Mawaru Penguindrum – 20 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 25 Nov 2011 – 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?


Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

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Shiki – 22 (Fin)(Retro Review)

Originally posted 30 Dec 2010 – The Shiki finale was unbelievably good – we’ll just get that out of the way. Naturally, just when victory is in sight for the villagers, a fire breaks out. And when a fire starts in a dry, windy forest, it doesn’t bode well for the mostly-wood village it surrounds. Toshio tried to fulfill his duty to protect the village the best he could; his rage and sorrow is palpable when he swings his chainsaw around wildly. Still, he saved many lives.

Of course, none of this would have been possible without Natsuno. He hypnotized Toshio before Chizuru, which is why her glamoring didn’t take. I imagine Natsuno basically told him to keep doing what he was doing, and he did. By the  end, there’s only two vampires left: Sunako, and the newly-risen Seishin, who has chosen to stay by her side.

Everyone else meets their end in various awesome ways. Megumi is found sneaking around, and her desperate pleas for mercy fall on deaf ears: by now the villagers have heard it all. They run her over with various farm equipment until she’s immobilized, then stake her. We kind of wish Megumi had made it to the big city, and we felt a bit bad that they’d just destory her so callously; but her surviving just wasn’t in the cards.

Natsuno throws himself and Tatsumi into a huge pit full of corpses by design, and blows them both up with dynamite. It’s clear Natsuno had no intention of living as a werewolf, so taking Tatsumi out with him two birds with one stone. He also made sure Kaori and her little brother were safe in a neighboring town before going back to take care of business.

We truly thought Sunako’s long time on the earth was at an end when Oosaki cornered her in a church, but Seishin rescued her at the last minute (whaddaya know, the big bearded dude’s mortal after all!). As out-of-town firetrucks and helicopters descend upon doomed Sotoba village, he sneaks out in a car with her in a suitcase. The final cut-to-black gave us goosebumps; something we expect from any great finale.

This was a truly excellent finish to what became the series  whose episodes we came to anticipate most each week, once it got going. The payoff was made so much more satisfying and impactful by the careful, intricate build-up in the first half. This was a series that slowly but surely changed our minds about it. We’ll miss its broodiness, casual gore, sexiness, and general strangeness, as well as its superb score.


Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

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AnoHana – 07 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 26 May 2011 – This was just a flat-out superb episode for Jintan and Anaru. Straight away this week, their romantic tension is escalated just a bit more, as Anaru proves to be quite the klutz. I’m aware that relationships don’t typically begin with awkward trips into someone’s personal space, but it works here, perhaps because we know these characters so well and they know each other so well. Anywho, the two of them and Poppo finally open Menma’s diary, which starts out pretty non-specific and innocuous.

But even seemingly dead-end declarations like “we had to go to the hospital today” open an entirely new set of memories for Jintan. All these years he and everyone else has been wrestling with their own memories; the diary is a window into memories from an entirely new perspective and tone. It also provides clues as to what Menma’s elusive “wish” might have been…if any. Finding their crude diagrams reminds them how big they used to dream before, you know, they became jaded sixteen year-olds. Alas, even acquiring toy fireworks requires a license, and paying someone to make a rocket for them will cost $2000. Denied!

Not to be stymied by financial obstacles, Jintan gets a job at the video store where Anaru works, and their interactions are simply fantastic. They get into such a comfort zone, they’re even able to call each other by their old nicknames again. Similarly, Yukiatsu and Tsuruko continue their subtle, aloof dance. Hey, maybe these crazy kids should forget about Menma, stop living in the past, and look at what they have right in front of them? Why not? Well, for one thing, because Jintan still sees her ghost.

So, what about Menma? Well, when she first learns about Jintan’s job from a third party, she’s angry, but then she learns why he, Anaru and Poppo are working: her wish to send a rocket to God. She realizes he’s not lying out of malice, but so that he can surprise her. Seeing him alive makes her feel alive. Whether it will help her move on to the beyond, we’ll have to see. Finally, Yukiatsu, who’s been so honest and open lately, is still keeping something from Jintan, namely that the day she died, Menma called everyone but Jintan to meet up at the secret base. What’s that about?


Rating: 8
 (Great)