Mawaru Penguindrum – 24 (Fin)(Retro Review)

Originally posted 24 Dec 2011 – Shoma confronts his brother, who has Himari’s dead body and is working with Sanetoshi, but Himari convinces him to stop the madness and let go; Kanba disappears. Ringo is confident she knows the words that will transfer fate even without the diary. Doing so means she’ll be swallowed up by flames, but Shoma sacrifices himself in her stead. Life returns to normal, but Himari and Mario are both healthy, Himari is friends with Ringo, and Shoma and Kanba are little kids walking by from the first episode, talking about the penguin drum.

Reset! Well, in this series, a reset made sense; the entirety of what we saw until now had taken place in a world where everyone was cursed from the stalemate between Sanetoshi and Momoka. Despite how fun and filled with love the Takahara siblings’ lives were, such a life was unsustainable. Kanba had to pay a considerable moral cost, and all the care he acquired for Himari would eventually be rendered ineffective, resulting in her death. With the curse lifted, Himari and Mario are no longer constantly near death, and Ringo can be herself. The cost was that family structure, and the new world we see lacks a painted house and a whimsical bedroom. Only the teddy remains, with a note from her no-longer-brothers stashed inside, somehow immune to the fate transfer.

For an episode in which Shoma and Kanba had a lot to say as youngsters, it’s a little disappointing that the producers didn’t secure good, authentic child voices. This has actually been a problem throughout the series, and it was hard to ignore during crucial scenes. But that’s pretty much our only gripe with what is the first series of any length we’ve rated 4 out of 4 (by our old v1.0 rating system, that is) for its whole run. No series throughout that run has come close to its attention to detail and unique mix of mystery, romance, sci-fi, metaphysics, and slapstick comedy. It fleshed everyone out and had terrific buildup to a fantastic finale. We’ll miss it.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Mawaru Penguindrum – 23 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 16 Dec 2011 – Himari only has one night to live, and Shoma doesn’t leave her side. She tells him in a dream to save Kanba, who has fallen victim to a curse that turns his love against the world. He is Sanetoshi’s puppet, and Sanetoshi wants to destroy the current world. Sixteen years ago, he and Momoka met. He killed her, and she killed him, but each only halfway. She ended up within penguin hats, while he ended up in two black rabbits. Sanetoshi uses Kanba to lure Ringo to the aquarium, where he burns her diary. There’s still hope as long as the hats survive, but Shoma can’t do anything without his brother.

Does this episode border on the overly melodramatic at times? Yes, but as far as we’re concerned, the series has earned it, and it always keeps things grounded with the cartoon penguins. It’s taken twenty-three episodes, but nearly all the pieces have fallen into place. We know Sanetoshi is the villain, and he’s recruited Kanba with the promise to save Himari if he helps him destroy the world. Kanba only cares about Himari and nothing else, but could that attitude be the product of the curse brought upon the Takakura siblings sixteen years ago? In any case, Momoka and Sanetoshi had a spat, came to a dead draw, and now that duel is about to continue, with proxies on both sides.

Remarkably, this episode was yet again able to draw out some really strong emotions without resorting to the killing off of anyone; it appears at first as though Kanba shoots Shoma in the gut with a real gun, but it’s only penguinshot. Then a teddybomb explodes right before Ringo, but she’s relatively okay, and only her diary burns. But now it seems that while the loss of the diary is a blow, it doesnt mean the end. It was only a record of spells of fate transferrance, the object itself wasn’t important. Everyone’s still alive for now, but if things are going to stay that way, the brothers are going to have to make up and take out the ghost that haunts them. Can’t wait for the finish.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Mawaru Penguindrum – 22 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 10 Dec 2011 – Hikari and Hibari visit the Takakura residence to thank Himari for the scarves, but she’s no longer there. She took off to try to convince Kanba not to throw his or anyone elses’ lives away for her sake. He won’t listen, and would sooner turn the world to ash than let her die. Masako also tries to get him to snap out of his obsession, but he starts an operation of car bombings that get him surrounded by police. He heads down into the bowels of Tokyo to escape, but they’re there too, and he gets shot. Masako decides to protect him by acting as bait.

Kanba’s stint as a terrorist leader is short-lived this week, as he initiates several brazen attacks with his car bomb smartphone bowling app (!), and essentially escapes too slowly. Neither of his siters want him to continue to serve the “curses” of Sanetoshi and the dead Takakuras. But Kanba is a stubborn kid, and he’ll to absolutely anything to save Himari. Her and Masako’s feelings just bounce off him. He’ll die for her…and by episode’s end he’s well on his way to just that.

