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Nov 042011
 

Episode 17 -

Wow, this episode almost felt… tame, at least in comparison to previous episodes. There was nothing particularly outrageously out there in this episode, but some very important stuff is obviously starting to unfold. There have been a ton of tensions brewing for the past several episodes, and this buildup was obviously going to explode sooner or later. But now it looks like we’re on the very cusp of those tensions exploding, with Himari unknowingly in a very dangerous situation. Of course, Masako and Yuri dueling it off with crossbows and machine guns already increases the stakes when you consider how they are the current holders of the diary.

One thing that’s rather interesting to note is how it has not been completely confirmed that the diary is actually the penguindrum. The diary has been noted as an extremely powerful tool that might be the penguindrum, but it’s never been explicitly mentioned that it is actually the penguindrum itself. The Princess of the Crystal’s refusal to acknowledge the diary as the Penguindrum does make the entire situation rather suspicious; the possibility that the Penguindrum is something more complex seems to very much exist.

When you try to look at the bigger picture, everything is still rather fragmented for the most part. One thing that becomes extremely obvious when you examine this fragmented bigger picture, though, is just how uncannily similar the situation is between Yuri, Tabuki, and Momoka, with Shouma, Kanba, and Himari. The situation where Yuri and Tabuki have already lost Momoka looks eerily like what would happen to Shouma, Kanba, and Himari if Himari actually died. I don’t know how this parallel is supposed to play into how the story here is trying to “set fate on the correct path”, but the inclusion of Masako and the pink-haired due complicates everything even more.

All of this makes me wonder just how significant all the symbolism in previous episodes are. There have been a ton of little stories (such as the three sheep story), subtle little details in the background, and lots of exposition and development about everybody’s connection to Momoka. The plot so far has been strongly hinting at everything intrinsically being interconnected in some shape or form, with this episode showing the convergence of all the factors that have been playing a role in this series. This buildup episode is definitely heading towards some sort of major conflict, with high levels of uncertainty to exactly what the results will be. Quite frankly, I’m excited. I’m expecting the next few episodes to be the start of the climax to this series.

Overall Enjoyment: 3.9/5

Screenshots are later in the post.

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Oct 282011
 

Episode 16 -

Recent episodes of Penguindrum have calmed down slightly, and instead have opted to tell a lot of each character’s backstory. The approach is working out fascinatingly well, where each character is slowly gaining their own niche as flawed human beings, each acting with the best of intentions but in twisted ways. Ikuhara really isn’t holding back in trying to create a very diverse cast, where everybody from Yuri to Natsume all get their own backstory and are somehow intrinsically involved in the state of affairs of the Penguindrum. It’s truly a breathtaking feat how Ikuhara has managed to weave everything together, and while I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of his controversial ways of doing so, he has certainly managed to make a captivating series so far.

This week’s episode goes into a fascinating character study of Natsume, aka Kanba’s stalker, and also someone who seeks the penguindrum. Her personality is simply so much more complex than we initially made it out to be, where her rough past with her grandfather led up to her growing into a very forthcoming, straightforward yet flawed woman. The episode chronicles her precarious rise as the strange individual we know as Natsume, and her own motivations and ideals. It’s very easy to see how Natsume has grown up, and how she has come to very much resemble her grandfather’s personality in many ways. What’s more important to note here is how we’ve finally got some concrete motivations for why Natsume is seeking out the penguindrum, making her a more valid entry into this deathly struggle for the penguindrum.

What’s great about this series is that, with level of complexity to the character relationships and situation, it’s impossible to perfectly predict the future. And it’s in that inability to see the future events that creates a compelling narrative to this series, where each character tells an inexplicably human, raw, powerful yet very twisted, sometimes even disgusting, tales. The story doesn’t hold back with what it’s trying to tell, and is always experimenting with how to tell the story, and what to expect out of the story.

There is a level of sophistication to this series that at times seems like complete bullshit, yet at the same time feels like it has some other inexplicable purpose. The story feels very dynamic, which works well with the cast. Each and every character in this series is flawed in their own way, yet they struggle on to achieve their own happiness and goals, and it’s the culmination of each and every character’s actions that has created the intriguing story we’ve seen up until now. All of this is buildup towards the future, which gets me really excited for what’ll happen later on. How will each of these very motivated, and radically different, people interact as they seek the coveted penguindrum? How will the penguindrum itself affect the story, and how will the seemingly harmless characters play into everything? Penguindrum has been setting a solid foundation via these character arcs so that it can possibly answer those questions later. Now I just have to hope Ikuhara and Brains Base will actually pull through.

