Himari repeatedly fated to die? Did her illness and fate have anything to do with the Terrorist incident their parents perpetrated? I already understand the notion of splitting and transferring the Penguindrum between herself and her two brothers, but is that actually true? Finally, what’s the deal with Kanba’s sister giving him a make-out session in Episode 10 or even becoming estranged from the family in the first place. There’s a few key, if somewhat conflicting, lines of dialogue provided about how they split up. And one ~extremely short~ flashback scene. But for such an important (and in my opinion, engaging) secondary conflict I’d have liked just a little more clarification. I don’t like being a stickler for details. I’ve always said that if you analyze anything fictional deep enough for plot holes you’ll find them, one way or another. So yes, I acknowledge that I may grasping at straws just a little bit to highlight what could be construed as irrelevant nitpick points of criticism. Even so, I would counter this notion by saying that this is a perfect example of a show that is exemplary in so many respects like writing and visualization and its use of visual/literary techniques…still making a few egregious, almost elementary, bonehead errors. You can be a nonlinear, "nonsense" story but still be articulate. Furthermore, this is how Mawaru Penguin presents itself to viewers. It’s only by its own very high standard, and the high standard bestowed upon it by the fans/critics, that I’ve gone ahead and written pages critiquing it as I have. In closing…I'm almost feel that I didn't write enough to get all my feelings and sentiments on paper. And, looking back on my own essay, I feel that my overall tone may be misaligned with how much I actually enjoyed and was enthralled by Penguindrum. Furthermore, I’m also somewhat disappointed at my own inability to be as concise, convictive, and intelligently deliberate as, say, my Madoka Magica or Steins Gate reviews. I don’t wish my praise to merely be seen as lip service to defend myself to fellow fans as I go on to bash everything they loved about it. For the most part, I’d like my points to be seen more commentary than criticism. Putting sense into words to reflect the roller-coaster of emotion that comes along with watching Penguindrum. Some of those original impactful emotions were lost when I failed to write this review a year ago, when I first watched Penguindrum. But I also garnered some perspective, I think. Certainly, my enthusiasm for Steins;Gate held up to my repeat viewings, but that has nothing to do with adoration and everything to do with context. I rewatched Penguindrum specifically to help me get this review on paper. Because I want these sentiments on record, defined. I want to contribute to the conversation interpreting Penguindrum’s legacy and place amongst the pantheon of modern anime classics. For that reason, I think it is quintessential to be objective as possible in recognizing Penguindrum’s failures. When I say, Despite its failures, Penguindrum is a modern anime classic of our time, and one of the best (if underrated) anime of the last ten years; I want people to know that I mean it. Thank you for reading!
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