Kanba, Shoma, Himari, Masako, Mario: it would seem fate was against all of them. Even Momoka couldn’t escape her ultimate fate of oblivion. Love is certainly losing out to fate and curses at this point, but we’re not about to throw in the towel and lebel this series as fatalist or pessimistic. Love, and life, are down, but not out. Double-H didn’t just show up at random at this point in the story: they have to have some deeper purpose.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

 

Mawaru Penguindrum – 21 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 4 Dec 2011 – A tabloid reporter with a scoop confronts everyone with all of the truths he knows regarding the Takakuras. Ringo dismisses him, Himari follows Kanba to confirm he’s still in contact with the Kiga group, and meets with Masako, who confirms she’s his biological sister. Unable to let the terrorist money continue to flow, Shoma confronts Kanba, leading to a fight, which Kanba wins, and tells him to stay away. Shoma tells Himari to go live with her uncle, completing the family split. A Kiga member kills Tabuki and Yuri, and with Kanba’s word, also disposes of the meddlesome reporter.

We’re in full Serious Drama Mode, as all joking around has pretty much ceased, and this series is more than capable of pulling such seriousness off, despite all the hijinx that proceeded it. After Shoma and Himari learned the truth, it really didn’t take long for the improvised young family to disband altogether. Shoma cannot allow dirty money to keep paying for Himari’s treatment – which is becoming less and less effective to the point where she will die soon anyway. But Kanba made sacrifices for Himari long ago, and isn’t giong to let Shoma’s morality get in the way, so poof, their brotherhood charade would seem to be at an end.

That’s right, Kenzen is dead. There’s a decaying skeleton in the now-decrepit restaurant bearing a nametag with his name. On several occasions, we saw the restaurant in good repair, and Kanba conversing with his parents, and yet, from everyone else’s point of view, the place is run-down and…dead. Was it all in Kanba’s head? Considering there are supernatural forces at play – Sanetoshi himself calls himself a “ghost” – anything is possible at this point. Here Kanba is not only taking money, but ordering a hit – making him an accomplice to murder, all in Himari’s name. After everything that’s happened, can the endlessly effed-up Takakuras ever be a family again, or was it all just one long game of “House”?


Rating: 9 (Superior)

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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Mawaru Penguindrum – 19 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 18 Nov 2011 – Tabuki flees, leaving Yuri to bring back Momoka on her own. Himari is relased from the hospital and enjoys sukiyaki with Kanba, Shoma, and Ringo, but fears Sanetoshi only let her go because she’s going to die anyway. Masako enters the Takakura household with a bone to pick with Himari. She tries to fire a blue recollection ball at her, and Shoma and Kanba stop her. But an exhaust fan trigger’s Himari’s memories of the Child Broiler anyway.

In this topsy-turvy, twisty-turny, noodle-churning, downside-up series, what is the one constant throughout? That Kanba, Shoma, and Himari are siblings, right? That’s what we…wait, what? Even that’s not true now? But…but she knit them sweaters! And she’s in all those photos! And what is the thing Masako is always talking about crushing soon? Perhaps he wants to crush the lie…the lie of Himari being their sister? Does that mean Masako’s his real sister??

O Hai, Takakura parents! Just hangin’ out at a ramen shop in Ogikubo, huh? They certainly don’t look like mass murderers…but now we know it’s them passing packets of cash to Kanba. In envelopes marked “Kiga”, just like an apple Shoma offered Himari a lifetime ago – the fruit of fate. So it seems we’ve got Sanetoshi, the Takakura parents, and the late Momoka all playing with fate like a chemistry set in their own ways. We remain utterly enraptured.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Mawaru Penguindrum – 18 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 11 Nov 2011 (11/11/11!) – Tabuki kidnaps Himari, puts her in a bucket suspended by cables, and blows the cables up one by one as Kanba tries to reason with him. Tabuki wants to punish their father for killing Momoka, who was his savior, that of all mankind, and his only reason for living. When the last cable breaks, Kanba provides a lifeline for Himari, at the cost of his hand, but she is saved, and Tabuki slinks off, warning Ringo, imprisoned in the elevator the whole time, not to turn out like him. She swears she won’t.

