Mawaru Penguindrum – 16 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 29 Oct 2011 – This week delves into the life and the past of Masako Natsume of the incredibly wealthy Natsume Clan. Her grandfather Sahei seemed determined that his family never be happy, and drove his son, her and Mario’s father away. She continually dreams of killing Sahei in elaborate ways, but when she wakes up, he’s always out in the yard practicing with a wooden sword. A poorly-stripped blowfish finally does him in, rather than any action by Masako, but he returns from the grave through Mario and challenges her to a similar blowfish challenge. She eats both plates, and while her body works out the poison, she dreams of a train where Kanba and her father are now servants of Dr. Sanetoshi, chosen to “put the world back on track…”

This series seems to know when a character is getting either too mysterious or too annoying, and then comes up with an episode that lifts that character up to a far more sympathetic and likable stature. Enter Masako, who finally gets some meaty backstory. She comes from strong stock; as not even death by blowfish could keep her gramps from messing with her life. As per usual, the devil’s in the details this week, and all the details here work.

From Strauss’ Blue Danube playing over a day in Masako’s life, to the hilariously random ways she dreams of killing Sahei, to Sahei’s equally hilarious and ridiculous feats of strength, and all his misogynist “Saheisms” like this nugget: “I like my tea like I like my women: as young as possible.” But also telling is how much Masako takes after the grandfather she hates. She too has a will of steel. And at the end of the day, her ultimate goal is the same as her stalkee Kanba’s: to protect her younger sibling and have a happy family. But it would seem she’s not quite ready to make the same sacrifice he made to save Himari. She wisely does not trust Sanetoshi, and neither do we, at least not until his backstory is told…

Rating: 9 (Superior)

Shiki – 18 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 3 Dec 2010Oho! Now things are getting interesting…and they were already plenty interesting before. Toshio replenished the blood he lost with an infusion at the clinic, which lessons the effect of Chizuru’s glamor. Allowing her to bite him was an immense risk (though it was going to happen anyway), but it seems to have paid off big.

Sunako is the vampire queen, not Chizuru. Chizuru, it would seem, is her daughter, who lived part of her adult life as a human, and even had a husband. Toshio taps into that and lays on the charm, with good results: asking her out for a harmless date to help her mingle more with the still-living villagers and allay their fears, Toshio is able to get her close enough to a temple so that her worst fears surface. The fear weakens her, and Toshio gets everyone’s attention that this is indeed a okiagiri – including Megumi’s dad, who remembers the scent of her perfume. This scene where Toshio turns the tables is delicious – and vicious – in its justice.

This is huge, as for once a good chunk of the living are forced to shed their denial and face facts. It also raises the stakes considerably for the vamps: a full-on assault to finish the villagers seems necessary. Meanwhile, Tatsumi, the blue-haired daywalker pays Natsuno (and his now-crazed dad) a visit. Tatsumi and Natsuno are called jinrou, the best of both worlds. But he won’t let Natsuno keep living if he won’t suck blood. Oh yeah, Ritsuko rose and doesn’t want to suck blood either. More power, more problems.

Rating: 8

AnoHana – 04 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 8 May 2011 – Just as the rest of the group more or less comes around to Jintan’s side, searching for the ghost of Menma in the forest, Yukiatsu’s hostility only intensifies. “This isn’t the old days where you played the leader,” he tells Jintan, and he “never acknowledged him anyway.” Whether or not this is true, it’s clear that Jintan’s Menma complex disgusts him, and what Jintan has become disgusts him too. But he also seems to be disgusted with himself. On the surface, he appears to be a very upstanding, good-looking kid who studies hard. But there’s definitely something off about him. Disguising himself as Menma, for one thing, is unorthodox, at best.

Before we muse more on that revelation, a word on the other Peace Buster members. Tsuruko is perhaps the most enigmatic member, as she has agreed to go along with the others, but still maintaining cool emotional distance from the proceedings. Anaru, meanwhile, is just as jealous as Menma as she was as a child. She upsets Jintan when she slips and he has to catch her from a potentially fatal fall – the same fall Menma apparently suffered. However he feels about Menma, Jintan cannot bear another loss, especially Anaru. Poppo kind of fades into the background after his initial role of reuniting the group; his loyalty to Jintan is all but absolute.

Back to Yukiatsu: why is he dressing up like Menma and wearing a wig? To deceive Jintan, or everyone? To toy with the guy he called a “whipped dog”? He thinks Jintan’s getting carried away, but so is Yukiatsu. It’s disrespectful to his former friends, and disrespectful to the memory of Menma. Also, we don’t see how he thought he wouldn’t eventually get caught in the act, so did he want to get caught (probably.)?Does he want to punish Jintan, or himself? And what of Tsuruko, who’s remained closer to him than anyone else (even if that isn’t that close): she has a lot of knowing looks in this episode, but did she know Yukiatsu was capable of this?

Rating: 8