Overall Enjoyment: 3.8/5

P.S. It looks like the comedy is back, and damn, was it crazy. This scene was laughter inducing, yet at the same time pretty disturbing o_o;

Screenshots are later in the post.

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Oct 212011
 

Episode 15 -

Holy crap, why does this show keep getting even more absurd? Seriously, at this point, the absurdity is almost a turn-off point to this series, where we keep getting introduced to some pretty messed up characters. Ikuhara must really be having a blast with creating such a “unique” and crazy cast. That being said, I can now safely say that we can finally start to partially piece together this crazy puzzle that Ikuhara has given us. And quite frankly, at heart the story has a very simple theme, one that I feel kind of stupid for not really thoroughly considering up until now. There are some plot holes starting to pop up here though, which is a bit worrisome.

Okay, long story short, Yuri had a really screwed up childhood. I mean, her father was a super-eccentric artist, and seems to have ended up surgically modifying Yuri as his way of “making her lovable”. You’ve probably been wondering why Yuri seems to have male genitals (or at least, it is strongly implied). Here we see the reason; her very own father used skin grafts from Yuri’s arms and legs to debilitate Yuri’s genitals. It’s heavily implied that he grafted a male genital onto her, which is absolutely ridiculous. Talk about completely crazy and revolting; Ikuhara, you really did it this time =_=;

But Yuri’s very sickening backstory paves into the introduction of the mythical and legendary Momoka, whom bears an uncanny resemblance to Ringo. Momoka is the first to fully describe the capabilities of her diary, which is to alter “fate” itself, but at a costly price/punishment. I did mention the Monkey’s Paw in my last post, but I didn’t expect the penguindrum to be startlingly similar to the paw. The main difference I see here is that the penguindrum can only grant one type of wish; changing fate. If you think about it in terms of “changing fate”, then the main theme to this entire show becomes extremely simple; the underlying theme is trying to save loved ones from the cruelties of “fate”. Considering all the ramblings on fate very early on in this series, I should’ve figured that the penguindrum had something to do with it. Now that we finally know what the penguindrum is actually capable of, the main theme becomes much more obvious.

However, even with all of these revelations, there’s still a ton of questions left to answer. How is Shouma, Himari, and Kanba all related to the penguindrum? Why were their parents involved with Momoka and the penguindrum? What is Natsume’s involvement with Momoka and the penguindrum, and who is this “mario” person that she is protecting? Perhaps whenever Momoka used the penguindrum, it altered the fate of other people as well? There are still a ridiculous number of questions that have been left out in the open, and the big picture only remains partially completed. We’ve finally gotten some of the key information needed to figure out what’s going on, but this overcomplicated web of relationships still leaves much to speculate on. And honestly, it’s this feeling of uncertainty that keeps this series so captivating.

Overall Enjoyment: 3.9/5

Screenshots and new OP theme are later in the post.

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Oct 152011
 

Episode 14 -

Man, Ikuhara just keeps on throwing in the most absurd plot twists in Mawaru Penguindrum. Once again, he adds another later of complexity to the already complex web of character relationships. The single thing that is blatantly obvious, though, is how EVERYTHING ties back to Momoka and her diary in some way or form. I mean, there’s the fight for the penguindrum, everybody having some sort of relationship with her, all of them involved with the mysterious Princess of the Crystal and the pink haired dude. You can tell that everything is interconnected in some way shape or form, but it’s figuring out how that’s a completely frustrating endeavor.

That being said, there are a few interesting little things I’d like to speculate upon. The most obvious one from this episode would be how Yuri seems to be a hermaphrodite (or at least, has male genitalia). The one disturbing thing that instantly comes to mind is how Yuri claims that “Momoka completely accepted her for who she was”. That implies that Momoka and Yuri were very, VERY intimate as elementary schoolers, which is also when the diary/penguindrum came into existence. Aside from how disturbing it is to imagine the situation, how does this relate to the actual penguindrum itself?

On a different note, me and a friend of mine were speculating about the nature of the penguindrum, and noticed that it has a very peculiar way in which it fulfills “fate”. Just thinking back to that episode where Shouma performed CPR on Ringo, Ringo was expecting a “kiss” from her true love, whom she thought was Tabuki. Of course, it was Shouma who inadvertently kissed her, and go figure it ends up that Shouma is her actual first love. We were speculating how the penguindrum may be an item that fulfills the “fate” that is written in the diary, but in ways that might not always be to one’s benefit or train of thought. The tale of the Monkey’s Paw comes to mind, and makes me wonder if a similar concept applies to the Penguindrum.

