Mawaru Penguindrum – 22

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: 4

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Mawaru Penguindrum – 19

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??

Oh, Hi, 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: 4

Mawaru Penguindrum – 16

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: 4

Mawaru Penguindrum – 14

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: 4 

Usagi Drop 8

It’s mostly back to just Daikichi and Rin this week, as the ep opens with a typical late summer morning. Rin has started summer vacation and her birthday is imminent. O-bon is also near, so Daikichi decides they’ll take the day to visit the grave of Souichi, his grandfather; her father (and yes, she’s starting to figure out that she’s his aunt).

Meanwhile, we see a lot more Masako, who looks like she hasn’t slept in a long time. When her not-quite boyfriend tries to comfort her, calling her a girl, she spazes out; when one is a mangaka, one cannot be anything else and expect to succeed, in her mind. That includes being a girl, or a girlfriend, or a mother. It probably applies to being a daughter or sister, but the series doesn’t show her family. In any case, she’s fun to watch, as she averts her gaze and fidgets.

However, she still visits Souichi’s grave on the same day, and Daikichi eventually makes his presence known, after some rather bizarre hiding behind lampposts. He’s a little perturbed by her (at least appearing to have) a boyfriend, but still tells her Rin is with him, and welcomes her to watch from afar. Also, Daikichi, I don’t care how bright and sharp Rin is, hold the girl’s hand when you’re walking by the road!


Rating: 3.5

Usagi Drop 1 – First Impressions

Daikichi’s 79-year-old grandfather has died, leaving behind Rin, his six-year-old illegitimate daughter. One life ends, another hangs in the balance. While gramps was survived by many, they all come up with excuses. They question paternity, they proclaim they’ve already made enough sacrifices, they don’t like how stoic she is (They say all this while she’s in earshot). But despite only exchanging a few looks with her, Daikichi feels compelled to step up. No one else does.

He’s the only one in his family to do the right and decent thing. Why should she be stuffed in some ‘facility’? Why do they think she ‘misbehaves’ when Dai’s niece is a bratty little terror? I dunno; because they’re self-involved assholes, maybe. But there’s no question in Dai’s mind whose daughter Rin is. Throughout the episode, Rin occupies just a tiny portion of the screen. She’s an annoying eyesore to everyone. But Daikichi sees a child in need of love, not ‘dealing with’.

Does this make him a saint overnight? No, but it doesn’t hurt. He didn’t expect to leave his grandfather’s funeral as guardian of his aunt. He has a lot to learn about taking care of a kid. Hell, Rin may have a lot to learn about being a kid. But he had a dream in which he essentially saw his gramps with Rin; this could simply be fate. In any case, I look forward to seeing how their relationship progresses, and whether and how he’ll pursue Rin’s mother, Masako Yoshii.

Any series that isn’t a high school magic triangle comedy is a nice change of pace, and this is already the fourth summer series to fit that bill. It’s also among the most gorgeous, with its airy, watercolored look and breezy score. Both Daikichi and Rin’s performances were subtle and calm. As for the childlike opening and ending, I imagine that’s what’s going on inside Rin’s head. Rating: 3.5