Flashbacks recount the story of how Shoma met Himari. While his father was giving motivational speeches to the members of the Penguin/Kiga Force, Shoma happened upon her. They take care of a kitten together, but it’s killed by the rules. Himari heads for the Child Broiler to be made invisible, but Shoma saves her. Back in the present, the Kiga force continues to plan, and Kanba is intimately involved.
That was a bona fide tear-jerker. This was one of Mawaru Penguindrum’s best episodes, a feat considering week after week this series has rocked harder than anything else out there. Last week it said Shoma and Himari were soulmates, which threw us off, and this week it just came out and flat-out proved it without a shadow of a doubt. Himari would be long gone if Shoma hadn’t chosen her. The thing is, Shoma, Kanba and Masako, whatever they are to each other, were the children of members of the Penguin Force. Shoma blames himself for Himari’s fate because he’s the one who brought her into the “family”, i.e. the cult of penguin-loving eco-terrorists whose “survival strategy” isn’t limited to buying only local and organic.
The group believes they live in a bleak, “frozen” world full of corruption, divided between the chosen and unchosen. The unchosen die, after becoming invisible, as Himari almost did. (We’re not sure what good bombing (or apples) will do about this). Speaking of invisible apples, Ringo has had a much smaller role as we hit the home stretch. This is such a weird show, making us believe for so long the Takakuras are biological siblings, then setting up two love triangles – Shoma/Himari/Ringo, and Kanba/Himari/Masako. One of many things we’re still pondering: is the world and everything we saw this week the way it is because Momoka was killed? Was she the only one who could’ve made it better?
The gang goes on a school camping trip. They clean up a forest in tracksuits, and meet Konishi’s little brother, who has become isolated by her death. The girls stink at making curry. Yu and Yosuke are uncomfortable sleeping next to Kanji, Chie and Yukiko can’t sleep for their fat tentmate’s snoring, so the girls shack up with the guys, and then no one can sleep. The girls show a little skin. Kanji shares a night with the fat girl, but later she rejects him.
On numerous occasions, Yu simply asked the straightforward question no one wanted to ask, whether it comes to asking Naoki if he feels left out (he does), saying the curry iss bad (it is), or telling the girls they look good in the swimsuits Yosuke helpfully provided (they do). Yet when it comes to Kanji, for some reason he’s just as unreasonable and childish as Yosuke, only without any of the facial expressions. Is his ambiguous sexuality just going to be his singular characteristic from now on, despite the fact his encounter with the fat girl – and his insistence – put that to rest?
Anyway, yeah, this was a momentum-killing filler episode. We were hoping to learn a little more about the short kid with the tam or the third girl, but alas, we just got more of the same tired jokes at Kanji’s expense, and a whole lot of high school cliches thrown in for good measure. We get it; Yu and Yukiko like each other, as do Yosuke and Chie…but none of them will ever admit to each other ever, The End. The only notable (though awkwardly-shoehorned-in) nugget of info was something we’d already assumed: all the victims appeared on TV shortly before disappearing. But that just isn’t enough substance. We would have preferred more developments.
Fu learns that her fellow photographer, Shihomi Riho, has become fast friends with Hoboro and is staying with her for the time being. When Riho tells Fu she doesn’t photograph the sky anymore, Fu is worried Riho may quit photography altogether. Fu joins Riho and Chimo on a trip to Kure to visit Riho’s senpai Misano, an illustrator who now owns a cafe like Chimo. Misano often experiments with strange food combinations, because she likes the diversity, just as Fu likes taking pictures of everything she can. The lesson is to never limit oneself to one rigid dicipline or one dream.
What do Fu, Riho, Chimo and Misano all have in common? They all believe “Greed Is Good.” Through all the good times and great photos she’s taken, Fu has remained ever weary and unsure of exactly what she should be doing or aiming for. When she first interacts with all these older young women, she is visibly nervous and self-conscious, as if she feels guilty for subjecting them to her lowly presence. I wouldn’t call it low self-esteem or self-worth, but certainly a feeling of inadequacy and not meeting her full potential. In reality, none of that is the case, and as she even says to herself, she’s often simply overthinking things.
Fu wrongly assumed Riho only took photos of the sky, in the belief that when one becomes Serious about something, one concentrates on that one thing and hones it until one is better at it than anyone else. Photographing everything is self-indulgent and undisciplined, right? Wrong – Riho’s past gift to Fu of a train ticket with no destination says it all: that ticket is Fu’s future. No one can decide when and where it will occur – or what form it will take – but Fu. So she should keep trying anything and everything she can. The sky’s the limit. Diversity is good…as is greed.
Shu returns to school, where nasty rumors about his encounter with GHQ are snuffed out by Class Prez Kuhouin Arisa, heiress to the powerful, anti-GHQ Kuhouin Group. Shu’s mom Haruka surprises him by coming home while Inori is there, forcing them to meet. Haruka is off to a party held offshore on a cruise ship, which is the same party Gai and Shu crash. Gai alerted the GHQ about the party, and a gung-ho Colonel targets the ship with missiles. Shu draws out Arisa’s void – a shield – which saves the ship and provides a live demonstration of the Untertakers’ power to her grampa, the Kuhouin boss, who agrees to provide transport services.
Segai’s superior, Colonel Eagleman – a fairly stereotyped American – is constantly talking about “guts”, and having the adequate amount to triumph. Well, Gai essentially called in a GHQ missle attack on a civilian cruise ship he’d be on at the time in order to impress his potential business parter. How’s that for gutsy? As for Shu, he more confident and looks like he’s having a lot more fun in this episode. He’d probably have freaked out if he knew what Gai did, but he didn’t, and did exactly what Gai needed for him to do: draw out Arisa’s void. Saving the ship and Arisa double as a thank-you for her sticking up for him when assholish classmates get on his case, but most of all, she and Shu’s mother were people he was determined to protect.
While the military action was limited to running around, missile launches, and holding a big void umbrella, this episode was more about infiltration, charm, and theater. Gai was funny playing the lovable rogue for a flustered Arisa, and the ballroom scene with Tchaikovsky playing over the light show was pretty sharp. Oh yeah, it looks like Shu’s mom is aware of his powers – probably always has (she is a scientist). Her drunk exhibitionist act may fool Shu, but not us. Her idea of “protecting” could mean getting separating him from the Undertakers in the future.
While meeting with the “novelist”, Shinjurou somehow passes into an alternate world where there’s been no war, but he’s a cameraman on the set of a war movie. He acts naturally in this sudden new role, but has a persistent urge that there’s a mystery there to be solved. Indeed, when the hostile film director is found murdered, he determines himself the prime suspect. But there’s a strong possibility he’s being toyed with, as Inga and Kazamori aren’t able to get to him back at the prison.
This Un-Go is a mystery within a mystery, as Shinjurou attempts to solve a mystery on a movie set while an overarching mystery festers throughout: where is he, and what the heck is going on? A lot of the details and dialogue suggest a dream sequence. The novelist and his funkily-dressed girl companion behind him to whom we haven’t been introduced yet; they’re definitely behind this, but how far does it go?
If this novelist can do what he claims he can do, probably quite far. Shinjurou, Rie, Kazamori, and the others merely literary concoctions of this dude made flesh; puppets with which he weaves mysteries for them to solve? Has he authored all the mysteries we’ve seen so far? Have we been inside his little world all along? Is his presence in the prison cell simply another artifice, and the prisoner merely his avatar in that plane of reality? We’ve gotten a fair share of hints, but that doesn’t mean we’ve figured out exactly what’s going on.