Another thing that we’ve speculated about is the actual nature to the relationships between Shouma, Kanba, and Himari. Or to be more specific, we have strong suspicions that one of the siblings is NOT actually a blood related sibling. The one hint we think fits in here is the message shown via (this screenshot). I’ve been wondering as to what role the other members of the Triple H group play in this series, but if you think of the Triple H group as a way to draw parallels to the siblings, there’s a rather interesting implication. Mainly, since Kanba would be associated with the pink-haired female, and Shouma would be associated with the blue haired girl, that leaves out one person amongst the three siblings: Himari. The way in which the third member is left practically anonymous in the screenshot makes it seem as if the third member is implied to be almost an outsider. Note that this is just me and my friend’s speculations, but nonetheless it’s an interesting possibility to ponder over.

In the end, Ikuhara really deserves kudos for crafting an extremely complex, intricate, and fascinating web of character relationships. Almost every single character introduced in this series has come back to play some sort of role in the main plot, adding a new element or unforseen twist to the plot that further complicates the overall picture. It’s breathtakingly complex, and seeing how the next 10 episodes attempts to wrap up and explain everything properly is something I’m really looking forward to seeing. Heck, I wish I could marathon the series right now :x

Overall Enjoyment: 4.0/5

Screenshots and ED theme are later in the post.

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Oct 082011
 

Episode 13 -

Usually, deus ex machina revivals from death aren’t very thrilling to see in anime. After all, they usually scream out as a “convenience factor”, and usually ends up hurting the overall story. That being said, it does make Himari’s death last week feel a bit pointless. However, in exchange for that, the episode goes into tremendous depth about the pink haired Doctor this episode, as well as further complicate the ongoing intrigues in this episode.

The storytelling here was quite superb, even with the notable amount of flashbacks. The dialogue was sharp and fitting for all the characters, where some of their monologues worked out really well in adding to the atmosphere. On top of that, the music was superb. There are subtle little tones and sounds that have been added to the normal music, but the result provides some amazingly fitting BGMs.

Anyways, the meat of the story is continuing to get more and more complex, with every added character adding some sort of unknown element to the mixture. There is still that brunette “Natsume” character, whom is seeking the penguindrum. There’s the pink-haired man who seems to be helping out both Himari as well as Natsume. Then there’s the twist with the parent’s terrorist nature, and the hint that they too were going through a “survival strategy”. And the key to the answer here is, once again, the penguindrum itself.

That being said, this episode does bring to the forefront a rather pressing question. Assuming the diary is the penguindrum, who is the third party who stole the second half of the diary? I would like to guess that it’s Tabuki, but the story is probably more complicated than that. Speaking of which, what’s up wit Tabuki’s scars on his hands?

The most recent episodes of Penguindrum have been amazingly well done, each providing solid buildup towards the main conflicts at hand, all while utilizing the main cast properly, and maintaining an intense atmosphere. This series is really doing a great job at pushing forward an intriguing story, and the silly tone this series had earlier has mostly disappeared at this point. Will the silliness return? Who knows.

Overall Enjoyment: 4.2/5

Screenshots are later in the post.

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Oct 012011
 

Episode 12 -

Phew, and this week we’re hit with another strong episode of Mawaru Penguindrum. Everything just seems to be continuously spiraling out of control in this series, where I don’t even know what’s going on anymore. There’s the twist with Himari this episode, the revelation that Kanba had seemed to be in some sort of contract with the Princess of the crystal, there’s the twist with Shouma’s parent’s supposedly being terrorists, and let’s not forget the pink haired dude and the newly introduced stalker. There are just far, far too many questions at this point, and trying to tie everything back together into a coherent overall picture is probably close to impossible.

I just love how this series manages to keep adding more and more layers of complexity to the story, all while maintaining a good set of characters and some captivating plot twists. This episode proves to be no different, where Himari’s sudden death ended up being a surprisingly touching and powerful moment. Amidst her death, there’s the twist where Shouma’s parents also seemed to be involved in the Survival Strategy (Seizon Senryaku) business, which ended up killing Momoka.

How in the world does Shouma’s parents tie into what’s going on now? Who in the world is that pink haired man, and what does his presence signify? And what role is Himari, Shouma, Ringo, and Kanba expected to play in this increasingly complicated mess?