It was pretty inevitable we’d get a Tabuki episode this week, and it was suitably dark, befitting someone now so lost, he’s prepared to kill poor innocent Himari as payback for losing Momoka. Like Yuri, Tabuki was abused as a child, first emotionally, as her mother demanded prodigal talent in exchange for love, and then physically, when his hand was slammed in a piano, ruining his future as a pianist. Things get a little symbolic with the “Child Broiler”, but suffice it to say, he’s about to be crushed into oblivion when Momoka saves him, begging him to live for her, who loves him.

Up until the last couple episodes, Tabuki has done a bang-up job concealing both his hatred of the Takakuras and the fact that the one person he chose to live for is gone. For years it stewed in him, culminating in the desperate ultimatum he issues Kanba. For a minute, we really though Himari was history, and the show played it that way, but seeing Kanba’s selfless love for Himari must have reminded him of Momoka, and so he spared her. We’ll tell ya what, now we’d like to meet their father and give him a good punch in the face for what he’s put his poor kids through…only it’s all fate, the good and the bad. Will what the parents do ever be revealed? It would be nice, but at this point unnecessary. This is some sublime drama.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Mawaru Penguindrum – 17 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 4 Nov 2011 – Himari is getting better thanks to Sanetoshi’s medicine, but the Penguin hat possesses her once more to reiterate that if they neglect the penguin drum, her bros will lose “what they treasure most” – but hesitates when asked whether the diary is the drum. Meanwhile, Yuri and Tabuki’s grudge against the Takekuras for their loss of Momoka comes to a head when both prepare an assault against Himari. Masako intercepts Yuri, wanting the other half of the diary for Mario, and they duel with words and weapons. Tabuki isolates Himari and Ringo, and makes his intentions known.

Wait…what is this? There’s too many episodes left, there can’t be a showdown! And yet, that’s exactly what we get, on multiple fronts, too. All the players and motives and vendettas continue to intertwine like strings of yarn in a sweater or subway lines on a map. Everything’s, like, connectin’, maaan. This episode gives us the warm highs of a happy, reunited group of siblings, and all the while the wolves wait at their door, wanting blood as payment for their parents’ crimes. It give just about everyone a little bit of screen time too, evoking a real feeling of…penultimateness.

The Penguin hat wants the drum, for what reason we still don’t know. Masako wants the diary to save Mario at any cost. Yuri wants it to transfer fate; for revenge. But most (and least) surprising is Tabuki, who we’ve hardly seen at all recently. Even after playing the Devil’s Advocate with Yuri, he turns out to be no less dead set on punishing the Takekuras. And then there’s Sanetoshi, whose minions warn Himari better hightail it back to the hospital, or they’ll punish her. As for Kanba, it’s hinted that his heart – the thing he’s using as currency to keep Himari alive – is the penguin drum. Well, both have a beat. Hey, why not?


Rating: 9 (Superior)

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)

Mawaru Penguindrum – 15 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 22 Oct 2011 – In this Yuri-centric episode, a young Yuri lives with her horrible, abusive father, a famous, renowned sculptor. He only loves things that are beautiful, and thinks Yuri is ugly, so he “chisels” away at her, leaving a body part bandaged after each session. It is during this abuse that she meets Momoka Oginome, who tries to gain her trust by telling her about a her diary, which she can use to transfer fate to living things, changing their futures. Before Yuri’s father kills her, Momoka transfers Yuri’s fate; her father and the massive tower that represented him is gone, as are her injuries – but Momoka has to pay the price, and dies. Masako infiltrates the bathhouse and makes off with half of the diary, but Yuri still has the half she stole from Ringo.

This episode began with a fresh new opening sequence, so we knew that a big episode was in store, and it didn’t disappoint one bit, opening up an entirely new can of whoopass by answering a lot of questions hanging out there, among them, who was Momoka? We finally see and hear her, as she befriends Yuri. Momoka has god-like powers. Her diary can transfer fate as easily as transfering subway routes (we friggin’ love that analogy). We also know what killed her, and that was a selfless act that saved Yuri from The Worst Father In The World. So there’s a little bit of Jesus in her, too. And how about the fact that the Tokyo Tower used to be a massive stone skyscraper in the shape of Michelangelo’s David? Weird. Wild.

Was was so amazing about this week is just how much managed to be dished out. Not only do we learn a bunch about Momoka and Yuri, but Shoma realizes the error of sending off Ringo so forcably, and comes to save the day – although, true to fate, he doesn’t have to go far, as he just happens to be in the hotel room right next to the one where Yuri has Ringo tied up and ready to do awful things to. We also have a great surprise cameo by Masako, taking back half of the diary after an excellent little battle between the two feisty women. So now we know just how powerful the diary (penguin drum…) is. And if Ringo was successful in using it previously, than it’s clear she too had to pay some kind of price for every fate she changed.


Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

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Mawaru Penguindrum – 14 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 14 Oct 2011 – Now that he knows his parents killed Momoka, Shoma can no longer bear to see or hear Ringo, and warns her to stay away from him. Kanba continues to struggle to find the cash to save Himari, and Masako confronts him directly. Ringo goes to a bathhouse with Yuri, who not only knew Momoka, but believes she was her soulmate. She drugs Ringo and proceeds to have her way with her…

Poor Ringo! First she receives the full brunt of Shoma’s angst, only to be spirited away by Yuri in her Jaaag for reasons heretofore unknown. Ringo acts surprisingly normal here; it’s Yuri who completely goes nuts. And of course it all comes back to Momoka. Yuri was the one who stole half the diary. Not an episode of this series takes place anymore that doesn’t contain some twist or turn that changes everything. It’s why it’s stayed so good and so fresh.

While Ringo is on her wild ride, Himari and Shoma are both very moody. Shoma’s angst comes from knowing what his family’s responsible for, but it’s still unfortunate he pushes Ringo away. As for Himari, her illness, whatever it is, has prevented her from reaching her dream, and she feels worthless compared with her celebrity idol friends. Here’s hoping everyone cheers up a little next week. Look on the bright side, guys: your subway system rules!


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Mawaru Penguindrum – 13 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 7 Oct 2011 – “Dr.” Sanetoshi makes a deal with Kanba (somehow involving his heart) In order to administer a serum that restores her back to life. The episode deals with a host of flashbacks that document that fateful last day the Takakura children ever saw their parents. The police placed them in a hotel room as they searched their home for further evidence of their parents’ crimes, which resulted in deaths, including Momoka’s. Sanetoshi muses about fate, and whether it truly exists.The Tokyo Sky Metro celebrates its tenth anniversary. Ringo sends an email to her father stating she knows of his second family; she believes it was fate to encounter them.

Nothing in this world is pointless. Apparently, nothing in this series is pointless, either. The series continues to squeeze as much as it can out of every scene, every setting, every word…and every sign. Hints trickle down here and there, but like any good mystery, only enough to hold our interest; no more. This much is clear (which wasn’t earlier); the siblings’ parents did awful things. After all, they were “senior members” of something, for chrissake…that can’t be good. Also, the Metropolitan Police doesn’t send a battalion of detectives to your house on a whim.

While we’re piecing together more about the past, we’re wondering more and more how much longer Kanba can keep up whatever he’s doing to pay Sanetoshi to keep Himari alive, possibly tempting fate. Since the day their parents disappeared, the three “haven’t amounted to anything” by society’s standards, but they’ve stayed together as a family. The pain their parents caused to both Ringo, her family, and Tabuki through Momoka’s death is something Ringo always thought could be healed by becoming Momoka. I like how Tabuki seems to set her straight.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Mawaru Penguindrum – 12 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 1 Oct 2011 – Shoma describes to Ringo how his family killed her sister Momoka on the day she was born. It involved some kind of multifaceted operation that somehow resulted in a subway accident that claimed Momoka’s life. With Shoma and Kanba unable to retrieve the penguin drum, Himari weakens, and the headdress loses its power, which would result in her death. Kanba won’t allow that, and gives his own life energy to her, as he had in the past to revive her, but it’s not enough, and Himari flatlines…

It can be tempting to feel like you’re being strung along with Mawaru Penguindrum. It’s constantly shooting out hints, but it keeps so much below the surface sometimes, you start to wonder: how much of this will make sense by the end, and how much will just never be explained? Is the “Destination of Fate” a future setting? What’s with this talk of taboos, followed immediately by Kanba kissing a nude Himari? And what is the librarian doing with those oompaloompas?

The last few episodes were actually quite revealing from a storytelling standpoint. We now know for certain that Kanba made some kind of a deal to save Himari; it wasn’t a miracle. Shoma too seems to know more than he’d let on early in the series. It could well be that phenomena like helper penguins and survival strategies were old hat to the bros before the series even started? This and many, many other questions still abound. Fortunately, Mawaru Penguindrum has plenty of time to address them. So we’ll remain patient and have faith it will all come together by the end.


Rating: 9 (Superior)