In the end, this episode was a strong episode that did well in further pushing my interest in the series. One thing that is critically important to note is actually a single question we’ve had for a long time; exactly what the heck is this mystical “Penguindrum”?!? After all, it seems the Penguindrum would be the solution to this entire affair. After everything that’s been going, this one question remains central to the entire story, and will probably grow even more in importance as the series goes on.

Overall Enjoyment: 4.2/5

Screenshots are later in the post.

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Sep 242011
 

Episode 11 -

Just when I thought I was starting to get things set in my mind with regards to this show, Penguindrum once again manages to completely throw me off. This series has done an amazing job at gradually building upon itself each week, creating a solid foundation for the increasingly complex plot. The simultaneous developments in this series are superb mainly for how they all seem to integrate into some larger, more complex picture. At the same time, these separate plot lines bring in some great character development, and the show even manages to maintain it’s humor with the silly penguins in the background.

There are a ton of things going on in the story at this point, with Kanba gaining a hardcore stalker being one of the more surprising bits. This “Natsume” person already smells suspicious because of her seemingly deep past with Kanba, but what’s puzzling is how her penguin-hat aquaintance plays into all off this. Is it a mere coincidence that someone directly related to Kanba is also seeking the penguindrum? Also, one other thing that really sticks out like a sore thumb is how the second half of the diary was stolen by somebody else. I did mention in my previous post that the situation seemed suspicious, but this just confirms it. Are there even more groups trying to obtain this mystical penguindrum?

On top of the mysteries with Natsume, there’s the plot twist with Ringo realizing she loves Shouma. While I can’t say I didn’t see it coming, the love potion was a very flamboyant method of bringing her feelings to the forefront of her story. And yet, this series once again throws in something completely unexpected, with the Princess of the Crystal mediating a info session where it turns out Shouma and Kanba might have somehow triggered Momoka’s death. Does this mean that the current situation is actually linked back over 16 years ago? What in the world does that imply for the current ongoing situation. Things do seem a bit too convenient as of now, but I am expecting the story to gradually iron out any sort of coincidences and conveniences over time.

Either ways, Mawaru Penguindrum continues to manage some very impressive buildup with an excellent set of characters and a captivating story. There is much more to this series that meets the eye, and I get the feeling this episode has barely even begun to scratch the surface of the scheme here. The story is gradually starting to converge, and the result should sure as hell be something to look forward to.

Overall Enjoyment: 4.1/5

Screenshots are later in the post.

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Sep 172011
 

Episode 10 -

Woah, this episode took everything I thought I had understood about this series, and flipped it upside down. We’ve gotten a ton of buildup in this series up until this point, yet when it seemed like I could get a semblance of the big picture, Ikuhara decides to change things up significantly. Quite frankly, it does an amazing job at increasing the intricacies and deep-seated roots to the conflict, where everything is much more complicated and serious than it seems. Aside from the large amount of plot twists, though, the animation quality this episode was noticably subpar. I guess the budget is starting to run out, which might not be a good sign considering how we’re not even halfway through this series.

These most recent episodes have really got the ball rolling, with the backstory regarding Himari’s past, as well as the stolen diary and the larger role the mysterious lady is playing, all is moving towards some sort of ambiguous goal. The fact that the mysterious lady in this series is highly likely to have been one of Kanba’s girlfriends certainly is a rather interesting twist, and adds a whole new perspective with more nasty drama and such. Her presence all of a sudden became more significant, especially after it’s revealed that she too is working for a different penguin-hat-alien-thingy.

One little detail that makes me curious is how the mystery lady seemed to be in two places at once, where she managed to both retrieve the diary that Ringo drops, as well as assault Kanba. This does bring up the idea that she may actually be cooperating with somebody else, where that “somebody else” is unknown. An acquaintance of mine suspects that this other party might actually be Tabuki, or his new wife. If that’s the case, the whole conspiracy with the penguindrum weaves a web of relationships much more complicated than I had ever expected.

Either ways, this episode changes things up completely, where we get a glimpse into what the enemy might be planning. Not to mention, the turn of events here bring up some major questions about how Kanba and his womanizing antics could be playing a bigger role here than we might think. What exactly is his relationship to this girl, and why does he seem to have some sort of deep animosities about her (based on his “dislikes about girls”, at least)? Another huge fact to note here is how Ringo no longer has her diary. What actions will she take from now on? How will it affect the flow of the story? Will she play a increasingly important role, or disappear from the plot now that she no longer can fulfill her desire to replace Momoka? All of this certainly perks my curiosity and fascination with the situation here, so I’m really anticipating the next few episodes to Mawaru Penguindrum.

Overall Enjoyment: 4.0/5

Screenshots are later in the post.

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